THE PROJECTION ROOM (The Prisoner Compared...)


"NOWHERE MAN (He’s a Real Prisoner Fan!)" By Ronnie Soo

"My name is Thomas Veil, or at least it was. I'm a photographer, I had it all: a wife, Alyson, friends, a career. And in one moment it was all taken away, all because of a single photograph. I have it; they want it; and they will do anything to get the negative. I'm keeping this diary as proof that these events are real. I know they are... They have to be."

The above was spoken at the beginning of every episode of 'Nowhere Man', a 1990s action/adventure series heavily influenced by 'The Prisoner', by central character, photojournalist Thomas (Tom) Veil (played by ‘St. Elsewhere’ star Bruce Greenwood). At the start of the opening episode, ‘Absolute Zero’, he is shown at his studio exhibiting a series of his war photographs – the centrepiece of which is a shot of a grisly execution scene, titled ‘Hidden Agenda’. He sneaks off with his wife, Alyson to a nearby restaurant in order to escape cloying art critics, but when he excuses himself for a sneaky cigarette and returns to find his wife nowhere to be seen, and another couple at his table, things take a dramatic twist. The waiter does not know him, he is subsequently ejected from the restaurant, he returns home to find his wife now with another man, who claims to be her husband, his ATM card no longer works, and in desperation returns to his photographic studio to find the locks have been changed. He breaks in through a loft window, and the ‘Hidden Agenda’ photograph is now missing. His life has been totally erased.

Before long the police arrest him, and he ends up in a psychiatric hospital being quizzed by a sinister older man, Dr Bellamy (played by ‘LA Law’ star Michael Tucker). In an attempt to convince Tom he is wrong, they take a trip to the photo studio, while Bellamy is distracted, Tom is able to check that his negatives are where he had hidden them; in the much changed studio, that is the one thing which was overlooked.

On returning to the hospital, Tom takes Bellamy hostage and forces his way out of the hospital, they go to the studio where Tom is able to retrieve his negatives, while Bellamy is tied to a chair. Tom reasons that, as his own identity is gone, he may as well assume Bellamy’s, and so he prints a fake identity pass, just before the place is stormed, apparently by hospital orderlies (armed!). In the ensuing melée, Tom escapes while Bellamy is killed. From that point on, Tom is a fugitive with no identity and nowhere to go – hence the title: 'Nowhere Man'. The only link to his previous life are those negatives, and the mysterious authority responsible for erasing Tom’s life are desperate to get them back. Subsequent episodes focus on Tom’s new life drifting from place to place, always trying to stay one step ahead of his pursuers, and in the early episodes there are some definite parallels with another series about a man who had his life destroyed by a mysterious power: 'The Prisoner'. The most blatant of these is an episode entitled ‘Paradise On your Doorstep’; where Tom is abducted and wakes up to find himself in an apparently idyllic town called New Phoenix. The town is filled with people who are in a similar situation to Tom himself, ‘disenfranchised’ people whose normal lives have been taken away. This one has to be seen to be believed, New Phoenix is so like The Village!

In another episode, ‘Turnabout’, Tom, in the guise of Dr Bellamy, encounters a woman who also has had her life erased – there are definite shades of both ‘Chimes of Big Ben’ and ‘A, B & C’ in this one, as an elaborate plot to use the woman in order to trap Tom fails at the crucial moment, resulting in him escaping and her back at the hospital, with her life in ruins and no hope of returning to the way she was.

Programme creator Lawrence (Larry) Hertzog is a self-confessed ‘Prisoner’ fan, and he acknowledged the debt his series owed to McGoohan’s show in a series of comments he posted on the Internet at the time of the series’ showing. Like 'The Prisoner' before it, 'Nowhere Man suffered shabby treatment at the hands of the television companies; cancelled after one season, it has rarely been aired since its initial run and has yet to surface on DVD, despite it now being a decade old. Here in Britain, the programme was picked up by satellite station Sky One, but was not shown on mainstream television, meaning many potential fans missed out on this fascinating series. Sky themselves have only repeated the programme once.

For further information on this series, there is an excellent website at: which features a full episode guide, and the aforementioned comments from Larry Hertzog are reproduced. From this fan’s viewpoint, it is cruelly ironic that in these days of DVD and satellite television, we can see ‘The Prisoner’ any time we like (unlike the dark days of the 1970s, when the show was all but forgotten, and diehard fans travelled the country to see episodes), yet ‘Nowhere Man’, a more recent series exploring the similar theme of one man fighting the establishment, is gathering dust in an archive. I for one would love that situation to be rectified.

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