Sunday, May 7, 2006


Sky One is moving forward with its plans to remake 'The Prisoner', the thought-provoking "spy" drama from 1967 which starred Patrick McGoohan.

When the original aired in America during the summer of 1968, it changed the way I view Television. It made me question, consider alternative possibilities.

It made me think.

Because of 'The Prisoner', I don't let Television just wash over me: I refuse to let it be a passive experience. As it could be phrased on the show itself, when it comes to Television, I won't be a "rotten cabbage".

I like to describe 'The Prisoner' as being nearly forty years old and still twenty years ahead of its time. It's my all-time favorite TV show.

So one might think I'd hate the idea that such a great show's memory could be defiled by a remake.

It happens, but mostly when it comes to movie adaptations of old TV shows. For me, the two biggest transgressors were the first 'Mission: Impossible' and 'The Wild, Wild West'. Will Smith as James West was a misguided alteration, but Tom Cruise and the other producers of the IMF remake deliberately spat on the cherished memories people like me had of the old TV series.

David Bianculli of the New York Daily News hated the biggest offense in that movie so much that he hoped somebody would buy the rights to 'Jerry McGuire' 25 years down the line, and violate that character just as badly; see how Cruise feels about that. I hope it happens!

Anyway, when it comes to TV shows being remade into new TV series, my concept of Toobworld give me a variety of options in which to accept them.

Besides, remakes can never truly replace the memories of the originals, especially when most of them are so readily available on DVD.

How the new series is viewed depends on the producer's execution of the concept. And it will probably depend on the personal viewpoint of the individual audience member as well. Patrick McGoohan and David Tomblin and George Markstein and all of the others involved in the original's creation didn't want to force any one interpretation upon the audience. They didn't want to provide answers; if anything, they wanted to leave the audience with more questions.

So for some, 'The Prisoner' was an allegory; for others, it took place in Number Six's mind. As for me, I want to see it as having been a literal experience, a true component of Toobworld's history.

As such, I wouldn't have minded if this new version was a continuation of the original story. That during the last forty years, whoever was in charge of "The Village" (the same people behind "The Island" on 'Lost'?) was able to regroup after the events of the episode "Fall Out" and set up their haven elsewhere for those from whom they wish to extract information... information.... information.

Even if the new title character was a prisoner known as Number Six, that doesn't mean he has to be considered as the same prisoner played by Patrick McGoohan. They kept replacing Number Two, and other Numbers were assigned to several different people after the others were... gone.

So for me, the old Number Six (whom I believe to be John Drake) is still out there; no longer a number but a free man.

However, it appears that this new version will be a complete do-over:

The remake of "The Prisoner" will stick to the original's outline, in which a government agent resigns his post and then is drugged and dragged off to a mysterious prison called The Village, where people are referred to by numbers rather than names. It's expected to get a modern sheen, though.

"'The Prisoner' is like Pandora's box -- it's the ultimate conspiracy thriller," executive producer Damien Timmer tells the BBC. "Like '24,' the new series will entrap you from the opening scene. We hope it will tap into this iconic show's existing cult following, whilst creating a whole new generation of fans."

Since that seems to be the case, then as a Caretaker for the Toobworld concept, I would transfer the whole series to the same TV dimension as the new 'Battlestar Galactica', 'The New Addams Family', the second adaptation of '87th Precinct', 'The New Monkees', and any other remake of old TV shows and/or TV movies.

This doesn't imply that the remakes are of lesser quality. It just means that in an alternate dimension, the same characters exist - but with some alteration (usually based on their place in Toobworld's timeline and of course in their appearances due to recasting) that makes them different from their original versions in the main Toobworld.

Perhaps, as is the case with 'Battlestar Galactica', this new version of 'The Prisoner' could eclipse the original. (Yeah... who am I kidding?) But no matter how it turns out, by being in an alternate dimension, it cannot poison the greatness of the original. ran the news item about the return of 'The Prisoner' and concluded with:

"This version of the series will probably have a modern shine to it. Perhaps it will take place in one of those secret CIA prisons we aren't supposed to know about."

To which I replied:

1. If it took place in one of the "non-existent" CIA prisons, then we'd know which side is running the place. One of the great mysteries of the original series was that we don't know which side of the Cold War was running "The Village"; whether he was being held by the enemies of the "Free World", or by his own government. Nowadays, we'd have to consider other alternatives as well - some alliance from the Third World or even some kind of corporate empire.

I count myself as one of the original show's biggest fans - it will always be my favorite TV show - and I applaud the idea that if it has to be remade, only six episodes are being produced.

Only 17 episodes were made for the original; and even at that, some of them could have been considered filler - produced to pad out the total to make a summer series sale to America. ('Living In Harmony', 'The Girl Who Was Death', and 'Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling' would fall into that category I think.)

With just six episodes, this new version can get to the essence of the series and make this one powerful nugget of a TV series. (If only 'Twin Peaks' had concentrated on the basic mystery of "Who Killed Laura Palmer" and then came to a natural conclusion when that was solved. It would have been remembered as being great television, rather than as a meandering novelty.)

I don't know if they're going to actually remake specific episodes, or just the basic concept of 'The Prisoner', but if I had to choose six episodes to make up the total:

'Chimes Of Big Ben'
'Hammer Into Anvil'
'Once Upon A Time'
'Fall Out'

Anyway, we'll see what happens. All I know is that no matter how this new version turns out, it can't ruin my memories of how great the original was and still is: nearly forty years old and still twenty years ahead of its time....

Posted at 1:31PM on May 7th 2006 by Toby OB

A few minutes later, I added:

2. I've looked over the list of the original episodes and now I'm thinking 'Schizoid Man' should have been included in my selection. Probably at the expense of 'Hammer Into Anvil', to make the basic series more focused on Number Six.

Posted at 1:50PM on May 7th 2006 by Toby OB

See that? I'm Number One AND Number Two!

One last note - the rumor right now is that Christopher Eccleston (The Ninth Time Lord of 'Doctor Who') will be 'The Prisoner' Number Six. If so, I have so much to say on the topic. But I'm not going to speculate just yet if it's only a rumor.

But in the meantime, why not start thinking about who you'd like to see as the various Number Two's for the new series. Make up a list of your candidates for the six episodes (Some episodes may have more than one new Number Two!) and send them to me at so that we can dedicate a future blog post to Number Two.

I'm sure there are a few readers out there who think this blog is already full of Number Two.......


"The fact that you won't explain explains everything."
Number Two
'The Prisoner' - "It's Your Funeral"


WordsSayNothing said... have an Earth-Remake?

Ivan G. said...

The mere idea of remaking The Prisoner is--if you'll pardon the pun--Number Two.

Toby said...

Well, I've made my feelings known about the old series. As for the new series, my "job" here at Inner Toob isn't to be a TV critic; plenty of other sites for that.

I see myself as a Caretaker for Toobworld. If the Powers That Be at Sky One are determined to forge ahead with their plans to remake 'The Prisoner', so be it.

What I have to do is find some way to make sure the new version fits somewhere in the vast TV Universe. Thanks to 'Sliders', there are plenty of options among TV dimensions in which to tuck it away.

So that's why I brought up the topic of the new version, because it will fit right in with all the other remakes in their own dimension.

Re: WSN's question, I've always dealt with an "Earth Remake". But I've usually called it "Earth Prime Time Delay", since their counterparts of the original TV characters exist later in the Toobworld chronology. (The obvious reason in the Real World is that they were taped/filmed many years later and updated to reflect that.)

And I'm also not a prognosticator. I don't think this new version of 'The Prisoner' could have any shot in hell of equaling the original. But I can't say that it won't be any good at all.

After all, it can be argued that the new versions of 'Doctor Who' and 'Battlestar Galactica' surpassed the originals.

Who's to say the new 'Prisoner' can't be a good show?

And like I said, I'll always have my DVDs to wipe away the memory if it does turn out bad.....

Thanks for checking in, guys!

Ivan G. said...

After all, it can be argued that the new versions of 'Doctor Who' and 'Battlestar Galactica' surpassed the originals.

Who's to say the new 'Prisoner' can't be a good show?

I can't comment on the new Who, since I haven't seen it--but the old version, beloved as it is, had cheesy effects and uneven scripting that often threatened to overpower its spit-and-baling-wire charm.

Same thing with Galactica--I mean, with that clunky embarrassment you had nowhere else to go but up.

The Prisoner is a different story, however--it was truly McGoohan's vision and unless he's signing off on the new series (something I seriously doubt, unless he comes down with a case of Michael Caine Syndrome, a.k.a. "show-me-the-money") it would be best not to try.

Be seeing you...