Synopsis by Hal Erickson
So far as its legions of fans are concerned, The Prisoner was the most fascinating and intellectually challenging sci-fi/fantasy program ever put on the air. Produced in England, the series was the brainchild of actor Patrick McGoohan, who also played the central character. During the opening credits, An unidentified McGoohan was seen angrily resigning his unspecified high-level government job, only to be promptly drugged, kidnapped and spirited off to a mysterious, Orwellian community known only as The Village. Though allowed to freely roam the colorful grounds of his new home (which resembled a lavish seaside resort, coupled with a garish amusement pier), the protagonist -- now referred to only as "Number Six" -- could not escape, lest he be chased down and killed by a huge, balloonlike sphere known as a Rover. On each 60-minute episode, Number Six was confronted by "the new Number Two", whose job it was to extract vital information from our hero (though just what sort of information was never explained). Defiantly shouting "I am not a number! I am a free man!", Number Six succeeded in confounding the efforts by Number Two -- and the never-seen Number One -- to break him down. Throughout his bizarre and oftimes hallucinatory adventures, Number Six learned two valuable lessons: To stubbornly maintain his individuality at all times and all costs, and to trust absolutely no one, not even his faithful butler, an enigmatically mute dwarf (Angelo Muscat). Only in the final episode, written and directed by McGoohan himself, did Number Six earn the right to become "an individual" -- thereby discovering the secret behind the Village and the true identity of Number One. Or did he? Devotees of the series still debate the actual outcome of the saga, just as they pick apart and analyze the hidden clues, meanings and metaphors in each preceding episode. On one thing, however, most agree: The character played by Patrick McGoohan was supposed to be John Drake, the world-weary espionage agent whom the actor had previously played on Danger Man (a.k.a. Secret Agent). Such was the mesmerizing power of The Prisoner that even those who couldn't make heads or tails out of the series still remain among its most fervent fans. Debuting October 1, 1967 on British television, the series was first seen in America from June 1 to September 21, 1968, as a summer replacement for CBS' The Jackie Gleason Show (one of the seventeen episodes, "Living In Harmony," was not seen on CBS during this initial run) In response to overwhelming viewer demand, the network -- whose executives admitted that they were thoroughly flummoxed by the series -- reran the show from May 29 through September 11, 1969. Thereafter, The Prisoner became a near-permanent fixture on many PBS stations, its popularity enhanced by several home-video releases of varying quality.