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Talk Back: AMC's "The Prisoner"

"I am not a number, I am a free man!"

You've had the chance to read my advance review of the six-hour miniseries version of The Prisoner on AMC as well as my interviews with the series' stars Jim Caviezel and Sir Ian McKellen and screenwriter Bill Gallagher and production designer Michael Pickwoad, but now that the first night of AMC's three-part miniseres has aired, I'm curious to see what you thought.

Did you fall under the surreal spell of The Prisoner? Were you captivated by the nefarious Village? Did Sir Ian McKellen steal the show? What did you make of Six's struggle for individuality in a topsy-turvy world designed to force him into assimilation? Curious to see what's happening? What are your theories about what the Village truly is? Are you finding the plot engaging, confusing, or plodding?

And, most importantly, will you stick around to watch Nights Two and Three of The Prisoner?

Talk back here.

Tonight on The Prisoner ("Anvil" and "Darling"), Six agrees to spy for Number Two; 313 fears that her gift could become problematic; 11-12's secret is unearthed; Six meets a woman who reminds him of someone from his past life; a natural disaster strikes the Village, leaving its inhabitants mystified.


jayhawk said…
I liked the original, not a big fan of this one. There is no fun, everyone is so sad, very little give and take between 6 and 2 which is one of the best parts of the original. Also I hate the fact that he does not work for the goverment in ths one.
Unknown said…
Ian McKellan is unbelievable. Too many story lines going on this time around - probably because it was originally designed to be open-ended and thus, more distractions. Not a fan of Two's family or of wasting Lennie. Would rather have seen it aired as a weekly, even a closed-end one - two hours in a row is exhausting.
Riley said…
Kind of cool but I never watched the original so I don't have anything to compare it to. Love McKellen but this is the first project that I've seen Jim Caviezel in and, so far, I'm not a fan.
Anonymous said…
The second hour was better than the first, maybe because of the exploration of family and memory. But overall missing the tension and suspense and humor of the original. The flashbacks to him picking up the girl (presumably to explain why he's in the Village?) are boring and don't add to the mystery. There is far too little of Ian McKellen to carry this.
rockauteur said…
I was pretty bored by it. Was expecting to be awed but was just disappointed. I'll watch the next two installments, but am glad that its a miniseries rather than a television show. I also found the editing rather annoying.
Scott Davis said…
This remake seems extremely boring. Even though McKellen is awesome as always, the original story's use of different actors in the role gave you a better idea of how big and mysterious the agency behind the village truly was.

Whereas the original is chaotic, weird and fun, this remake is plodding and well, not fun. All the cool science fiction devices, from the phones to the magically opening doors have been dumped, with only the giant white ball making the cut for this production. This is a remake that did not need to be remade. The addition of a son for another perspective is annoying and completely unnecessary.

The sets are extremely lack luster considering the epic location of the first series.

Unknown said…
Plodding is an understatement. I struggled to maintain attention. The moments of his memory with the mystery woman might have served a more useful purpose if in only one segment to provide a backstory. Traipsing in and out throughout the two hours provides very little insight and only adds to the frustration. Even the sound track brings any momentum to a crashing halt. And what's with the scary balloon? I'm gonna give it one more night, but my patience is worn thin. Much like V, I looked forward to this miniseries, but I guess I expected too much.
Unknown said…
PS--The best part is hearing 6 say "I am not a number, I am a free man." Brings back memories of one of my favorite bands, Iron Maiden. That's cool.
DRU2012 said…
I was a fan of the original "Prisoner"--I recognized its resonance in the mid-60's "anything is possible" pop milieu, even as an adolescent. I was looking forward to a modern retelling, an updating of the theme(s). I've given this one three and a half episodes and here is my verdict:
Ten times the paranoia and NONE of the humor...a thin veneer of what was, in the original, astute (if dark) political over- and undertones--mostly replaced here with plodding, muddy psycho-babble. In short, this is irritating, self- important drivel passed off as profundity. I don't even care "how it all turns out". I'm done with it.
DRU2012 said…
postscript to "Steve":
Both the "scary balloon" and the ORIGIN of that line of Number 6's (ie."...I am a free man!!!", that Iron Maiden sampled on that album) are from the original series--which IS worth checking out (available at good local rental stores--non-Blockbusters--and currently being replayed on IFC).
Anonymous said…
I've watched the first 2 nights and was bored mostly. The 1968 McGoohan masterpiece was both dark AND funny. McGoohan's 6 may have been angry about being kidnapped, & he may have spent most of his time plotting to escape & conspiring against 6, but he also had a ball turning the village upside down with his own counter-mind-games. There was a lot of fun in the original ; there's no fun in this new one. Everyone & everything is morose, sullen, gloomy in this new version. Where's the sparring between 2 & 6 ? That really should be the 2s because the real 6 destroyed more than one 2. The pace is plodding ; there is some bad directing & casting ( particularly, the Shakespearian-acting-style kid who is just plain incompetent -- & what is 2 doing raising a family in the village ? ) Pretentious jump-cut editing ( if in doubt, try to edit your way out of a bad plot-hole you've dug your way into ), the pointless, repetitive flashbacks...
I could go on and on. I fell asleep for several minutes during the second night, during the third hour of this much-too-long miniseries. Some pretentious drivel about 'everyone has a secret! We just have to find out what it is!' (That passes for profundity in this one.) & some meaningless plot diversions. I went ahead and watched hour four, but I think I'll take a pass when it comes to the third night. 2 is not even bothering to interview 6 about WHY he resigned -- which is the whole point of the show in the first place.

I'm going to have to pick up the DVDs for the real thing, ie, the 1968 Mc Goohan one.

rockauteur said…
I fell asleep during every night. BORING to say the least. Still have no clue what I watched.
Unknown said…
Wow, everybody hated it?

I actually enjoyed it for the most part.

As for the acting:

Ian McKellen is such an outstanding actor! He is always a pleasure to watch. He brings great humanity & fun to his roles. I thought Jim Caviezel also did a good job, as did most of the other actors. The acting was certainly a notch above most shows on television.

I found the story to be engrossing and compelling. I was rooting for 6, I wanted him to escape, and I wanted to discover the mystery behind the Village.

The story had an interesting conclusion, but there is a big hole in the premise.

*do not keep reading if you intend to watch the miniseries*

The premise of the show, as I understand it, is this:

The Village is a construct in the mind of Mrs. Curtis. The story is a bit like the Matrix, except here the Matrix is not a computer, it is Mrs. Curtis's brain.

Each person has a conscious mind in the "real" world, and they also have an inner-self that lives a separate life, unbeknownst to their conscious mind. It is this inner-self that can live in the Village.

Okay... suppose we accept this premise...

How does Summakor transport inner-selves to the Village? How is one person's inner-self connected to Mrs. Curtis's mind so that this inner-self can interact with the Village and with other inner-selves?

This question is never answered, and seems to be to be a major flaw.

In addition, I have a couple of other minor questions...

* How does Summakor make any money? How does this corporation afford their swanky Manhattan office? The business of secretly healing inner selves doesn't sound very profitable to me.

* Why are people in the Village given numbers instead of names? There is never an explanation for this.
chicagorob1 said…
This version of The Prisoner was a boring, tedious and mind-numbing. I fell asleep during almost every episode.
The ending explanation of the Village's origins and inhabitants was so lame and error filled it was an insult to the viewer.
Why did they even call it The Prisoner? The ONLY connection between the two shows was the use of numbers instead of names, something that made sense in the original (spies, secret identities, etc.) but had no reasonable explanation here, except maybe wanting to cash in on Patrick McGoohan's classic original.
After reading the interview with Bill Gallagher I can see where this was more of a self-serving exploration of his fascination with Jung and the subconscious than a true newer, better version of the original. He didn't seem to know why anything was done. It sounds like he wrote a script about the psyche and subconscious and it was turned into a Prisoner miniseries after the fact.
AMC should be ashamed of itself for foisting a boring and confusing mess on us and claiming it's a worthy successor.
Anonymous said…
Joan returning here :

Despite my earlier vow from the other day, I did in fact force myself to sit through the final episodes the other night. I even re-watched the last hour a second time when they re-aired it last night. I wanted to say that I had watched it all & had given it a fair try.

The concluding episodes did not move me & did not surprise me. I had guessed it from the beginning -- they had dug themselves into far too many plot-holes, so make it a dream.

I agree with chicagorob1 about the writer. In fact, I intend to deliberately skip anything else by the writer or by the director of this ' stuff ' . Their product was intentionally condescending, patronising.

To the supporters & fans of Ian McKellen ( including, most recently, devzoo ) : yes, Ian McKellen is an outstanding actor. He may in fact be the finest living actor. But, no matter how good he is, he is still at the mercy of his script, and the script in this miniseries was deplorable. He didn't have much to work with. Some others were also excellent, eg, the lady doctor ( I can't recall her number or name -- she's the one who ended up with 6 at the story's finale, no surprise or suspense about that either ), but they also had so little to work with.

Anonymous said…
Update ( Joan ):

313 / Sarah was her number / name ( played by Ruth Wilson ). She was excellent, but she was as trapped as the others in a bad series.

Rob Dunbar said…
Sorry--my daughter and I watched 20 minutes and ditched it. We're both big fans of the original (she even more than I)--its mod style, Disneyland-like setting, and oddly inane public announcements make for a jarring atmosphere. I'm afraid I can't give a fair review to the remake; but then, it seems we didn't really miss much. BTW, AMC is also streaming the entire original series at its website here:
A. Cerbic said…
*do not keep reading if you intend to watch the miniseries*

>>How does Summakor transport inner-selves to the Village? ....

Mr. Curtis in final episode mentions "We all commonly accept the existence of the unconscious." and then explains how his wife theorizes on existence of "other layers of unconscious". This is a reference to "collective unconscious" - an idiom from psychology which is taken literally.
In my understanding, no physical operations on people are required to transport their inner-selves to the Village. Summakor completes their surveillance on a person, and then his/her detailed daily dossier is brought to Mrs. Curtis. Then she is able to build a virtual profile, an alter ego of that person in her mind - and by nature of a psy-layer she operates this alone is enough to bind the villager and a real-life prototype.

>>How does Summakor make any money?

Pff! That is quite simple. Do you know how much top shrinks costs? Summakor can provide 99% effective results in virtually no time. And they don't need patient's cooperation, consent or even awareness!! It is a true gold mine, no problem there.

>>Why are people in the Village given numbers instead of names?
To deprive them from their individuality, to cut off former life. Well, no reason really, but alas no reason not to. Obviously, it was inherited from original show to keep atmosphere.
Unknown said…
Hi A. Cerbic (cute name!)

I appreciate your effort to answer my questions.

Mr. Curtis does indeed talk of multiple layers of unconsciousness, and I get this. And I like the idea. It's fun to think that I have many different identities, all operating independently of each other, like programs running independently on the same CPU.

However, this doesn't explain how inner selves can communicate with each other.

You mentioned the "collective unconscious", which is a term coined by the psychologist Carl Jung. It refers to the storehouse of myths and symbols to which all human beings have access. I don't believe Jung or any of his disciples ever claimed that the collective unconscious is actually a realm where inner selves can communicate with each other. I'm not rejecting the idea of a "realm of inner selves" as being invalid for science fiction. But it was never explained within The Prisoner. Since it is not an established concept in psychology that inner selves can communicate with each other, The Prisoner owed us an explanation for how inner selves could congregate and communicate within The Village (Mrs. Curtis's mind).

Your explanation of how Summakor makes money doesn't make any sense to me. Sure, top shrinks cost money. But I can explain to you how top shrinks make this money. They send out bills to their clients, or they are paid by insurance companies. How is Summakor paid? How can you bill somebody for a service they are unaware they received?

I'll accept your answer to my question about the names.


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