The Prisoner is sometimes about perception, the way each and everyone of us perceives ‘the Prisoner’ to be, and what’s more no two perceptions are ever quite the same. There are those who see the series as an allegory, perhaps a parable, or tale of morality. While for others ‘the Prisoner’ is action and adventure, a spy series, or simply pure escapism and entertainment.
One cop-out is that ‘the Prisoner’ means what it is. Well that’s right, of course it’s right, any damned fool can understand that. But that takes away the fun, I mean to say there are hundred, upon thousands of theories, interpretations, ideas, and thoughts about what ‘the Prisoner’ means. That is the appeal of the series, what has made ‘the Prisoner’ endure over the past 46 years. But are they all the right, these interpretations, ideas, theories, and thoughts? And who is to say what’s right and wrong about ‘the Prisoner? The one man who could say, yet hardly ever did, is dead. When I first heard of the death of Patrick McGoohan I felt nothing. Well I didn’t know the man, I’d never even met him, unlike a few fans who once had the privilege to do so. And even if I had, what would I have said to him? Whatever it might have been, I certainly wouldn’t have mentioned ‘the Prisoner’ to him!
In my work and researches into ‘the Prisoner’ over the years, I have learned one invaluable lesson, and that’s not to over complicate the matter. It was said that ‘the Prisoner’ is full of hidden meanings. No it’s not, the so called “hidden meanings” are not there, I know because I’ve wasted my time by looking for them!
So 46 years on and is there still anything remaining to be discovered about ‘the Prisoner?’ Is it possible to still talk, discuss, debate, interpret, and theorise about the series? You bet your bottom Credit Unit there is, and we still do. But really, did Patrick McGoohan expect us as television viewers to delve as deep into ‘the Prisoner’ as we obviously have done, and for so long a period of time?
For myself, I set out to research ‘the Prisoner’ and all related material, which was a fine idea at the outset. But I never expected….well perhaps I should have done, yet it seemed so simple at the outset. I set myself a number of rules and guidelines. I was determined to keep to a straight path. I would not allow myself to be waylaid, or diverted down so many different avenues, only to disappear up my own backside! But no matter how determined I was, asking myself “should I allow myself to go along this or that avenue?” And before I answered my own question, I was in a taxi travelling along 95th avenue heading for the crossroads! It does it to you, ‘the Prisoner,’ you have to go where it takes you.
There was also a question I had to ask myself, how far would I go? At what point would I end my researches? You have to understand that I was driven. I had read the majority of books that have been written on the subject of ‘the Prisoner,’ and all of them have their faults and misinformation about the series. And none of them are completely in-depth, they skim the surface, and plumb little more than snorkel depth. Me, oh I was in full diving gear in a diving bell, submerged to a depth never dreamt of in the annals of ‘Prisoner’ appreciation.
But it has been worth it, I’ve made fresh discoveries about ‘the Prisoner’ which have never before appeared in print. Four and a half years I spent researching ‘the Prisoner.’ And every time I thought that’s it, I’ve gone as far as I can go, something would always arise and make me go on, sometimes it led me quite by chance, to another new discovery. And once that stopped, then and only then did I realise that my research had finally come to an end. Will this research ever be published I hear you ask? Well we’ll see, for that is my intention.
I have a perception of ‘the Prisoner’ which may very well differ from that of yours, but that makes it no less valid. What’s more I have developed a different way of looking at ‘the Prisoner’ to that of most people, by turning one situation into that of another, mostly a humorous one. For example a scene with two people talking on the telephono can be manipulated, or completely re-written. No.6 aboard his sea-going raft isn’t escaping from the Village, he’s setting an endurance record, to see how many days at sea he can survive on an open raft! And when aboard the jet boat in Free For All,’ again No.6 is not attempting an escape. He’s setting a water speed record. And that time when No.2 checked for whatever No.6 wrote down on that notepaper, retrieved from No.6’s cottage by No.14, only to discover it’s No.6’s shopping list! Oh yes, and what about those blank sheets of paper No.6 hid in the Stoneboat. No.2 expected that words or figures had been written on the papers, only to find that they were nothing more than blank sheets of paper…..well, I hope they did the lemon juice test! Now you see some might see that as me extracting the Michael out of ‘the Prisoner.’ But not really, after all “Humour is the very essence of a democratic society,” no, I’ve never quite understood that phrase either.
And yet I rationalize ‘the Prisoner,’ by looking at it as though it were reality. Because I cannot believe that a man could survive 25 days at sea on board an open raft, with no protection against the elements. No waterproof clothing, and no safety line attaching him to the raft. And why bother to go to all that trouble with No.6, when really all they had to do was use a truth drug, or get him so drunk that he’d never stop talking. And they would still have maintained the tissue undamaged! And no man, not even a trained agent could go through what No.6 did without bending just a little, he’d break for sure. He certainly would not remain unaffected by any of the experience as suggested in 'Fall Out.'
I suppose finally there has to be faith. One has to have faith in one’s own beliefs, and in what you believe ’the Prisoner’ to be, even if to some that belief is an incorrect one. But then that’s faith for you, for as long as you believe, then nothing else matters no matter what.
I’ll be seeing you