THE PRISONER is uniformly hailed as one of the smartest and most innovative TV series ever made.
It is also one of the most influential, inspiring decades of popular culture including Rock music, television shows, and comics. Its sophisticated use of symbolism and ambiguity has excited fevered debates to the present day, inspiring such shows as Twin Peaks, Life On Mars, Mr. Robot, and The OA.
Everything comes around again and here's a charter course of the loop.
a •THE PRISONER Series
b •THE PRISONER: Its Influence On MUSIC,
with Music Player!
c •THE PRISONER: Its Influence On MOVIES And TELEVISION
d •THE PRISONER: Its Influence On COMICS
T H E
P R I S O N E R :
Patrick McGoohan plays a nameless secret agent who resigns.
He is abducted to an unknown location called The Village, a mod and cosmopolitan 'rest home' for those who know too much.
THE PRISONER Opening Credits; music by Ron Grainer (1967)
THE PRISONER: "I am not a number"(1967)
He is renamed Number 6, but rejects it vehemently and defends his identity against a rotating parade of interrogators called Number 2.
Will he get out, and who is Number 1?
THE PRISONER was 17 episodes that fought fiercely against the encroaching corporate/military state, and ended with one of the most surreal, challenging, and outrageous epilogues ever broadcast.
Its relentless defence of the rights of the individual against a repressive state has made it a timeless classic.
T H E
P R I S O N E R :
Its Influence On MUSIC
The series' bold use of Mod Futurism, theatrical style, anti-authoritarianism, and personal rebellion ensured it as a constant inspiration for decades of Rock music.
Here are songs and videos directly homaging it.
The PRISONER soundtrack, Johnny Rivers, The Beatles, The Clash, The Times, Devo, Iron Maiden, XTC, The Chameleons, Imperial Drag, thenewno2, and more!
Patrick McGoohan first achieved fame in a previous spy series called DANGER MAN. Running from 1960 to 1962, the show preceded the smash success of the James Bond films, which then ironically reignited the series from 1964 to 1968.
When the series was re-broadcast in the USA as SECRET AGENT, Johnny Rivers scored a resonant Pop hit with the new title theme "Secret Agent Man". It's widely theorized that the series' hero, spy John Drake, later becomes the nameless former-agent designated as Number 6 in THE PRISONER series, which brings chilling poignancy to this song's lyric, "They've given you a number, and taken away your name".
JOHNNY RIVERS -"Secret Agent Man" (1966)
THE PRISONER was filmed in Portmeirion, a Welsh village designed like a baroque puzzle of Mediterranean styles by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis across 50 years. His direct refute of cold and symmetrical modernism for the ornate, complicated, and unique paradoxically created a postmodern and cosmopolitain futurism out of the classic past.
McGoohan recognized its rich metaphoric complexity on a vacation visit, seeing it as the ideal backdrop for his visionary series, familiar and yet alien. The village has been used many times over the years in music videos as an homage to the show.
Here's the Mod Revival band The Times giving our man a leg up...
THE TIMES -"I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape" (1982)
Altered Images also filmed their video for "See Those Eyes" (1982) in Portmeirion.
During this same period, there was a Mod/Garage band called The Prisoners who may have been named after the series.
Iron Maiden paid tribute to THE PRISONER twice...
IRON MAIDEN -"The Prisoner" (1982)
IRON MAIDEN -"Back In the Village" (1984)
In 1987, Jools Holland did a spoof called THE LAUGHING PRISONER, written by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. It featured guest appearances by musicians performing in Portmeirion, including XTC and Souxsie And The Banshees.
XTC -"The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" (1987)
XTC -"The Meeting Place" (1987)
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES -"The Passenger" (Iggy Pop cover, 1987)
This SUPERGRASS video was also filmed in Portmeirion with subtle winks at THE PRISONER...
SUPERGRASS -"Alright" (1995)
The live performance album/dvd "Hullabaloo" (2002) by Muse uses imagery that was inspired by THE PRISONER...
The final episode of THE PRISONER, "Fall Out", featured The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" in the score. The influence of mod clothing styles, mid-'60s pop, and The Beatles still rings through the sounds, fashions, and videos of The Times, Altered Images, XTC, and Supergrass.
Fittingly, here is George's son, Dhani Harrison, cheekily taking the name of his band thenewno2 from the series and a lot of its rebel outlook in this video...
thenewno2 -"Choose What You're Watching" (2008)
T H E
P R I S O N E R :
Its Influence On MOVIES And TELEVISION
THE PRISONER's themes of fascistic control, identity and individualism, mysterious internment, and interrogation and rebellion have resonated ever since.
It clearly inspired many film works, including TV series like Nowhere Man, The Simpsons, Persons Unknown, Wayward Pines, Mr. Robot, and The Oa; and films like THE TRUMAN SHOW and (quietly) ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND.
Nowhere Man intro (1995)
The Simpsons did a hilarious tribute/parody of THE PRISONER, in which Homer was exiled to The Village and met Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan himself).
The Simpsons: "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (S26/E06; 2000)
THE TRUMAN SHOW trailer (1998)
Life On Mars, Season 1 trailer (2006)
In 2009, THE PRISONER was reimagined in an alternate vision for a 6-episode mini-series, starring Ian McKellen, Jim Caviezel, and Hayley Atwell. The series loosely implied connections to the original, while also being primarily an elseworlds take on the general concepts.
THE PRISONER Mini-Series (2009)
Persons Unknown, trailer (2010)
Wayward Pines, Season 1 trailer (2015)
Mr. Robot, Season 1 trailer (2015)
The OA, Season 1 trailer (2016)
Homecoming, trailer (2018)
T H E
P R I S O N E R :
Its Influence On COMICS
Jack Kirby, the architect of most of the great concepts of Marvel and DC, loved the PRISONER series. It directly influenced the epic 4-issue storyline of FANTASTIC FOUR #84-87 (1969), set in the sinister Latverian villages of overlord Doctor Doom.
by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Joe Sinnott.
Marvel Comics actually attempted to do a comic adaptiation of THE PRISONER in the mid-'70s... or rather, two.
They did a partial pass with writer Steve Englehart and legendary artist Gil Kane, before Lee suggested that Kirby do a take on it instead. Incredibly, despite the pedigree of the famed creators involved, neither version was ever released. The dialogue-heavy panels and static scenes didn't lend themselves to the kind of action that Marvel felt their readers craved.
> Dangerous Minds
written and pencilled by Jack Kirby, inks by Mike Royer.
The two versions finally saw print in a deluxe hardbound book published by Titan Comics in July, 2018.
by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.
In 1989, DC Comics published a superior illustrated sequel to the series called "THE PRISONER: Shattered Visage", by Dean Motter and Mark Askwith. The 4-issue prestige series carefully homaged and extended all the best aspects of the story, and was universally acclaimed by fans with attention spans.
The series reads like a perfectly scripted and storyboarded maxi-series ready to be made. Ahem.
by Dean Motter and Mark Askwith.
In 1991, illustrious author Neil Gaiman paid subliminal homage to THE PRISONER in his script for MIRACLEMAN #21, abetted by xerographic art by Mark Buckingham.
> Read it here.
by Grant Morrison and Phil Jiminez.
kicks James Bond's ass in
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: The Black Dossier (2007),
by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill.
"THE PRISONER: The Uncertainty Machine" (2018), a contemporary sequel by Peter Milligan and Colin Lorimer, printed in four issues and a collected edition.
You can still salvage your right to be individuals.
Your rights to truth and free thought.
Reject this false world of Number Two.
Reject it. Now!"
© Tym Stevens
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