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Thursday 2 September 2021

The Two Villages of The Prisoner!

      What is your view of the village, and how important is Portmeirion to the Prisoner? To some it’s very important, and yet there are in fact two villages, The pictorial one of Portmeiron, and the other at MGM film studios.
   If you have been to Portmeirion you have been to the village, and its enjoyable to walk around the exteriors, to soak up the atmosphere, it’s a neat and tidy place, but it’s only the shell, the real magic didn’t happen there. Portmeirion is only a small part of the story because the central core of the village, where all the important work was carried out was at the MGM, which sadly no longer exists, and has been gone these many years.
    True Portmeirion does create the atmosphere of the village, it sets the scene, we know where we are, well those watching the Prisoner know where they are if they’ve actually been to Portmeirion prior to the screening of ‘the Prisoner.’ And yet for all its picturesque vistas, really the Italianate village only features as the whole village in four episodes which were filmed there, those of Arrival, Free For All, Checkmate, and Dance of the Dead. As for the remaining 13 episodes Portmeirion takes more of a back seat, only appearing by the use of stock film footage, as well as previously used film footage in those four episodes filmed on location, and huge painted backdrops of course! Indeed part of the village around the Recreation Hall, which features in 4 episodes, was a back lot at MGM film studios. Portmeirion is but the façade, the bones of the village were at MGM, the control room, the council chamber, the laboratory in the woods, as well as the new café facilities, the watchmakers shop, and the hospital interior. In fact all of the interiors were at the MGM village, tell me where No.24’s cottage is in Portmeirion. You can’t, because we simply do not know where in the village the cottage is located within Portmeirion, or even if it existed within Portmeirion at all, because even some of the sets created for the village do not appear in Portmeirion. The night time scene when No.6 is confronted by two guardians ‘The Schizoid Man’ when No.2 says “The atmosphere is very different here from what is was elsewhere,” I have always thought that to be some kind of in-joke on the part of Pat McGoohan, because No.6 is in the MGM village and not Portmeirion! And that also goes for the garden where Madam Professor holds her art seminars.

   When it comes to village citizens, many of them only exist in the MGM village, people like the Professor and his wife, Alison, Monique and her father, the control room personnel. I suppose you could say the actors acting on set at MGM never went to the village because they never went to Portmeirion, yet they were at the same time in the village!

    No-one actually lives in the Portmeirion village, oh they ride their bicycles around the village, taxis ferry passengers here and there, and they promenade around the pool and fountain in the Piazza, or attend the regular brass band concerts. If you like No.6 want to go to the gymnasium you have to go to the MGM village, even No.6’s home made gym was at the MGM village. No-one actually lives in the Portmeirion village, because all the interiors are in the MGM village.

    And when it comes to interiors at the MGM village they do make a mockery of certain buildings in the Portmeirion village, for example; the Green Dome.

    If No.2 was to have his office in Portmeirion, then it would be a poky little office, with no foyer, and certainly no large blast-proof steel doors. But instead at the MGM village No.2 is given a large, futuristic

    If No.2 was to have his office in Portmeirion, then it would be a poky little office, with no foyer, and certainly no large blast-proof steel doors. But instead at the MGM village No.2 is given a large, futuristic

    And yet we freely accept these things, oh we might have debated them at one time or another, but we accept them, we have to, otherwise the other way lies madness. There are times when I like my imagination to run riot when it comes to the village. Because we have to accept that as well as the domed chamber of No.2’s office above ground, there are also three large underground domed chambers. Those of the control room, the council and committee chamber, and the manager’s office of the labour exchange. Imagine the work required to excavate three very large and deep pits when they were first constructing the village.
    I happen to like the idea of there being two villages for this series, but then that is not strictly correct, of course it isn’t. Although the MGM village isn’t quite the same as the village of Portmeirion, the scene in ‘Checkmate’ when the searchlight crew at the top of the bell tower are attacked by No.6 and his confederates is proof of that. And yet with the sets built at MGM it makes it an extension of the village at Portmeirion, making them both necessary one for the other, even essential.

Be seeing you


  1. Hi David

    I enjoyed reading your article.

    In my own lazy fashion, I had initially seen Portmeirion as encompassing the location where The Prisoner was made. When I visited there some years ago, it was with a sense of achievement in having made it to the actual place where the No. 6 played out his struggles with The Village authorities. As your article demonstrates, the actual place is at least two places.

    So, The Village is not as it appears to be!


    1. Hello Mike,
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the article.

      I have been to Portmeirion on many occasions and have walked in No.6’s footsteps, and at a time when you could walk into No.6’s cottage through the side door, which you cannot do today, but only as far as the study. You can go into the Green Dome, but you cannot walk into No.2’s office which has no semblance in side to the Green Dome in Portmeirion. I’ve sat on the lawn listening to the brass band concert on a Sunday afternoon, and stood on the patio of the café.
      Morag and I have not been to Portmeirion since 2003, as we felt the atmosphere of the village wasn’t what it was. The place has changed, people do not take me seriously when I say that, Portmeirion is no longer the village it was when used as a film location for the Prisoner. It has lost that “lived in” look, and they have filled the Piazza with tables and chairs.
      Once upon a time the management at Portmeirion for years and years and years denied the Prisoner existed. But then when they took over the running of the Prisoner shop, having had the Round House completely renovated, they took the Prisoner to their hearts, and have played on the series ever since!
      Once upon a time Portmeirion was very dear to Morag and my hearts, we went there a couple of times a year, for a holiday, and a Prisoner Convention, as well as the occasional day trip. But no longer, today we can live without Portmeirion, yet do still retain some very happy memories of times spent there
      Be seeing you