"Rover", the menacing white balloon that acts as a surreal sentry in The Village, was supposed to have been a large robotic machine. During the filming of the first episode, it was supposed to travel across water on a pair of rails hidden under the surface. The machine fell off the rails and into the water, damaging the motors inside. Just then, a weather balloon passed by, and Patrick McGoohan came upon the idea of "Rover" being a large white balloon that traveled by itself. The reason the cast stands still as Rover wanders past is because the balloon is being pulled by a wire. The shots were then run backwards, and edited into the film (In one episode, smoke can be seen drifting back into a chimney in the distance as Rover passes by).
According to script editor and co-creator George Markstein, Number Six resigned from his position after discovering files indicating the existence of the Village. The Village was an idea Number Six had submitted to his superiors many years before but had since decided was monstrously inhuman.
Patrick McGoohan was adamant that Number Six not become romantically involved with anyone on the series (carrying over a policy he put in place for his John Drake character in Danger Man (1960)). Nonetheless, writers tried to pair Number Six up with female leads on a few occasions, only to have their efforts vetoed by Patrick McGoohan. The characters played by Nadia Gray in "Chimes of Big Ben" and Angela Browne in "A Change of Mind" were both written as love interests for Number Six, and there was reportedly a bed scene written for "Chimes" but McGoohan would have none of it. The closest Number Six comes to romance is in his friendship/simpatico with Alison in "The Schizoid Man" and in the character of an observer who falls in love with him in "Dance of the Dead."
Patrick McGoohan was so averse to on-screen romance that in the scenes in "Chimes of Big Ben" when he has his arm around Nadia and is stroking her hair, it is actually McGoohan's own daughter in a wig.
Interiors were shot in a studio located next door to the studio used for filming 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). A special effects shot of a starry sky that was created for the movie was borrowed by the producers of the TV series for use as an insert in an early edit of the episode "Chimes of Big Ben". Though cut from the televised version, the early edit of the episode including the 2001 footage was later released on video and DVD. (The starry night shot appears in the sequence where No. 6 uses a handmade device to study the sky in hopes of determining The Village's location).
Co-creator George Markstein later wrote a book about a real-life facility similar to (but nowhere near as sinister as) The Village which was reportedly set up in a remote area of Britain during WWII in order to protect people with knowledge of sensitive information. The title of the novel is "The Cooler."
The Prisoner was filmed in the North Wales resort village of Portmeirion over the course of a year. Patrick McGoohan was inspired to film his series there after filming a couple of Danger Man (1960) episodes in the village.
Leo McKern, Colin Gordon, Mary Morris and Peter Wyngarde are the only Number Twos to have their voices on the introduction piece featuring the questioning of Number Six. The other "standard" voice(s) of Number Two was supplied by 'Robert Rietty (I)'.
The black and white head shot of Patrick McGoohan, which showed him smiling slightly and wearing a black tie and a grey suit, that was seen in the opening credits and in such episodes as "Free for All" and "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling", is a promotional photograph from McGoohan's earlier series, Secret Agent (1964).
At the end of the run of Secret Agent, there was a party, and some members of Parliament attended. Someone said to McGoohan, "So, what does a secret agent do when he retires?" meaning McGoohan. Mcgoohan took it literally and asked the question to some Parliament members. "Oh, we take care of them. We give them a house, a car, some pocket money, and that way they don't defect." This inspired Mcgoohan to create the show.
The costumes worn throughout the series are in fact the sports uniforms of Mill Hill School in North London. Patrick McGoohan moved into a house opposite the school, while developing the series. It had an eccentric selection of blazers and ties in the schools chocolate and white colours. One day he walked into the school shop and ordered the full range from the outfitter. While in the area he befriended the actor Ian Carmichael and the pair of them used to walk their dogs in the school grounds, The Prisoner and Bertie Wooster, with matching Labradors.
The Village produces several publications, the best known being "The Tally Ho" newspaper. Sometimes "the Tally Ho" can be bought in a shop/stall, and sometimes it comes straight off a small mangle like press. Magazines (rarely seen, except for covers in background) include the Village Mercury and Village Weekly, which appear more aimed at women.
On several occasions plans were made to adapt The Prisoner (1967) into a feature film. Patrick McGoohan once considered filming a sequel that took place 100 years or more after the TV series. A movie was announced in 2001 with McGoohan as executive producer and Simon West as director, but was shelved by 2002.
It has been speculated that Number Six is in fact John Drake from Patrick McGoohan's earlier series, Danger Man (1960) and Secret Agent (1964). Several references to the earlier series appear, many bit players are common between them, and some believe he is referred to by name in one episode (though others interpret the dialogue differently). Although McGoohan vehemently denied that #6 is Drake, he seems to have been out-voted, as co-writer George Markstein) said yes, and officially sanctioned novels based on the series refer to Number Six as John Drake.
There is much debate over the proper order in which the episodes should be viewed, as neither ITV in Britain nor CBS in the US originally broadcast the episodes in production order. The A&E DVD release in 2001 placed the episodes in what it described as the "fan-preferred" order (though this is open for debate). The episode viewing order suggested by A&E is as follows: 1. Arrival 2. Free for All 3. Dance of the Dead 4. Checkmate 5. Chimes of Big Ben 6. A, B and C 7. The General 8. The Schizoid Man 9. Many Happy Returns 10. It's Your Funeral 11. A Change of Mind 12. Hammer Into Anvil 13. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling 14. Living in Harmony 15. The Girl Who Was Death 16. Once Upon a Time 17. Fall Out
During its premier run in the Winter of 1967, filming had got so far behind schedule that TV stations in the UK ran out of episodes to show and some opted to show the two (then unseen) last episodes of Danger Man (1960). This of course confused the public even more.
Only two actors played Number Two more than once: Leo McKern in "Chimes of Big Ben," "Once Upon a Time" and "Fall Out"; and Colin Gordon in "The General" and "A, B and C." Several other actors who played Number Two also appeared in other roles in the series (e.g. Kenneth Griffith as No. 2 in "Girl Who Was Death" and as The Judge in "Fall Out.").
Patrick McGoohan would have liked to limit the programme to seven episodes, but there was no chance that ITC executive Sir Lew Grade would back such a short run, so he reluctantly agreed to make two "series" of thirteen each. The first was to end with "Degree Absolute" (later re-titled "Once Upon A Time", when it was decided to make it the first half of a two-part finale). When the point in time came when the entire run was supposed to be in the can and only the first thirteen episodes actually were, Grade pulled the plug (or, according to some, McGoohan told him that the premise wouldn't yield another thirteen stories). Eventually, Grade was convinced to allow four more episodes to be made, including a finale, but with the proviso that production continue uninterrupted. Many of the crew were committed to other projects (script editor George Markstein's departure is attributed to a falling out with McGoohan, but as he left at the exact same time as all the others, this is debatable), including McGoohan himself, who co-starred in the Hollywood movie, Ice Station Zebra (1968). For filming to be able to continue in his absence, "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling", with The Prisoner's mind transferred to another man's body, was concocted, and replacements for departed crew members were found. After the star returned from America, shot his ending speech and a few insert shots for "Darling," and the episodes "Living In Harmony" and "The Girl Who Was Death," he then confessed to Grade that he had no ideas for the finish (he knew only that he wanted no conventional "James Bond" type finale, such as one suggestion, allegedly from Markstein before he quit, that Number One turn out to be The Butler). Grade replied that the actor was obligated to come up with something. McGoohan locked himself away for most of the next week and wrote, "Fall Out" while the two episodes from the abandoned final season of "Danger Man" ("Koroshi" and "Shinda Shima") later reedited into a feature film, Koroshi (1968) preempted "The Prisoner" for two weeks to buy him the needed time. Actor Kenneth Griffith, who plays The President in the final episode, has repeatedly claimed that he was asked to write his own speech (singular his). As the character talks only in speeches, this is less than clear, but at least Griffith specified that his point was how pressed for time McGoohan was.
The numeral 7 never appears in the Village, either on its own, or in another number. Although we see No 2 and No 6, the characters No 3, No 4 and No 5 never appear (if they exist). However, the number 7 does appear when No. 6 visits the graveyard in episode Hammer Into Anvil on the grave marker that reads 73.
The typeface used for most of the written signs in the Village, and the episode titles is Albertus, with two modifications - 1) the dot above "i" and "j" is nearly always removed, and 2) the letter "e" is nearly always modified to look like the Euro currency symbol with a single bar. Some exceptions to this include when capital letters are used in signs, and when No 6 is shown maps of the Village in "Arrival", normal "e"s are used. The information sign in the Village in "Arrival" also uses an entirely different font.
The original closing sequence was going to end on the word 'POP'. It featured two spheres, one of the Earth, and rather puzzlingly, the Earth not in a space background, but sat next to another sphere which had 'space' in it.
British rock band Iron Maiden did two songs based on The Prisoner (1967). One was "The Prisoner" on the album "Number of the Beast", the other song was "Back in the Village" on the album "Powerslave". Also, on "Number of the Beast" in the inside cover the band said "Special thanks to Patrick McGoohan for The Prisoner intro and the great TV series."
Perhaps most frightening about the series was the appearance of former co-workers and acquaintances turning up in The Village. Worse, the appearance of trusted former colleagues, such as Patrick Cargill as Thorpe in "Many Happy Returns" showing up as a particularly unstable Number 2 in "Hammer into Anvil". But the darkest reality of the show was the knowledge that nobody could ever be allowed to escape The Village in order to protect the secrecy of its existence and location.
The Supervisor/No 28 (Peter Swanwick), who appears more often than anyone apart from No 6 and the Butler, is never seen outside, and is mostly seen in the control room and (very occasionally) in the Green Dome.
Signs with "Residents Only" and "Private, Residents Only", feature regularly in the series, written on walls and even on the grass. These may be "artefacts" from Portmeirion (which is a hotel in real life), however, they are something an in-joke, since everyone in the Village is by definition a "resident" anyway.
Ron Grainer's theme music was titled "The Age of Elegance" and according to some sources predates The Prisoner (1967) by several years. However, many sources claim that the theme music is yet another creation of Patrick McGoohan himself. Reportedly, he whistled it into a tape recorder, Grainier transcribed that onto sheet music, did the arrangements and orchestrations and deserves credit for getting the music into good shape.
During the Prisoner's initial run in the United States in the summer of 1968, the episode "Living in Harmony" was not shown due to its controversial nature, as related indirectly to the United States active participation in the Vietnam War.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
While most Number Twos are male, during the course of the series we see at least four women in the position ("Dance of the Dead", "Free for All", "Many Happy Returns" and a female Number Two is seen very briefly in "It's Your Funeral").