I came late to The Prisoner, having been not particularly whelmed by the episode shown on Channel 4’s TV Heaven. Eventually, after much prodding, I watched the series with R & D over a few months and wrote up my thoughts, in an attempt at a humorous fashion, for the amusement of a few friends.
Towards the end of my ‘Prisoner Watch’, one of the guys who ran the BBC Cult website asked whether I’d mind if they used these ‘reviews’ on the website. I’d get paid, not much, but I’d get paid, and because I’d done it for the fun of it, not the money, I agreed.
Sadly, my main memory is that these ‘reviews’ – they’re still there now – didn’t go down too well with some Prisoner fans. I can see their point, but I still think it’s possible to take The Prisoner too seriously; or at least to ascribe motives and subtexts to it beyond the makers’ intentions. So maybe my juvenile piss-taking redressed the balance a little bit.
Anyway, fact remains; The Prisoner is a terrific show. And the fact that it’s endured is down to Patrick McGoohan. I mean, one can easily imagine what the show would’ve been like if it’d remained in the hands of its co-creator, George Markstein. It would still have been strange, daring and satirical – but it wouldn’t have left things unexplained, so that people were still puzzling over the show forty years later. It was McGoohan who turned the show into an enigma, who used it to put across his own anti-authoritarian agenda, who fused it into the sensibility of the late 60’s, and who created ‘Fall Out’ – a glorious, incomprehensible, compelling, freak-out. There’s never been anything like it since, there never will be.
Patrick McGoohan has left The Village.