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Television: August 1991


In one of the biggest surprises in KBYU history, that station has begun airing the cult series The Prisoner, made in the late ‘60s, this seventeen episode series is one of the most thoughtful and intriguing creations television has offered.

The plot centers around a man (Patrick McGoohan) who resigns what is apparently a top-secret job in the British government, and packs for a vacation. However, before he can finish packing, a hearse pulls up outside of his apartment building and a gentlemen sprays gaseous vapor through the keyhole. the man then wakes up in a community known only as the Village. The Village affairs are evidently directed by a person known as Number 2 who informs the man that he has been brought to the Village to answer questions. The man is thereafter referred to as Number 6.As the series progresses, Number 6 faces an ever changing parade of Number Two’s, all trying a variety of methods to discover the answers to questions only Number 6 can answer.

This simplistic overview of the series cannot begin to describe the crux and focus of the show, however, weighty philosophical issues such as pacifism, brainwashing, the uselessness of political campaigns, media sloppiness, and especially freedom are all explored through this pattern of Number 6 being tortured, teased and tricked in order to get him to divulge his secrets.

Just who is Number 6? What knowledge does he posses? Where is the Village? Who runs the Village? These questions are all suggested but never answered. But it matters little, for the idea behind the series is to get the viewer thinking.

The special effects are occasionally low budget and cheesy (like the weather balloon enforcer in the Village, Rover), but it doesn’t matter. The setting and location are impeccable, using the Welsh resort of Port Meirion to depict the bizarre Village. 

Likewise the acting is terrific, especially by McGoohan and occasional Number 2 Leo McKem. But the real appeal of the series is the direction and writing, which create believable situations from unbelievable ideas, which in turn serves to jump-start the viewer’s mind.

Overall, The Prisoner works to remind those of us jaded by television’s mostly soporific offerings that T.V. can be entertaining and even thought-provoking, a notion worth remembering even after Twin Peaks was cancelled. If this review sparks an interest, the reader is encouraged to watch KBYU on Tuesdays at 9:00 pm.


For more from the SLUG Archives:

June 1990: Local National Record And Tape Reviews

Poem: Body