The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Prisoner

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.


  1. I've just started watching The Prisoner again in tribute to McGoohan. I first saw it in 1984 (appropriately enough)when it was repeated shown on Channel 4. I was 16 at the time and for months afterwards I basically WAS McGoohan, I wore black all the time, slicked my hair back and strode around frowning. Well, better him as a role model than Morrissey... I watched (and recorded) it all again when it was shown in 1992, and then again when I bought the DVD box set (the white one) 4 years ago. So this is my 4th time through... and it's still amazing. The first appearance of Rover in "Arrival" is still the biggest What the Fuck?! moment on telly ever. And your reviews are brilliant - I'll be digging them out again!

  2. The show was never *in the hands* of George Markstein. He was employed by Patrick McGoohan as his script editor - Markstein's first proper job in the world of TV, after many years as a jobbing journalist. McGoohan seems to have released Markstein's creative side as Markstein finally did write some novels, but only starting six years later.

    McGoohan seems to have sparked creativity and inspiration from almost everyone in that crew. He seemed to have his own weird and wonderful way of doing it, judging by the varied memoirs all those involved seem to have deposited in the years since, but the whole thing seems to have revolved around only the one man, the man owned the Production Company anyway, alongside experienced Director, David Tomblin.