The Prisoner Complete Set
Over thirty years ago I, like many others, became fascinated by a strange series that started on the CBS network. Originally shown in Canada and England, this series took television in a direction never before taken. The Prisoner, a tale of a resigned spy that is taken to a strange Village in order to tell the many secrets he holds was a bizarre, surrealistic series that held us glued to our TV sets. The unnamed protagonist (assumed by many to be John Drake from the TV series Secret Agent) is known only by Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan). Each week he is challenged by a new person in charge, Number Two. The goal is to subject Number 6 to a series of mind games in order to make him willingly divulge some information. The series holds together on many different levels. It is a typical sixties spy action series, a cryptic tale of a man determined to hold to his individuality and a cautionary tale of what happens when a society becomes too controlling. If you are at all interested in this DVD set then you most likely know all about the series. McGoohan created this series, stars in it , wrote several episodes and directed three episodes. He created a masterpiece here. While at times the surrealism makes for a difficult follow it is also a lot of the fun of watching. Many debates have started of the slightest points of the show. Number 6 outwits, out plays and out lasts his captures. The ultimate survivor!
There are few regulars in this series. Each episode brings a new Number 2 to try his or hers best to get information from Number Six. There is the supervisor of Security who gets to track the prisoners and the ever present butler to Number Two (Angelo Muscat). At times McGoohan seems to overplay his role. He brings a quiet dignity to the role, the security of a man who knows if he can hold to his own personal values he can win in the end. He plays their games confident that he will win, the only way he can approach a hopeless situation is to never give up hope. McGoohan demonstrates his acting skills with little details like a glance or a movement of his body that defines his character. It is really a good thing this series lasted only 17 episodes, it plays out perfectly in that space without becoming wore or dry.
There are several people that directed episodes of the Prisoner. As mentioned above, McGoohan directed three, Free for All, Once Upon a Time and the final episode, Fallout (also called Degree Absolute). One director that is used more than any other is Don Chaffey. He also directed the Ray Harryhausen classic, Jason and the Argonauts and the 1966 version of One Million Years B.C. Although many different people have a hand in direction the show flows in a way few films do.
The set is extremely well done. While many will disdain the mono sound track and full screen video, do let this defer you from owning this classic. There are a few random white spots and defects noticeable but considering the age of the stock and the fact that this was originally from television, the picture is amazingly clear. It also helps that the show was from the BBC. They paid better attention to technical details back then and had a higher resolution, As such, you will see details in this set that even the most ardent fan will have missed on the CBS or ScFi channel presentations. A&E has taken it upon themselves to provide high quality British television classic to us region one viewers. The sound is mono but usually crisp and clear. There are a few spots where the audio is muffled but the overall rating has to be high. Try reprocessing the sound through your AV receiver using simulated surround or live and it will brings some added punch to the audio. There is an extra of an alternate version of the episode Chimes of Big Ben. Here, the audio and video are below standard. The extras are excellent. In fact, since the complete box set is made up of five two disc box sets, there is a nice little extra on almost every other disc. For example, on disc five there is a special interview. Each disc as an interactive map of the Village. There is also a little trivia game on each disc. The last disc has an interactive version of the definitive reference work on this show, The Prisoner Companion. The set is ten discs for the 17 episodes. An excellent buy and most have for current and future fans. Be seeing you .
For those interested in the correct order to watch the episode here is a table for comparison. The order is hotly contested with the die hard fans of the show. There are three basic orders, the Sci-Fi channel (used on the DVDs), A&E order and the British TV order. Check out the back cover of each of the discs, there is a little explanation of the order used and the reason for the decision.