Discuss this post in our forums

51 Responses to “Great opening sequence: the Prisoner”

  1. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    The future will have fully automated file cabinets.

  2. Paul Renault says:

    After this, I’m calling Netflix asking them to add this show to the line-up…

    But first:  You travel a lot Cory.  Wouldn’t a master spy have his travel luggage ready to go, especially a master spy who slaps down a letter of resignation on his boss’s desk?

    • falnfenix says:

      it’s been on and off Netflix Instant a few times in the past few years.  keep an eye out and it may be back.

  3. TheOven says:

    The whole show is great. And don’t forget about McGoohan’s other fine bit of television spy greatness: Danger Man. AKA: Secret Agent Man: Who was definately NOT that un-named British agent seen in The Prisoner. He’s a totally different spy whose story dovetails beautifully into the Prisoner’s. Totally different.

    • I like Danger Man even better than the Prisoner. While the Prisoner sometimes gets carried away in its weirdness, Danger Man is always understated and near-perfect. Plus, terrific music. There are a couple of Danger Man episodes that feel like Prisoner precursors, and it’s fun to think of Drake becoming Number 6.

      • TheOven says:

         Agreed. I do dig the weirdness, specifically, of The Prisoner though.

        What I like, in retrospect, about SAM is that the seasons switched from 1hour episodes in earlier seasons and 30minute episodes in later seasons. (If memory serves. It may be that it went back to a 1hour format later on. I haven’t watched the DVDs in years and can’t remember.) The series also spans the black & white / colour eras so we get a nice cross section of formats, mediums and quality. It makes for more options when going back to view them.

  4. Brainspore says:

    I always thought it was clever how *SPOILER* the identity of Number One was actually revealed during the opening voiceover. It’s just a matter of punctuation. (“Who is Number One?” “You are, Number Six.”)

    • flyoverland says:

      “Who is Number One?” “That would be telling.”

    • Shay Guy says:

      Everyone likes to say that. Problem is, it’s bull. Listen to the way the various Number Twos actually say the line. There’s no comma there. Anybody who wanted to say “You are, Number Six” would use a very noticeably different sequence of pitches/volumes/whatever from what’s actually used. Most of the time there isn’t even a pause.

      • Brainspore says:

        Anybody who wanted to say “You are, Number Six” would use a very noticeably different sequence of pitches/volumes/whatever from what’s actually used.

        Well duh. “Straightforward, unambiguous answers to questions” wasn’t exactly what that show was about, was it?

        As for cadence/tone/punctuation changing the meaning of a phrase, I recommend reading Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. The words “You never did the Cisco Kid” will be indelibly burned into your brain for weeks.

  5. Rover always scared the crap out of me as a kid. And, I still lust after those funky egg/sphere chairs!

    • SomeGuyNamedMark says:

       I always liked the little sports car.  So different from any cars I ever saw on the road as a kid.

      • xzzy says:

        They’re called Caterhams, and you can still buy them today if you want. 

        Are track cars though.. tend to not be street legal. Nice piece of gear for the price though. 

        • Jober says:

          McGoohan’s is actually the original, the Lotus 7, dating from the mid/late 50s and continually refined. (Caterham later acquired the rights to continue building the “Se7en” after Lotus discontinued production.) The story I heard once was that Lotus was approached to provide an iconic car for McGoohan to drive, and they laid out a number of contemporary street models for him to select when he visited the factory. He bypassed them all and went straight for the minimalist, hardcore 7.

        • kraut says:

          Caterhams http://caterham.co.uk/ are certainly street legal, at least in Europe. Practical for everyday use… possibly not so much. But definitely the best bang for the buck you can get in terms of acceleration…they’ll match a Ferrari for a tenth of the price.

          • Beanolini says:

            But definitely the best bang for the buck you can get in terms of acceleration…

            Not if you’re prepared to consider bikes too… it’s now possible to buy a 1990s bike capable of 170mph for 1500 quid. Do be careful.

      • Jober says:

        You don’t even need to buy one. If you’ve got a welder, a clapped-out Miata and a lot of room in your workshop, you can build one! (Or at least, a reasonable facsimile of one….)

      • Preston Sturges says:

        Strangely, just watching this video made my computer leak oil…..

    • TheOven says:

       I have to say that I thought that floaty ball was dumb. As a child I could never understand why he couldn’t just put a hand out and hold it at bay. It was hardly threatening, despite their dramatic zooms, extreme close ups and quick cuts of #6 suffocating. As an adult, I still think that but take some solace that it could have been much, much worse. From what I’ve read, the original version of the Rovers was even worse. More on par with the K9 or Daleks from Dr. Who, machines of some sort. Luckily for us they had problems with the prop and had to use a weather balloon instead.

  6. I watched this during its first US run in 1967. It blew my 12-year-old brain far, far away.

    You have to understand that other shows of the age included “My Mother, the Car”, “The Beverly Hillbillies”, “Mr. Ed”, “Hee Haw”, etc. I was an avid sci-fi reader, and this was the first time that something on TV matched the quality I could find in books.

    I’ve always thought that Patrick McGoohan’s achievement with this program was on a par with Orson Welles and “Citizen Kane.” It remains my favorite TV series of all time; a touchstone for all others to strive for.

    • s2redux says:

      Know what you mean, but to be fair, MMTC was a ’66 show ;-) 1967 U.S. TV wasn’t a total loss for 14-year old boys: Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Mission: Impossible, Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Lost In Space, Star Trek, Wild Wild West, Get Smart, The Invaders. Plus, Smothers Brothers!

    • I had the same experience (I was the same age) watching the show with my dad every week. We both loved it. Looking at it now, it is such a surreal psychedelic event it is amazing it even got made (an even more amazing that it had more than one season). I imagine that this is like what Salvador Dali would have made if he were a TV producer. The only shows besides this from this era that made any impression on me were Time Tunnel, Voyage to the bottom of the sea, Combat!, and of course Batman. I think the Green Hornet was a little later.

    • Michael McWilliams says:

      Well, better than most of those.  But not “Mr. Ed”. 

  7. Dick Pilz says:

    Be sure to visit Port Meirion if you are in the neighborhood. They still have the spherical chairs.

    • TheOven says:

       A classic designed by http://www.eero-aarnio.com/8

    • Geraint Jones says:

      I always do – I grew up not more than 20 miles away, and worked there in the summers at the coffee/ice cream shop during my school and university years…

      Highlights include being reprimanded for reading a book in the quiet times between serving ice cream to tourists, being complimented on my music choice for the atmosphere by some more open minded visitors (Beth Gibbons/Rustin Man), and if the only busker allowed through the gates is still playing there, be sure to ask for his Spanish Caravan/Asturias (Leyenda).

      A truly unique and beautiful place.

  8. Back at my old blog I used to post this video every election season. The show endures because it never ceases to be contemporary. For any art, that is rare; for television, it’s virtually unheard of.

    Be seeing you.

  9. In our family we chose our one favorite show to stop us 4 brothers from fighting which to watch.  Mine was the Prioner and Star Trek, which nobody else liked and would raz me about it all the time.  I’ve had my share of Star Trek reruns but maybe I could add the discs to my Netflix queue on more time.

  10. It really was a great show – one of those instances where the concept, writing, design, and music all combine to create a very distinct world unto itself.

  11. theophrastvs says:

    great font.

  12. Dr David Alan Gilbert says:

    Yes, I love the Prisoner (although some of the ones near the end are a bit …odd ).
    (I like the music on the opening sequence as well)

    If you like McGoohan it’s worth watching Scanners ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081455/ ); a very unusual film.

  13. flyoverland says:

    Prisoner: Where am I? 
    No.2: In the Village. 
    Prisoner: What do you want? 
    No.2: Information. 
    Prisoner: Whose side are you on? 
    No.2: That would be telling. We want information… information… information! 
    Prisoner: You won’t get it! 
    No.2: By hook or by crook… we will. 
    Prisoner: Who are you? 
    No.2: The new Number Two. 
    Prisoner: Who is Number One? 
    No.2: You are Number Six. 
    Prisoner: I am not a number, I am a free man! 
    No. 2: [Evil Laugh]

  14. TulsaTV says:

    I’ve just been corresponding with an English pilot who did some of the helicopter work on “The Prisoner”, in particular, “Arrival”, the first episode. The backwash from the props sometimes powered “Rover”!

  15. caseyd says:

    Font: the official city font of Mountain View, California.

    There is a universe where McGoohan plays the JimKirk, but it is dangerous

  16. evilpeacock says:

    I wish this was ripped from the Blu-Ray version of The Prisoner (often found at nicely discounted prices as it has been out for years).

    The Blu-Ray is remastered from the original film elements and is just eye-popping. If you can’t really tell the different between upscaled DVDs and an HD format, than The Prisoner on Blu-Ray will change your mind.

  17. Peter says:

    Loved this show when I discovered it in my teens… even began to take up Number6 or variations of it as my default online usernames on various places (I was a teenager, and deep in my ‘individualism’ phase).   Some of them are still in use, though I’m hopefully less insufferable than I was back then.

    Still love the show, of course. 

  18. My favorite part?  The “who farted?” face at the 1:30 mark.  My wife and I used to laugh and laugh and laugh (I guess you had to be there)…

  19. gwyllion says:

    ah – Patrick McGoohan – one of the great loves of my life!

  20. lecti says:

    Good show.  I just wish they’ve gone for a more subtle finale.

  21. Scurra says:

    I watch the series every couple of years or so, and still find new things to think about.  As Brian Donohoe says above, it falls into a rare category of shows that remain contemporary regardless of when watched because the issues are universal but the presentations are surprisingly balanced (I’m still frequently surprised by how often Number Six isn’t presented as being “right”.)

  22. Michael J. Epstein says:

    For anyone interested in our 2-year adventure recreating it in Boston as a music video, you can check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GbUhmwSObto – Also, some more behind the scenes and details: http://donotforsake.com/arrival.html