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Classic TV Revisited: The Prisoner

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Danger Man
The Prisoner Patrick McGoohan’s role prior to The Prisoner was as the spy John Drake in Danger Man which ran from 1960 to 1966. Some say they were one and the same character, a claim McGoohan refutes.

My name is…
During the run of Danger Man, McGoohan was offered the role of James Bond.

High (Cost) Drama
On average, each episode had a budget of around £75,000, which was more than any other action adventure series being made at the time.

Location, Location
The Village exteriors were shot at Portmeirion in North Wales. Portmeirion was designed by architect Clough Williams-Ellis and built over the period 1925-1973. McGoohan first spotted its potential when it was used in an episode of Danger Man: View from the Villa. The location wasn’t revealed until the end credits of the final episode.

Portmeirion’s Italian splendour also made it the ideal location for the Doctor Who story The Masque of Mandragora. Brideshead Revisited and The Tripods were also filmed there.

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Behind Bars
At the press conference to launch the series, McGoohan answered questions from behind some prison bars.

Arrival
Number Six’s birthday is the same as Patrick McGoohan’s: 4:31am on March 19, 1928. The date was revealed in the episode Arrival.

Multi-Skilling
Free for All, Once Upon A Time, and Fall Out were written and directed by McGoohan. He also directed Many Happy Returns and A Change of Mind under the pen name Joseph Serf.

Rover
The huge floating white balloon that menaced Number Six is commonly known as ‘Rover’, but it was only called that twice on screen by Number Two and Number Six in the episode The Schizoid Man. Originally a mechanical guardian was planned for The Village, but it was too noisy and, like the Daleks, couldn’t navigate stairs.

Who’s the Boss?
Script editor George Markstein played Six’s boss in the title sequence.

Scream Queen
Fenella Fielding, probably best known for her role as Valeria the vamp in Carry on Screaming, provided the voice you can hear on the Village’s public address system.

Double Trouble
To fund the final four episodes McGoohan accepted a role in Ice Station Zebra. To cover up his absence a clever plot was dreamt up: Number Six’s mind was placed in a Colonel’s body (Nigel Stock). The episode in question was Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling.

Trip to the West
Living in Harmony, in which Number Six is drugged and forced to play the part of a gunfighter in the Wild West, was omitted from the first run of the series in the States. Some say this was because of the level of violence, others because of the reference to hallucinogenic drugs.

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Six’s and Sevens’s
Patrick McGoohan originally felt that seven episodes were enough to do the idea justice, but Lew Grade wanted 26 episodes to make an attractive package to sell abroad. Eventually a compromise was reached.

Breaking Conventions
Scriptwriter George Markstein walked off the project after thirteen episodes when he clashed with McGoohan over how the series should end. Markstein favoured a more conventional ending.

Before he left the series, Markstein pitched an idea to extend the series. His idea was that Number Six would escape and each week would flee to a different part of the world.

Unpredictable
It has been suggested that McGoohan was determined to break with the norm when he wrote the last episode of The Prisoner, as he was sick of how the public had become used to, and indeed expected, the predictable.

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