I don’t have time to do this subject justice right now, but I want to mention it. I’ll be back with a fuller treatment of a man who influenced me a very great deal.
Patrick McGoohan, star of Danger Man (Secret Agent in the US) and The Prisoner, died Tuesday at the age of 80.
In Secret Agent he played John Drake, a non-womanizing avoider of violence who looked to complete his nearly impossible missions by smarts and smooth.
“When Drake fights, he fights clean,” Mr. McGoohan once explained. “He abhors bloodshed. He carries a gun, but doesn’t use it unless necessary — and then he doesn’t shoot to kill. He prefers to use his wits. He is a person with a sophisticated background and a philosophy. I want Drake to be in the heroic mould, like the classic Western hero — which means he has to be a good man.”
Mr. McGoohan also reportedly refused the movie role of Bond, which went to his “Hell Drivers” co-actor Sean Connery.
The Prisoner, as its devotees will tell you at length, is not normal television.
The show’s meaning remains a source of debate. Some viewers saw the drama, which aired at a peak moment of the 1960s counterculture movement, as a critique of establishment power over the individual. The unnamed hero proclaims at one point, “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.”
“The Prisoner” attracted devoted fans at the time, but not enough. Although short-lived, it was credited with setting a thematic, at times surreal template for such films as “The Truman Show” (1998) with Jim Carrey and the current ABC series “Lost.”
Robert J. Thompson, founding director of Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, said of “The Prisoner” that it “was an early taste of really complex, literate, thematically dense programming” at a time when most Americans were used to talking horses, genies as hapless homemakers and courtroom shows where Perry Mason wins every case.