The Prisoner – Just as Relevant Today as It Was in 1967

THE PRISONER
Premieres on three consecutive nights on AMC
beginning Sunday, November 15.
Two new hours will air each night,
premiering at 8pm and encore at 10pm.
The complete original series was just released on
DVD in a new set available on

You can also download the original
series on The Prisoner (Classic)
And the new series plus a free preview
will be/is also available on The Prisoner

The Prisoner.
A sci-fi thriller probably decades before its time. A drama series that has become one of the all-time cult classics.

I never heard of the show before or the incredible Patrick McGoohan until my Media Studies professor used the series as a required text in one of my college classes.
Since then, I’ve been pulled into the world of the Village.

First of all, what is The Prisoner?
A series that premiered in 1967 in the UK and in 1968 in the US, The Prisoner was co-created by and starred Patrick McGoohan. It was a drama series, a spy-thriller, psychological thriller, and even a science-fiction series, that would go on to become a cult favorite and even the inspiration to such diverse shows as Lost, Twin Peaks, and Battlestar Galactica.

Holding its place in pop culture history, it has been referenced, paid homage to, and parodied in such films and television series as The Simpsons.

The Prisoner was and after 40 years, still is a thought-provoking and exciting series. A unnamed man, a British agent, resigns and is then mysteriously taken to an eerily perfect and heavily surveillanced little town only known as The Village where he is held captive… as a sort of prisoner.

He has no idea how or why he’s been taken there, but for 17 episodes, he tries to answer those questions while trying to find a way to escape. Everyone in the town is known by a number and he comes to learn he is Number Six. The Village is seemingly run by Number Two, who changes every episode, man or woman, all with one purpose for Number Six, to find out why exactly he resigned. Number Six doesn’t give up any information and instead resists authority, make efforts to escape and even help the other townspeople escape, and maybe even find out who exactly is Number One. He trusts no one and the Village authority will stop at nothing to get what they want from him.

The series, not uncommon for a 60s series, often featured surreal stories. It’s science-fiction aspect was definitely present, especially with the mysterious and utterly frightening big white balloon known as the Rover, a menacing device that serves as the Village security detail, easily detaining, subduing, or even killing people who try to escape. Mind control, hallucinations… you name it, it was part of the series, often as a way for the Number Twos to get the information from Number Six.

While some aspects of the series may seem silly and way out there today, its influence on shows like Lost emphasize how really the show managed to take that silliness and turn it into an eerie, frightening and even realistic commentary on the world.

The Prisoner is still as thought provoking today was it was 40 years ago with its themes and issues still relevant in today’s society: Surveillance, control, power, government, security, individualism… all issues we face today.

The Prisoner is as known for its content as it is for its imagery, which is probably even more iconic.

First, every episode opens with probably one of the best and iconic opening sequences ever. It showed Number Six as he drives into London, angrily submits his resignation papers, goes home to pack for a long trip and then getting gassed by a mysterious man. He wakes up in a strange apartment, looks out and sees the Village. Then there is the equally iconic exchange between Number Six and Number Two:

Six: Where am I?
Number Two (not identified as yet): In the village.
Six: What do you want?
Two: Information.
Six: Whose side are you on?
Two: That would be telling…. We want information… information… INFORMATION!
Six: You won’t get it!
Two: By hook or by crook, we will.
Six: Who are you?
Two: The new Number Two.
Six: Who is Number One?
Two: You are Number Six.
Six: I am not a number; I am a free man!
Two: [Sinister laughing]

Then there’s the Village itself and all of its official logos. The image of the penny-farthing bicycle placed all over Portmeirion, a quaint resort village in Wales presented this beautiful, yet ominous setting for the series’ mysterious Village. The colorful vehicles, the strange phones, and the sparse coastline, it helped create the Village’s seclusion from wherever it was located in the world.

And of course, probably the most iconic image from the original series, the big white weather balloon, also known as the menacing Rover. So simple and kind of silly, but scary and frighteningly amazing at the same time.

These images have stayed with many people who have actually seen the series, but for most television viewers today, especially those in the coveted 18-49 demo, The Prisoner is just as obscure as penny-farthings themselves.

Which is why now is a great time to have an updated, reimagining of the series. Lucky for me, talk of updating the cult classic had already been around when I first the discovered the series, so it wasn’t that long of a wait.

While it would have been nice to see Patrick McGoohan actively involved in the production before his death, I believe with his approval, this new version will do the original justice.

The nine minute Comic-con preview was intriguing and satisfying already. Satisfying to see the Rover in its only proper form, and intriguing in its fresh visuals; the Namibian resort that appear to be just as mysterious and eerie as Portmeirion.

The present-day concerns of security, war, and surveillance, not too different from the 1960s, definitely fit perfectly well with The Prisoner‘s basic premise.

A dramatic action thriller was what the original series was. And this new version is that with a little bit more family and a little bit more romance than the original.

This is definitely a project I’ve been looking forward to, and to think many more have waited longer. The three nights starting Monday on AMC should be some exciting if not excellent television.

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