Yesterday saw the passing of Patrick McGoohan, creator and star of The Prisoner. He did lots of other stuff, but Number Six is how we'll all remember him. The Prisoner was a weird and wonderful series which made a hell of an impression on me. I'm obviously too young to have seen it when it first aired in the late Sixties, but I saw it when Channel Four repeated it when I was at an impressionable age. If you've never seen it, check it out. It's a wilfully weird and dark fairy tale, an evil Alice In Wonderland. McGoohan's turn as Number Six is a fantastic performance, and a cool character, a man unwilling to give in and conform, always one step ahead of his captors and defeating the new Number Two but never quite making his escape. The show looked great too, the Portmerion location adding another layer of strangeness. And who can forget the odd holiday camp-type clothes they all wore, the pedal cars, and of course there was Rover, the malevolent weather balloon. I remember catching an episode not so long back, on ITV4 or something, and I had my children with me. I told them to watch it as it's brilliant. Unfortunately, the episode was Fall Out, the very last one and possibly the strangest hour of telly ever broadcast on ITV. My kids shook their heads and left when a character started singing 'Them Bones, Them Bones' muttering something like 'this is crap'. Ah well, their loss.
TV's tried to do similar things since, but they just tend to go for 'weird', but there was more to The Prisoner than that. It's an allegory, especially that last episode when there's the big reveal of the bad guy, the ultimate evil, Number One, and it's Number Six's face we see. The ultimate evil is oneself, the whole series is Number Six fighting his own dark side. The people who put him there obviously want him to use his dark side in their service, and so were a bit peeved when he quit. That's what I think it's about, anyway, but I'm sure there are lots of interpretations of what this show was about.
What is strange now, looking at it from today, is that ITV ever made a show like this. The ITV of today churns out pap like X Factor and I'm A Celebrity..., but back in the Sixties it made fantastic shows like The Avengers, Thunderbirds, The Saint, Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased) and many others which made the BBC's output at the time look a bit tame and old-fashioned. It intermittently tries to come up with fun genre shows these days, but it's shit like Primeval and Demons, and gives up the ghost and goes back to Simon Cowell for another load of talentless hopefuls who will ruin TV and the charts too, for good measure.(That said, it's currently remaking The Prisoner with Jim Caviezel as Number Six and Ian McKellen as Number Two. I reckon it's a totally pointless exercise, myself.)
Anyway. So long, Patrick. Thanks for making British TV a hell of a lot more interesting than it was before you came along. We could do with you around now.