R.I.P., Patrick McGoohan

Patrick McGoohan has died at age 80.

When I was in high school, I was a huge fan of The Prisoner. (It seemed to fit in, somehow, with Illuminatus! and the Paranoia roleplaying game and various other things I was into.) Sarah L and I used to go through bits of some episodes a frame at a time to pick out details. I wrote "Be seeing you!" next to my high school yearbook photo. I read the Thomas Disch novelization. I read Dean Motter's comic-book miniseries. I even appeared on TV as part of a panel discussion of the show.

And I was thrilled when I later saw "Colony Three," an episode of McGoohan's earlier series, Danger Man, in which spy John Drake infiltrates a secret spy-training village; apparently that episode was one of the inspirations for The Prisoner. (Danger Man's theme song, of course, is the source of the line "There's a man who lives a life of danger / To everyone he meets, he stays a stranger," to which Laurie Anderson appended: "Howdy, stranger. Mind if I smoke?")

Over time, I drifted away from Prisoner fandom. It's been at least twenty years since I last watched any of the episodes, and I imagine I might find them a little dated and heavy-handed now--though I'm kinda tempted to give it a try. (You can watch all 17 episodes for free online, at the AMCtv.com website; turns out AMC is doing a miniseries remake this year, starring Ian McKellen as Number Two!) I haven't yet read the transcript of the 1977 interview with McGoohan that various sites are quoting. The desire to wear a pin featuring a penny-farthing bicycle and the number 23 is no longer as strong in me as it once was (though I still laugh whenever I see official real-world signs printed in Albertus, the basis for the typeface used in the Village).

But McGoohan gave teenage me a lot of enjoyment and a lot of food for thought. And the series was hugely influential. (Just one tiny example: the name of Six in BSG is an homage.) Even though I didn't follow much of his subsequent career, I'm sorry to hear he's gone.

2 Responses to “R.I.P., Patrick McGoohan”

  1. textjunkie

    Awwww… Drat. I was fond of The Prisoner and Danger Man, etc. We have them all on DVD. Sorry he’s gone.

  2. jacob

    I too have fond memories of watching The Prisoner in college — at one point it was on broadcast TV every weekend and folks would gather in Bruce Hahne’s room to watch. I was a lowly frosh and still associate the show with the sense of being with all these cool smart geeky folks. I also remember that Bruce often used to eat ramen, which I had never seen before.


Join the Conversation