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TV REVIEW: The Prisoner, Sat, ITV1

Mitch Poole isn't at all convinced by the new Village people

Published on April 22nd 2010.

TV REVIEW: The Prisoner, Sat, ITV1
I’m too young to have watched The Prisoner first time around; I just look older than I am.

I was only six when it came out but I liked the imagery even then. I wanted the toy Corgi Mini Moke but my mum and dad dissuaded me because they said the show was a bit weird and I ended up with a James Bond DB6 instead.

I had to wait until 1984 for Channel 4 to show the repeats as a mature 22 year old and I was hooked. Okay, some of the episodes are a bit clunky but over all it has stood the test of time.

It was a visionary project. Patrick McGoohan, its creator and leading man, was never the greatest acting talent the UK has ever seen but this was his genius project. Love it or loathe it having seen it you won’t forget it.

It is the surreal tale of a spy who resigns only to find himself imprisoned in the mysterious, claustrophobic Village where all of the inhabitants are known only by number and their every move monitored and controlled. Each episode sees McGoohan as Number Six pitted against a different ‘Number Two’ in charge of The Village who tries to break him and extract ‘information’ as to why he resigned. But Number Six never breaks, he refuses to conform, and never gives up trying to escape. Who ‘they’ are and indeed who he is, or what information he possesses, we never know but this all adds to the intrigue.

And so after years of talks, speculation and failed attempts, a remake finally made it 0to our screens last Saturday. Understandably details in the story have changed. Visually it is beautiful and as a piece of entertainment was certainly an improvement on ITV’s other new offerings for a Saturday night – namely a new series of Britain’s Got Talent and the woeful The Whole Nineteen Yards which stars Vernon Kay who is living proof that Britain hasn’t got talent if he is the best that they can find.

In The Prisoner remake, Number Six is now an uncharismatic American hunk with permanent stubble played by James Caveizel and The Village is now set in the middle of a desert rather than at Portmerion, North Wales.. Rather than having a succession of Number Twos, so to speak, for Number Six to pit his wits against, there is now only one, played wonderfully by Ian McKellen.

In the original Number Six protected his existence by withholding information that they wanted and, being the 1960s, they would come up with all manner of devious schemes to make him crack. This time – and it is only episode one – it appears that they merely want Number Six to forget the past and succumb to living in The Village which seems rather twee and pleasant and certainly an improvement on New York from whence he came. Transport me there and I would be quite happy.

The story needs to improve, deepen and darken and Number Six needs to mature. McGoohan played the part with swagger, arrogance and defiance. Caveizel on the other hand is unconvincing, uninteresting and flaccid. His plea, “I am not a number but a free man!” could have been more convincingly performed by John Inman.

In fact ‘I’m free!’ would have a certain poignancy.

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WappingApril 22nd 2010.

I missed this so can't comment directly but it sounds like I feared it would be. The Avengers suffered a similar fate when made into a feature film, a sixties classic of strangeness updated and unstranged (if that's a word).

ANDY LEWISApril 22nd 2010.

Ian McKellen is the only redeeming feature of this mish mash of a story. In the original series Ian McKellen never got to play no 2, a serious blunder, now made good. The original village had character and purpose, the new location looks like a cartoon set plonked on a sandy studio back lot. I suppose filming in Namibia made economic sense. I have read that this series has promised to have a conclusion, the charm of Patrick McGoohan's work was that there was none. Or if there was one I missed it. I intend to miss the new one too.

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