Patrick McGoohan


village04“Where am I?”

“In The Village.”

“What do you want?”

“Information.”

There was this strange little show on public television when I was younger.  It was an old British show from the sixties.  My parents both loved it and actually visited the town where it was shot on their one visit to the U.K.  together.  My parents didn’t see eye to eye on too many things, so the fact they agreed on this show stuck in my mind when I tuned in.

the-prisoner-intro“Whose side are you on?”

“That would be telling.  We want information… informationinformation!”

“You won’t get it.”

“By hook or by crook, we will.”

It was called The Prisoner.  It starred Patrick McGoohan.  He played the lead role, an unnamed character given only a number as identification: Number Six.  The credits show him confronting someone (his boss presumably) and tendering his resignation.  While it is never actually spelled out, we assume he was a spy of some sort.  As he is set to begin his new life, he is drugged and wakes up to find himself in The Village.  It seems to be a pleasant sort of place; the kind of seaside town English people would probably visit for a vacation.  However from the very beginning, there is a sinister undertone to everything, an almost Twilight Zone feel.  Number Six spends seventeen episodes trying to determine the purpose of the place and how to escape.  On the other side, The Village powers-that-be, led by Number Two (and presumably a Number One somewhere off camera), try to extract the reason for his resignation.

prisoner-chair“Who are you?”

“Number Two.”

“Who is Number One?”

“You are Number Six.”

As to what it all meant is anyone’s guess.  In their battle to uncover the secrets of the other side, neither Number Two nor Number Six was willing to divulge much of anything to the audience.  Fans of Lost, The X-Files, and Twin Peaks – to name a few – have to thank The Prisoner for pioneering this genre of shadowy conspiracy on television… at least as entertainment.  By 1967, governments had already mastered the real thing.  Unlike most television shows – even today – The Prisoner actually ended.  Loose ends were tied up after seventeen episodes… well, sort of.

“I am not a number, I am a free man!”

Patrick McGoohan was an accomplished actor, but also a director and writer.  He not only starred in The Prisoner, but he also wrote many of the episodes and co-produced it.  While he went on and played many other roles in his career, ironically it was the non-character without a name that he forever will be identified with.  Patrick McGoohan died last week following a short illness.  He was 80 years old.

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