There is one question which has not been asked of ‘the Prisoner,’ well certainly not recently, and it is one of a very basic nature. It has nothing to do with the meaning of the series, whether or not it’s an allegorical parable, or a tale of morality. It has nothing to do with why the Prisoner resigned, or where the Village is, or which side runs the Village. It is far more fundamental than that, it is this, how does ‘the Prisoner’ stand up when compared to television productions of today?
Perhaps it is wrong to try and compare ‘The Prisoner’ against series such as ‘24,’ or ‘Lost,’ even THEPRIS6NER-09. Technically, in some ways ‘the Prisoner’ is of a poor production quality. So much money was lavished on the first few episodes, that there was practically nothing left in the coffers for later episodes, certainly not for the final four episodes. Members of the production crew were putting their wages into the production to keep it alive. Patrick McGoohan had to break away from ‘the Prisoner’ so as to go and work on a film production ‘Ice Station Zebra’ so to earn money to put into the final four episodes of ‘the Prisoner.’
When you look at the production quality of ‘the Prisoner,’ and look at television productions of today, one can see that the former is very much lacking in production quality which would not be countenanced today. There are numerous continuity errors in the episodes, continuity errors between the episodes. Huge painted backdrops of Portmeirion used on set at MGM Studios stand out a mile, especially after ‘the Prisoner’ has undergone a number of re-mastering processes in recent years. It is my considered opinion that the clarity of ‘the Prisoner’ is far too clear, so that it allows for certain things which were never meant to be see, to be seen!
And yet, there is a quality within ‘the Prisoner’ television series that makes it stand out, even today. A quality that has seen ’the Prisoner’ endure where other television series of it’s time have aged, even to have fallen, forgotten by the wayside. Perhaps that is it, time. No.6 accused No.2 of running out of time. Suggesting that time travel might be in it as well. Certainly two No.2’s were not given sufficient time, one three days, another a week! But no, it is none of these, it is the fact that ‘the Prisoner’ is not of it’s time, but before it’s time, that has seen the series endure. And because of that, any shortcomings which ‘the Prisoner’ may suffer from can be forgiven, have been forgiven. Time, unlike most television series of it’s time, has been good to ‘the Prisoner.’
However there is one visual effect that stands out in ‘the Prisoner,’ so good is it, that in the pre production stage of THEPRIS6ONER nothing could be found to better it. Only to update the white membranic Village Guardian, from a plain meteorological weather balloon, to a CGI visual effect, thereby bringing “it” into the 21st century!
‘The Prisoner’ is a television series like no other, save for THEPRIS6NER-09 series, which does reflect the original series in some way, in several ways, but has been re-packaged, reinvented, and reinterpreted. Just when you think you know ‘the Prisoner,’ something, or someone comes along and plants a whole new idea in your mind, or arrives at new interpretations. And then you suddenly see something in the series, which you have been watching from time to time over the past 45 years, that you have not seen before! And it is that which has made ‘the Prisoner’ endure the passing years. People, fans and aficionados of ’the Prisoner’ still love to talk, discuss, and debate the series. It is a series which does not leave you. It never goes away, and retains the power to attract new fans today. What modern day television series will you be discussing with friends 45 years from today? I cannot think of a single one worth mentioning. Oh I do watch modern day television series of all kinds, from murder mysteries, costumes dramas, to psychological thrillers. They are all well and good, far better than your average quiz show, or celebrity game show. But today television series come and go, they may remain in the mind, or recorded in the Freeview box, but that’s as far as it goes. THEPRIS6ONER-09 series has come and gone, but it has not been forgotten, certainly not by me, or others like me that see the value in the series.
‘The Prisoner’ has a special quality, it was ahead of it’s time, and has remained timeless. Oh it’s easy to put a date to ‘the Prisoner’ in episodes which take place outside of the Village. But in the Village, what year might it be? What is the date on any given day, Feb 10th the one exception! What is the time, the exception in this case being ‘The Chimes of Big Ben!’ To be perfectly honest, the time and date in the Village could be…..well any time!
‘The Prisoner’ is a television masterpiece. Not perfect by any means, even a little quirky in places. But I believe it is a series which has yet to meet it’s match. It’s topics, and social commentary are as relevant today, as they were back in the 1960’s. Once you have seen ‘the Prisoner,’ it stays with you. It never leaves you, and has had an effect upon so many people. Indeed it still does so today, and will continue to do so, while we “Prisonerists” continue to have an enquiring mind.
Be seeing you