First Episode of The Prisoner,
The Prisoner, like Fawlty Towers , has benefitted over the years from the decision to get out while the getting is good, in its case after just 17 episodes; sadly the makers of Only Fools and Horses and Last of the Summer Wine failed to learn the lesson.
Patrick McGoohan was the series’ creator, negotiated its commissioning with Lew Grade, played its central character, wrote several episodes, and directed more. His original inspiration came when an episode of the series which made him a star, Danger Man, was filmed at the strange Italianate Welsh resort of Portmeirion , which became the unforgettable setting for The Prisoner.
The premise and its development now seem very Sixties: an apparent spy resigns in disgust, is drugged and kidnapped, and then for the rest of the series is held in The Village where everyone has numbers rather than names – McGoohan’s character is assigned Number 6, which he greets with the famous line: “I am not a number, I am a free man.” His captors, led by various figures known as Number 2, seek ‘information’ about why he resigned, and go to great lengths to trick, interrogate and retain him to that end.
Wonder of wonders, a TV programme that allows – requires - viewers to use their imaginations, and prompts consideration philosophical concepts. But it also had top gimmicks like the giant ball Rover; used a Lotus 7 in the title sequence; was fun; and not least attracted a fantastic cast list, featuring among others Nigel Stock, Donald Sinden , Anton Rogers, Leo McKern, Peter Bowles, Paul Eddington, and George Baker.
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