The Prisoner is a 2009 television miniseries based on the 1960s TV series The Prisoner about a man who awakens in a mysterious, picturesque village from which there is no escape and wonders who made the village and why. It was co-produced by American cable network AMC with the British channel ITV.
A remake of the original series had been in the works, in one form or another, since 2005. The series premiered on November 15, 2009 as a miniseries on North American cable channel AMC in cooperation with British broadcaster ITV. The six part series premiered in the UK on April 17, 2010.
The series begins with an unidentified man waking up in a desert and finding himself in the middle of a pursuit as mysterious guards chase an elderly man through a canyon. The old man dies soon after, but not before passing a message on to the younger man: "Tell them I got out."
Exploring the desert, the man arrives in an enigmatic community, whose residents inform him that it's called simply The Village. Everyone he meets is known only by a number—he learns his number is 6—and he discovers that they have no knowledge or memory of the outside world.
6 himself is unable to remember his real name, or much of his life before the Village, only snippets of memory of New York City and a mysterious woman he met in a diner and took home. Meanwhile, he soon finds himself locked in a battle of wills against 2, the Village's leader, who goes to great lengths to make 6 assimilate into life in the Village. 6, meanwhile, tries to contact "dreamers"—Village residents who, like himself, have been experiencing flashes of memory of their life outside the Village. Along the way, he befriends 147, a Village taxi driver; 313, a doctor with whom 6 develops a romantic connection but who has her own secrets; and "11–12", 2's son, who begins to question the reality of the Village.
Each episode title in the series is one word taken from an episode title from the original program.
The Prisoner went into production in June 2008. Location filming for The Village was in Swakopmund, Namibia. A production diary is available.
After 18 weeks of shooting, principal photography wrapped on December 12, 2008. AMC streamed all 17 episodes of the original Prisoner series in advance of showing the remake.
According to Patrick McGoohan's widow, producers of the new series had hoped that McGoohan would play a part in bringing the revival to the air. "They wanted Patrick to have some part in it, but he adamantly didn't want to be involved. He had already done it," she said in an interview shortly after McGoohan's death. This however was contradicted by Ian McKellen in an interview featured in the November 2009 edition of SFX Magazine where he was quoted as saying:
"He was asked to be in the first episode, there being a part that would have been very ironically fitting, but apparently he said that he didn't want to do it unless he was offered the part of Number Two."
The miniseries was promoted at 2008 San Diego ComicCon via a skywriter airplane that sketched the phrase "Seek the Six" on the sky over San Diego. Although "Seek the Six" was initially thought to be a catchphrase of some sort, there was no reference to it in the final program .
A further promotional event for the miniseries was held at the 2009 ComicCon, including a spoiler-heavy, 9-minute trailer and a cast and crew discussion panel, during which producer Trevor Hopkins confirmed that he had invited McGoohan to play the role of the Number Six-like old man encountered by Caviezel's character early in the first episode. This is suggested by the jacket worn by the old man – the same style jacket as worn by number Six in the first series. McGoohan declined, but suggested he could play Number 2 instead.
The airing of the miniseries resulted in mixed reviews, scoring 46 out of 100 on Metacritic. Los Angeles Times television critic Robert Lloyd wrote "why anyone, on either side of the screen, should be particularly interested in his fate, is never made clear nor compelling," and further states "the payoff is weak, and more than a bit daffy." In a comparison with the miniseries to AMC's hit series Mad Men, he writes "the difference [is] that 'Mad Men' is never boring."
In Entertainment Weekly, TV critic Ken Tucker writes "it lacks the wit and zip of the original Prisoner," and concludes "It's self-absorbed to the point of incoherence."
Chicago Sun-Times reviewer Paige Wiser declares "There's also a reason why I am not conking myself on the head with a croquet mallet, but The Prisoner somehow has the same effect," and with reference to viewing all six hours of the miniseries, concludes "I urge you to heed my advice: Opt out while you can."
San Francisco Chronicle critic Tim Goodman writes "The Prisoner is not compelling. It rambles too much. Its vagaries are not interesting, its unorthodox storytelling not special enough."
However New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley struck a contrary note: "This version of The Prisoner is not a remake, it's a clever and engaging reinterpretation by Bill Gallagher, who shaped the script to contemporary tastes and sensibilities — notably, a postmodern fatigue with ideology and big thoughts." She concludes "The 21st century adaptation pays only lip service to the human condition, and instead explores a power struggle between two human beings.
It's unlikely to prove as lasting, but the new series still manages to be thrilling." Furthermore it was positively reviewed in the Radio Times and also by Sam Wallaston who writing for The Guardian, described it as "a triumph with something of The Truman Show about it" with "a tension and a claustrophobia that gnaw away at you, making you look at your own psyche."
Episode Guide Miniseries