Tag Archives: Patrick McGoohan

Portmeirion—Part 3


Despite what you might think looking at the photographs in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on Portmeirion, the skies weren’t just varying shades of gray.  Occasionally the buildings of Portmeirion were framed in blue during our stay.  You’ll also see how the topography changes during high tide—blue waters caressing the frontage of the main hotel and lapping at the base of White Horses.

Fans of The Prisoner will also note other points of interest—”Town Hall” and the statue of Hercules holding the world for Atlas; Battery Square with its shops connected by a pedestrian bridge (the shop on the left is The Prisoner Shop); a stunning shot of the Bell Tower; and, of course, the Village Green with its pool and the fountain from which “Rover” springs forth. Rover, for the uninitiated, was the sentry that made The Village escape proof—a gigantic, almost gelatinous ball that would chase down and suffocate those who made the attempt.  Rover was in fact nothing more than a large weather balloon, but the beastly roar emanating from it made it appear far more ominous than its true identity would dictate.

If you plan a visit to the British Isles in general and Wales in particular, you need not be a fan of The Prisoner to enjoy a stay here.  The accommodations are incredible, and the views even more so.  But before you go, you owe it to yourself to find a copy of the series and prepare yourself for the experience.

Have you put The Prisoner into your Netflix queue, yet?  Before it arrives, a word of warning:  What you think the series is about is not what the series is about.  The beginning leads you to believe this is, at its core, a spy drama.  It’s nothing of the sort, and you don’t get a sense of that until at least two-thirds of the way into the series.  There are hints throughout, even starting as early as Episode One, of the deeper meaning, but . . . well, that would be telling.

I will say this much:  Listen for references to individuality, social conformity, and society.  Then prepare for a shock at the final, psychedelic conclusion.  Indeed, you may want to watch the series a second time to see what you missed in the lead-up to the finale.  How shocking was it?  Well, let’s just say that angry viewers who missed the clues, who were unaccustomed to having to think about what they watched on the proverbial “Idiot Box” known as television, were positively outraged.  Because of the intense emotions the final episode evoked, Patrick McGoohan reportedly found it necessary to pack up his family and flee England—first to Switzerland, and then to the U.S. (the country of his birth).

Now for some closing images of this remarkable, enchanted place:

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The Prisoner of Portmeirion


The date was Saturday, June 1, 1968.  The network was CBS.  The television show, new to the U.S., had already run on Britain’s ITV Channel 3 from September 29 the year before through to its 17-episode conclusion on February 1.  And from the opening thunderclap, blaring trumpets, and image of Patrick McGoohan driving a Lotus Seven (registration KAR 120C) along a deserted airstrip, I was hooked.

The television show was the cult classic The Prisoner, and it was the brainchild of George Markstein and executive producer Patrick McGoohan.  Mr. McGoohan died January 13, 2009, and I was deeply saddened by his passing because this show still holds a special place in my heart.

What makes The Prisoner so unique is its blend—It’s a spy drama.  It’s a thriller.  It’s science fiction.  It’s fantasy.  It’s psychological.  It’s allegorical.  It’s existential.  It’s simultaneously psychedelic and nostalgic.  It’s a commentary on society at the time, and it’s still relevant to the society (and the politics) of today.  It is, in short, television at its finest and most promising.  It makes you think, and it deals neither kindly nor gently with those unaccustomed to doing so for a full hour.

The initial premise seems pedestrian, and it has been copied at least a couple of times since.  A man (Patrick McGoohan) resigns from an agency from which one does not resign.  It’s simply not done, old man.  There are consequences for such an act.

He rushes to his flat (ominously followed by a hearse) and starts packing his luggage—brochures of tropical beaches thrown atop hastily packed clothing.  Meanwhile, the undertaker steps away from the hearse and approaches the front door.  Gas starts pouring in through the keyhole, and the man’s expression shows that he knows he’s too late to escape.  His last sight before losing consciousness, through the window of his flat, is of the towering skyscrapers of London.

The man awakes in what appears to be his own flat.  But when he goes to the window it is not London that greats him.  It’s The Village.  Names are not used in The Village; everyone has a number.  He is Number Six.  His nemesis is the man in charge of The Village, and that man is Number Two.  Initially, Number Two wants to know only one thing of Number Six, “Why did you resign?”  But what Number Two really wants is . . . well, now, that would be telling.  Here is the dialog during the opening credits during most of the subsequent episodes:

Number Six: Where am I?
Number Two: In . . . The Village.
Number Six: What do you want?
Number Two: Information.
Number Six: Whose side are you on?
Number Two: That would be telling. We want information… information… in-for-mation!
Number Six: You won’t get it.
Number Two: By hook or by crook, we will.
Number Six: Who are you?
Number Two: The new Number Two.
Number Six: Who is Number One?
Number Two: You are Number Six.
Number Six: I am not a number! I am a free man!
Number Two: [Ominous, haunting laughter]

And what happens if, by the end of the show, Number Two fails to get information?  He gets replaced . . . by a new Number Two even more bent on breaking Number Six.

But there’s another star to this show besides Patrick McGoohan/Number Six.  That is The Village itself.  Indeed, if not for The Village, this show may never have attained its cult status.

I know The Village.  I’ve stayed in The Village.   If you’re a fan of The Prisoner, a stay in The Village is equal parts chilling, fascinating, and exhilarating.

And, all next week, I will take you on a personal tour of . . . The Village.  Enjoy a teaser below.  Until then, and in the immortal words of the standard Village greeting, “Be seeing you.”

The Village—Number Two’s Residence is the domed structure on the right

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