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Friday 9 March 2012

The Prisoners Double Meaning

The Prisoners Double meaning

    It was written some years ago that incredibly many years on from the original screening of the Prisoner that some people have still not twigged onto the double-meaning behind the series, even though McGoohan blew the whistle on himself rather obviously for the final two episodes.
    The Prisoner works very well a continuation series of Danger Man, dealing with what happened to John Drake after he resigned {but only if that’s your particular cup of tea, it’s not everyone’s}, because I have to admit that John drake didn’t actually resign, or at least I don’t recall him having done so at the end of the final series. But Patrick McGoohan did, and in turn went and made a prisoner of himself. So in a way No.6 was a former secret agent who resigned only to find himself abducted to the village, to have the reason behind his resignation extracted, and coercion used against him to turn him towards the village, seeing as this man has a future with the village.   
    So perhaps it’s not No.6 who should be asked why he resigned, but that of Patrick McGoohan himself!
   But then the financial rug was pulled out underneath McGoohan, and so he abandoned the spy theme of the series, which most viewers had been following the stories on this surface level, and with the final two episodes swapped from symbolism to surrealism, then all hell broke loose. As the final episode was to reveal all, but which at the time revealed little or nothing upon the original screening of Fall Out. Because then it went and gone, leaving the viewer with only what he could remember at that time.
    There was a great deal to take in at the time, and so short a time to take it in, 50 minutes to learn what the Prisoner was all about. Which side ran the village - the location of the village, seemingly at the end of the A20 close to Dover as some fans thought! Who was No.1, well you met with him and still didn't get it! Why did the Prisoner resign? Well you were told, perhaps you were not listening, listen again why don't you. Would the Prisoner escape? Well he was just as much a prisoner at the end as he was at the beginning it was, after all, his future!

Be seeing you


  1. @ But then the financial rug was pulled out underneath McGoohan, and so he abandoned the spy theme of the series, which most viewers had been following the stories on this surface level, and with the final two episodes swapped from symbolism to surrealism @

    Given that the penultimate episode was actually the sixth made of seventeen, it would seem that McGoohan knew what he was NOT doing, much earlier than your blog implies. It's difficult to see how that episode would have fitted with a simple spy theme.

    I have wondered if he was also partly motivated to make it very cheaply, suggesting he was watching the pennies at the start of the project, whereas he seemed to be much more finacially flush nearer the end, when making a high-end Cowboy fantasy to amuse himself, as well as us. Things in the world of the prisonere are rarely what they at first seem to be.

  2. Hello Moor,

    Well no, I suppose 'Once Upon A Time' doesn't fit in with the idea of a simple spy theme there, neither does 'Living In Harmony' for that matter. But fifteen out of seventeen isn't bad. although there could also be doubts about 'Dance of the Dead,' but at least I'm on firm ground with 'Fall Out,' being a James Bond movie style of ending. But then again I suppose that would depend on one's perspective of 'Fall Out.'

    On the financial front of 'the Prisoner,' I see it somewhat differently. Seeing as how they were lavishing money on 'the Prisoner,' some £75,000 per episode, I'd say that "watching the pennies" was the last thing on McGoohan's mind on the oustet of 'the Prisoner's' production. And later in the series, when even the production crew were puting their wages into the production, money was extremely tight. This is reflected in later episodes as 'Hammer Into Anvil,' 'It's Your Funeral,' and 'A change of Mind' the three episodes which make more use of film footage from previous episodes, and large painted back-drops of Portmeirion, instead of the Italianate Village itself.
    And I couldn't agree more, "things in the world of 'the Prisoner' are rarely what they seem.'

    Kind Regards
    Be seeing you

  3. Another double element was the fact that two themes were carried through the show. One was the Village's determination to elicit the reason why No6 resigned and the other one was No6's determination to discover who was No1. I have read treatises that try to infer that the resignation reason was a mere McGuffin and that the theme of the show transferred into the search for No1, but this doesnlt stand up to the scrutiny of actually watching the show, because No6 is demanding to meet No1 in Arrival and the whole point of the Embryo Room seemed to be to winkle the resignation reason out of No6. So the two themes ran side by side throughout.

    On the £sd question, Andrew Pixley's book that accompanied the 40th Anniversary set, quotes an overall budget for the show as £850,000. That would work out an average of £50,000 per episode. No doubt the money saved on Degree Absolute allowed for the extra spent on Living in Harmony.

    There is an old suggestion (made by Ian Rakoff I think) that McGoohan ploughed his Ice Station Zebra fee into the show. I would be fascinated to know the truth of that, but McGoohan never gave any hint, nor was he ever asked directly so far as I know. Obviously if unofficial monies were feeding the show's finances, the unofficial budget could have been more like the figure you quoted. I have always wondered too if the later Tax problems McGoohan faced stemmed from his using the Hollywood fee this way. He would have become liable for Income Tax I would guess, on money that he had spent elsewhere, leaving him in a pickle.

  4. Hello Moor,

    That's an interesting comment on the 'double element' of 'the Prisoner.' Escape and discovering the identity of No.1. Well No.6 doesn't attempt that many escapes, but I suppose there are only so many ways one can attempt to escape the Village. As for discovering the identity of No.1, he could have asked the General that, but then I suppose the General would have had to be programmed with the basic facts about No.1 in the first place.
    As for the identity of No.1, I wonder if No.6 missed the chance to speak to No.1 when No.2 was reporting a breakdown in control in 'Hammer Into Anvil.' But of course as far as No.1 goes, if we are to believe that No.1 is No.6's alter ego, then that would stand for the entire series. And if we are to believe that, then any No.2 would know who No.1 was just by the sound of his voice, as I presume both No.1 and No.6 would share the same voice.
    Yes I agree, both themes of escape and the question of No.1's identity does run side by side throughout the series, but not always at the same time. It has always amused me when No.6, while a pawn on the chessboard in 'Checkmate,' asks No.8 {the white Queen} who No.1 is? To think that No.8 would know who No.1 is!

    Yes the figures do add up to £50,000 per episode, but things don't add up quite so evenly when you are actually producing a television series. It is reputed that the series had an allocation of £75,000 per episode, and that would have been fine, if they had not been so lavish on the first few episodes. I mean they were filming the early episodes of 'the Prisoner,' not as a television series, but as a film. Monies had been allocated to the production of 'the Prisoner,' and Lew was not prepared to fork out further funding for the series.
    Of course you are quite right, Patrick McGoohan had never mentioned or hinted that the money he earned from working on 'Ice Station Zebra' went into the production of the later episodes 'the Prisoner. That came from members of the production crew. I don't recall reading anything about anyone asking McGoohan this in any interview. And you are perhaps right again, that the monies earned from 'Ice Sation Zebra' went into the series, but not through the books of 'Everyman Productions.' Hence falling foul of the Inland Revenue.

    Hope the weekend goes well with you.
    Be seeing you