Let's Watch The Prisoner


That sounds great. And no sign of it anywhere. Just one 13 min clip that was taken down.


I’m excited for the discussion on the first episode to commence. Coming to this with no real foreknowledge beyond references in The Simpsons, this first episode is a real treat.



So here we go, starting of course with the pilot.

An unnamed man, apparently a government agent of some kind, angrily storms into his superior’s office, slams his fist on the table a couple of times, drops off a resignation letter, and leaves. While McGoohan maintained to his dying day that this was definitely NOT John Drake, the character he played in his previous series Danger Man (Secret Agent in the US) the photo of him that gets x-ed out was a publicity shot from that show, so you be the judge.

We next see him rapidly packing. Is he going on a trip, or could he be defecting? That would be telling. A mysterious figure funnels some sort of gas into our hero’s flat and he passes out, waking up later in what appears to be his own place……….

…….except when he open the curtains he finds he’s no longer in London but in some fantasy village made up of surreal architecture and pastel colors. (The show was filmed in the real Welsh resot town of Portmerion, which I still hope to visit one day). Exploring, he discovers that not only is there no way to leave, there’s no contact with the outside world at all.

Eventually he’s summoned before the patriarch of the Village, and informed that as a secret agent he knows too much, but if he’ll just tell the powers that be the reason for his resignation, he can live out his life in comfort. No one is referred to by name, only number. No 2 is the absolute authority, and the Prisoner is to be referred to as No. 6.

Given a tour, we begin to see the Orwellian underpinning of life In the Village. Not only is everyone under constant surveillance, but there are slogans like “A Still Tongue Makes A Happy Life”.

Eventually he hooks up with a former colleague, and hatches an escape plan, but discovers that getting out or finding out the identity of No. 1 isn’t going to be so easy.

The episode does a great job of setting up the premise and the cat-and-mouse game that runs throughout the series. Several recurring characters and themes are introduced here such as No 2 always being a step ahead of The Prisoner (I’m gonna call him P), the replaceable No 2’s, the fact that no one can be trusted, the Butler, and , of course, Rover.

  • Cobb (some characters are named, but rarely) refers to “our new masters”. Given that the show came out during the height of the Cold War could he be referring to the Soviets? Maybe it’s aliens.
  • Like a lot of pilots, some elements are introduced that never reappear. Who is the tall man in the top hat at the start of the episode? What’s the deal with the maintenance men – are they clones? Robots? Who knows
  • The Butler (Angelo Muscat) is the only character to be credited and appear in every episode other than McGoohan. Conventional wisdom says that he’s to represent the common man, the little guy (in this case, literally) who keeps the gears turning and makes the machinery of society work. But notice he’s the only resident of the Village with no number.
  • Rover (the Village guardian) was originally supposed to be a vehicle with a police light on top, but it never worked right and McGoohan decided it looked stupid. Shortly afterwards he happened to spot a weather balloon, which gave him the idea for something different.
  • If you squint, you can see the first clue to the identity of No. 1.

Next week Dance of the Dead . Until then remember – we’re all pawns, my dear. Be seeing you.


I want to echo this. The beginning of the first episode is especially striking, but I thought the editing throughout was wonderful.


Thanks for the reminder! Amazon has them arranged by air date so I probably would have just continued on with The Chimes of Big Ben otherwise.