The Prisoner: Season 1, Episode 15

Once Upon a Time (28 Jan. 1968)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 270 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 1 critic

Because all other attempts to break Number 6 have failed, Number 2 decides to engage him in a game where one of them will end up dead.


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Title: Once Upon a Time (28 Jan 1968)

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Episode cast overview:
Angelo Muscat ...
Peter Swanwick ...
John Cazabon ...
Umbrella Man
John Maxim ...
Number Eighty Six (scenes deleted)


Number Two conducts tests on Number Six to force him to reveal why he resigned but Number Six's iron will resists and he uses psychology to turn the tables so that his interrogator ends up grovelling to him. Still refusing to answer Number Six watches as Number Two is locked in a cage after which he requests that he sees Number One. Written by don @ minifie-1

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi





Release Date:

28 January 1968 (UK)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


No 2 calls No 6 a "lone wolf", and says that lone wolves belong in the wilderness, not in society. "Lone Wolf" was the code name of John Drake in the series Danger Man (1960), and some fans see this as more evidence for No 6 being that character, which is something Patrick McGoohan denied, but George Markstein affirmed, and was carried into The Prisoner (1967) promotional materials. Markstein was involved in the earliest stages of the development of the Prisoner, but later quarreled with McGoohan. See more »


Number Six walks toward his telephone to answer it before it starts ringing. See more »


[first lines]
Number Two: [shouting at the butler] Wait! Remove it! I told you to remove it!
See more »


References As You Like It (1963) See more »

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User Reviews

A Standalone Episode Worthy of Accolade
1 September 2009 | by (internal exile) – See all my reviews

I remember when the series first played in the US. We had just gone through the "Battle of Chicago" and were about to begin the slow slide into mediocrity with the election of Richard Nixon. We were a year after the "summer of love" and a year before "Woodstock Nation". Drugs were still a new phenomenon in the American middle class, and enough of us believed that there was still hope to galvanize a huge portion of the population. And then, in the middle of it all, came the face of a smiling No. 2....

The Prisoner is truly an archetypal series. It so accurately reflects its time in both its excellences and its deficiencies. There's no question that the majority of the episodes play better to a cannabinolized audience; and I won't argue with someone seeing the series in the 21st century for the first time who complains that there are so many plot holes and bad acting in so many of the episodes that they can't understand why anyone would consider this worthwhile.

But then, there's "Once upon a Time".

This is more than an episode. It's more than a TV show. It is high drama and classic stagecraft. When seen without commercials, it has the impact of a Beckett or Pinter one-act. It is unquestionably McGoohan's magnum opus. I expect that someday, perhaps in the not too distant future, someone will get the idea of putting it onstage, along with "The Dumb Waiter" or "Play", so that the author will get the recognition he deserves as a playwright. But in the meantime, if you have any affection for "theatre of the absurd" or "comedy of menace", you should make this episode a must see. And if you've started the series but have lost your enthusiasm after an episode or two, skip right to this. Once you understand the premise, you don't need all of the prior 15 episodes to fully immerse yourself in what cannot be denied is an exemplar of 20th century dramaturgy.

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