With no dialogue or sound effects, only music, we see a man driving a Lotus Seven into London. He passes the Houses of Parliament, drives into an underground carpark, walks down a corridor to an office, has a violent argument with a man behind a desk, and slams an envelope on the desk. He drives home, unaware that a hearse is following him. We see his photograph crossed out with typed x's, and a mechanism deposits his record card in a drawer labelled "Resigned". The man packs a case in his flat, as an undertaker walks from the parked hearse up the steps to his front door. Suddenly gas pours through the keyhole of the flat, and the man falls unconscious.
The man wakes up in a room identical to his own. He walks over to the window, pulls up the blind, and is confronted with a mysterious Italianate Village. He leaves the house and sees a tall tower close by. He climbs up it to get a better view, then walks down to a nearby cafe where the waitress evades his questions. She directs him to a phone box, which turns out to have a cordless handset and no dial. An operator tells him only local calls are available, and demands that he give her a number.
A Mini Moke "taxi" pulls up, and a Chinese-looking woman driver greets him in both English and French. As they pull away, she tells him that the place is "very cosmopolitan", and that she thought he might be Polish or Czech. She drops him at the General Store with a cheery "Be seeing you" and a salute. In the store, the shopkeeper and a customer are speaking in a strange Eastern-European sounding language, but switch to English when the man comes in. He asks for a map, and gets a map of "your village". When he asks for a larger map, he gets the same map in colour on a larger sheet of paper.
He goes back to his "home" and sees a maid leaving. A note inside reads "Welcome to your home from home". The telephone rings and somebody calling themselves Number Two asks him to the Green Dome for breakfast.
A dwarf butler lets the man into the Green Dome and shows him into a high-tech control room, where a black spherical chair rises from the floor to reveal a man wearing a college-style striped staff and carrying a shooting stick - Number Two. The charming but sinister authority figure offers him breakfast (the Butler casually revealing that all his requests have been anticipated), and explains that people are curious why the man resigned, implying that any means may be used to get the answers from him. Number Two remains unflappable in the face of the man's anger, and shows off a file and slideshow revealing that whoever these people are, they have been watching the man and gathering information on him for a long time. The man refuses to co-operate. "I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered."
Number Two takes the man for a helicopter ride over the Village, showing him the attractions. When they land and walk to the town square, Number Two orders everyone to freeze still. Everyone does so, except for one who tries to flee. A huge white balloon bursts out of the fountain, and with seemingly malevolent intelligence, hunts the running man down and suffocates him. As everyone begins moving as if nothing had happened, the balloon bounces away, and Number Two is called with the man to the Labour Exchange.
At the Labour Exchange, the man is given an "aptitude test". When he tries to fit a round peg into a square hole, the hole becomes round to fit it. When he is asked to fill in a questionnaire, the man becomes angry and storms out.
The man goes back "home" again to find the attractive maid waiting for him. He throws her out, then searches the house. When the piped music from the radio becomes annoyingly loud, he smashes it, but the music keeps playing and an announcement calls for someone to come to the house to perform "adjustment".
The maid returns and the man questions her. She is obviously scared and oppressed, unwilling to question her situation for fear of the reaction or the answers. She tells the man that she has been in the Village for as long as she can remember, and that people who try to escape are always brought back, "not always alive". She breaks down and "confesses" that she was asked to get the man to trust her and give her information. He is still harsh and throws her out of the house again. We see that Number Two and the Village's Supervisor were watching the whole thing via surveillance cameras. The Supervisor is surprised, and says he was sure the maid would win the man's confidence.
A repair man arrives at the house with a new radio. The man leaves and tries to find a way to escape the village through the surrounding woods, passing a gardener who looks oddly identical to the repairman. He finds himself stalked by Mini Mokes, the mysterious balloons, and statues with cameras inside. The Supervisor declares a Yellow Alert. The man runs down to the muddy shoreline, where he is chased by two men in a Moke, and manages to overpower them and steal the car. The Supervisor declares an Orange Alert. A balloon rams the car and suffocates the man, who is taken away by "paramedics".
The man wakes up in bed in the Village's "hospital". In the next bed is a man he knows, Cobb. Cobb has been in the Village for weeks or months being questioned after being abducted from a hotel in Germany. A doctor arrives and takes the man for an examination, where he sees into rooms where some distinctly sinister looking "treatments" are occurring. The doctor tells the man that he is absolutely fit and that he will be released with new clothes, the old ones having been burned. Suddenly an orderly comes in with the news that Cobb has jumped out of a window and died.
The man leaves the hospital wearing a new snazzy black blazer with white piping, and is issued an assortment of ID and entitlement cards. He takes a free cab home, but jumps out as they pass the Green Dome and bursts into the control room. He meets a different man with scarf and shooting stick, who introduces himself as the new Number Two.
This Number Two is more aggressive and less hypocritically friendly than the old one. He unfeelingly dismisses the man's anger about the death of Cobb, and again demands information. He tells the man that he has been assigned Number Six. Number Six's response is "I am not a number. I am a person." As Number Six leaves, the new Number Two begins dictating a report on him, that ends "Subject proving exceptionally difficult, but in view of his importance no extreme measures to be used yet".
Number Six returns home, and sees an inappropriately jolly funeral procession passing. A distressed woman runs away from it and he follows her. They watch Cobb's coffin arriving at a small graveyard on the edge of the mudflats. Number Six explains that he and Cobb were friends. The woman tells him that she met Cobb in the Village. They are suspicious of each other but agree to meet later at the concert.
At the concert the woman explains that she and Cobb planned to escape together by stealing the Village's helicopter. She has an "electropass" that gives access to it, which she got from the pilot.
Number Two tells somebody on the end of a telephone that Number Six is settling down. The woman is with him, and he gives her a file on Number Six, telling her that he is her new assignment.
Number Six is playing chess with the Admiral, a seemingly senile man in a naval cap, as the helicopter arrives. Number Six and the woman meet on the Village's stone yacht. He is still suspicious, telling her that he saw her leave Number Two's house. She gives him the "electropass", apparently a watch with a built-in signalling device.
Number Six manages to board the helicopter and take off in it, the pass seemingly pacifying one of the balloons which is bouncing on the spot next to it. In a control room, a technician takes remote control of it under Number Two's direction.The woman begins to play chess with the Admiral, who tells her "We're all pawns". The helicopter is forcibly returned to its landing spot as Number Six fruitlessly struggles with the controls.
In Number Two's control room, he tells a very much alive Cobb that his new masters are pleased with him, and that Number Six will be allowed to keep the watch as a reminder that escape is impossible. Back at the landing spot, the balloon gently herds a silently fuming Number Six away from the helicopter.
This episode provides examples of:
- Actor-Shared Background: Number Six confirms the Village's information that he was born on 19th March 1928 and volunteers that it was at 3:15 am. This was Patrick McGoohan's real birth information.
- Affably Evil: The first Number Two. The second isn't so much.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The first Number Two prattles to Number Six about the Village's council building, restaurant, and graveyard.
- Deadly Euphemism:
Cobb: I hope you won't be too hard on the girl.
Number Two: She'll be well taken care of.
Cobb: That's what I was afraid of.
- Decoy Damsel / Honey Trap: Two of them, the second possibly so subtle that she isn't aware of it.
- Faking the Dead: Cobb
- Hey, It's That Guy!: The ubiquitous Christopher Benjamin plays the guy at the Labour Exchange. The second Number Two is George Baker, later better known as Inspector Wexford in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries.
- Incredibly Obvious Bug: The rotating statues with glowing eyes. Although they are probably meant to be deliberately intimidating.
- Knockout Gas
- The Mole: Cobb
- No, Mister Bond, I Expect You to Dine
- Psycho Psychologist
- Sex for Services: Implied as to how the woman got the pass from the helicopter pilot.
- Welcome Episode
- Wham Episode: According to Patrick McGoohan, the first of seven episodes that "really count".
- You Are Number Six: Trope Namer.
- Your Favorite: A very subtle example. They know he likes bacon and eggs with tea, but they don't know how he likes it. One egg or two? Chinese tea or Indian? Two eggs. He'll take the tea either way, with lemon.