Saturday, 17 January 2009

Number Six, Your Time is Up

Patrick McGoohan

When I was a waiter, I used to start just before lunchtime, and get home at around midnight. To unwind, I would watch some TV or listen to music. Using headphones, so as not to disturb my mother, who had a more normal routine.

During this period, in 1993, they repeated a strange science fiction/spy thriller series for it's 25th anniversary. This was the first time that this series had been shown again on National British TV since 1968, when most people would have seen it in black and white.

The series was "The Prisoner", and I was hooked. It starred Patrick McGoohan, of course, who died this week aged 80.

You're probably familiar with this programme - our hero was Number Six in a strange kind of prison (a sort of upmarket Butlins) where spies were taken to when they tried to resign. No names are used. Number Two is in charge (but who is number one?).

There's supposed to be some doubt about which side runs The Village (and where it's located), but the traditional British holiday camp features - the annoyingly cheerful voice of the tannoy announcing "another beautiful day!", and the compulsory events and competitions are a bit of a giveaway. Siberia was never like this.

Number Six is not a happy camper. Every week he tries to escape or otherwise cause problems for his captors, but every week (until the final episode) he ends up still a prisoner.

They only made seventeen episodes - it was so wierd that the TV bosses decided it wasn't worth the money and cancelled it early. This was probably a good thing, since McGoohan seems to have struggled to come up with enough ideas as it was, and the final two episodes are really bizarre.

The Welsh hotel of Portmeiron was used for the "Village" where the programme is set. Though they didn't often get out there due to cost, so there are a lot of duplicated outdoor shots and ropy studio mock-ups, particularly of the beach.

One of the episodes ("Do Not Forsake Me, My Darling") was even made without McGoohan, who was away filming Ice Station Zebra, and one is set in the Wild West, which saved more money since the studio had an appropriate set anyway.

I've never actually been to Portmeiron, though an amateur pilot did once take me out there, and I got to see it from a few thousand feet up. One day I'll go, but it's in the part of Wales where they actually speak Welsh and where the roads are so windy that it takes you several days to get anywhere. And as you probably realise, I'm not very adventurous.

McGoohan was also in several episodes of Columbo, another series I love, and always made a fantastic murderer.

Definitely a unique actor.

"Be Seeing You"


Dan said...

do you think he's I'm Heaven or Hell?

Dan said...

Still hate this new comment format!

Brian o vretanos said...


I believe he was a devout Catholic, which is why he was so keen not to have any sex in his programmes and films.

The advantage of this format is you can see the blog post whilst composing your comment.

If you select "Google Account" and then click on "Post Comment" you should be able to log in with your blogger username/password as usual...

Tracys Ramblings said...

So, let me get this straight...Even as a younger you, you were exactly like you are now?
I mean, there's nothing wrong with you Brian Dear but you do seem to enjoy shows, movies, and books that most people never knew existed.
Where were your years of smoking pot in your room and burning incense so that your mom wouldn't smell it?

The scary thing is, I think I would have like this series. You're wearing off on me.

Bee said...

All I can say is that the guy was kinda hot. ;o)

Chris Wood said...

I heard he turned down James Bond due to the sex and violence. Well, each to their own.

Jean Knee said...

anyone who starred in Columbo is okay by me.
sometimes I am teased about my love of Columbo--does this ever happen to you?

Brian o vretanos said...


I think I've matured. Like cheese, probably ;-)
I certainly didn't have any pot-smoking years, and my taste in films, books and music hasn't changed much in 20 years or so.


I suspect he's quite a lot colder. Unless they cremated him ;-)


His series "Danger Man" was a James Bond clone. Without the sex and guns. It's still very watchable, though...

Jean Knee:

Funninly enough, I don't get teased. I obviously don't move in the right circles ;-)

Jean Knee said...

Let me the first to wish you:
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day!! and yes the US has the day off :)

it was 74 degrees yesterday

No Cool Story said...

Bee took my comment!
Now I don't know what to say.

No Cool Story said...

Ok, maybe I have watched this show, when I was like little and stuff.
Probably the guy didn't look as hot then becuase he was "old" then.

Brian o vretanos said...

Jean Knee:

You don't get the day off, though, do you?
I've no idea what the temperature was here, but it's wet and miserable.


Yes, I expect you were younger than him in 1968...

Kat said...

Bee's comment is killing me but she's right, he was kinda hot.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've even ever heard of it, but I'm gonna look it up on IMDB.

And yah, I'd watch it cuz he was a hottie back in the day.