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May 5, 2006 5:13 pm

It Takes A Village?

It's official: Christopher Eccleston, recently the ninth Dr. Who, will take on the role of Number Six in"Sky One's biggest drama commission ever," the six-part remake of The Prisoner (due for broadcast in 2007).

There's no word yet if the 21st-century Prisoner will be as overtly libertarian as Patrick McGoohan's original anti-authoritarian classic.

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Aeon J. Skoble - 5/9/2006

Great comments, Amy. Another of my favorite examples of #6-as-heroic is the episode "Hammer into Anvil," which doesn't even involve his resiting the Village's efforts to break him, but rather his avenging the death of another prisoner. Honestly, David, I don't see what's so unlikeable about #6 - besides being heroic and principled, he's got a great sense of humor, and is a good kosho player as well.

Amy H. Sturgis - 5/8/2006

Not of "excessive individualism," though he admitted that we were all responsible for allowing ourselves to be in The Village. As McGoohan said in his famous Troyer interview, "as long as we accept those things and don't revolt we'll have to go along with the stream to the eventual avalanche." That "going along" - in the series' language, choosing *not* to be Unmutual - makes us culpable.

But in the end, The Village was, in McGoohan's terms, "a place that is trying to destroy the individual by every means possible; trying to break his spirit, so that he accepts that he is No. 6 and will live there happily as No. 6 for ever after. And this is the one rebel that they can't break." And he wrote No. 6 as the protagonist, because in his own world he saw in all directions "Prisonership as far as I'm concerned, and that makes me mad! And that makes me rebel! And that's what the Prisoner was doing, was rebelling against that type of thing!"

I wouldn't agree that No. 6 is not a sympathetic figure. I find him to be quite the heroic protagonist. And in episodes such as "Free For All" and "Dance of the Dead," his understanding of individual identity is celebrated, as opposed to the Mutualism of The Village.

Some of my favorite exchanges include the following:

Observer: You're a wicked man.
Number 6: Wicked?
Observer: You have no values.
Number 6: Different values!
Observer: You won't be helped.
Number 6: Destroyed!
Observer: You want to spoil things.
Number 6: I won't be a goldfish in a bowl!

Number 2: What in fact has been created? An international community. A perfect blueprint for world order. When the sides facing each other suddenly realize that they're looking into a mirror, they'll see that this is the pattern for the future.
Number 6: The whole world as the Village?
Number 2: That is my dream. What's yours?
Number 6: To be the first man on the moon.

Number 2: Are you going to run?
Number 6: Like the blazes, first chance I get.
Number 2: No, I meant, run for office?

Aeon J. Skoble - 5/8/2006

That's what I mean: you say "he _was_ number one in the final show" (emphasis added) as if it were literally the case -- that's failing to take seriously the over-the-top surrealism of that episode, and the way it so sharply contrasts with _all_ the other episodes. It's to elevate a trippy bit of surrealist allegory to something that somehow trumps _eveything_ that's been literally stated in the previous 16 episodes. As to McGoohan's own comments, let's just say that (a) artists aren't always the most reliable interpreters of their own work, and (b) there are many artists who worked on the series, and (c) McGoohan has said things which could go either way.

David T. Beito - 5/8/2006

Yes, you're right that he was number 6 (though) *spoiler alert* --------------
he was number one in the final show.

My raising of the minority view was based not only on the allegorical final show (which, supports the "prisoner of himself" theory) but on comments that McGoohan made to this effect. I'll quote the comments, which are in a book about classical television from the 1970s, as soon as I get home tonight.

Aeon J. Skoble - 5/8/2006

David, I assume you meant to say that #6 was not a likeable character? That was McGoohan. #2 was _supposed to be_ unlikeable, being the bad guy (and was a different actor everytime (except for the three episodes that featured Leo McKern, who, even as a bad guy, was likeable.)
In any event: the anti-libertarian view of _The Prisoner_ is, as far as I can tell, a minority view, and, more importantly, unsupportable. The "prisoner of ourselves" view stems largely from taking literally the surreal and allegorical final episode. But it is _impossible_ to see the show as anti-individualist. That just doesn't square with the plot, themes, or dialogue of _any_ of the other episodes. Notable cases in point: "Dance of the Dead," "Once Upon A Time," "Hammer into Anvil," "Arrival," "Free for All," "The General,"....

David T. Beito - 5/7/2006

I read somewhere that McGowan actually intended the series to be a critique of excessive individualism e.g. the Prisoner was a prisoner of himself in some sense.

I must say that Number 2 did not come across as a particularly likeable character.