WHY?…….. Why? It’s a simple enough question, given the basic facts, but what are the basic facts, I haven’t given you any, so the question is basically insoluble for both man or machine, simple when you think about it. So why are people like you and me, aficionados of a 1960’s television series, drawn to that series, what is it about ’the Prisoner?’ Perhaps it is the enigmatic figure of Patrick McGoohan, after all he had become a household name with ‘Danger Man‘ as John Drake. Perhaps people thought, as I, that ‘the Prisoner‘ was a sequel to ‘Danger Man.’ Then if it wasn’t that, it must have been the programme in it’s own right that drew us to it, such is the power of the opening sequence. The dark clouds over a long and deserted runway, the clash of thunder, a car suddenly looming fast towards the camera from out of the distance. Then the face set in a grimaced look of determination. Mind you it could simply be his face set against the wind. I remember when I was once a passenger in a Caterham Super 7, the wind was so strong I struggled to keep my eyes open! And then one day I actually had the chance to drive the car, and that was along Buckingham Place just as Patrick McGoohan had done in ‘the Prisoner.’
The opening sequence to ‘the Prisoner’ is powerful, it grips you, draws you in, and then the first questions; “Where am I?” “Who are you?” “Who is No.1?” Three simple basic questions, yet this is where the conundrum begins. The television viewer learns that it’s not what you say, it’s the way it is said. Depending on where one puts the emphasis, No.2 could be telling the Prisoner that he is No.6, or in fact he is No.1! And that’s only the beginning. Who is this Prisoner? Why did he resign? What is his name? Who did he work for? What kind of work did he do? Where is the Village - which side runs the Village - who is No.2, and what’s that white membranic ‘thing’ the Village Guardian? You see, by the end of the first episode ‘Arrival’ you’re hooked, you have become as much a prisoner as the Prisoner himself. You have these questions which you want answered, if not in the first episode then in the second, so you have to go on from episode to episode until you reach the conclusion. Yet if by then it’s still answers you are looking for, then you have to ask on, ask yourself!
‘Fall Out’ that was the episode, the episode that was supposed to have answered all those irritating questions. And yet the conclusion to ‘the Prisoner’ series left the television viewer more confused than ever. I suppose it was rather naïve to imagine that Patrick McGoohan would have tied all the answers together for us in a nice pink bow. What would have been the point of that? I wouldn’t imagine he had all the answers himself. “It’s an allegory, an allegorical ending to an enigmatic television series.” Thanks for that Pat, oh I forgot, he didn’t like anyone calling him Pat, or Paddy, it was always Patrick. No, the television viewer was left to figure it all out for himself. Easier said than done in 1968, what with no video recorder, or possible chance of an early repeat. Yes, ITV did repeat ‘the Prisoner’ in 1969 on a weekday afternoon. But what was the point in that, when as a boy of 14 I was at school! So you had to try and put it all together by what you could remember, which was precious little as I recall. I remembered the Village, the numbers, the Prisoner resigning, the Village Guardian, and the one thing that really stuck in my mind…..the theme music!
Over the years, I have made many friends, and have made contact with fellow fans of ‘the Prisoner’ from all over the world, and Patrick McGoohan in his own way, has made prisoners of us all. He might have thought that it’s not his fault that we are so weak willed, so feeble minded as to be still bothered by, still affected by, a television series he created over four decades ago.
Why? Well more aficionados of the series are still coming up with new ideas, fresh interpretations, myself included, but especially new fans to the series as I have found. I suppose it’s because new fans to ‘the Prisoner’ series look at it through fresh eyes, and an open mind. And I personally think that’s great, because you either hear someone come up with something completely new, or perhaps you read what someone has written in an article about ‘the Prisoner’ that gives a new perspective on the series that makes you stop and think.
If “Why?” is the question, perhaps “Well why not?” should be the answer!
I’ll be seeing you