THE PRISONER & UNMUTUAL WEBSITE FAQ
night is young and there are many questions."
The Colonel, "The Chimes of Big Ben".
SECTION 1 – THE PRISONER
1.1. What is The Prisoner anyway?
The Prisoner is often regarded the most enigmatic television series ever made. It bemused and delighted audiences with its blend of mystery and science fiction. Over 50 years later, the series is more popular than ever, and has been hailed as one of the most thought-provoking and influential TV series of all time.
It was filmed as 17 episodes by Everyman Films (a company set up by star/writer Patrick McGoohan and producer/writer David Tomblin) from mid 1966 to early 1968. The series initially seemed to be a contemporary spy drama about the struggles of a disillusioned man (played by Patrick McGoohan) who, upon resigning from his job, is abducted and awakens to find himself in a mysterious village of unknown location. He spends the following episodes trying to escape from this strange prison (known only as "The Village"), to find out who is running it or where it is located, or to avoid the interrogative tricks and traps set by successive Village leaders. Everyone in "the Village" is known by a number, not a name. Our unnamed hero is known only as "Number Six", and the often-replaced Village leader is known as Number Two, answering only to the unseen brooding presence of the ultimate boss, Number One.
The series encapsulated the surrealism and paranoia of the late 1960s and mixed psychedelia with spy drama, action-adventure and the glorious architecture and woods of the Italianate village Portmeirion. This heady mix has been enthralling fans and researchers for 50 years.
The Prisoner should not be confused with the Australian jail drama/soap Prisoner, known as Prisoner: Cell Block H in the UK.
1.2 Wasn't there a remake?
Several attempts at a revival of the series were made, including by Patrick McGoohan. In 2009 an ITV/AMC co-production starring Jim Caviezel and Sir Ian McKellen was screened to poor reviews (click HERE for more details). A brief history of the remake attempts can be seen HERE. Audio drama pioneers Big Finish produced a re-imagining of the series in recent years (click HERE for more details).
1.3 Where can I buy The Prisoner on DVD / BluRay / Soundtrack?
The current physical media licensors for the series are Network Distributing Limited, who have produced both a 40th anniversary and 50th anniversary edition, on both DVD and BluRay. Please note that these items are Region 2/B, so non-Europe/Australasia fans will need a multi-region player (well worth the investment).
Click HERE for a review/comparison of the 40th /50th anniversary editions. Network have also released CD soundtracks of the series. The 40th anniversary edition included all the specially composed music for the series. A separate 2010 release from Derek Lawton included all the Chappell Library Music included in the series. In 2017 the Network 50th anniversary edition merged the two sets and included all the music featured in the series (bar 4 tracks: All You Need is Love, Dry Bones, I Yi Yi Like You Very Much, Prelude to L'Arlesienne).
Earlier CD releases from labels such as Silva Screen and Bam Caruso were highlights only, and not complete.
Click HERE for the Network website.
Click HERE for a history and tracklisting of The Prisoner soundtrack albums.
Click HERE to order many of the above items.
Other merchandise, such as badges and so forth, are available at Portmeirion's 'Siop Prisoner' (housed in the building used in the series as Number Six's cottage) as well as the online e-store 'The Village Shop' run by The Unmutual and QML.
Over the years several replica versions of the 'Map of Your Village' seen in 'Arrival' have been produced, a potted history of these can be found HERE.
1.4 What books have been published about The Prisoner?
Many. And increasing. Ranging from novels based on the series to detailed critical analysis, from memoirs of those involved in production, to episode guides. There are also works on Patrick McGoohan's and George Markstein's (co-writer and script editor on episodes of The Prisoner) careers.
It is genuinely felt that books about the series can be split into levels of need/interest, with the following books regarded as being the best: Andrew Pixley's Production Guide, included with the original 40 th anniversary DVD set, which covers the full production of the series, is the ideal book for those interested in all the minutiae of production, as are Robert Fairclough's now out-of-print The Complete Scripts. Robert Fairclough is also responsible for what is regarded as the finest ‘companion' style book to the series, with colour photos, production details, and historical context. For Prisoner/Portmeirion crossover, Catherine Frumerman's On The Trail of The Prisoner is recommended, and for beginners/introductory as an affordable guide, Rick Davy's The Prisoner: The Essential Guide at £2.99.
Click HERE for a full list of every book published on the series, with ISBN.
Most in-print Prisoner books can be purchased from ‘The Village Shop', operated by The Unmutual Website and Quoit Media Limited, HERE.
1.5 Where was The Prisoner filmed?
Most famously, in and around the North Wales hotel resort of Portmeirion, which is actually a Village as well as a hotel. Day visitors pay on the gate (around £10), or guests can stay in houses and cottages (some used in the series), which are run as hotel rooms or self-catering cottages. Portmeirion is an eclectic mix of Italianate architecture, statuary, woodlands and gardens seemingly cut off from the outside world. It was designed by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and built from 1925 onwards as a labour of love (he would often incorporate bits of old buildings he gathered over the years), with hotel profits funding the building and landscaping.
The official Portmeirion website is HERE.
Travel by train is possible, with Minffordd or Penrhyndeudraeth the nearest stations (the route finishes at Pwllheli). Hotel guests can be collected from either station, or from nearby Porthmadog, by the hotel porter/van.
The studio and backlot work for all episodes was carried out at the (now demolished) MGM Studios in Borehamwood. For some episodes, location work was carried out around Borehamwood and nearby Elstree, and in other parts of England. The opening (and closing) shot of the series, the long "runway" racetrack, is Santa Pod raceway (Podington).
A full locations guide to the series can be found HERE. Twice yearly, Dave Lally runs a FREE locations tour to the London locations from the series (and from ‘Danger Man'), and other tours from time-to-time. Details HERE.
1.6 What order should The Prisoner episodes be shown in?
A subject of frequent debate. The broadcast order differs greatly from the production order (for example Once Upon a Time, the penultimate episode, was filmed sixth).
The UK broadcast order differs only slightly from the later USA broadcast order. Canada was actually the first country to screen the series, from early September 1967, but did not complete the run of episodes.
UK BROADCAST ORDER (first TX in brackets)
USA BROADCAST ORDER (first TX in brackets)
In the USA, the episode Living in Harmony was not shown during the original series run. Many commentators have stated that this was because of either the blatant use of hallucinogenic drugs, or Six's refusal to wear guns (a sensitive topic in the USA due to the Vietnam war at that time) but these are urban myths. In 2016 the man at CBS responsible for scheduling decisions confirmed that it was a simple case of it not being appropriate to screen the episode, due to something else which had occurred in the news this week (click HERE for the interview).
When the series was re-screened by Channel 4 in the UK in 1983/84, the order was different.
CHANNEL 4 / S4C SCREENING ORDER (1983/84 REPEATS)
N.B. It appears that Living In Harmony was planned to be shown between Once Upon A Time and Fall Out, but last minute advice from a fan prevented this mistake. This order is sometimes called the "Warehouse Order", so presumably Channel 4 were given episodes in their warehouse/catalogue order.
UK DVD and BluRay releases have always followed the UK broadcast order. The USA A&E set used what has been termed 'The 6of1 order' (although in reality, it's an order written by one individual), which has been widely criticised, mainly for the odd ordering of Schizoid Man , A. B. and C, and The General.
THE 'BEST' ORDER
As mentioned above, the subject of frequent debate, and there is no right or wrong answer, but the following have been interesting theories/points to help people create their ideal order. The only 'definites' are that Arrival must come first, and Once Upon a Time and Fall Out must come last (although, watching Fall Out first and Arrival second is another theory!)
Number Six is 'new': Dance of the Dead, Free for All, Checkmate should come early as Number Six makes reference to being new. In Dance Six states he has "never seen a night" and is told "we're democratic, in some ways" (which would be odd given the events of "Free for All", suggesting it should take place prior)..
Dates and timeline: Many Happy Returns is set in March, with Number Six several weeks at sea, and it has been some months since his disappearance. Chimes of Big Ben Number Six appears fairly settled but still quite new, and has been gone "a gap of months". Schizoid Man appears to be set in February. A. B. and C. appears to be set also in February. Do Not Forsake is set one year after Arrival. Some episodes (due to production) appear to be set at certain times of year (bare trees etc).
Colin Gordon: Theories are that A. B. and C. should follow The General as not only does Colin Gordon seem more under pressure for his job, presumably because of his failure with The General but also because during the opening sequence of A. B. and C. Gordon states "I am Number Two" rather than "The New Number Two", which he states at the start of The General. However, it should also be noted that during their first scene together in The General Gordon's character notes "Number Six and I are old friends", implying he has been in the Village previously. The Schizoid Man seemingly makes reference to The General with Number Six seemingly not knowing who The General is.
Winners and Losers: One theory is that the episodes in which the Village appears to defeat Number Six should come first, and those where Number Six appears to get the better of his captors (such as Hammer into Anvil or It's Your Funeral) should come later. Other theories state that episodes where the Village are using risky techniques should come later, due to their desperation, and those which are harmless attempts (such as Girl Who Was Death) should come earlier. The reverse theory is also common.
It's Your Funeral: One theory regarding this episode is that the reason there is such a high turnover of Number Twos in the series is that every Number Two is a temporary interim awaiting Andre Van Gysingham's return.
Rick Davy's Unmutual Website order (a personal list by Rick Davy, utilising the ideas/theories set out above):
2. Dance of the Dead
3. Free for All
5. The Chimes of Big Ben
6. Schizoid Man
7. The General
8. A. B. and C
9. Many Happy Returns
10. A Change of Mind
11. Hammer into Anvil
12. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling
13. Living in Harmony
14. The Girl Who Was Death
15. It's Your Funeral
16. Once Upon a Time
17. Fall Out
THE McGOOHAN 7
Much discussion has surfaced from 'The McGoohan 7'. In interviews after the series production was completed, Patrick McGoohan has stated that the series would have been better as a seven-episode mini-series. It is worth noting that such comments were not made at the time of the series pre-production or production, and 17 episodes was finalised as the total as early as Autumn 1966 (click HERE for more on this). Many fans have tried to guess at which seven episodes, with the justifiably-criticised book The Prisoner Companion (White/Ali, 1988) stating that they knew the 7 episodes in question. McGoohan is on record as having stated that the book is full of errors, and that the 7 chosen within that book were not correct. In 1991 journalist Howard Foy interviewed McGoohan. The recording is available on CD from HERE, and contains, tantalisingly, six of the seven episode titles which form McGoohan's core 7.
McGoohan's 6 of 7:
2. Free for All
3. The Chimes of Big Ben
5. Many Happy Returns
6. Once Upon a Time
7. Fall Out
1.7 What are the "Alternate" episodes?
In 1967, when production on The Prisoner was still underway (and shortly before broadcast began in the UK), Patrick McGoohan and ITC arranged a press conference at MGM studios. Two episodes which had undergone post-production were shown to the press. As well as sets, props and actors from the show, journalists were treated to an enigmatic interview from McGoohan (where he asked the Press questions about the episodes they had just seen!). The two episodes were Arrival (episode 1) and The Chimes of Big Ben (normally, these days, shown as Episode 2). However, they were not the episodes as eventually broadcast. They had different title sequences at start and finish, with different theme music (by Wilfred Josephs rather than Ron Grainer) as well as different edits of scenes, some different shots, and extra dialogue in some scenes. Both ‘The Alternative Arrival' and ‘The Alternative Chimes' have received separate releases, and were included in Network's 40th anniversary DVD/BluRay set.
1.8 What other episode titles were used?
Some episodes were known by different titles at the scripting and production stage. A non-exhaustive list follows:
1.9 What Does It All Mean?
That is one of the things we are here to discuss! The Prisoner deliberately asked questions with no answers, or many answers, and challenged viewers to think for themselves instead of force-feeding them with pre-chewed pap like most modern programmes. Patrick McGoohan says the Prisoner is "an allegory" and is not to be taken too literally. The Village is all around us, and we are all Prisoners of ourselves.
1.10 Is "Number Six" in "The Prisoner" the same character as "John Drake" in Danger Man?
Both were played by Patrick McGoohan, co-creator of The Prisoner, who publicly stated many times that they were not intended to be the same character. One friend of McGoohan later alleged that McGoohan stated to him that the two characters were the same. The former script editor (the late George Markstein), who also claimed to be the originator of the idea of The Prisoner, said the Prisoner character was "an agent called Drake, who resigned." Some crew members including Frank Maher were invited onto the series on the basis that the series was a "Danger Man" sequel.
John Drake (Danger Man) was the copyright property of Ralph Smart, and so the makers of The Prisoner did not have permission to use him or his name anyway. Officially, therefore, The Prisoner cannot be the same John Drake (whatever David McDaniel's novel might claim).
"Number Six" also seems to have a quite different background, London life, and fiancée. He may not even be a spy - McGoohan claimed once that the Prisoner could be "a scientist". John Drake and Number Six have different bosses, different places of work, drive different cars, and live in different houses.
It is worth noting that the unnamed hero of the Prisoner is never called Drake on-screen. He claims that his name is 'Peter Smith', whilst trying to convince the new tenant of his London house that it's his house, but may be using a code-name or alias.
Some viewers mishear the Leo McKern line "see me in the morning break" (in the episode Once Upon a Time) as "see me in the morning, Drake". In the script it is written as “Report to me in the morning break”. Click HERE for more detail on this.
Some viewers believe the photo of McGoohan seen in the opening credits (being crossed by a typewriter), and in later episodes, is from Danger Man. It is, in fact, not related to that series and was a still from a generic photoshoot undertaken by McGoohan in 1965.
The scripts usually call The Prisoner "P" (for "Prisoner", according to McGoohan who wrote 3 of the scripts), so this "P" probably doesn't stand for "Peter Smith" or "Patrick McGoohan", although they also often call Number Two's Butler "Angelo" (the actor's name). However, when the escapee actors' names (Leo McKern, Angelo Muscat, Alexis Kanner etc) are overlaid at the end of the final episode, the only one not to have their real name is Patrick, credited instead as plain "Prisoner". Series Librarian Tony Sloman later recalled that earlier production documents referred to P/6 as ‘Drake', although none of these documents have ever seen the light of day.
The Prisoner is viewed by many as an allegory, the lead character is supposed to represent ‘Every Man', and not one specific character.
1.11 What is the car the Prisoner drives at the start?
It is a Lotus Super 7 series 2, registration no. KAR 120C (a 1965 registration). Three different sevens, as well as many other vehicles, were used during the series' production. Full details on all these vehicles can be seen HERE.
1.12 Has anyone noticed that Derren Nesbitt in It's Your Funeral looks/acts like one of the Tracey brothers in Thunderbirds/Brains/Joe 90/any other Gerry Anderson puppet?
Yes. Please don't ask again.
1.13 What does the penny-farthing symbol represent?
McGoohan's only reference to it in interviews has described it as an "ironic symbol of progress" - McGoohan claimed things were going faster and faster with little reflection on whether new inventions were of benefit or not. The incongruous canopy is said to have been added to represent the "overprotective" nature of modern society, as encapsulated by the "caring" façade of the Village.
1.14 In the opening introduction sequence (“Where am I?”) doesn't Number Two reply to “Who is Number One?” with “You are, [pause] Number Six” thus giving the ending away?
No. Any comma after the word “are” is fan-invented. There is no ambiguity. The line is clearly “You (emphasised, then pause) are Number Six” and was scripted and performed to avoid any such ambiguity. Click HERE for more detail on this.
1.15 What colour is The Prisoner's blazer?
Dark brown, AKA charcoal brown, (not black as some people mistake it for), with white/cream-coloured piping. This is clearly visible on the 35mm publicity shots taken in daylight in September 1966, as well as having been witnessed by cast and crew members, convention attendees, and clearly visible on the DVDs/Blurays. Filtered studio lighting sometimes makes it appear dark blue or black.
One of the the two blazers (one has joined piping at the lapel, one has broken piping at the lapel) were retained after filming by Patrick McGoohan's dresser Jimmy Millar, along with Curtis's white blazer, the AB&C coat, and other items. Fan Peter Jones of Droitwich (photographed HERE wearing the blazer with the broken piping) purchased them from Millar. An individual who later claimed to have received the items from Jones in a private business transaction, and not as a donation to the organization he represented, proceeded to sell them at auction. It is then believed that a trading card company purchased the dark blazer, which was subsequently cut up (i.e. destroyed). The whereabouts of the Schizoid Man blazer is unknown, the AB&C coat is in the private hands of a well-regarded collector. A guide to costumes and props seen in the series which still survive is presented HERE.
The blazer currently on display in Portmeirion's Prisoner Shop is not an original series production blazer. The blazer on display is a woman's blazer (denoted by both the size and the button configuration) and was manufactured in circa 1968 by Angel's costumiers as a fancy dress replica item. In the early 2000s Angels sold off much of their stock, which did include many original/genuine production items from different series and films, at auction. Sadly, whilst the auctioneers were forced to withdraw a number of fancy dress items which they were trying to pass off as original (such as various Doctor Who coats and items), this sale was allowed to go ahead as the owners of the original blazers did not have the legal means to dispute the sale. Sadly Portmeirion were not informed of this prior to the sale.
A guide to props and costumes from the series can be found HERE.
1.16 What social media pages are available for The Prisoner?
There are several Facebook groups for discussion about the series and for posting photographs and chatting.
Click HERE for The Prisoner and Portmeirion Group.
Click HERE for The Prisoner Group.
For collectibles and memorabilia and selling/buying items, The Prisoner and Patrick McGoohan Memorabilia Group is HERE.
The Unmutual Website has a page on Facebook, with daily news and facts about the series (#PrizFact) which you can like/follow HERE.
The Unmutual Website also has a Twitter page to follow HERE, and also on Instagram (search for Unmutual Website).
1.17 What podcasts are available for The Prisoner?
There are several current and archived podcasts dedicated to the series. Click HERE for a complete guide.
SECTION 2 – THE UNMUTUAL WEBSITE
2.1. What is "The Unmutual Website"?
"The Unmutual Website", or "TUW", is dedicated to the 1960s TV series The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan, and the Village of Portmeirion, where the series was filmed. Its aim is to be an "online magazine" for all things Prisoner, including the latest news, photos, links, information about the series, Patrick McGoohan and other cast and crew, plus providing a place for all the talent and discussion in Prisoner fandom to be collated (such as artwork, articles, etc).
The Unmutual is not any sort of club, society, or group. It is just a website.
No membership is required to read or contribute to the website, attend any events organised by it or advertised on it.
In 2005 it was decided that all profits from any events or fundraising activities organised by The Unmutual Website should be donated to Ty Gobaith Children's Hospice. So far as of 2019 over £5000 has been raised.
The name "Unmutual" comes from The Prisoner episode A Change of Mind - its basic meaning in the episode is for someone/thing who is still free-thinking and individual.
The website is independent of any organisation and was created by Lew Stringer in 2002 to enable Prisoner fans to keep in touch with Prisonerdom and have the ability to read about events, news and merchandise without having to join such an organisation and spend money. "The Unmutual" was also the name of a small-scale paper-based newsletter created for the same purpose, which ran for 6 issues 2002-2005.
In more recent years, the running of The Unmutual website was taken over by Rick Davy. The Unmutual Website also has a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/unmutualwebsite and a Twitter page at http://www.twitter.com/unmutualwebsite.
The Unmutual Website is not connected in any way to the www.unmutual.com forum or any other web page, web site, domain or individuals or groups of individuals using the name Unmutual.
2.2 Is the website or any events held by it official, or unofficial?
Any events or any activities organised by The Unmutual Website which make use of copyright material, are conducted with the full backing, with appropriate licenses paid, of the copyright holders. No 'unofficial' or 'pirate' activity is condoned by TUW, and TUW will never knowingly promote any event, book, website, group, or activity which breaks copyright.
2.3 Who are "The Unmutuals"?
Put simply, as a body or group or Society, they do not exist. "Unmutuals" is a term derived from "The Prisoner" series to mean "free thinking individuals". Whilst many people may describe themselves as "unmutual" in spirit (IE non-conformist), there is no "Unmutual" group or collection of people called "The Unmutuals". There is no "Unmutual Society". Any individuals calling themselves or others 'The Unmutuals' are not involved in the running of this website.
2.4 Do I have to sign up to anything to contribute?
The beauty of The Unmutual Website is that anyone can contribute. You do not need to join any Society, send any money, you don't even have to use your name if you don't want to!
Every independent official outlet of "Prisoner" appreciation in recent years has worked in conjunction with The Unmutual Website. Network Distrubuting have worked with The Unmutual for many years on their Prisoner DVD and BluRay sets, and their 50th anniversary celebrations in Portmeirion, and launched their official 40th anniversary DVDs at TUW's PM2007 event, and TUW is proud to call entities such as Big Finish, the BFI, Pigeon Guard Games, QML, and Elstree Studios as working partners. All recent official books (such as Robert Fairclough's Prisoner Script Books and Leslie Glen's Prisoner Interrogations) have been launched in conjunction with The Unmutual. Official events such as TUW/Prizbiz's PM events in Portmeirion, the 2013 British Film Institute Patrick McGoohan season, Network's 50th anniversary, and recent Elstree Studios celebration events were also ran by or in conjunction with this website and not any other entities, clubs, societies or websites. The website and its events also have the backing of the McGoohan family, and of countless members of cast and crew from The Prisoner series.
The Unmutual Website has many thousands of e-subscribers to website updates and over 7000 "hits" on average per week.
2.4. I have lots of questions regarding The Prisoner. Are the answers at TUW?
Some are, but not all. Return to the home page HERE and access the different sections of the websites to the left and right of the news items in the centre. The website is expanding constantly, with new pages and content regularly added.
2.5. Can I email questions, articles, and reviews to The Unmutual?
TUW is always on the lookout for new news, articles, reviews and links but please email first (via the contact page) before emailing any images or large documents across. If anyone is organising an independent Prisoner event, writing a book on the series, or an article, launching a website, or is involved in anything similar connected with the series, please contact TUW for possible inclusion in the links section and publicity on the news page.
FAQ written by Rick Davy and Frank Shailes. With thanks to Tina Jerke.