Tuesday, 8 September 2009

McGoohan on my Mind: The time has come, the Larkin said, To talk of many things: Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax. Of villages and things.

Colony Three was one of the first of the revived Danger Man shows. One of the last to be made was called The Paper Chase. Of especial significance perhaps is the fact that this episode was actually directed by Patrick McGoohan.

It has something of a 3-Act feel about it. The ‘third act’ takes place in a ‘safe house’. Everyone is a guest, but all are in hiding. The episode has a number of intriguing elements. A woman named Nandina runs the safe house. Played by Joan Greenwood, she could easily be seen as a putative Number Two in the village. She watches her ‘guests’ on a primitive CCTV system.

Spotting Drake infiltrating another ‘guest’s room on her monitor she is worried that Drake’s actions threaten to spoil her carefully constructed security

and so she knocks him out

and when he wakes, he has been taken to a new place, whilst unconscious. As he wakes, there is what could almost be an early try-out for the iconic prisoner opening speeches.

Where am I?
In the Via del Sella da Nici.. A small hotel – Giorgio, the proprietor is a friend of mine.
Where are my things?
Your suitcase is over there. …[some episode detail]…… You are very agile and extremely devious
My apologies
You have money?
If you’d like to stay here a day or two, it’ll be alright
What’s the catch?
None – What’s your name?
You have it
Your real name….
Harry…… verderci

Prior to this, when Nandina and Drake had fallen out over his behaviour. She castigated him:

I know everything that goes on in this house. It’s useless for you to sit there with your enigmatic face.
Are you the judge and jury then?
If you like…… and you have only one plea

So, separated by the two years of 1964 and 1965, two episodes of Danger Man, Colony Three and The Paper Chase evidently prefigure both plot elements and stylisations that Patrick McGoohan carried forward into his 1966/67 project. Like a giant standing on his own shoulders, he could see that little bit further than before.

It is a minor piece of amusing trivia to note that the conclusion of The Paper Chase has Drake escaping aboard a go-kart.... A Lotus 0.07 perhaps..... I have read one story from the prisoner cult archives that the Lotus 7 was personally chosen by McGoohan on a visit to the Lotus factory-works, ditching the previously scripted notion of Number Six driving a more glamorous Lotus Elise coupe. In the press of 1965 he is pictured fooling around on a go-cart.

It's not evidence of all that much, but it is interesting to imagine possibilities.

There are many small asides in many different episodes of Danger Man that reflect ideas or *gimmicks* within The Prisoner. Within the prisoner cult there has been a long and slightly foolish debate about whether or not Number Six was or wasn't John Drake. I debunked the silliest parts of their notions in one of my first Blogs. However, whilst they delved into their own *back-story* fantasies about what were completely fictitious characters anyhow, they completely missed the point that of course Patrick McGoohan's ideas were hugely influenced by his experiences of the scripts and themes that the Danger Man series had explored over several years. McGoohan was no passive performer in Danger Man however and he shared in the formulation of those ideas and themes, as well as their eventual exposition in the many episodes of Ralph Smart's creation. His lack of passivity is often remarked upon and indeed his increasing frustration at the limits laid upon his creativity probably led him to approaching Lew Grade with his proposal for his own original series. Sidney Cole possibly deserves a little credit in fact for The Prisoner project ever happening. In one interview the distinguished producer recalled his having something of a dispute with the star of his show. He recalled that when Patrick McGoohan complained to him (Sidney Cole) about why it was that he (Sidney Cole) always had the final word; Sidney Cole explained to his recalcitrant star that the reason he (Sidney Cole) had the final say was because he (Sidney Cole) was the producer. That was WHY.....

Patrick McGoohan evidently took the lesson to heart when he made himself Executive Producer of The Prisoner. This time he (Patrick McGoohan) would have the final say. He would be Number One.

Harry Verderci ..... I'll be Back.


  1. Do you have anything of the full article with the pic of the go kart, or know where it is to be found?

  2. http://www.danger-man.co.uk/docs/magazines/woman/30-Oct1965/pdf.pdf

    From the superb site: http://www.danger-man.co.uk/

  3. "As told to Joan Reeder"?

    Another Joseph Serf work I think..

  4. Joan Reeder was very real

  5. Reality is always more intersting than fiction.....:-))

    * Joan Reeder

    neé Elizabeth Joan Armstrong

    born December 2nd 1921 died 1997

    ..... FIRST fully-fledged royal reporter on any national newspaper when she became a journalist on the Daily Mirror after the Second World War. In 1952 she was was one of the FIRST journalists to hear of the death of King George V1 , reported on the Coronation the following year and was among those who broke the news about the love affair between Princess Margaret and Group Captain Townsend

  6. I like your comment about him standing on his own shoulders.

  7. Your stuff wouldn't be out of sorts on here


  8. That site uses the same design-look as the www.danger-man.co.uk site, but there seems no link from one to the other?

  9. More Moor


  10. 'For MOOR!' said Mr. Limbkins. 'Compose yourself, Bumble, and answer me distinctly. Do I understand that he asked for more, after he had eaten the supper allotted by the dietary?'

    Have you read all the others yet Anon?.. ;-))

  11. Yes

    "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
    William Butler Yeats

  12. "I have one boiling up in a kettle, should be ready soon"
    Walt Zing Matilda

  13. Hello Moor Larkin

    I would add,even at this late date, that the McGoohan directed episode called 'To Our Best Friend' has John Drake given a line of dialog that draws a clear reference to Colony 3. It would seem that mysterious 'school for spies', masquerading as 'typical English village', was never to far from Mr. McGoohan's mind.


    Mr. Anonymous

  14. "ditching the previously scripted notion of Number Six driving a more glamorous Lotus Elise coupe"

    Slight typo there. I think you mean Lotus Elite as the Elise was first produced much later in the nineties.

  15. And further to that the Elite was out of production for some years when The Prisoner was made so it's likely that Lotus would have pushed for him to drive a current model. As the Elan was being seen in The Avengers that only left the Seven.

  16. Comments made with such elan that I for one, am convinced.... ;-D

    I think the Lotus guy actually said that as soon as McGoohan saw the 7 at the factory, he said that was to be the one. It's not the ideal car for a very tall guy, in reality.

  17. Aida Young was a friend of a friend of mine and she certainly confirmed to me that McGoohan was far more involved in the production of Danger Man than any star of a TV series would normally be. In fact one reason for her leaving the series was because Pat would be forever phoning her up at 3 or 4 in the morning with queries or suggestions. She simply couldn't take the disturbed sleep any longer.

    1. Hi John S,
      That's a nice coincidence. I was only recently mulling over why Aida had asked to be released from her position of the revived Danger Man, as I had read in an old Kine Weekly magazine. I figured that it might be because she was pestered somehow by the energetic Mr.McGoohan, but it's pleasant to hear that it was just his trying too hard off the set that got too much for her, rather than him just been too trying on the set.... :-) Thanks for the background. She's always interested me a little as a woman in what tended to be a man's world back then, just as with Hannah Weinstein.

    2. As you mention Hannah Weinstein, I once visited her former house, Fox Warren. It isn't far from the Walton on Thames studios where several of her series (Robin Hood, The Buccaneers etc) were shot and the grounds of Fox Warren were often used for exteriors. In the grounds was a building converted into a small sound stage/rushes theatre. Poignantly stacked around the room were painted hardboard shields and wooden cannon balls last used as set dressing 40 odd years before.

    3. Hi, I obviously keep being drawn back here...
      Talking about Aida Young, a lovely woman by the way, I was chatting with her about the Hammer film, Hands of the Ripper, which she also produced. At one point she mentioned Christopher Lee as being the star. I mumbled, "you mean Eric Porter?" as Lee wasn't in the film at all. She quietly insisted that it was Lee. Obviously I let it pass, but it highlights the potential danger of talking to participants in projects many years after the event. With the best will in the world, memories fade and distort.
      That's even when it's about something as significant as who was the star but where there was no reason at all for the participant to mislead, cover their back or gild the lily.

  18. Happy St Patrick's Day! It's a wonderful day for remembering my favorite actor and his amazing show The Prisoner. Thanks to all of you for your input and information...as you are confirming everything that I had concluded about the production on The Prisoner. We lost a fantastic artist when Patrick McGoohan died. He will be forever young as I watch Danger Man and The Prisoner...and his other works that I have collected. I can see "Brand" in The Prisoner too. What a role!
    Slan Paddy! BCNU