“What’s it All About?”


“The series was posing the question, has one the right to tell a man what to think, how to behave… Has one the right to be an individual? I wanted the audience to ask questions, argue, and think.” Patrick McGoohan


The Prisoner was a compelling, controversial, 1967 television series that was the vision of its star, the charismatic Patrick McGoohan. At the time he was the highest paid TV actor in Britain and was granted total artistic freedom. In addition to starring in his production, he wrote and directed a number of episodes, and as executive producer was responsible for the devising of this widely acclaimed and ground-breaking landmark television classic. McGoohan’s creation continues to defy categorisation, yet still manages to exert a profound impact and influence, individually, socially, and culturally. The most significant and important factors arising from The Prisoner are its ingenuity, its ambiguous and allegorical nature, and its double edge. This ‘Secret Agent in a Kafkaesque Wonderland’, was underwritten with apparent philosophical, social, political, and cultural comment, which was, and still is, its greatest achievement and attraction.


Each of the seventeen episodes took a potent theme and expertly buried it just beneath a surface of entertainment. It is the dissection and discussion of philosophical commentary, political manipulation, psychological drama, social criticism, symbolism, fantasy and myth, along with the enduring quest for one’s inner self, which provides the strength of the series. Since it was first screened The Prisoner has become part of the fabric of life, refusing to concede, cower, or conform. It captured the zeitgeist of the ‘Swinging’ yet paranoid ’60s. At its very heart is a powerful message, a timeless truth: has one the right to be an individual? If you wish for more than a brief flirtation with this challenging television classic that demands exploration, that poses and seeks to answer some of the more enduring and significant questions in life, then this book may be for you.


The author saw part of the location filming at Portmeirion, in North Wales, in 1966 and was totally enthralled when it was broadcast a year later. It seared a way into his consciousness, and never let go. Subsequently it was re-screened in the Autumn of 1976 and it was his details being broadcast after the transmission of the final episode, ‘Fall Out’ on December 12th that led to the formation of Six of One, The Prisoner Appreciation Society, which acted as the embryonic focus of the enthusiast movement then gaining momentum and which is still both buoyant and active to this day.


Initially the author imagined that half a dozen fans would beat a path to his door. Instead, it marked the beginning of his interest in, desire, and attempts, to penetrate the veils to the very core of McGoohan’s ambitious personal project. He has interviewed many of those involved in its making, made innumerable presentations, written countless articles, attempting to do this justice. Consequently, this book is the result of over 50 years’ fascination with, research into, and being held captive by The Prisoner.


The title states its purpose, “What’s it All About?”, and weighs and evaluates the series, and aims to be an exploration, examination, analysis, interpretation, and consideration. It endeavours both to achieve this, yet also to go beyond, concluding that this radical television experiment is a tool that can not only stimulate our minds, but also encourage us to consider some of the timeless fundamental questions of life, even our relationship with the world, and just maybe discover some of the answers. It strives to fulfil exactly what Patrick McGoohan hoped that we, the viewer, might enact: to question everything.


Dear reader; it was lightning in a bottle.


© David Barrie 2024. All rights reserved.