The Prisoner has escaped

January 15, 2009

resigned

Patrick McGoohan has died at the age of 80.  The opening sequence of The Prisoner is the best in TV history, I think.  Watch the clip below…

—- Other Posts —-

Why did you resign?

Going Nowhere Fast

Memorial Notice on Jahsonic

New York Times Obituary

prisoner02

No. 6 addresses the court in the final episode, Fallout.

prisonerlotus7

That car! From the opening sequence.

From my favorite episode:  “A, B, and C” in which No. 2 manipulates No. 6’s dreams.

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Why did you resign? Who is No. 1?

June 7, 2008

I have posted on The Prisoner before, but the show continues to occupy a prominent place in my pop-cult consciousness, and it keeps coming up in odd places. The opening sequence is tremendous, combining as it does adventure, mystery, and the awful weight of obsessive nightmare, the endless replaying of the “resignation scene.” There he is – cool, angry, totally self-confident – swinging open the doors to the evil sanctum to set himself free, or so he believes.

“Why did you resign?” That one little question distills the essence of the totalitarian program. Just tell us that (and then you will tell us whatever we want to know.) And The Prisoner, now known as No. 6, replies with the obvious rejoinder, “Who is No.1?” He never breaks, and they never give up – the game goes on for about 17 episodes. We never see No. 1, not really, until the end. We never find out why The Prisoner is No. 6 – where are No.s 3, 4, and 5? .  No. 2 runs the village…

I remember when I first heard of this show – I was in elementary school, and a friend who watched a lot more TV at later hours than was permitted me told me of a very “weird show,” in which a “big blob” patrolled an island, and attacked anyone who tried to escape. When I finally saw it, I was hooked for life. This doesn’t necessarily put me in good company. I don’t believe that this show is a piece of deeply complex philosophy – I don’t think it warrants exegesis on a par with what scholars give the works of Dante, and I don’t even think most of the episodes are all that good, but the idea of it, and Patrick McGoohan, are great.

The show is cast in the mold of a standard adventure series, but it has a very large dollop of satire and sly wit thrown in, along with some sci-fi aspects, many of them pretty hokey. The quality of the episodes varies wildly from awful (The General) to absolutely exquisitely developed (A, B, & C). These two, my least and most favorite, have the odd circumstance of using the same actor to play No.2. Usually a different actor takes the role each show, indicative of the displeasure of No. 1 at their inability to break No. 6. The form of the shows varies as well – some are straightforward adventure, but often with a very clever twist (The Chimes of Big Ben), some are more satirical (Free for All, the episode in which No. 6 runs for the office of No. 2: “So, No. 6, will you run?” “Like hell, first chance I get.” Always joking…) , some are like fantasy-fables (The Girl Who Was Death)

My favorite, A, B, & C is the story of an attempt to break No. 6 by drugging him and manipulating his dreams. The three letters refer to three individuals whom No. 2 is convinced may hold the key to why No. 6 resigned. In a series of dreams, which they have the technology to project onto a large screen and into which they can inject themselves, No. 2 and his assistant try to prod No. 6 into giving something away. They fail of course – or is there nothing to give away? Did he just resign because he was sick of his job? Was he really just going on vacation?

In desparation, No. 2 gives a super dose to The Prisoner, and the dream takes on the giddy, crazy aspect of a classic 60’s hallucinatory experience, complete with a posh party a la 007, and corny pop music. It culminates in a confrontation in a dark plaza that is as great a surrealist set piece as anything Bunuel ever did, and the denoument is devilishly clever, as No. 2 watches the dream, and then watches No. 6 walk out of the dream, past him, and back to the village. Then…cut to the endless replay of the doors swinging open in that dark room in London…


Going nowhere, fast

November 29, 2004

6a

Here’s my plan – when I retire, someday, I’m buying this car in kit form, and I’m going to assemble it so that every morning I can relive my fantasy of being No. 6 in The Prisoner. Of course, what will be the point? I will have retired, and so escaped The Village already. The Village, the world of work, cubicle in the International Work Machine. It’s not so bad, really. Not for me and my kind, that is. Think of all those who would love to be hooked into it.

But the Prisoner, an eruption of anarchy, angst, and surreal foreboding, has it hands down for pop imagery skewering the New World Order. …and why DID you resign? …and which war was that you fought in? …and are you talkin’ to me? (No. 6 would never have said that!) Not to mention the fact that the opening sequence of the show has never been bested by any other for sheer drama and weirdness.