ORBzine - The Prisoner TV Review

[Season 1967 !Season 2009 ]

The Prisoner
  • Patrick McGoohan ( Braveheart ) as Number 6
  • Angelo Muscat as The Butler
  • Peter Swanwick as The Supervisor

    1st Series 1967 ITV

  • The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 1] Arrival
    Shown 1 Oct 67

    It is the swinging Sixties, height of the Cold War. A British Government employee (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) storms into a hi-security London HQ, and angrily resigns. But back home, while he packs to flee the country, he is abducted ... and awakes as a prisoner in a mysterious mock-Italianate village like Portmeirion. And all this takes place in the title sequence!

    This first ep introduces the Village and its themes. The Prisoner, now known only by his prison number, No.6, explores the area. He is told various vaguely sinister things like This is a local shop for local people. The only recurring inhabitants are a couple of the staff.

    A couple of familiar faces crop up. No.6 meets an old friend of his, Cobb (Paul Eddington - ), who claims to have been abducted too. The new Number Two is George Baker, well-known for supporting roles in British TV shows of the 1970s.

    Escape from the Village is meant to be impossible. The perimeter is patrolled by a robot named Rover, which looks like an enormous white ball. This is one of many scifi elements to the show that puts it above the mainstream spy genre shows of the 1960s.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 2] The Chimes of Big Ben
    Shown 8 Oct 67

    No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) reluctantly converses with the new No.2 (Leo McKern - The Omen ). He not only declares his intent to escape, but jokingly states his ambition to be the first man on the Moon. Of course, this episode was shown two years before Neil Armstrong's small step.

    A new resident arrives, and is given the designation Number Eight. She is an Olympic-class swimmer from Estonia, which was then part of the USSR. After she tries an escape attempt, and gets tortures as punishment, No.6 takes her under his wing. However, he is also suspicious of her. After all, the guards do not wear uniforms and are impossible to tell from the other residents.

    There is a Village Council, elected by the residents from among their own number. They are presumably paid a salary of Work Units, the local currency for local people. This whole concept of keeping the residents working is to prevent them from having too much spare time on their hands. The Council holds an art contest. No.6 lets himself get talked into participating, and secretly builds a self-assembly wooden boat.

    The Village's surveillance system has certain weaknesses. Although there are rotating CCTV cameras in the statues, there are no audio microphones in outside spaces. The maritime surveillance is visual for two miles, which is useless under cvover of darkness, and radar is used beyond that range. Rover is released during an Orange Alert, but it turns out to be vulnerable to rifle fire.

    The Village is apparently in Poland, on the Baltic coast. The plan is for No.6 and No.8 to get into crates which will be driven to the nearest port, Gdansk, shipped to Copenhagen and then flown by air freight to London. They will know they are safe when they are in No.6's old office, because they will hear the chimes of Big Ben.

    Back in London, No.6's boss is called Fotheringhay. There is no mention of Cobb, the Paul Eddington character in the previous episode.

    Of special note, the episode title's acronym is the same name as COBB. Similarly, No.6's chess opponent has the same name as episode The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 6] The General.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 3] A. B. and C.
    Shown 15 Oct 67

    The new No.2 is given permission to perform a medical experiment. No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) is drugged, then plugged into a mind-reading device. It broadcasts the victim's thoughts on a large television screen. Apparently No.6 thinks about the show's title sequence a lot.

    No.2 suspects that No.6 was about to sell out his Agency. In order to discover who No.6's contact was, No.2 puts him in an artifical reality. One of the suspects is Peter Bowles, best known for starring roles in 1970s British TV shows such as The Irish R.M..

    Of course, No.6 is familiar with interrogation techniques and is an experienced field agent. He is studying his captors, just as they study him. For example, he learns that underneath the village is a series of tunnels.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 4] Free for All
    Shown 22 Oct 67

    No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) stands for election For No2's job. He is given an assistant - a woman who speaks no English, only an unintelligible Eastern European language.

    Is this just another attempt to break his spirit? After all, the whole thing was No2's suggestion.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 5] The Schizoid Man
    Shown 29 Oct 67

    The authorities try another interrogation technique on No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ). Torture has been ruled out, because he is apparently too valuable. This alone is quite suspicious. Anyway, the result is that they have no choice but yet another fancy electronic brainwashing method.

    No.6 wakes up, uncertain of his identity. He is told that he is No.12, and has been selected as a lookalike to deceive the real No.6. But which one is the real one?

    Since the two are identical, No.6 has a chance to actually escape. Can he torture the password out of imposter? Will he fall for the subtle security questions? Yes, this 1960s spy effort uses the type writing which should have been used in Alien: Covenant when the characters there were confronted with a potential evil twin

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 6] The General
    Shown 5 Nov 67

    No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) hangs out in the cafe. There is a 1984 style poster in the background with the slogan Trust Me. This entire episode is quite reminiscent of Orwell's work.

    The General's department offers a three-year University degree course by in three minutes, via a new system named Speed-learn. The aim is to have a hundred percent entry quota, and a hundred percent pass rate. A stranger, the new No.12 (John Castle - ), warns No.6 to be distrustful of it.

    The key piece of info that people learn is that the Treaty of Adrianople was in Sept 1829. This was covered in A-level history, and was a very dull period.

    The key figure in Speed-Learn is The Professor, a scientist who seems to have been coerced into working for The Village. However, the power behind it all is The General. This character was first mentioned at the end on the previous episode, as part of the villain's debriefing process. It was implied that The General was located on the mainland, but for the sake of dramatic confrontation he is located in the tunnels under the Village - guarded by men dressed like Blofeld's henchmen in You Only Live Twice .

    Of note, man at cafe and first Top Hat is credited as Ian Fleming. Is this THE Ian Fleming?

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 7] Many Happy Returns
    Shown 12 Nov 67

    The Village is deserted, except for a black cat. No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) builds a raft and escapes.

    Or does he?

    He is paranoid after the events of The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 2] The Chimes of Big Ben . But then, who wouldn't be?

    When No.6 gets back to London, he discovers a woman is now tenant in his former home. She rents it, fully furnished, from a mysterious estate agency. Even the KAR 120C, his custom-built automobile, came with the deal.

    Back at his former Agency, Cobb and Fotheringay are neither present not mentioned. No.6 is debriefed by a couple of senior officers, including The Colonel (Donald Sinden - ). They use his navigation log to trace a potential location for The Village. Previously he thought it was on the Baltic shore. Now he discovers it was the right distance, but the completely wrong direction. Instead it is now suspected to be near Gibraltar.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 8] Dance of the Dead
    Shown 26 Nov 67

    This episode starts with a voiceover by a female Number Two. Not the first such - she was a different actress, in the previous episode. In fact, there are a number of females among the surveillance staff this time.

    The black cat from the previous episode is still around. The house-maid insists that no animals are allowed in the Village. Presumably this is a reference to the previous episode, and the new No.2 is meant to be the same woman as in that episode.

    The Village holds a festival, and everyone is assigned a fancy dress costume. Six's costume, chosen for him without his choice, is a tuxedo. Very James Bond .

    No.6's escape plan of the week inevitably fails, because this is The Village and everything he does is set up by No.2 to fail. However, this time he is put on trial. Not by No.2 - no, she is his defence lawyer. The Village community puts him on trial. This is a scary concept - the community is basically run by inmates for inmates. In other words, the Village is a self-policing prison. The inmates do not need a visible outside force to oppress them, they are so engrossed in their roles that they do it themselves.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 9] Checkmate
    Shown 3 Dec 67

    The New No.2 (Peter Wyngarde - Flash Gordon ) oversees a game of chess on a giant board, using human pieces. If you break the rules, you get taken to hospital for a brainwashing treatment. This is because individualism is outlawed!

    No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) sees a man who does not freeze when Rover passes. He investigates further, and discovers the man is a potential ally in an escape attempt. Even better, he discovers a method to identify the guardians so he can recruit a gang of potential escapees.

    No.2 has a cunning plan of his own. Instead of trying and failing to brainwash No.6 again, he brainwashes a woman into thinking she is in love with no.6.

    No.6's escape plan involves luring in a passing ship. He fails to notice that it seems to be the same ship he visited in The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 7] Many Happy Returns. Terence Donovan (Bergerac) guest-stars as a sailor.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 10] Hammer Into Anvil
    Shown 10 Dec 67

    No.2 forces a woman into suicide. No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) takes revenge by pretending to be plotting something, to drive No.2 paranoid.

    This is a nice spy-craft ep. No.6 pits his skills against No.2's 1960s tech (CCTV, radar, sonar, a Code-breaking computer, etc). They even introduce a henchman for No.2 and a replacement surveillance supervisor.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 11] It's Your Funeral
    Shown 17 Dec 67

    No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) gets an unexpected visit from Annette Andre . She warns him about an assassination plot. He is sceptical at first, because every week he experiences a new mind-screw from the new Number 2.

    We gain some knowledge of the workings of the hierarchy - Number 2 (Derren Nesbitt - ) is on the phone to an unnamed Boss. Their surveillance incorporates a computer that is capable of predicting any changes in an inmate's routine. Perhaps this is the replacement for The General from The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 6] . The computer attendant is Wanda Ventham , who did a similar job in a more glamourous costume in Space 1999 .

    The people running the Village also have a very lousy retirement package. After all, they must have a way of keeping the Village secret - and if the retired staff are too knowledgeable to be kept as inmates there, then there must be a different way to permanently silence them!

    There are clips of the previous Number 2s, and Number 6's exercises. We discover that the trampoline-judo martial art is called Koshu. He also references the Village Council (both seen in A Change of Mind). Many of the supposed exterior shots are obviously studio interiors, and not filmed on location at Portmeirion as we would like to believe.

    No.6 has to prevent the assassination himself. If it goes ahead, there may be collective punishment against the inmates. Of course, the smart thing would be to gain safe passage out of the village. This would be the perfect opportunity to make an escape. However, No.6 seems to have given up on escape. Is he really obsessed with uncovering the identity of No.1?

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 12] A Change of Mind
    Shown 31 Dec 67

    No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) is out exercising with his home-made equipment. This includes footage of his stunt-double that was used as stock footage in the previous episode. He has to defend himself from a couple of thugs. As a result he is then sent to the Committee - the first time there is a reference to it. Perhaps they mean the Village Council. If only the script editor ensured continuity between episodes.

    No.6 is sent to a therapy session, where he is labelled a reactionary and a rebel. This is obviously an example of what the Alt-Right would today label Cultural Marxism. He declared unmutual, and sentanced to Social conversion. He hopes it will be a Clockwork Orange style brainwashing, because he has already withstood several of those. Unfortunately it turns out to be a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest lobotomy. Well, this is a Sci-Fi show so they use a 1960s laser to do it.

    Of course, this is just another mind-screw by Number 2. However, they forget about No.6's spy-craft expertise.

    Once again we get a chance to ask ourselves who runs the Village. One of the inmates is ethnic Chinese, while the Doctor is French. The medical wing is inside a converted English-style castle.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 13] Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling
    Shown 7 Jan 68

    The Teaser is a photo-slide display about a code. There is no Who are you? after the Credits.

    This is a bodyswop ep - No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) is sent on secret mission by No.2 against his will. The result is a 1960s spy story with a scifi twist and good music. That said, with the mindswop element this could never have been used in Danger Man.

    McGoohan only appears briefly. At the time he was making Ice Station Zebra, a movie that is watchable mainly for his performance.

    A Professor can transmit one man's mind into another. No.2 swops No.6 into an Agent's body, and sends No.6 to find the Professor. No.2 has all the equipment in a building guarded by men with white helmets and truncheons. There are flashback clips to No.6's escape attempts ...

    No.6 wakes up in his own flat, with his own belongings, but in another man's body (with McGoohan's voiceover)! He meets his fiance and boss, Sir Charles Portland. There are no references to Cobb or Fotheringhay (Chimes of Big Ben) or The Colonel (Many Happy returns). However, there is a middle-management type named Danvers who was transferred to desk duty in the Department mainly at the request of the typing pool. This makes a mockery of the Mad Men insinuation that in the 1960s a man could have been a sex harrasser without facing consequences.

    No.6 has been sent to locate the mysterious Doctor Seltzman, the scientist who has created the mind-swap technology. It seems that, just like in The Hollow Man , the conversion process is simple but the reversal is the real problem. Among other things, No.6 must find the scientist if he is ever to get his own body back. Unfortunately, this is just what the people running the Village want.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 14] Living in Harmony
    Shown 14 Jan 68

    There is a new opening, not the usual credits sequence - part of the plot. This episode stands out because it is a western, complete with cliched characters, costumes and sets. It may have been made because such shows were popular in the 1960s. Also, it should be in keeping with the show's libertarian ideals. After all, the opposite of the Village would be a lawless wild west town.

    No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ), in Wild West sheriff garb, is dumped unceremoniously in the middle of a wild west town called Harmony. In the tavern he finds The Kid (Alexis Kanner), a gunfighter, and the Judge (Number Two). There is also a tart with a heart. McGoohan has an American accent, to fit in with the setting. The climax is a gunfight duel, in standard Western tradition.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 15] The Girl Who Was Death
    Shown 21 Jan 68

    John Drake (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) chases a femme Fatale ( Justine Lord ). Yes, our hero is not just a number any more - he is a free man. He is a Secret Agent again, hunting a dangerous villain who has a superweapon capable of destroying London.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 16] Once Upon A Time
    Shown 28 Jan 68

    The old No.2 (Leo McKern - The Omen ) is back. However, he appears to be under a cloud. Rover is sitting in his chair, and he is not on the best of terms with his superior.

    No.2 has a new plan to crack No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ). He has them both locked in together, along with the mute butler. While trapped together No.2 attempts to crack No.6 by forcing him to re-enact events from his younger days.

    The episode is basically two potent actors trapped together on a stage, with a minimalist approach to props and set-dressing. Luckily the two actors are skilled enough to play off against each other, which is probably why McKern was brought back for a second episode. In all fairness, he should probably have been No.2 in every episode!

    In reducing the story to a simplified stage-play format, the storytellers have revealed a great truth about this show. At its heart it is basically a Kafkaesque drama about a man against society. All the mind-screws from the very first time No.6 wakes up in the Village are nothing more than the equivalent of Gregor Samson waking up transformed into an enormous vermin, or of a hapless victim being persecuted by the bureaucracy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 17] Fall Out
    Shown 4 Feb 68

    Written and directed by McGoohan himself, this is the final episode of the Series. Yes, they did not try to make the show last an entire Decade, unlike American shows! It starts with a recap of the previous episode, then skips the usual opening credits. Instead we get an aerial shot of The Village, and a credit for The Hotel Portmeirion and Mr. William Clough-Ellis. Throughout the episode, MacGoohan combines visual flourishes such as almost constant camera movement (in the age before the steadicam) with an impressive selection of music.

    No.6 (Patrick McGoohan - Braveheart ) has apparently won. Since he survived the final test, he is now victorious. The Butler leads him into the subterranean labyrinth under the Village. It turns out that the mysterious No.1 lives down there. But first, No.6 must attend a cultish ceremony somehow reminiscent of Beneath the Planet of The Apes .

    No.48 (Alexis Kanner) and No.2 (Leo McKern - The Omen ), familiar faces from previous episodes, are also prisoners. No.48 is a particularly interesting case, since he illustrates quite blatantly the show's theme. As a young man he is the living embodiment of 1960s youth culture, a counterculture that (like No.6 himself) valued individualism. Ironically one of the greatest exponents of individual freedom was Milton Friedman, the arch-capitalist and pseudo-anarchist. When his acolyte, Margaret Thatcher, made the immortal statement there is no such thing as Society she was singlehandedly emasculating the Establishment, AKA the Patriarchy. When one considers this it becomes apparent that Thatcher, rather than being a fascist and anti-Feminist, was in fact an anarchist and the ultimate Feminist.

    No.6 makes his final escape attempt. The ending is entirely allegorical ...

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 18] The kid
    Never-produced sequel

    This was proposed to start at the Olympics, with No.48 (Alexis Kanner) in the marathon. The butler, Angelo Muscat, would also have featured.

    Meanwhile, Patrick McGoohan turned down a couple of amazing career opportunities. He was suggested as the Sundance Kid, but gave the role to Robert Redford. He also refused $10mil to discuss the role of James Bond with Producer Harry Salzmann.

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    The Prisoner

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 1, Episode 2 ]
    Shown th August 2006 [Wednesday]

    The Prisoner

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  • The Prisoner

    2nd Series 2009

  • James Caviezel ( Passion of the Christ ) as Number Six
  • Ian McKellen ( Lord of the Rings ) as Number Two
  • Lennie James ( The Walking Dead ) As 147
  • Hayley Atwell as Lucy
  • The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 2, Episode 1] Arrival
    Shown 15/Nov/09

    Jim Caviezel ( Passion of the Christ ) wakes up in a desert that looks like Namibia. He sees an old man in a familiar-looking blazer being chased by men with guns.

    What else can we say that is good about it? Well, the location is nice.

    If this was just another bland US TV show, rather than a remake of a classic TV show, would it be watchable? In truth, this is far more reminiscent of the disappointing Night Stalker (2005) than of the excellent Battlestar Galactica (2005) .

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 2, Episode 2] Harmony
    Shown 15/Nov/09

    Six (Jim Caviezel - Passion of the Christ ) meets someone who claims to be his brother. He gets a job driving a tour bus. The only site of interest is a gigantic metal anchor in the middle of the desert.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 2, Episode 3] Anvil
    Shown 16/Nov/09

    Six (Jim Caviezel - Passion of the Christ ) is teamed up with a Watcher. They must conduct surveillance on the headmaster of the Village school. It seems there are several generations of inmates.

    Who is Number One?

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 2, Episode 4] Darling
    Shown 16/Nov/09

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 2, Episode 5] Schizoid
    Shown 17/Nov/09

    Six (Jim Caviezel - Passion of the Christ ) appears to have an evil twin who alienates everyone close to him. Meanwhile, his life parallels the events in NYC. Are the New York scenes really flashbacks, or are they taking place concurrently?

    Two (Ian McKellen - Lord of the Rings ) gives his son access to the medicine that is keeping Mrs Two comatose. This allows the boy to spend a day with his mother, who has been comatose since he was born. Meanwhile, Two is replaced by Un-Two, a trusting and helpless individual who relies on the kindness of strangers.

    The Prisoner The Prisoner [Season 2, Episode 6] Checkmate
    Shown 17/Nov/09

    The two worlds are finally coming together. The Village's purpose is revealed. It is all something of an anti-climax.