No TV series becomes a classic without great characters. Patrick McGoohan's postmodern masterpiece, The Prisoner
is no exception.
No recurring character in The Prisoner
has a name
- Number Six, The Prisoner
Rebellious ex-spy captured by the unknown powers that run the Uncanny Village
- Anti-Hero: Type III, though his rough nature is mainly due to never being quite sure who to trust.
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- Berserk Button: Do not ever, ever kill an innocent woman. He might just let you live to regret it.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Both a weakness and a strength; many No. 2s don't see out of their point of view of looking out for oneself, but the ones that are Genre Savvy enough to realise this trait are often the most dangerous to The Prisoner.
- Cultured Badass: Knows Goethe in the original German and is well known for quoting Shakespeare.
- Deadpan Snarker: His abundant snark is one of the highlights of the show.
- Determinator: And how.
- Facial Dialogue: Lots. If you pay attention, there is quite a lot less verbal dialogue in this show than other shows of its time period and even today, and you will suddenly realise how much this show depends on McGoohan's Facial Dialogue.
- Genius Bruiser: Both a thinker and a fighter.
- Good Is Not Nice: He's very brusque and prickly, but fundamentally compassionate.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: He was a champion boxer and it is his preferred method of hand-to-hand combat.
- Heroic Willpower: Mind-bending techniques repeatedly fail on him.
- Knight in Sour Armor: He is cynical and paranoid in the extreme (he really has to be to survive in The Village) but he still really cares about people and tries his best to help and protect others who resist The Village.
- Limited Wardrobe: Pretty much always wears the distinctive black-with-a-little-white suit, which resembles a modified school uniform.
- Loners Are Freaks: constantly used against him, but not completely true or untrue.
- Mysterious Past
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Is a master at this and a lot of the time this is the only way he really has to fight back.
- Properly Paranoid: About ninety percent of the time, though he occasionally lets his guard down in hopes of finding an ally and occasionally The Village plays on his justified paranoia to make it go into unjustified territory.
- Rebellious Spirit
- Sarcastic Clapping: Very prone to it.
- The Snark Knight
- Suppressed Rage: While in The Village seems to live in a constant state of this, and the few times his control snaps it is devastating to his enemies.
- Technical Pacifist: Refuses to kill anyone, at least until they push him too far.
- Tranquil Fury: What happens when he reaches his Rage Breaking Point; notably constructing the systematic destruction of the psyche of a No. 2 who had driven a woman to suicide.
Other Residents Of The Village
- The Butler
A silent, obedient little person in a tuxedo. Manservant to Number Two.
- The Supervisor
A bald bespectacled man, also known as Number Fourteen. Head of Village security and direct subordinate of Number Two. Given to delivering his lines in an exaggeratedly cold and emotionless Robo Speak
voice ("Orange... alert. Orange... alert.
"); his actor, Peter Swanwick, had been diagnosed with cancer just before the series began filming, and he deliberately played the role larger than life
in order to make an impression.
- Bald of Evil: Really!
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: One of the most soulless in history.
- Name's the Same: Has the same number as Number Two's personal assistant in Hammer into Anvil.
- Not So Stoic: The one time his robotic facade breaks is in Hammer into Anvil, when that episode's Number Two directly accuses him of treason and fires him; he's hurt.
The Number Twos
- Affably Evil: Many Number Twos act like they're the Prisoner's best friend (or would like to be, if he'd just give them a chance). Some of them seem more sincerely friendly than others.
- The Dragon: To Number One.
- Dragon-in-Chief: At least within the village, their authority is basically absolute. There may be other superiors elsewhere but we never see them.
- Evil Laugh: The intro to every episode concludes with one.
- Just the First Citizen
- Wicked Cultured: None of the officials picked for this important position qualify as anything short of intellectual.
- Guy Doleman
The first one. Escorts Number Six around the Village on his first day, just to reinforce the Village's self-sufficiency and inescapability. Gives the Prisoner an idea of No.2's power (and establishes an atmosphere of menace) by ordering the entire Village to halt right before Number Six's eyes, and siccing Rover on the one Villager who fails to comply.
- George Baker
The second one. Younger than Doleman's No.2, and replaces him (without explanation, of course) over the course of the first episode. Where Doleman is Faux Affably Evil
, Baker's No.2 is blunt and matter-of-fact about Number Six being a prisoner.
- Leo McKern
The famous one
. Takes a psychological approach to interrogating Number Six. In many ways, an amalgamation of all the best aspects of the other Number Twos.
- Affably Evil
- Back from the Dead
- Benevolent Boss: His immediate subordinates seem to genuinely like him rather than fear him.
- Heel-Face Turn
- Turns into a Heel-Face Revolving Door in the comic adaptation, with implications in the original show justifying it. In his first appearance, he's clearly directly interested, even friendly in his overtures with Number Six. In his second, his supervisors directly threaten him with Rover, and his response is to remind them of his loyalties.
- Large Ham
- Mood-Swinger: He's alternately very jolly and very, very frustrated from moment to moment.
- Mysterious Past: Various statements made during Once Upon A Time raise many questions about his back story and make him the most cryptic and mysterious Number Two.
- Not So Different: Number Six casually asks him if he realizes he's as much a prisoner as he is. He freely admits it, saying they're both "lifers".
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The shave and haircut that they give him prior to his resurrection. It was added in because McKern had gotten a trim prior to being called back for another episode.
- Villainous Breakdown: While he was relatively calm and collected in The Chimes of Big Ben, he becomes more and more agitated and worked up throughout Once Upon A Time and finally breaks completely when his methods backfire on him and give Number Six the upper hand. Rumor has it that McKern had a minor heart attack while filming this episode because of the sheer intensity required to portray this breakdown.
- Wicked Cultured: Is as enamoured of Shakespeare as The Prisoner.
- Eric Portman
Hosts a sham "election" in the Village in "Free For All", in which he convinces Number Six to actually run for the "office" of Number Two — and brainwashes him repeatedly into acting like a slick electoral candidate, much to the disgust of Number Six. Also provides No.6 with a chauffeur/assistant called Number 58, who (despite her apparent lack of English skills) is a fairly obvious Mole
- Drowning My Sorrows: He's found drunk in a secret alcohol lab, but that too was a ruse to get Six to drop his guard.
- Patrick Cargill
From "Hammer Into Anvil." A particularly ruthless Village official, who has no trouble committing psychological torture or physically
threatening recalcitrant Villagers — he obviously feels irritated by the standing order that Number Six must not be "damaged".
- Cultured Warrior: He quotes Goethe in the original German when justifying his brutal methods: "Du musst Ambose oder Hammer sein."
- Misaimed Fandom: He knows the quote, but he doesn't know that it's the hammer that breaks first, not the anvil. His whole episode is basically watching that hammer smash itself apart on Six's anvil.
- Paranoia Fuel: in-universe Number Six completely overloads him with it.
- Those Wacky Nazis: It's implied pretty heavily that they dug this guy up from the wreckage of postwar Germany — although he does a good job hiding his accent.
- Villainous Breakdown: Number Six does a hell of a job exploiting this man's paranoia, to the extent that he becomes convinced that Number Six was sent by his superiors to spy on him.
- You Look Familiar: Patrick Cargill also plays Thorpe, a colleague of Number Six, in "Many Happy Returns". The show makes no attempt to suggest that they're the same person, but if they are, that would make Thorpe The Mole.
- John Sharp
From "A Change Of Mind"
- Fat Bastard: Rivals, if not exceeds, Leo McKern as the most physically imposing No.2.
- Hurricane Of Aphorisms: "The slowest mule is closest to the whip," among others.
- Loners Are Freaks: He hopes to break No.6 by hammering on this trope — essentially introducing new policies that convince the other Villagers to openly ostracize the Prisoner, playing on his genuine feelings of loneliness.
- Colin Gordon
From "The General" and "A. B. and C." An unusually nervous No.2 with an inferiority complex. His smug attitude toward the Prisoner is belied by his constant milk-drinking (presumably for an ulcer), his habit of occasionally lashing out at his assistants, and his obvious fear of No.1.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: One of the few Number Twos who never asks Number Six why he resigned, because he thinks he already knows the answer. He's convinced Number Six was going to sell out to one of three enemy operatives he knew: A, B, or C, and spends that episode trying to find out which one. Of course, he's completely wrong about why Number Six resigned.
- The Rival: He really, really doesn't like Number Six, and he's one of the only Number Twos who makes no effort to hide this fact.
- Villainous Breakdown
- Andre van Gyseghem
The oldest No.2, who seems to have been with the Village the longest; we actually witness his official "retirement" in "It's Your Funeral". Claims that all the other Number Twos were actually interim replacements for him, although that could just be what his superiors told him — they're not above lying to a No.2, and (as he realizes, much to his horror) they're not the sort of people who fritter money away on things like pensions for retirees who just won't die. One of the only Number Twos other than Mc Kern to receive a sympathetic portrayal.
- Mary Morris
This is your world now. I am your world now.
From Dance of the Dead
. Although she uses both, she seems to prefer using spies rather than hidden surveillance.
- Number One
The apparent leader of the village who has his proxies carry out his will. Almost any time he is discussed, it is with a sense of fear or dread. Number Six himself would like to meet him, if only to have some of the mystery surrounding the village explained.
The Village's last line of law enforcement. A massive balloon-like ball of featureless white material that emits electronic roars and suffocates refractory Villagers into submission.
- The Brute
- Hell Is That Noise: Rover's 'roar.'
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Kills Number Six's doppleganger (mistaking him for the real McCoy) in The Schizoid Man, thus allowing Number Six to assume the man's identity and (nearly) escape.
- Mechanical Monster: Well, this is what they were going for, anyway: it's a security device, and yet also alive, somehow.
- No Name Given: Only once in the series is Rover ever referred to by name (ironically enough, by the Prisoner himself). When the Prisoner first asks what it actually is, No.2's typically obfuscatory response is "That would be telling."
- Before the original "Rover" mechanism sunk and they exchanged it with a balloon, he was to be named in the first episode by No. 2.
- Once an Episode: Even when it doesn't actually chase anybody, Rover always appears in some kind of context.
- Number Forty-Eight
A fellow prisoner who appears in the series finale. He has an unusual obsession with the song Dry Bones
; most of his lines simply consist of lyrics from said song. Along with the Butler and Leo McKern's Number Two, he helps Number Six finally escape the Village
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander
- Ear Worm: Just try not to sing "Dem Bones" after watching "Fallout."
- Mind Screw: The fact that he both looks and dresses like The Kid/Number Eight (who had already died several episodes prior), not to mention that none of the other characters (Number Six included) ask if he's the same person or even bring this similarity up. He's just one of the many things that make Fallout what it is.
- Nice Hat
- One-Scene Wonder
- Talkative Loon
- You Look Familiar: With The Kid from Living in Harmony and the photographer from The Girl Who Was Death.
- The Kid
An odd, menacing character who shows up in the western-themed episode, Living in Harmony
- Number Fourteen
Number Two's right-hand man in Hammer Into Anvil
. (Not the same Fourteen as the Supervisor.)