The Prisoner

The Prisoner is an allegorical British 1960s science fiction television series starring and co-created by Patrick McGoohan. It follows a former British secret agent who, after abruptly resigning from his position, is held captive in a small village by the sea by an unidentified power that wishes to establish the reason for his resignation. Episodes typically feature the unnamed prisoner, labelled "Number Six" by his captors, unsuccessfully attempting to escape from "the Village", but successfully resisting interrogation and attempts of brainwashing.

The show was created by McGoohan and George Markstein, with exteriors filmed primarily on location at the Hotel Portmeirion in Penrhyndeudraeth, North Wales. Seventeen episodes were produced. The first was originally broadcast in London on 1 October 1967 and the last aired on 4 February 1968. The world broadcast premiere was on the CTV Television Network in Canada on September 5, 1967.

Although sold as a spy thriller in the mould of McGoohan's previous series, Danger Man, the show's combination of 1960s countercultural themes and its surreal setting had a far-reaching effect upon science fiction-fantasy-genre television and also popular culture in general.


The show was, in part, inspired by McGoohan's reaction to the surreal appearance of the Welsh resort Hotel Portmeirion, where location filming for three episodes of the first Danger Man TV series had taken place. In a 1977 interview, McGoohan stated that "I thought it was an extraordinary place, architecturally and atmosphere-wise, and should be used for something and that was two years before the concept came to me."

Another factor behind the series was the response of George Markstein to McGoohan's complaining that the revival of Danger Man, on which Markstein was script editor, was becoming stale and uninteresting to him. Markstein remembered that during World War II some people were incarcerated in a resort-like prison. He suggested that the hero of Danger Man, John Drake, could suddenly resign, and find himself kidnapped and sent to such a location. Drake would have to identify his captors, without giving them any information, and escape.

McGoohan: "It was a place that is trying to destroy the individual by every means possible; trying to break his spirit, so that he accepts that he is №6 and will live there happily as №6 for ever after. And this is the one rebel that they can't break."

Many critics and TV historians agree that another inspiration was an episode of Danger Man, entitled "Colony Three," first aired in 1964. In this episode, McGoohan's character, John Drake, infiltrates a spy school in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The place is based in the middle of nowhere and is made up of many British nationals who, by will or by force, are made to help train potential spies. The instructors themselves are virtual prisoners who have little or no hope of ever leaving, and some have settled in quite willingly. Drake manages to leave eventually (having made arrangements for extraction before entering).

McGoohan grafted this onto the material he had developed in the intervening years and pitched it to Lew Grade of ITC Entertainment. (McGoohan invariably denies The Prisoner and John Drake are the same character. Producer Ralph Smart who created and owned the John Drake character has never received credit or payment.)

I'd made 54 of those [sic—there were thirty-nine half-hour episodes and forty-seven hour long segments of Danger Man] and I thought that was an adequate amount. So I went to the gentleman, Lew Grade, who was the financier, and said that I'd like to cease making Secret Agent and do something else. So he didn't like that idea. He'd prefer that I'd gone on forever doing it. But anyway, I said I was going to quit.

So I prepared it and went in to see Lew Grade. I had photographs of the Village… So I talked for ten minutes and he stopped me and said, 'I don't understand one word you're talking about, but how much is it going to be?'… I told him how much and he says, 'When can you start?' I said 'Monday, on scripts.' And he says, 'The money'll be in your company's account on Monday morning.'

Grade bought the show and it was produced for broadcast on ITV and overseas.

For the script writers McGoohan wrote a forty-page document on the setting, a "…history of the Village, the sort of telephones they used, the sewerage system, what they ate, the transport, the boundaries, a description of the Village, every aspect of it…"

He also wrote and directed several episodes, often under various pseudonyms. Specifically, he wrote "Free for All" as Paddy Fitz (Paddy being the Irish diminutive for Patrick and Fitzgerald being his mother's maiden name) and directed "Many Happy Returns" and "A Change of Mind" as Joseph Serf. He wrote and directed the last two episodes — "Once Upon a Time" and "Fall Out" — and directed the aforementioned "Free for All" under his own name, though he had considered putting "Archibald Schwartz" on the script of "Once Upon a Time".


The protagonist, played by McGoohan, is apparently a former secret agent of the British government during the Cold War. He is never identified by name and the exact nature of his job is never explicitly indicated, though numerous episodes provide clues. After resigning his position, he is kidnapped and held prisoner in a small, isolated, eccentric seaside resort town known only as the Village.

The authorities (whose identity and allegiance are never made clear) in control of the Village call him Number Six and attempt to find out, "by hook or by crook," why he resigned. In "Arrival", Number Two states that he believes Number Six's resignation was a matter of principle, but that he was charged with performing "a double check."

Throughout the series, Number Six attempts to escape while defying all attempts to break his will. He also tries to discover for which "side" his captors work and the identity of the mysterious "Number One", who presumably runs the Village.

Format and setting

The series features striking and often surreal storylines, and themes include hypnosis, hallucinogenic drug experiences, identity theft, mind control, dream manipulation, and various forms of social indoctrination.

In a 1977 interview McGoohan said: "I thought the concept of the thing would sustain for only seven, but then Lew Grade wanted to make his sale to CBS, I believe (first ran it in the States) and he said he couldn't make a deal unless he had more, and he wanted 26, and I couldn't conceive of 26 stories, because it would be spreading it very thin, but we did manage, over a week-end, with my writers, to cook up ten more outlines, and eventually we did 17, but it should be seven…"

There is debate as to whether the series ended by mutual agreement or cancellation. According to The Prisoner: The Official Companion to the Classic TV Series by Robert Fairclough, the series was indeed cancelled, forcing McGoohan to write the concluding episode "Fall Out" in only a few days.

In the 1977 interview McGoohan contradicts this: "…it got very close to the last episode and I hadn't written it yet. And I had to sit down this terrible day and write the last episode…"

The opening and closing sequences


The opening main series title sequence (seen in all but two episodes, but it has several extra shots scattered throughout in the opening installment, "Arrival") begins with a visual of a clouded sky and the sound of thunder, the latter becoming that of a jet plane engine. As the theme music begins, the view pans down to reveal an angry man, the future Number Six , driving in his Lotus Seven, registration number KAR 120C, past the Houses of Parliament in London, into an underground car park. He is then seen striding forcefully down a corridor which seems to end in the office of a superior. The man mounts a fierce (but inaudible) argument before this superior, delivers an envelope marked "Private — Personal — By Hand" (presumably his resignation), and smashes his fist onto the desk, knocking a teacup out of its saucer and spilling its contents (coffee or tea) onto the desk. He then drives home. A hearse follows him, registration number TLH 858. Returning to his flat at No. 1 Buckingham Place, London, SW1E, he quickly packs his possessions, including photographs of a tropical white sand beach (possibly a clue to his intended destination). The hearse pulls up and a tall pallbearer approaches the front door. A white gas then floods the room through the keyhole, which renders our hero unconscious. He awakens in what appears to be his apartment, but is in fact a recreation of his home in the Village, where the decor and the residents' clothes are of brightly coloured and peculiarly nautical style.

The following dialogue exchange runs over the opening titles (that is, the title of the episode, guest star lists, and credits for line producer, writer, and director) of most episodes. It is not heard in "Arrival", as it is a condensation of much of what that first episode establishes, "Living In Harmony" or "Fall Out" as none of the standard opening is present, or "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling", for no known reason. The questioner is Number Six and the respondent is Number Two, the Village chairperson, a role occupied by a different man or woman in almost every episode (as indicated by the reference to the "new Number Two"):

"Where am I?"
"In the Village."
"What do you want?"
"Whose side are you on?"
"That would be telling…. We want information. Information! INFORMATION!"
"You won't get it."
"By hook or by crook, we will."
"Who are you?"
"The new Number Two." (This occasionally varies — see below.)
"Who is Number One?"
"You are Number Six."
"I am not a number — I am a free man!"
(Laughter from Number Two.)

In most cases, the voice of Number Two in the above exchange is provided by the actor playing the character in that particular episode. In a few episodes, Number Two is not shown at all in order to not spoil the surprise as to the true identity of the character (such as the episodes "Many Happy Returns" and "The Girl Who Was Death") -- in these episodes a different voice (specifically that of Robert Rietty) is used without the image of the actor playing the role being shown. In "Checkmate", while Peter Wyngarde plays Number Two and is seen here, his first several lines of this are actually spoken by Colin Gordon, presumably lifted from one of his two episodes in the role. In a couple of intros, Number Two says simply, "I am Number Two". This was used on "A. B. and C.", originally intended to be screened after "The General", which featured Colin Gordon as the character for the second time — therefore, he was not the new Number Two.


At the close of each episode (except, arguably significantly, for the finale), the face of The Prisoner rises up from a bird's-eye view of the Village (both clearly still photographs), advancing toward the camera until it all but fills the screen, but is stopped at the last second by clanging bars that slam shut, serving as the episode's tag, just before the closing credits. (According to The Prisoner: The Complete Scripts Volume 1, this sequence is all that remains of a rejected, early realisation of the series' opening credits.)

Closing credits

The closing credits appear over a slowly assembling drawing of the penny-farthing bicycle, the logo of the Village. After the bicycle is fully assembled, footage of Rover, the large white balloon-like device that chases and pacifies or kills would-be escapees (see below), rising through water and bursting above the surface is shown, and Rover then bounces into the distance.

In the originally planned version of the closing credits, seen in the alternate version of "The Chimes of Big Ben," Rover is not shown. Instead, the image of the bicycle frame fades out to leave only the wheels. The wheels then begin to spin faster and faster transforming into the Earth (little wheel) and the Universe (big wheel). The camera then zooms in towards the Earth which explodes into the word "POP". (This is an acronym for "Protect Other People" which is referenced in the episode "Once Upon a Time," and also in the show's occasional use of the song "Pop Goes the Weasel" in the soundtrack.) In the transmission prints, there is no consistency as to when the cut to replace these graphics with the clip of Rover occurs. In a couple of episodes, the last piece of the bicycle has yet to appear, and in another, its entire framework has faded away from the wheels. The finale, "Fall Out", presents a further variation, i.e., the complete bicycle maintains its visual presence during the closing strains of the theme, instead of being replaced by either the cosmic animation or the live-action footage of the balloon.

The Village

The location of the Village is unknown. In "Many Happy Returns", its location is estimated to be somewhere near the "coast of Morocco, southwest of Portugal and Spain." Number Six (after a brief escape) works out the locus with old colleagues using navigation notes and maps and, upon searching this area from an airplane, finds it — which suggests this estimate may be correct. On the other hand, definite subterfuge by his captors, including substitution of the airplane pilot, strains credibility of anything beyond placement of the Village on a small island within the craft's range from Gibraltar. Then, again, given the demonstrated capabilities of Number Six's adversaries, even this locus may not necessarily be accurate (e.g., arguably the Prisoner might have been placed in enforced sleep and carried to an exact duplicate location). In another episode, "The Chimes of Big Ben," Lithuania, on the Baltic coast "30 miles from the Polish border," is stated although again the denouement leaves this a deception. In the unbroadcast version of the episode "The Chimes of Big Ben", Number Six constructs a device that allows him to work out the Village's location; this scene was cut presumably to remove the reference to navigation by stars which would have allowed an estimation of the Village's region, at the least. This episode is not considered part of the series canon. The final episode, "Fall Out", while it never reveals the Village's exact location, strongly suggests that it is within a single tank of fuel's driving distance of London, and shows a sign for a road which is in Kent. Neither does the finale give a suggestion of ferry travel, not to mention the Channel Tunnel from France was still decades away from completion.

The Village has a logo in the form of a canopied penny-farthing bicycle which appears on almost everything, including the daily newspaper called the Tally Ho. The place is under the control of Number Two (see below). "Work units" or "credits" serve as currency in its shops, and are kept track of with a hole-punched credit card. Throughout the Village, music plays in the background, nearly all of it alternating between rousing marching band music and lullabies, periodically interrupted by public announcements. The media and signage consistently incorporate sailing and resort themes.

The exact size of the environs of the Village is never established on screen. Besides the townsite, which is known to include a hospital building, there are forested, mountainous and coastal areas. The Village is large enough that one episode ("Living in Harmony") established that an entire Old West town was built somewhere in the vicinity. In "Arrival" (and other episodes) Number Six views the Village from the air, yet is apparently unable to spot any surrounding towns or cities. In other episodes (depending upon the camera angle), buildings can clearly be seen on the far side of the bay. Nevertheless, all maps of the Village seen in the series display little beyond the central townsite.

Scenes of the Village were filmed in the grounds of Clough Williams-Ellis' Italianate Hotel Portmeirion, a resort near Penrhyndeudraeth in North Wales. Principal location shooting took place over four weeks in September 1966, with a return visit for additional, second unit-style shots for later episodes in March 1967. Sections of the resort (such as Number 6's residence interior with exterior) were replicated at MGM Borehamwood Studios in England. Later episodes were shot almost entirely on the sets on MGM's sound stages and backlot and locations within easy reach of the studio at Borehamwood, (e.g., in "It's Your Funeral", "A Change of Mind", "Living in Harmony", and "The Girl Who Was Death"), and by reusing Portmeirion footage from earlier episodes the production company was able to save a great deal of money that further principal photography at Portmeirion would have cost.

Security and surveillance in the Village (Rover)

An underground control centre monitors closed-circuit television cameras located throughout the Village. Regular observers continually spy on Villagers and foil Number Six's escape attempts with the aid of Rover, a large white balloon-like device that chases and pacifies or kills (suffocates) would-be escapees. Rover was originally intended to be a robotic machine, resembling a Dalek (see Doctor Who), but when the prototype was found to be unusable during the first few days of location shooting, the crew (this is usually attributed to Patrick McGoohan himself) noticed a weather balloon in the sky and used this as an alternative.

One book on the series, The Official Prisoner Companion by Matthew White and Jaffer Ali (Warner Books, 1988), reported that research had cast some doubt on this story. It had been proven, they wrote, that there had never been an appropriate installation located anywhere that could have launched weather balloons to be seen over Portmeirion (official production history having filming beginning with the big location shoot there, although some London-based scenes for the opening credit sequence had been filmed the week before). The authors further stated that at the time of their writing--twenty years after the event (1966)--no direct evidence proving that the original Rover had ever been built was known to exist.

However, in the mid 1990s, TV historian Steven Ricks located home-movie footage taken in 1966 which showed that the original version of Rover had existed, and had been taken to Portmeirion; the device seen there did broadly fit the descriptions, being a domed shell (with a flashing blue light on top) fitted over a go-kart chassis and completely hiding the driver. This footage has been included as an extra in the 2001 Australian DVD release of the series by Umbrella Entertainment. This original Rover is shown in front of the Portmeirion Hotel, apparently being prepared for use in the scenes following Number Six and Number Two's Alouette helicopter (registration F-BNKZ later re-registered as G-AVEE) ride in "Arrival", which were originally scripted to be filmed in this part of the Village. Its failure — a combination of the driver being unable to see, fumes from the engine, and the inability of the small-diameter wheels to cope with the rough terrain of Portmeirion's steep cobbled streets, led to the filming of this scene being re-scheduled for a later date, by which time Guy Doleman had left Portmeirion and his part as Number Two (in the scene as finally shot in Portmeirion's Piazza) was played by an extra, his face concealed by a megaphone, with close-ups of Doleman filmed in the studios at Borehamwood.

Despite White and Ali's claims, at the time of filming RAF Llanbedr, about six miles south west of Portmeirion, was still active and used weather balloons for meteorological monitoring.

Said McGoohan in 1977:

Rover is last seen in Fall Out. Whilst the rocket is being launched, Rover drops down a hole to an underground 'cave' like area, where it shrinks to a small size and becomes still as if it is deactivating itself now that it is no longer needed in the village. However, this scene was not in the script and was inserted to give Rover its finale.

Salute (Village farewell) and clothing

Citizens use the phrase "Be seeing you" as a farewell, accompanied by a waving gesture consisting of thumb and forefinger forming a circle over the eye, then tipped forward in a salute. This may be a reminder that in the Village you are under constant surveillance; anyone may be a Warder, a stooge working for Number Two — although a simpler theory of the salute could be that the fingers are formed into the shape of a number six. Moreover — the hand gesture resembles the show's revolving penny-farthing bicycle logo. In Danger Man and Secret Agent, John Drake uses that expression often.

Most (but not all) guards wear the same style of resort clothing and numbered badges as the prisoners, and mingle seamlessly among the general population. Thus, it is nearly impossible for prisoners to determine which Villagers can be trusted and which ones cannot.

Number Six

Number Six typically wears a black jacket with white piping trim, a dark blue mock-turtleneck shirt, tan slacks, dark blue boating shoes with white soles, and forsakes his "6" ID badge. There were at least two dark jackets, with slight differences in the white piping. Little is known about Number Six's background other than that he fought in a war and was born on March 19, 1928 (which is also McGoohan's birthday). The flashback setup in "Once Upon a Time" suggests that Number Six was a bomber crewman, most likely with RAF Bomber Command. His seated position relative to the pilot (portrayed in illusion by Number Two) indicates that he was a bombardier/navigator. In the episode Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling the prisoner, in another man's body, reveals that he was at one point engaged to the daughter of one of his superiors. It is not known whether the proposed marriage ever took place but fans have speculated that it did not due to the lack of "The Lover" in the Seven Ages Of Man sequence in Once Upon a Time.

He refuses to cooperate, despite constant efforts by Number Two to get information from him.

Number Six initially spends his energy seeking ways to escape, and later in the series turns his attention to finding out more about the Village and its unseen rulers. His attempts are easily rebuffed; however, their efforts to extract information necessitate increasingly drastic measures through the course of the series.

The later episodes feature fewer escape bids and more psychological themes such as the nature of power and authority, and their relationship with liberty. His cunning and defiance only increase while in captivity: in "Hammer Into Anvil" he reduces Number Two to a mad, paranoid wreck through deception. As the Number Twos become more coercive and desperate, Number Six's behaviour becomes progressively sharp, uncompromising, and eccentric.

Patrick McGoohan has been quoted as saying he chose '6' because it is the only number that becomes another number when turned upside down.

Number One

Number Six always assumed that someone designated "Number One" was in charge of the Village, but only twice do any of the Village's visible authorities directly acknowledge the existence of such a person. In the final scene of "Once Upon a Time", Number Six, having trounced Number Two, is asked by the Supervisor, "What do you desire?" When Six answers, "Number One," the Supervisor responds, "I'll take you." At the end of "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling," the character of the Colonel implores of Number Two, "You must contact Number One and tell him I did my duty." It is unclear if the Colonel is simply assuming that Number Two's superior is Number One or if he has actually met Number One. The Colonel is certainly not part of the Village's usual operating staff and does not have a number himself. Perhaps significantly, Number Six does not appear to hear his statement. In the final episode, Number One initially appears as a hooded figure. When confronted by The Prisoner, he is wearing a mask of an ape, but when this mask is removed, the face of Number Six himself is revealed. Number One then climbs up a ladder and seals a hatch behind him, laughing madly all the while.

A clear, direct statement regarding Number One is never forthcoming even when it is the subject of discussion in the series, with Number Two in "The Chimes of Big Ben" declaring, "It doesn't matter who Number One is." In "Free For All", when The Prisoner and Number Two are discussing the consequences of being elected Number Two, the older man states, "Number One will no longer be a mystery to you, if you know what I mean." Both statements may be conceding the existence of an actual Number One, or may simply refer to Number Six's desire to meet Number One. It is also possible that Number One is, like The General, not a human being. In their official functions, Number Two and the Village operations staff even avoid referring to Number One by title. Some have interpreted this as indicating that there actually is no "Number One" in the personal sense, much like the non-existent Big Brother in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is evident, however, that there is someone who certainly seems to give direct orders to Number Two, because in several episodes, Number Two appears intimidated by telephone calls from a person addressed only as "Sir".

According to co-creator George Markstein, "Number One is the villain in charge."

In a 1970s television interview with British television presenter Mike Smith, Patrick McGoohan stated: "The reason that it was confusing, and that [the viewers] were disappointed, I think, was that they expected the ending to be similar to a 'Bond' thing, with this mystery man, the head man or whatever they call him in Bond; and of course it wasn't about that at all. It was about the most evil human "being", human "essence"; and that is ourselves, because within each of us, that is the most dangerous thing on Earth, is what is within us. And so therefore that's what I made No. 1: One's 'self', an image of himself that he was trying to beat." McGoohan planted clues to this throughout the series, including the Prisoner's residence in London bearing the numeral "1" on the door, and that the phrasing of No. 2's response to the Prisoner's question, "Who is No. 1?" can be taken either as a non-response - "You are No. 6." - or as an answer - "You are, No. 6."

In Shattered Visage, a comic book sequel set 20 years later, Number Six says rhetorically, "Does the presence of Number Two require the existence of Number One?"

Number Two

The Village is openly administered by an official designated as "Number Two". The person assigned to the position is changed on a regular basis. There are two Number Twos with repeat appearances: Leo McKern appeared in three episodes, and Colin Gordon in two. With the exception of "Fall Out", this was the result of the actors performing their roles in two consecutive episodes filmed back to back. Colin Gordon was filmed in "The General" followed immediately with "A. B. and C." McKern was featured in the series' second transmitted episode, "The Chimes of Big Ben," and then featured in the next production episode to be filmed "Once Upon a Time." Three actors who portray Number Twos also appear in other episodes, possibly as different characters — Georgina Cookson ("A. B. and C." as party guest and "Many Happy Returns" as Mrs Butterworth/No. 2), Kenneth Griffith ("The Girl Who Was Death" as Schnipps/No. 2 and "Fall Out" as The Judge) and Patrick Cargill ("Many Happy Returns" as Thorpe, and "Hammer Into Anvil" as No. 2) — although this is ambiguous, particularly in the case of Kenneth Griffith's character.

The various Number Twos seem to make use of several symbols of their authority. One of the most striking is the Seal, a large golden medallion, somewhat in the style of a mayoral chain, with the penny-farthing logo and the official title "Chief Administrator". This is only seen in one episode, "It's Your Funeral". The two more visible signs are a multicoloured scarf and a colourful umbrella stick (used as a cane). Most, though not all, of the Number Twos seem to use these symbolic objects.

Throughout the series, the various Number Twos try to break Number Six with their will. A variety of interrogation, intimidation, drugs, and mind control techniques are used by sequential Number Twos. Number Six's importance usually prevents the use of brutal methods — routinely employed on other prisoners — against him (this policy was ignored by the female Number Two at the end of "Free For All").

The first episode, "Arrival", established that the people holding the position of Number Two were rotated on a regular basis. Some fans have interpreted the removal of a Number Two exclusively as a punishment for failure, but there were only two individuals who actually fit this categorization. The episode "Free for All" initially suggests that Number Twos are "democratically elected by the people." However, this was ultimately revealed to have been part of the attempt used by the Number Two(s) of that episode to break Number Six.

One of these Number Twos was recalled to the Village as the final Number Two (as played by McKern). This Number Two appears to be known at the highest levels of government, since in the final episode, "Fall Out", McKern's character arrives at the Palace of Westminster and is immediately admitted; presumably this is intended to signify his entry (or return) into the administrative or political 'mainstream'. It has also been noted that the character uses the Peers' Entrance, and thus might be a Member of House of Lords, with a title either inherited through birth or received from the Crown. An alternative interpretation is that the Palace of Westminster is a symbol of openness and democracy, in contrast to the themes of secrecy, totalitarianism and the suppression of the individual.

McGoohan's summary


The above list includes only actors who each played the same role in more than one episode. A number of other actors played Number Two in one-off appearances, while several actors including Alexis Kanner, Christopher Benjamin, Georgina Cookson, Kenneth Griffith and Patrick Cargill appeared in more than one episode, playing different characters each time. McGoohan was the only actor credited in the opening sequence, with Muscat the only actor considered a "co-star" of the series. Kenneth Griffith appeared in "The Girl Who Was Death" and "Fall Out." While Griffith played Number Two in "The Girl Who Was Death," his character in "Fall Out" may be the same character after the assignment of Number Two was passed to someone else (or, given events here, abandoned). There is also the theory that Cargill played the same character in his two episodes; the Number Two that Cargill plays in "Hammer Into Anvil" may or may not be the same character of Thorpe, the aide to Number Six's superior, from "Many Happy Returns." Stuntman Frank Maher also appears in every episode as McGoohan's stunt double. In particular he can been seen at the start of almost every episode in part of the running across the beach scene and he also appears extensively in the episode "The Schizoid Man," as that story required the appearance a doppelganger to the Number Six character. He also appears in "Living In Harmony" in the role of 'Third Gunman'.



Unproduced episodes

Unproduced storylines and scripts for the series are known to exist, several of which were published in a two-volume collection of Prisoner scripts edited by Robert Fairclough and published by Reynolds and Hearn in 2005 and 2006.

  • "The Outsider" by Moris Farhi (complete script included in Volume 1)
  • "Ticket to Eternity" by Eric Mival (synopsis included in Volume 1)
  • "Friend or Foe" by Mival (synopsis included in Volume 1)
  • "Don't Get Yourself Killed" by Gerald Kelsey (complete script included in Volume 2)

George Markstein's original ending

According to author James Follett, a protege of Prisoner co-creator George Markstein, Markstein had mapped out an explanation for the Village. In George Markstein's mind, a young Number Six had once submitted a proposal for how to deal with retired secret agents who posed a security risk. Six's idea was to create a comfortable retirement centre where former agents could live out their final years, enduring firm but unintrusive surveillance.

Years later, Six discovered that his idea had been put into practice, and not as a benign means of retirement, but as an interrogation centre and a prison camp. Outraged, Six staged his own resignation, knowing he would be brought to the Village. He hoped to learn everything he could of how his idea had been implemented, and find a way to destroy it. However, due to the range of nationalities and agents present in the Village, Six realised he was not sure whose Village he was in – the one brought about by his own people, or by the other side. Six's conception of the Village would have been the foundation of declaring him to be 'Number One.' However, Markstein's falling out with McGoohan resulted in Markstein's departure, and his original intent was discarded.

According to Markstein: "The Prisoner was going to leave the Village and he was going to have adventures in many parts of the world, but ultimately he would always be a prisoner. By that I don't mean he would always go back to the Village. He would always be a prisoner of his circumstances, his situation, his secret, his background… and 'they' would always be there to ensure that his captivity continues.

Spin-offs and continuations


At the conclusion of its repeat presentation of the series in 1984, Channel 4 presented a 45 minute documentary entitled Six into One: The Prisoner File. Although its central premise was to establish a reason why Number 6 resigned, the presentation anchored around a new Number 2 communicating with staff (and Number 1), reviewing scenes from Danger Man, particularly the episodes

  • incorporating a location shoot in Portmeirion (deputising for an Italian location)
  • 'Colony Three' (a finishing school for foreign spies ready to adopt their new identities within the West).

The premise of Colony Three was that John Drake, in being substituted for a Public Servant who expected to be transferred to the 'Village', was a key support worker for the spy network. Other volunteer workers were employed in other contexts, including electricians, librarians etc. John Drake travelled with two others, Randall Glyn Owen and Janet Catherine Woodville. Janet, we discover, intended to find out about her brother, who had previously volunteered to work in the Village but who had since disappeared. Within a social gathering, we discover noted British Defector Lord Denby (Edward Underdown) accompanied by Lady Denby (Cicely Paget-Bowman) who ostensibly defected to the USSR. Although viewers learned that the Village serviced different competing Spy Agencies (including the CIA, KGB, MI5), and whereas employees working in the Village entered the Village, their only departure was to the graveyard. Shortly after entering the facility, Janet discovers her brother's grave in the Village Graveyard. John Drake, working in the Citizens Advice Office, acquired a dossier in agents passing through the Office, was subjected to interrogation by Peter Arne (a codirector of the facility), and in fear of being discovered, managed to generate a message to his emergency handlers.

By this time, Randall (who volunteered on the basis of helping the Communist brothers — and who was disappointed at working as an electrician) had made one attempt to escape the facility into a desolate mountainous terrain, was located by John Drake just as a helicopter gunship was ready to kill the escaping Randall, and upon returning home, had discovered John Drake's secret radio transmitter and reported this to Colony Three Senior Managers Donovan Niall MacGinnis and Richardson Peter Arne . Novel interrogation techniques were applied within the facility, Richardson being the key interrogator.

Subsequently, Donovan and Richardson receive transfer orders for John Drake's immediate transfer out of the facility (they assumed he was sent in to spy on the facility), and was recalled to report to his handler. Rather than raise the risk that he would report the operation to other spy agencies (either the CIA, KGB, MI6, Mossad), Richardson was ordered to accompany John Drake out of the facility with orders to kill him. Upon his departure, Janet passed a note to John Drake asking for his help in escaping from the facility, was noted by Richardson. Drake passed the note onto Richardson, and this was destroyed. John Drake survived the assassination attempt, returned home, passed on his dossier on agents which had been sent to the West using legitimate identities. However, John Drake was vehement that the identity of Janet, who entered the Colony to locate her brother, could not be located and that no action could be taken to rescue her.

The docudrama also reviewed scenes from the series, incorporated interviews with cast members (including McGoohan), addressed the political environment giving rise to the series, and McGoohan's heavy workload. Whilst fitting in a commitment to Ice Station Zebra, McGoohan returned to continue with The Prisoner, and, according to this programme, discovered key production staff had left. It is further claimed here that he then learned that ITC had reduced its commitment to 17 episodes (Lew Grade demanding an early conclusion), and continued with the show unabated.

Another documentary was the American production, The Prisoner Video Companion. This was a 48-minute collection of clips, including a few from both versions of Danger Man, with voice-over narration discussing the origins of this series, but mostly possible interpretations, meaning, symbolism, etc., with a format clearly modeled on the 1988 book, The Official Prisoner Companion by Matthew White and Jaffer Ali, Warner Books. It was released in 1990 by MPI Home Video, then the licensed label for both/all three series in the USA. The copyright notice (the only credit) is ascribed to Maljack Productions, apparently the real company behind the name MPI. The documentary was subsequently released to DVD in the early 2000s as a bonus feature with A&E's release of the Prisoner series. MPI also issued a "best of" video (The Best of The Prisoner) containing excerpts from the series.

Although not technically a documentary, American public television station KTEH, located in San Jose, California, re-ran the series in the early 1990s accompanied by insightful commentary from television critic Scott Apel. Apel gave several minutes of analysis both before and after each episode. He also re-ordered the sequence from the original airing order to make the storyline more coherent. Clips of some of Apel's commentaries may be found on YouTube.

In 2007 as part of its official 40th Anniversary DVD set, Network produced "Don't knock yourself out", a feature length documentary featuring interviews with around 25 cast and crew members. The documentary received its own separate DVD release in November 2007 accompanied by a featurette called "Make sure it fits" regarding Eric Mival's music editing for the series. The 40th anniversary DVD set also included several crew commentaries.


Ace Books in the United States published three original novels based upon the television series.

The first of these, titled initially The Prisoner by Thomas M. Disch (later republished as I Am Not a Number!), was issued in 1969 (some editions carry a 1967 copyright date but this refers to the series, not the book). Considered non-canonical, it details the recapture of the Prisoner after he had been brainwashed to forget his original experience in the Village, and his struggles to remember what was taken from him and to escape again from the Village (or another Village). Disch is often erroneously credited as the creator of the TV series, as he is the writer of the first novel based upon the show.

Also in 1969-70 Ace published two additional original novels based upon the series. These books, believed by some to be set after the events of "Fall Out," are notable for stating explicitly that Number Six is John Drake from Danger Man. The two books are also not considered canonical.

  • The Prisoner: Number Two by David McDaniel (also published as Who is Number Two?)
  • The Prisoner: A Day in the Life by Hank Stine

All three novels have been reprinted numerous times over the years; most recently the Disch and Stine books were republished in 2002. Additionally, all three books were republished in omnibus form. The reference work The Whole Story: 3000 Years of Sequels & Sequences 2nd edition by John E. Simkin erroneously lists an additional volume by McDaniel entitled Prisoner 3 being released in 1981, but no such book was ever published.

In the 1980s, Roger Langley of the Prisoner Appreciation Society wrote three novellas based upon the series:

  • Charmed Life
  • Think Tank
  • When in Rome

These books were made available through the fan club, and at the Prisoner Shop in Portmeirion and are long out of print.

In 2004, Powys Media announced plans for a new series of novels based upon the series. In March 2005, the first volume, The Prisoner's Dilemma, was released. The second novel in the series, Miss Freedom, by Andrew Cartmel, was released on February 15 2008 as a special, signed and numbered, limited advance edition. The list of released and forthcoming novels includes:

Comic books

Marvel Comics

The premise of the television series fascinated comic book artist Jack Kirby, who created a four-issue homage in 1969 in Fantastic Four #84-87, in which the superhero team finds itself in Doctor Doom's Latveria, a city like the Village in many respects. In the early 1970s, Marvel Comics considered launching a comic book based on The Prisoner, to be written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Gil Kane. When Jack Kirby returned to Marvel in the mid-70s after a run at DC Comics, the property was transferred to him. A test issue was put together but never completed (all 17 pages were scripted and pencilled by Kirby, but only parts were lettered and inked, by Mike Royer). Original artwork from this comic still exists and occasionally turns up for auction. Some of it has been published in the comic book fanzine Jack Kirby Collector. The surviving artwork suggests that the first issue, at least, would have been an adaptation of "Arrival.

Shattered Visage

Shattered Visage is a four-issue comic book mini-series based on The Prisoner. Illustrated by Mister X creator Dean Motter and co-written with Mark Askwith, this sequel series was later collected as a 208 page graphic novel in trade paperback format, with the addition of a new prologue. The trade paperback remains in print and available.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

During the course of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, there are many hidden references to The Prisoner, including at one point Jimmy mentions the torturing equipment in Room 101 came from "a special village in Wales".

Computer games

In the early 1980s, Edu-Ware produced two computer games based upon the series for the Apple II computer. The first, titled simply, The Prisoner, was released in 1980, followed by a remake, Prisoner 2 in 1982.

The first game in Cyan's "Myst" series featured a location called "Stoneship," that resembles the Stone Boat at Portmeirion.

Role-playing games

Steve Jackson Games' popular role-playing game system GURPS released a (now out of print) world book for The Prisoner. It included maps, episode synopses, details of the Village and its inhabitants, and much other material. For instance, it has suggestions for game scenarios with the premise interpretation for outer space, heroic fantasy, horror and even complete inversion into something akin to Hogan's Heroes.


A movie version of The Prisoner has been in development hell for many years at Universal Pictures. At one point Simon West was attached as director with Patrick McGoohan on board as an executive producer, script consultant, and possible cameo appearance. Many A-list actors have been rumoured to play Number Six, with Russell Crowe believed to be the favourite. Patrick McGoohan also mentioned in a 1997 interview with French TV that he would like to see Mel Gibson play the lead role.

As of August 2006, Universal Pictures is near a deal for Christopher Nolan to direct a feature version of TV series. Janet and David Peoples are set to write the script. Scott Stuber, Mary Parent, Barry Mendel and Emma Thomas will produce.

Television remake

It was announced in late 2005 that Granada would revive the series for Sky1 in 2007. Christopher Eccleston has been linked with the role, but these rumours were strongly denied by Eccleston's agent in the 30 May 2006 issue of Radio Times, and Eccleston subsequently joined the cast of NBC Drama Heroes, although not as a regular. According to the 3 June9 June issue of the magazine, the new series re-make will be titled Number Six and not The Prisoner. American cable network AMC is co-producing.

In December 2006, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the American cable TV channel AMC is co-producing The Prisoner with Sky1, and that it will run at least six to eight episodes, beginning in January 2008 (both in the UK and USA). AMC plans to re-air the original series at about the same time.

In May 2007 it was reported that Sky One had pulled out of the re-make due to a disagreement with their co-producer AMC. Granada want the production to continue, with a new broadcaster to co-finance the production with AMC. Until a new broadcaster is found it can be assumed that production cannot continue, therefore the project is presumed to be at least temporarily shelved.

In August 2007, Richard Woolfe, head of Sky One, stated:

"The Prisoner is not happening. It's a very quintessentially British drama and there were too many creative differences trying to share it with an American partner. I didn't want to be responsible for taking something that is quintessentially British and adapting it in a way that I didn't feel was reflective of the way people would remember it and the way people would want it to be. So we called time on that.

In October 2007, British broadcaster ITV stepped in to replace Sky One as co-producer with AMC. In a report, the network was in the final stages of securing production rights and hoped to begin casting soon after. The remake will be a six-part series, and will be "a pacy, radical reinvention of the original show."

On 25 April, 2008, ITV announced that a new series of The Prisoner will go into production. It was announced in June 2008 that American actor James Caviezel will star in the role of Number 6, with Sir Ian McKellen taking on the role of Number 2 in all six episodes.

Also set to star are Ruth Wilson as Number 313, Lennie James as Number 147 and Jamie Campbell Bower as Number 11-12. Hayley Atwell is also cast. Location filming for The Village is planned in Namibia, in the city of Swakopmund. A production diary is available.


Although the main title theme was composed by Ron Grainer, the incidental music used in the series came from a wide variety of sources, including library music and cues from established composers such as Wilfrid Josephs and Albert Elms.

In addition, Silva Screen Records has released two editions of soundtrack recordings to CD, a three-volume set in the early 1990s, and another three-volume set in the early 2000s subtitled "Files" that included music not included in the previous issue along with dialogue excerpts from the series. An earlier single-LP soundtrack release was issued by Six of One for its membership in the 1980s and is considered a collector's item; titled The Prisoner: Original Soundtrack Music from the TV Series Starring Patrick McGoohan, the album was later issued by Bamcaruso Records (WEBA 066) in a deluxe edition that included The Making of the Prisoner, a booklet on the series by Roger Langley, a map of the Village, and a poster featuring a hand-drawn image of Number 6 being chased by Rover.

In December 2007 it was announced that Network DVD would be releasing a new 3xCD set of the soundtrack, compiled by series music editor Eric Mival, which would include a facsimile of his "music bible" used during the making of the series.

Additionally, The Prisoner has inspired many musicians:

  • The almost eighteen-minute long track "McGoohan's Blues" from Roy Harper's 1969 album Folkjokeopus was, according to Harper, inspired by "McGoohan's depiction of the establishment rebel. Harper had previously used an extract from the episode "Free For All" on the track "Circle" from his 1967 album "Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith".
  • The British heavy metal band Iron Maiden have written two songs based on The Prisoner: "The Prisoner" from The Number Of The Beast (which features an original sample of the dialogue that runs over the opening titles, for which personal permission from Patrick McGoohan was obtained) and "Back In The Village" from Powerslave.
  • The album I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape by The Times, features the song by the same name and was accompanied by a humorous tongue in cheek video based on the series. The album also features their version of the Danger Man theme.
  • The Clash released a song called "The Prisoner" inspired by the series.
  • Dr Feelgood released an album in 1977 called "Be Seeing You" produced by Number 2 for Number 6. Sleeve photo featured band members wearing prisoner blazers and also the penny farthing badges were displayed. The band were fans of the series at the time.
  • A rap song entitled "The Prisoner" by F.A.B. and M.C. No. 6 from Telstar records.
  • A sample from The Prisoner is in the song "Information/32nd Theme Song" by Toenut on the album Information.
  • The music video for "See Those Eyes" by Altered Images was filmed in Portmeirion and features Prisoner costumes and props, such as Rover.
  • The music video for "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" and "The Meeting Place" by XTC (found in the album "Skylarking") was also filmed in Portmeirion and featured the band in "Prisoner" costumes and props.
  • The music video for "Alright" by Supergrass was filmed at least in part in Portmeirion and features Prisoner costumes and props, such as the ubiquitous Pennyfarthing and people in typical "Village" garb.
  • Merseyside band Alternative Radio released "Fallout in 1990; samples of dialogue are used over a club dance track. A version with the dialogue in French is known to exist. The cover features Rover enveloping a victim.
  • The programme inspired the album The Girl Who Was… Death by Mr. Doctor and his band Devil Doll.
  • The Prisoner also inspired the naming of the band thenewno2, featuring George Harrison's son, Dhani Harrison.
  • Songwriter Michael Penn's CD "Resigned" featured cover artwork duplicating the file cabinet and x'd-out photo from the credits of The Prisoner. His previous CD was entitled "Free For All," the title of a Prisoner episode.
  • Mansun's second album Six was influenced by the programme which the band cited as a favourite of theirs..
  • Track 6 on Hujaboy's 2007 album, Black Belt is titled, "In The Village" and contains the sound bites: "I am not a number, I am a free man!", "We want… information." and "Who is Number One?".


The final episode, "Fall Out", received a Hugo Award nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1969, but lost out to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In 2002, the series won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

In the May 30-June 5 2004 issue of TV GUIDE magazine, "The Prisoner" was voted #7 of the 25 TOP CULT SHOWS EVER.

In 2005, readers of SFX magazine awarded the series fifth place in a poll of fantasy television programmes.

A 2006 survey of leading rock and film stars by Uncut magazine ranking films, books, music or TV shows that changed the world, placed The Prisoner at #10, the highest for a TV show.


  • The small Jeep-like vehicles used as taxis in the Village are Mini Mokes.
  • The Village's ubiquitous typeface is a modified Albertus.
  • The voice of the announcer in the Village was supplied by actress Fenella Fielding.

References in other popular culture

  • In the "Krusty Gets Busted" episode of The Simpsons, the "Krusty Gets Busted" animation played on the TV news at the start of Act II recalls The Prisoner's tag (as well as the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies opening titles). In another episode, "The Joy of Sect", Marge flees the "Movementarians" by avoiding various traps. One of these traps is Rover (and a version of the Prisoner Theme plays while she runs). In "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes", Homer is kidnapped after accidentally finding out about a vast conspiracy and placed on "The Island"; Patrick McGoohan provides the voice of a caricature of himself as Number Six, and the reason given as to why he is on "The Island" is because he invented the bottomless peanut bag.
  • ReBoot episode "Number 7" makes a number of references to the Prisoner series, including visual references such as Number 2's oval chair, quotes such as McGoohan's line "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!" and a scene that recreates part of the final episode of the Prisoner series, "Fall Out".
  • In the point-and-click adventure computer game Simon the Sorcerer II, when Simon is registering to enter the contest for Court Wizard, Simon quotes the "I am not a number" line. When he is told that he is number nine, his response is "I am not a number, I am a free man!", prompting the official who is helping him to remark "I hate people who can shamelessly quote in public".
  • Several mysterious characters on the TV series Babylon 5 use the phrase "Be seeing you" while doing the salutation gesture from this series. Writer/producer J. Michael Straczynski is a fan of the series, and indeed had (unsuccessful) plans for McGoohan to play a guest role in the series.
  • The British sitcom 2point4 children featured a lengthy tribute to The Prisoner in the episode "Seven Dials", where one of the central characters is imprisoned in Portmeirion by an opponent.
  • The 1994 film Killing Zoe includes a scene where the bankrobbers discuss the episode "A. B. and C." philosophically.
  • The opening sequence is referenced in a series 4 episode of the series Coupling.
  • In the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series (2003–2008), the character of Number Six — a beautiful Cylon infiltrator played by model Tricia Helfer — is named as an homage to The Prisoner, according to writer/ producer Ronald D. Moore.
  • The Nowhere Man TV series was heavily influenced by The Prisoner. Creator Lawrence Hertzog speaks at length in the DVD commentaries about how The Prisoner was his favorite show. The protagonist of the series, photojournalist Thomas Veil, is relentlessly pursued for a set of negatives, as The Prisoner's Number Six is relentlessly pursued to find out the cause of his resignation. Veil finds himself transported to a strange village in episode 105, "Paradise on your Doorstep," where he is forcibly detained. In episode 119, "Doppelganger," Veil tracks information to a town where a doppelganger Thomas Veil exists, who also works as a photojournalist; this references the Prisoner episode, "The Schizoid Man," where there are two identical Number 6 characters.
  • Grant Morrison's graphic novel, The Invisibles, about a group of revolutionaries rebelling against a secret world-controlling authority, contains several references to The Prisoner. Most notably, in the collection Entropy in the UK, Invisibles leader King Mob has been captured by government agent Sir Miles Delacourt, who exchange the show's famous opening lines: "What do you want?" "Information." "You won't get it." "By hook or by crook, we will."



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