“We want information! Information! Information! Who are you? The new #2! Who is #1? You are #6! I am not a number! I’m a free man! Hahahahaha!”
Actor Patrick McGoohan (Danger Man, The Prisoner, Braveheart, and many other films) passed away on January 13. McGoohan was born in Queens, NY but the family left the U.S. shortly after he was born for Ireland and eventually ended up in Sheffield, UK. At sixteen, McGoohan left school and worked as a truck driver, chicken farmer, and bank clerk prior to landing a position as a stage manage at Sheffield Repertory Theatre. McGoohan filled in for an ill actor, launching his acting career.
Of all McGoohan’s works, The Prisoner has had the most lasting influence on me. I am not old enough to have seen The Prisoner when it premiered in 1968, but I was lucky to catch a rebroadcast of the series on public television in the 1970s when I was nine or ten. I possessed little understanding of the world of espionage, the Cold War, or the counterculture, but the show was incredibly intriguing to me.
For some reason none of my peers (with the exception of a few of my brother’s friends) watched it. When the song “The Prisoner” appeared on Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” album I told my friends the introduction to the song was from an old British t.v. show. “Don’t any of you remember The Prisoner?” None of them did.
Looking back to my childhood, I think what I liked most about the show was its strangeness and emphasis on the cerebral. While most American shows focused on car chases and shoot-outs, the world of “the island” was much slower paced and the confrontations with nemesis “Number One” were always pretty wacky.
Looking forward to today, I can’t help but notice the show, like the writings of Orwell, helped shape my political ideas. Just as Animal Farm provided a glimpse of a dystopian society constructed on the basis of a utopian plan, Scott Thrill (Wired) writes, “The Prisoner was an allegory of the individual, aiming to find peace and freedom in a dystopia masquerading as a utopia.”
Read all of Thrill’s article/obit here.
“Be seeing you”–McGoohan as #6 in The Prisoner.