Sunday, 26 July 2009

McGoohan on My Mind: “Men die every second of the day but when a secret agent dies it becomes a matter for official speculation” – John Drake

Many prisoner fans these days seem to have as much interest in Portmeirion as they do the The Prisoner itself. Much of my last two blogs have featured comment on how the use of this location in The Prisoner was no mere chance or coincidence. Patrick McGoohan's experiences of both his location shooting there and his further experience of the location being recreated in the studio, for Danger Man was a crucial factor. ‘Official’ books have gone so far as to even accept that McGoohan took his family on a holiday to Portmeirion sometime on the mid-Sixties, however those same books seem to read no special significance into this later personal interest, notwithstanding that McGoohan mentioned this holiday in more than one of his accounts about why he chose to use Portmeirion.

However, as I have pointed out, with the dialogue quotes from one or two episodes already, there were other things within the episodes of Danger Man informing the mind of the eventual Executive Producer of The Prisoner. The heading for this particular blog comes from the opening narration of a 1960 Danger Man episode and illustrates that the whole notion of how a secret agent is a prisoner of his job was rearing it’s head even as the genre was being created by Ralph Smart. Patrick McGoohan used the question of how a secret agent ceases to be a secret agent (without being dead) as a vehicle for his own contemplation of the human condition, but even in the more adventure/entertainment-oriented ‘Danger Man’, there were contemplative moments within the scripting of secret agent derring-do. The balance of ensuring he was entertaining people seemed to have been of importance to Patrick McGoohan and he frequently talking of his acting being a job, not an art. In 1960 he had taken on a fresh challenge and the making of nineteen and a half hours of television entertainment was to occupy him for about nine months.

Other episodes of the 1960 series of Danger Man include touches that offer a mirror to elements within The Prisoner and it is almost wilful not to see their influence, however subtle, upon the mind of the shows prime-mover. Even if a viewer is unwilling to accept any direct causal connection it is certainly makes it easier to see how McGoohan could have coped with the demands he placed upon himself by taking such close control of the 1967 show. I have already mentioned the five appearances of Portmeirion, one of which episodes, ‘The Journey Ends Halfway’ also contains dialogue prefiguring the style of the Prisoner village. Another episode, 'The Relaxed Informer’ concerns secrets being extracted from a woman (Ruth Mitchell) under mind-control. She is hypnotised within the confines of an isolated commune located on an island somewhere. However this odd coincidence is by far surpassed by a conversation Drake has with the woman before he figures out how her mind is being emptied under hypnosis. In an effort to establish the truth of her story Drake requires her to recount her story over and over again, whilst he types her statements, intending to compare them afterwards to see if any contradictions emerge. (one can almost imagine McGoohan's real-life typing technique)

JD: You know I am not going to give up until I get the truth Miss Mitchell
RM: I have told you the truth and I am not going to answer any more of your questions
JD: You cannot get rid of me as easily as that you know. The only way you can escape is by telling me everything.

A slightly more tenuous connection comes from the episode ‘The Trap’. In this episode a woman in a confidential position goes on holiday suddenly and John Drake is despatched to locate her. Aside from the repetition of the idea of holidays and *authorities seeking explanations* there is a sequence near the end of the episode that is quite curious. Everyone remembers the fact that Number Six is initially removed from his house in Buckingham Place by fake undertakers. Well, we all assume that - although none of us ever saw it. In ‘The Trap’, the young woman is removed from a house, drugged within a coffin, before being sped off in the hearse across the iron Curtain.

It wouldn’t be the last time suspicious undertakers are seen in Danger Man but that will have to wait for later Blogs.

The illustrative premise of the plot of A, B & C where Six attends (in his mind-eye) a party to meet the three people Number Two thinks are important is a mirror of part of the plot of a Danger Man episode once again featuring Bert Kwouk! Unlike ‘The Journey Ends Halfway’ where Bert’s role was crucial to some expository dialogue; in the episode ‘The Actor’ Bert only survives long enough to be shot dead in the opening prologue! Later in the episode however Drake attends a party where one of three people must be the traitorous agent and just as in A, B & C, McGoohan’s character has to have a conversation with each of the three in an effort to establish the identity of the culprit.

I go to the party. I talk to them a lot. I concentrate on each of them, one at a time. I say things that should alarm the guilty party and then I wait for one of them to make a move.

Within this episode there is also a quite remarkable conversation between Drake and the traitor called Al. This guy turns out to be an amenably self-centred sort with a very trendy linguistic style, but in order to first establish contact Drake sets up a situation where the undercover agent appears to prevent Al’s wallet from being stolen. This leads to the following exchange between the two men:

Al: Thanks man
JD: Worth a drink?
Al: You haven’t been here very long have you
JD: Long enough to work up a thirst
Al: Then, here’s something you ought to know. It’s strictly Number Ones-ville. Never help anyone in this town.

I mentioned in my earlier Blogs about the fact that by the time Patrick McGoohan made The Prisoner he had been a Fifties British movie-star. One of his best-known films of 1957 was called ‘Hell Drivers’. I’m sure most McGoohan fans will be aware that the entire plot premise of the film is geared around a group of itinerant lorry drivers all seeking to be the top driver on the firm and drive Truck Number One.

It would be stretching the connections perhaps to view any of this as directing the consciousness of Patrick Joseph McGoohan in 1965/66 but all of these ideas would be swirling around the head of the creative driving-force behind The Prisoner and whilst he had never heard much about Kafka, Hesse, McCluhan and all those other influences that Prisoner fans loved to chat about – by the same token none of those prisoner fans seemed to know much about the actual pertinent past influences upon the mind of the man who facilitated the creation of their televisionary masterpiece. As McGoohan put it,

When it got very close to the last episode and I hadn't written it yet. And I had to sit down this terrible day and write the last episode and I knew it wasn't going to be something out of James Bond, and in the back of my mind there was some parallel with the character Six and the No. 1

The 1960 series of Danger Man was hugely influential in many ways. In a 2006 commentary Roger Moore once remarked that after Danger Man, nothing was ever the same again. In 1961 however Patrick McGoohan left it behind him. He’d done the 39 episodes and now he wanted to make some more movies. The first one would be about a man in an isolated village who falls foul of his community and becomes an outsider.

Moor prisoner resonance’s next time. The final word to Patrick McGoohan from a 1979 interview, where he tries to explain to an uncomprehending prisoner fan about how he came up with his concept:

“The idea had been germinating in my mind for years…………..”

Friday, 17 July 2009

McGoohan on My Mind: Villas, Vacations and Verisimilitude

The presence of Portmeirion in various episodes of the 1960 series of Danger Man is nothing new to prisoner fans of course, or vintage TV fans in general. What does seem surprising is the lack of recognition about the relevance of this to the choice of Portmeirion by Patrick McGoohan for the setting of his 1967 show. It was already set in his mind as a place that could be anywhere because that was precisely what his first experience of it had been - a place that was Italy one day, the Middle East the next and the Far East another day! Truly a global impression.

The other key point that prisoner fans seem to have completely neglected is that David Tomblin, McGoohan's co-producer was as familiar with the potential of this location as was cinematographer Brendan Stafford. Both men had been intimately involved with the 1960 series of Danger Man. This prior knowledge and group memory would allow the production team to hit the ground running when they arrived in Portmeirion again, just six years later. I am reminded of the first public interview Patrick McGoohan gave in 1977 when he explained how Rover was devised *on the hoof* and the audience members expressed amazement that all these 'little touches' came by seeming chance. Patrick McGoohan interjected reminding the commentators that,

And the style was also clearly laid out and the designs of the sets, those were all clearly laid out from the inception of it. There was no accident in that area,

Both of the producers and the principal cinematographer were able to envision 'The Village' with such clarity because they knew the place intimately already and had already filmed there. McGoohan would already have known the owner and so access and knowledge of filming positions would have been in the key crew members vision even before they set foot in Wales to begin to film the locations they wanted for The Prisoner. Everything was perfectly poised - there was indeed no accident in that area.

In the same way, there are technical elements of the The Prisoner series that are prefigured in Danger Man from six years earlier. One episode of the show that often attracts admiration for its technical achievement is The Schizoid Man. One very good reason why the special effect of McGoohan portraying both Number 12 and Number 6 in the same frame was so splendidly achieved is because Tomblin and Stafford already knew exactly how to do it and Patrick McGoohan had seen another actor follow the process of playing dual roles in look-a-like TV. What is especially intriguing is that the technicians and actor gained this experience whilst making an episode of Danger Man called..... The Prisoner !!

It is amazing to me that whilst I have read many essays wittering poetically about how John Drake must be Number Six, the same fans seem completely ignorant of these simpler and far more important and meaningful links between the past of McGoohan in 1960 and his contemporary presence of 1966. Whilst the Danger Man plot episode named The Prisoner bears little relevance to any part of the plot of the series The Prisoner, it is demonstrative of the fan's cultishly uninformed nature that they failed to either learn or note important real-life inter-relationships between the two shows, whilst insisting that the fictions of John Drake and Number Six were implicit, even though the actor who played both said categorically they were not, back in 1966, long before he could even guess at the arcane interest, which would develop later:

Pat hates publicity and he tells me that he is not yet letting anyone in the british or overseas TV press know the secrets of the new character he is creating "except that it is far removed from John Drake." It is a new kind of adventure programme tentatively titled The Prisoner and he says, promises to be very exciting.

In a 1958 interview Patrick McGoohan remarked that one ambition of his was to achieve actor/manager status in the theatre. "The ideal is one man in control - one man who knows exactly what he wants." His interest in being more than just the actor was evidenced in 1960, when he was allowed to direct one episode of that Danger Man series. This was The Vacation. This was an excellent episode, with John Drake becoming enmeshed in an assassination plot. Two things stand out in the zeitgeist however, when considering the possibilities of how ideas linger in the consciousness of men. First, at the beginning of the episode John Drake is about to take his first holiday in four years. Thereby hangs more than one tale:

Then, later on, Drake recognises a man he is sitting next to on the aeroplane taking him to his holiday location. Drake recognises him as he dozes and the imagery is televised as in a dream. This imagined sequence is visualised by a steel filing cabinet drawer opening, and an identity card arising out of it, with a picture of the man upon it:

One day a card would drop into a somewhat similar receptacle, with a picture of a man upon it. In both cases the metal filing drawer seemed to operate itself.

There are many things in life and art that seem connected. Some seem moor connected than others. If Giants could travel through time, perhaps the giant would occasionally find himself standing upon his or her own shoulders! Moor of this sort of common sense next time. For now it's time for a drake or did I say break?

McGoohan in my Mind: Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, he walks into Aber Ia.

In my last Blog I touched on a couple of examples of how Patrick McGoohan's theatre experiences could have fed into his project direction of The Prisoner. Some influences are more obvious than others. However the vast bulk of his theatrical background lay much futher back in his career than 1959. Ten years before, in 1949, his professional acting career began and over the next three or four years he became the leading man in one of Britains' leading regional Repertory Companies. The Sheffield rep produced around 24 plays every single year and all the various plays can be seen in my hobbyist pages here:
( You will need to click on an image, then click on "all sizes" to make it readable )
After leaving Sheffield in 1952, Patrick McGoohan continued performing with other companies; by 1954 he was appearing on TV and in 1955 debuted in movies too. However most significant at that time was his debut on the London West End stage in a ground-breaking play about the British laws on homosexuality and their possible consequences within society. Browsing through the bewildering array of dramatic presentations that actors like McGoohan were exposed to in those days of commercial, rather than state-sponsored theatre gives a sense of why actors of his Golden Generation were so exceptional. The philosophies and ideas he must have absorbed in those times would equip him with the capacity to begin to create his own projects when he was ready.

In 1957 he achieved some financial security with a Film Contract with the British Hollywood of the Rank Organisation and then in 1959 after his theatrical triumph in 'Brand', he took on a challenge that would prove to be a huge influence upon the next decade of his professional lifetime. In theory at least he had the theatrical world at his feet that year, after Brand, but chose to step into the world of television. His reputation was very high however and the opening credit sequence of Danger Man that has the words, "Introducing Patrick McGoohan", was very much a sop to the hopes of Britains' ATV company that they might make a breakthrough into the American network television market. In Britain a columnist wrote of McGoohan in 1959:

"It could be that McGoohan will go down in television history as the man who combined intelligence with excitement and put an adventure series on to an adult level."

Intriguingly for the Prisonerophile, one of the key locations for the 1960 shooting schedules arranged by Ralph Smart and his production team was the quirky little resort of Portmeirion in North Wales. One of the key aspects of Danger Man was to be it's exciting international locations. Portmeirion provided Ralph Smart's kinematographers with locations that went from the obvious of Italy, to the less obvious, of China. The Italian location used in the episode 'View From the Villa' even led to a *painting* being produced as a key element of the plot of that episode.

In the episode 'The Journey Ends Halfway' John Drake is smuggled into an isolated Chinese town from underneath the canvas of a small boat. McGoohan was clearly on location as he is seen scrambling up some rocks with the estuary of Portmeirion behind him. What is especially remarkable from my blogging point of view is that I have read some accounts of the creation of The Prisoner claiming that George Markstein in fact *discovered* this location in a Sunday Supplement and suggested it to McGoohan! I have no idea how such legends have become believable enough to be written down, but such is the nature of cultism that faith is always stronger than fact and logic.

The epsiode, 'The Journey Ends Halfway' is especially notable however in the possible origins of McGoohan's village because it actually includes a couple of scenes that prefigure the sort of doublethink of the village McGoohan would later create. Like the influences of the plays I mentioned in my last blog, it is easy to imagine these experiences of making the many episodes of Danger Man sliding into the niches of a creative mind. The first interesting sequence occurs between Bert Kwuok's hotel receptionist and the undercover John Drake. The setting is a hotel in an isolated town in a totalitarian state where everyone refers to each other as Brother, rather than Comrade:

BK: Yes Brother?
JD: Good day Brother.
*man is dragged down stairs and out of the hotel by police/army behind Drake*
JD: What was that about?
BK: He had no proper documents
JD: How did they find out?
BK (looking pious): We all have our duties nowadays Brother!
JD: Yes of course, we must co-operate.

Shortly after this a young woman exits the hotel and Drake looks, and then speaks to the receptionist again:

JD: Pretty girl! Who is she?
BK: In this town it is wise not to ask too many questions.
JD: I understand. People are not always what they seem.

A later sequence of dialogue also prefigures much of this style of double-meaning that is so entrancing in The Prisoner, to be made by McGoohan ten years later. Drake has to explain himself at the medical centre to an officious medical receptionist:

MR: May I see your papers?
JD: You have to see papers to cure a shoulder?
MR: Yes.
JD: What do you do if you haven't got papers?
MR: Everyone has papers
JD: Then why do you bother looking at them?
MR: It is not good to talk about these things

Anyone looking for the sparkling and pithy origins of much of the dialogue style in 'The Prisoner' would do well to recall the lines Patrick McGoohan was delivering in this show ten years before, scripted by Ian Stuart Black. Portmeirion locations were used in several episodes of that 1960 Danger Man series. There was even a studio mock-up made of the lawns where ten years later Number Six would play chess against an old sailor. In the episode, 'Under the Lake' the Steinberger See in Switzerland has a hotel on it's banks, unambitiously named the 'See Hotel'. The villa at Portmerion became the 'See Hotel' and in this scene Drake is relaxing at a replica of a table and chair that do not look that out of place with the lawn adjacent to the old folks home in the prisoner village of a decade or so later!

Portmerion also features in the episode 'Find & Return' as a Moorish estate

whilst in 'Bury the Dead' it formed a scene in the more familiar Mediterranean setting of Sicily

At the end of the episode 'Under the Lake' there is actually a credit and a thankyou to Clough-Ellis, just as McGoohan inserted in his final Prisoner episode. The parallels of the past are quite evident and no doubt all these experiences and memories were part of the individual who later created an iconic show of his own. No man is an island, we are all the accumulation of our own village experiences.

There is much more to all this than just Portmeirion however. I have reminded you of the dialogue stylisation of ambiguity, and there is much other clear imagery within Danger Man that inevitably would have had influence the mind of the man who played John Drake with such elan, in 1960. He was already ambitious enough to ask Ralph Smart to allow him to direct an episode of Danger Man, as well as star in it. Moor of that vacation and other adventures next time.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

McGoohan in my Mind: "The Prisoner is just one little speck of sand in the desert" - Patrick McGoohan- 1979

Patrick McGoohan produced The Prisoner between 1966 and 1967 but he had been on television and in British movies since 1954. He is seen nowadays as very much an icon of the British Swinging Sixties. The later fans of his iconic TV series seem to have often perceived him as some child of that decade but in fact, by 1968 he was forty years old, married, with three children. This seems to have left them with a strange befuddlement in the fan-consciousness as to why, having *burst* upon the scene with his *Televisionary Masterpiece*, he seemed to have *disappeared* again. Many and varied have been their explanations for this in the years since. One of the strange things to me is how little interest they seemed to have in his past. Many convoluted tales have been constructed around their fevered imaginings of John Drake metamorphosing into their Number Six, but little attention was paid to the actual past of Patrick McGoohan, the actor. When I first came to the internet I was amazed how many essays I could find explaining aspects of two mythical secret agents, but remarkably little about the real life of a very experienced British actor. The self-declared experts amongst his fans appeared remarkably ignorant about his past. As I began to conduct my own research I discovered much of what they said was incorrect and even false. It is still going on to this day. Truth is always hostage to the writers of history I guess...... Popular history anyhow.

One of the few intelligent websites I found was the one devoted to Danger Man ( ) rather than The Prisoner, and it was that website that largely pointed me in the right direction to begin to know where to start researching the professional career of Patrick McGoohan, the actor. It inspired me to create my own website for a couple of years but that fell victim to some internet randomness. However I have placed facsimiles of the pages on flickr, under the care of an expert Canadian Attorney at Law. Anyone who wishes to immerse themselves in Patrick McGoohan between 1948 and 1968 is welcome to dive in.
( You will need to click on an image, then click on "all sizes" to make it readable ) As you will see from that, my hobbyist interest concentrated on the British theatre career of a man who was one of 'The Golden Generation' of post-war British acting.

Anyhow, I can sense the impatient google-browser thinking what has all this to do with The Prisoner ? . Quite a lot is my answer. In 1991, a brave, but seemingly largely ignored Prisoner interviewer, ( a quote from whose erudite interview prefaces my entire blog-cabin ) , questioned McGoohan himself about influences upon him. Franz Kafka? Carl Jung? John Fowles? Hermann Hesse? McGoohan had barely heard of any of them. He'd certainly never read any of them.

This interview was held in 1991. The questions echo those of the audience attending the 1977 Warner Troyer interview referenced in my earlier blogs.

The unspoken question of the prisoner fan: "If you don't know any of these *thinkers* Mr. McGoohan, where on earth did you get your ideas from?"

Many fans seem to have concluded over the years that because he was unfamiliar with their icons that somebody else must have devised and made their favourite show. The many fan committees at their conventions eventually seem to have come up with the notion that almost anyone but McGoohan was responsible for their favourite show! How could a man who knew so little have been so clever? Many published books especially diminish his role, parcelling out the credits to script editors, scenery designers, production supervisors, even stunt men, at times. These of course are all matters I have touched on in my previous blogs so I won't bore for Britain by repeating them all here. You can find them for yourself by scrolling down the Blogs, or just take my word for it and read on.

So.... If McGoohan had never read McLuhan.... or any of these other joes-what-knows where would he have got his ideas from? Where do we draw our inspirations from? ? Our past? McGoohan's past lay in five or six years of commercial repertory theatre, and a decade of movie-making and TV work. The evidence of these influences upon him are readily apparent in 'The Prisoner' One of the most cultish of all the episodes, 'Once Upon A Time' is an evident extension by McGoohan of a 1954 theatre play (and later a 1955 movie) - The Prisoner. In 1963 this play was staged for television and he co-starred in it.

In a 1955 preview magazine this play is introduced: "No physical torture is used directly, but the Prisoner is kept ruthlessly from sleeping and in the interrogation room a bright light pours down on him relentlessly." A quote from the play has the interrogator saying, "It's your mind we want". During the text of the review, the magazine comments: "As the play progresses one feels that Miss Boland [the author] became more and more absorbed in the actual characters of the two protagonists, the Prisoner and the Interrogator, who, with the cell warder representing the disinterested common man, have the only three speaking parts. There is a deep spiritual issue here which transcends the immediate political theme, and The Prisoner, humbling himself after his former arrogance is the true victor."

I believe that at one time, an over-enthusiastic Prisoner fan published a book ( another one! ) claiming that this play was in fact the inspiration behind the entirety of McGoohan's series - an idea that plainly way overstates matters. You will find no acknowledgement of this work in any bibliographies of 'Official' prisoner books. What is remarkable is that other than the afore-mentioned book, *organised* fandom pays so little attention to this play at all whilst dwelling to an inordinate length about the vague possibilities of how a Scottish cottage influenced their favourite show. They seem completely disinterested by the fact that McGoohan had such intimate knowledge of a play that not only shares the title of their favourite series, but clearly anticipates the plot format of one of their favourite episodes! The influence of Brigit Boland's play, The Prisoner, upon Once Upon A Time is plain as the nose upon the handsome face of Number Six. Just as McGoohan noted in my title to this blog, that his show was just one grain of sand, so it is that every artist stands upon the shoulders of their personal giants, in order to see that little bit further than did the giant. Our past becomes so much part of us that it is part of us and our thoughts. So it would be for any individual.

Another episode that bears witness to the effects of Patrick McGoohan's life-experience upon the show he created and managed in 1966/67 is another of the original screenplays, 'Dance of the Dead'. The climactic act of this episode includes the bizarre and disturbing court of judgment scene. During the French Revolution there were courts created as part of Robespierre's Terror, using the Law of Prairial. This legislation decreed that "only a summary of evidence need be heard, defence counsels were to be abolished, defence witnesses need not be heard, and sentences should be simplified - either death or acquittal." Fans and viewers of the show will recall that a frequent theme of the carnival villagers' fancy dress was French. Coincidence? Fans eager to know the influence of Kafka upon the mind of McGoohan, forgot to ask him instead about the influence of his portrayal of St. Just, Robespierres's right-hand man, in the play 'Danton's Death', which McGoohan took part in, in 1959, in the same theatrical season that would see his portrayal of Brand.

Trying to peer into the mind of a man is of course a dangerous thing to attempt but in order to understand anything, it helps to know some facts about the subject. What is baffling is that there has been so little interest in knowing about this particularly interesting man. You will find him described as 'rarely interviewed' but in fact he has given dozens of interviews when he was working. You will find him described as intensely private yet he happily had published his biography in a women's magazine, in 1965, at the height of his British *celebrity*, and later gave an updated version during interviews with Barabara Pruett and the magazine, Classic Images, in 1986. But perhaps I should leave the final word to McGoohan himself:

"I think that some people do have a fondness for enigmas .......... they like something of a mystery, you know?"

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

McGoohan on my Mind: "They'd say which one do you want? That was the committee meeting. That's all we ever had."

"People who jump on those bandwagons have got to have a bandwagon to jump onto. If it's not 'Ban The Bomb' it'll be whatever...."

"Even a minor politician can be splashed all over TV for something he says. He may represent only about 2% of Parliament yet suddenly he's a celebrity"

"I am in command! Obey me and be free!"

Are politicians born or made? I have no idea., but politics seems now to be a career rather than a calling. Number Six was impolitic, and occasionally impolite but he managed consistently to avoid being a leader. The one time he really seemed to try to be a leader he suffered a Checkmate, as his number two betrayed him.

The village had endeavoured to persuade him to stand for formal office at a much earlier stage of his imprisonment, in 'Free For All' but his only idea of leadership was to tell everyone, "You are free to go!" Needless to say Number Six's policies were largely ignored by his potential electorate. Who wants to make decisions for oneself when the other candidates are promising an answer for everything? In 1967 Six represented nobody. He was not a politician, he was a person. In later years a formal political movement that claimed Number Six arose. In 1971 Libertarianism emerged and more than one treatise has been written on the subject of how Number Six's espousal of the Individual fits into the Libertarian philosophy. This question seems to be summated by the notion of a battle between the Individual and the Collective.

Episodes such as 'Change of Mind' saw the social pressures of what the British used to call 'sending someone to Coventry' (an apposite expression given that Patrick Mcgoohan spent a formative year working out of that eponymous city in 1952). An episode such as 'It's Your Funeral' seems to indicate an implacable opposition to political assassination as a philosophy whilst 'Free for All' seems predominantly to ridicule the efficacy of the democratic political system in really effecting change. The third of the quotes in black, at the top of this blog was of course made by Number Six in that episode. The preceeding two were things Patrick McGoohan was quoted as saying during the course of his many interviews. In 1958, a small fan-article from his time as a British film star with the Rank Organisation, listed one of his Leisure Pursuits as *Arguing*!! The fan fodder quoted him remarking,
"I believe that compromise is dangerous, whether in acting, politics or anything else."
A politician who will not compromise seems to be a contradiction without the possibility of resolution. In fact McGoohan went on to be quoted in the same article,
"The ideal is one man in control - one man who knows exactly what he wants."
This latter quote certainly seems to explain perhaps how he came to have such a mutual relationship with Lew Grade. Lew of course was utterly unlike Pat, being known as the Great Persuader, but for a while they seemed to have the perfect fit. In a 2006 interview McGoohan fondly recalled Grade showing him the ATV boardroom but assuring his impressed protege that whilst there were many seats and many opinions around that table, there was only one that really mattered: His own.

Committees in The Prisoner are a recurring theme and they are consistently viewed with distrust and disbelief by Number Six. He first comes across one in the second episode when the Art Committee compliment his work but are baffled as to where "Number Two is", in his work. Six is bewitched and bewildered by a committee when he allowed himself to be manipulated into standing for office, in 'Free for All' :

Allegorically I wonder if this ability of the committee to befuddle Six was intended to illustrate how, once he compromised, even with only a motivation to try change the village from within, he was doomed to be subject to the very mind contriols he sought to avoid by his refusal to compromise and just tell them WHY he resigned. Various forms of group-think affect Six constantly but by the time he has a 'Change of Mind' he is utterly and openly contemptuous of them. He is still a little wary of public rejection but so far as the formal committees are concerned - he has no fear of them whatsoever. He has learned their nature and knows they are impervious to persuasion and irrelevant anyhow to the will of the true holder of power.

If Number Six were to become a leader he would be a dictator, but as was revealed in 'Free for All' , when he is offered the chance to speak and lead, he realises that none of the the villagers nor any committee is ever going to listen. Finally in 'Fall-Out', he toys with the idea of speaking out again, but the mother of all committees soon reminds him what a waste of time it would be to even try. Six reverts to Plan A and decides to go direct to Number One and demand his personal freedom and the rest of them can go where they will.

Number Six was constantly being asked for information, particularly WHY? he resigned. Likewise he was often demanding information, particularly WHO? is Number One. These two questions are frequently discussed by fans of the programme but what seems rarely noticed is that much of The Prisoner is a paean against bureaucracy and bureaucrats. What is Number Two if not some visualisation of the ultimate bureaucrat? Six slams his letter of resignation onto the desk of an uncomprehending desk-jockey and storms out........ The man barely reacts....

The constantly-changing Number Two's, both between and within episodes demonstrates how it doesn't matter who is the face of the bureaucracy, the responses remain the same. Six constantly tries to break through the barriers, find out who is really in charge but of course he never finds out because there is no-one. Nobody will take responsibility. There is always somebody else to blame or ask, or refer the questioner to. It is perhaps a natural response of his own personality that Six imagines there is a Number One, a dictator, it is clear that Six suspects that there must be a dictator behind the village but he cannot find out who this is.

The use of Committees, whose members create an illusory form of democratic control but are in fact totally in thrall to their leader was an all too familiar phenomenon on both sides of the Sixties Iron Curtain. Whether the Communist Committees of Bolshevism or the Anti-Communist Committees of Un-American Activities, committees had similar effects. If any part of the competing political systems of the latter half of the 20th Century could truly be said to be the same on both sides, it was the system of committees. The use by Dictators of committees to create the illusion of democracy and the use of committees by Democtrats to allow them to dictate their will is part of the same process that leads to burgeoning bureaucracy, regardless of the political system. The same phenomenion is seen in international business circles, with CEO's setting up committees that are simply designed to impose the will of the CEO. This love of manipulating opinion by gathering compliant groups together is evidently a deep human urge, and of course it works as anyone in the Western World of the 21st Century knows so well.

McGoohan clearly admired the men who had the courage and conviction to admit to the fact that they were Number one - hence his admiration for Lew Grade. Number Six always said that once he was allowed to speak to the real power - the Number One, he would explain WHY he resigned. Once he knew WHO, he was willing to say WHY. But of course, in the end, as a free man, there was only one person he had to explain himself to, and that was Himself. As McGoohan himself remarked, "Who else could it be?"

The main title of this Blog is from an interview about how he 'managed' the making of The Prisoner, He described how Bernie Williams and David Tomblin would approach him with the options they had narrowed down and then it was one man's decision. His. Number One.

One thing is for sure. In the Village no system is to be blindly believed in.