The creative mind and lead actor behind one of the most subversive, brilliant and layered bit of television died today. Patrick McGoohan was the first to really push the boundaries of Television as an artistic medium, and not merely as an entertainment artifice.
His seminal series, to which twisted, layered episodic TV such as Lost and Battlestar Galactica owes much to, was called The Prisoner. The series, ostensibly about a secret agent who is kidnapped because of his mysterious resignation, is one of the most complex stories ever written for television. The symbolism present, the subtle anti-conformist, anti-establisment and anti-government themes, and the fact that it is all timeless in its presentation is where the brilliance of the series really shines through.
The hero of the series, Number 6, was one of England's top spies. Out of the blue, he storms into his superiors office and in a thundering display, resigns his position and leaves the spy business forever. Followed as he returns home, he is gassed and falls unconscious, waking up in an anonymous little town called 'The Village'. Over the next 17 episodes, Number 6 defiantly stands up against his nemesis, Number 2, as he or she attempts to find out why Number 6 resigned.
The Prisoner is ultimately one man's fight for identity, principal and individuality in a society that seeks conformity to social norms, that a loner is dangerous, and that principals are a myth.
AMC is showing the entire series online right now, for free, and I highly recommend you check it out, it will change your life - it did mine.
You see, my father introduced me to The Prisoner. The irony in that is that my father is about as hardcore right wing conservative as they come, and here he is, introducing me to a TV Series that is absolutely brilliant, and is also absolutely some of the most libertarian and anarchistic
entertainment that has ever been aired on any major broadcast network.
It was this sinister yet sweet world of "The Village", with its terrifying (at least, to an 8 year old) Rover, and its defiantly independent hero who will go to great lengths to ensure that the principles that he so lustily defended are never compromised, that he is never broken, and that the individual is paramount in a world of sameness and conformity, that really began to shape my identity and political philosophy.
More importantly, it has become a guidepost for me in terms of writing and enjoying fiction. Some talk about how the includion of Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy into Bioshock was such a ground breaking piece of entertainment, but The Prisoner adheres so incredibly close to Objectivism that it took over 30 years for another work of art to even come close.
For those gamers that loved Bioshock, watch The Prisoner.
For those science fiction fans that love Lost, watch The Prisoner.
Enjoy and, be seeing you.
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