The ’60s were a weird time. Drugs were everywhere, people were pissed at the government over war, Tiny Tim had a music career. Nothing exemplified the counter culture better than a little English TV show known as The Prisoner.
I’ve only seen a handful of the show’s 17-episode run, but from what I’ve watched, the thing is OUT THERE. It’s essentially about an angry secret agent who resigns from his post. His bosses don’t let him off easily, though, as they drug him, kidnap him, and ship him off to a creepy “Village,” from which there is no escape.
Despite its benevolent resort exterior, The Village is a prison, pure and simple. Everyone there is assigned a number instead of a name, with the main secret agent named Number 6. Every episode is another attempt of his to escape The Village, while the resort’s operators–led by a different Number 2 every show–try to gain knowledge of Number 6’s past missions or national security secrets.
Those aren’t even the weird parts either. There are insane moments everywhere, from paranoid chess players to surrealistic virtual reality rooms to floating orbs (each named Rover) that swallow people who attempt to escape. Those eccentricities and series-long story arc are extremely influential on TV shows like Twin Peaks and Lost.
Everything in the show was an LSD-laced commentary on the times. Its main theme was repeated several times by Number 6: “I am not a number. I am a free man.”
And now, times aren’t much different. The oughts, or whatever the hell this decade is called, is a weird time, too. Drugs are still everywhere (except instead of acid and pot, it’s meth, woo!), people are pissed at the government for another war, and Nickleback has a music career. Looks like The Prisoner would fit nicely in our time, as well.
Uncoincidentally, the show is getting an update on November 15, when AMC begins airing its brand new version of The Prisoner. The new version looks to improve on the original’s mediocre acting (and that’s putting it nicely), with Jim Caviezel (Mel Gibson’s torture porn Jesus) as Number 6 and Magneto himself, Ian McKellen, portraying Number 2.
I’m looking forward to this a lot, obviously. AMC is rapidly becoming cable’s new home for great television, and The Prisoner looks to add to that reputation. If you don’t believe my exaggerated excitement, here’s a trailer for everyone to enjoy.