The Episodes Page
What shape is Rover? If you said “conical,”
turn to the Beginner's Page. If you said
“cuboid,” turn to the Beginner's Page!
To reiterate what we had said about The Prisoner in the Beginner's Page, it was a seventeen-episode series created by Patrick McGoohan as an oblique follow-up to his previous hit series Danger Man. In fact, many people thought that this was another detective series, just like the former show. Assuming that No.1 was a mega-criminal boss, viewers anxiously awaited to see who he or she looked like, much to their later chagrin. Nevertheless, it is strongly believed that the main character of the show, No.6, is none other than John Drake, the main character of Danger Man. (McGoohan had taken great pains to conceal No.6's identity; however, some fans maintain that Leo McKern yells “Drake” in “Once Upon A Time,” against the vast majority and what was written on the script, which states “Break!”.)
Series production ran over two cycles from 1966-67 and was one of the costliest TV series at the time. The first production cycle contained thirteen episodes, all except “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling”, “Living in Harmony”, “The Girl Who Was Death”, and “Fall Out”. Indeed, most of the penultimate episode “Once Upon a Time” (also called Degree Absolute) was shot in the first production cycle. After most of the ‘McGoohan Seven’ episodes were produced, the crew went on to filming episodes not written or created by McGoohan. “Living in Harmony”, for example, was solely written and produced by David Tombin “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh my Darling” was the first episode aired of the second cycle and was shot almost completely in McGoohan's absence. It tried to draw upon the conclusions reached from the last episode in the first cycle, “Many Happy Returns”, by having the Village act as some sort of all-knowing power that got its feet into everything. “The Girl Who Was Death” was a spoof of Danger Man, and even the color episodes “Koroshi” and “Shinda Shima” were aired in same time slot in early 1968 just prior to TGWWD's airing.
George Markstein, the script editor, had teamed up with McGoohan beginning with the last few episodes of Danger Man and continued his involvement through the first production cycle of The Prisoner. His idea was to portray the Village as more of a ‘Nazi Prison Camp’ for spies. Details are sketchy, but Markstein was thought to have visited one of these, giving him inspiration for the setting of The Prisoner. Obviously, McGoohan consented to this idea, and thought Hotel Portmeirion was the proper setting for this Village. It would turn out later on, though, that Markstein could not cope with McGoohan's view that the series should stress ‘the individual trying to escape society’ allegory, rather than the more typical ‘ prisoner trying to escape persecution’ theme. (Markstein quit after filming of “Many Happy Returns”) Again, the PRISONER FAQ focuses on this topic.
In addition to assigning actors for the filming of “Arrival” -- the first episode produced, as well as aired -- they needed another mobile ‘character’ whom we all know as “Rover.” Rover was originally conceived to be a structural vehicle, and was created as such (turning out to be a costly project, in the five-digit/six-digit range). But when its floatation device failed, and it sunk permanently into the depths of Cardigan Bay during early shooting, McGoohan, Markstein, and director Don Chaffey had to quickly find a replacement. A weather balloon floating in the air at the time was the answer.
After the filming, “Arrival” went into production. Robert Dearberg, the music editor for “Arrival” (Eric Mival was another important music editor who did thirteen of the episodes), originally had implemented Wilfred Josephs' rendition of the opening theme into this episode; however, no one really believed that this was to be permanent. Foremostly, this theme was too chaotic, and offered no real message that a prisoner was struggling to rebel in a prison or society. After a few later episodes were produced, Ron Grainer (God incarnate) composed “The Age of Elegance.” When McGoohan listened to it, the tempo was upped, and the result was the theme we all know and love.
“Arrival” and “Chimes of Big Ben,” another early-filmed episode, actually have older, alternate scripts for them. “Alternate Chimes,” actually released on video, contains the Wilfred Josephs theme music, as well as scenes that were later cut out for the public release of “Chimes.” One important sequence involved a ‘Triquetrum’ that was omitted probably because it was not in keeping to ‘Village rules’.
More than seventeen episodes were conceived. There were two other scripts
that never got produced. One of them was entitled “The Outsider,” by Moris Farhi. It
involved an airplane pilot crashing near the Village whom No.6 had tried to conceal so
that he could get information on where the Village was and so forth. It later turned out
that the pilot was actually a No.2 in disguise, and was simply a higher octave of
“The Chimes of Big Ben”.
The other one, by Gerald Kelsey (who wrote “Checkmate”), was entitled “Fool's Gold” or “Don't Get Yourself
Killed,” and developed around prisoners digging their way out of the
Village. (I guess Rover can't chase No.6 down a 2 x 2 hole, can it?)
It turns out that a miner discovered gold, and No. 6 attempted to use this to bribe a higher Village official in exchange for a better means of escape. The most likely reason why this script didn't pass was because it consisted of too many parties, giving No. 6 a lesser role. Having read the script, there was a lot of interesting humor.
So ends a behind-the-scenes look at the episodes of The Prisoner. Episode summaries can be found here. All of this leaves you with one question: Where is the episode survey you keep talking about??
Okay! Here it is! The Survey Page.
This page contains the survey and information regarding it, as well as Kirby's comments on each particular episode.
Kents Notes on the Prisoner.
Some of the episodes can be confusing at times. Kents Notes helps clarify sticky points. [Currently under renovation to include summaries!]
The Troyer Interview.
This is the 1977 interview with Patrick McGoohan explaining parts of the Prisoner.
©1996 Reed, Kent, and Kirby Meyer. Last modified: May 28, 2016.