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This is a "Wild Mass Guess" entry, where we pull out all the sanity stops on theorizing. The regular entry on this topic is elsewhere. Please see this programme note.
The Prisoner
The entire series takes place in a hallucination as Number Six falls unconscious in the intro.
This way, every inexplicable aspect of the entire show is explained. The delivery of the knockout gas by a man dressed as an undertaker driving a hearse further implies that Number Six drops dead after having an "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"-style dream.
  • Alternately, none of the show is real - not even the knockout gas - except for the "driving scene" that opens and closes the series. Consider the driver as a fan of spy movies (or perhaps has just seen one). He crashes the car (off-camera), because he's driving way too fast. He enters a coma, where he imagines himself as "Number Six," a spy in an epic battle of wills. Meanwhile, doctors and his loved ones are trying to get him to wake up...but the spy-flick world he's dreamed up won't let him respond. He just keeps reliving the "show" until he finally dies or loses his mind. Tragic, really.

Number Six is Number One.
Not only does the man in the monkey mask have Number Six's face, but also, in "Arrival" and in the opening montage at the start of most episodes, the current Number 2 responds to Number 6's question of "Who is Number One?" with "You are, Number Six" - not 'You are Number Six,' as Number Six seems to assume. There's a definite, albeit small, pause between 'You are' and 'Number Six'. (Occasionally it's phrased as "You... are Number Six.")

...This in no way contradicts the previous WMG, thinking about it.
  • It's also worth noting that when he returns home in Many Happy Returns, he lives in building number 1.

  • According to George Markstein, Number One and Number Six were unequivocally the same person. In Markstein's original plan, it would've been eventually revealed that Six had in fact designed the Village, but had become disillusioned and disgusted by his own creation. He had orchestrated his own resignation in order to infiltrate the Village and bring down the system from within. The drawback to this was he didn't know which Village he had been taken to, which would explain why he was always so eager to discover which side his interrogators worked for - "Whose side are you on?" "That would be telling."

Number Six is still in The Village.
In the last episode, Number Six drives home in a lorry. In those brief, prior appearances of Number Six's house, it's depicted as having a normal door; when he returns home in "Fallout," it clearly has a Village-style door.
  • Word of God confirms that, at the least, Six is still a prisoner. Whether he's still in the Village is ultimately less important.

Number Six is John Drake.
This goes right back to when the series was first broadcast in the late sixties. McGoohan's denial of any connection between his Danger Man character and Number Six still hasn't convinced everyone.

There are little hints of this throughout the series - the script editor thought that was always the intention. McGoohan's more surreal, more kafka-esque ideas made him dislike this idea. There are still several differences between Drake and Number Six - Number Six is less emotionally detached, rarely smokes, drives a different car, lives at a different house, and dresses more casually when he gets a choice of outfit. But hey, he was transplanted into and is trapped in the Village (which explains the housing situation immediately), and he is fighting the establishment. That could fluster anyone a little.

  • In "Hammer Into Anvil", he pretends to use the codename "D.6", which he may have chosen because D really is his initial.

Number One is John Drake.
Thus the identical appearance.

The Village succeeded in breaking Number Six.
He loses his mind as a result, and hallucinates "Fall Out."
  • Alternately, Fall Out represents a descent into madness that will forever obscure the information they are looking for.
  • This is the approach used in the comic book sequel — that getting Six to accept a number, even Number One, was the victory sought.

There is no "correct" episode order.
Whilst some come before others, and Arrival is the first, the episodes where written so that many orders are available. The "Finale" might not even be that, if may be the result of the treatment used in the previous episode, say A. B. and C.

Number Six is trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop
Episodes take place in the order aired, and time and memories simply loop back. His resignation was the only part of the loop that is not repeated.

Number Six is being groomed to be ruler of the world
The entire series is a set of procedures to test Six and make him more suitable for the task. Thus when McKern's Two says that what has been created in the village is "a perfect blueprint for world order", he in fact means Number Six. Also, when the magistrate in Fall Out talks about the transfer of ultimate power, he means it. The people who are doing this? The Illuminati, as shown in the council chamber, where the main chair has a pyramidal back with an eye in the centre. The former One was a computer of sorts (the seemingly telepathic mechanical cylinder in Fall Out), which the Illuminati thought would aid decision making.

Number Six is being experimented on by the Strangers from Dark City
They attempt to break Number Six in their endless quest to understand humanity, and as in the movie, when they cannot break him they attempt to have him either lead them or imprint himself on the rest of their kind. Note the strong resemblance between the ending of Dark City and "Fall Out"...

The whole series takes place in a reverie that Number Six has as he drives to London to resign.
This explains why the story is bookended with the same shot of Number Six driving his car, and why he finds his own face at the heart of the labyrinth in Fall Out. Quite possibly - once he drives off at the end - he decides not to resign after all.
  • This is how the 2009 series ought to have done it. * grumble*
  • Always been my theory. The chronology goes as such: the British government become aware of a spy deprogramming camp on British soil, "The Village". They send Number Six to investigate, he pretends to resign and lets himself be captured. This is why his resignation is so obviously suspect, it's meant to look like Six has some secret or another so he'd be more likely to draw the attention of The Village. It also explains why he only spends about half the episodes trying to escape, just enough to keep up the ruse that he's a prisoner. The automatic doors at the end of the finale are just normal everyday technology. After he finally cracks the Village in "Fall Out", he is so completely wrecked by the experience that he resigns. BAM, everything makes sense.
    • Which is pretty similar to the direction George Markstein intended to take the series in before he left the show.

The entire Village was a Time Lord colony.
This explains why the 'island' seems to never be in the same place twice (once near Lithuania, once near Morocco and at the end right off the London A20) and can never be easily located, because it's a functional TARDIS with the Green Dome House being the control center. Everyone that lived or was brought there was either a Gallifreyan or a human that found out too much. This also explains why no one even bats an eye at a 'different' Number Two almost every show— they were the same person, with a female stand-in during extra-long regenerations.

They were so desperate to make Number Six one of them because Number Six was one of them. Somewhere along the line, Six lost his memory (say, an imperfect regeneration into his 'John Drake' persona) and joined British Intelligence. He then resigned many years later when he finally began to realize he wasn't human. The information that the Village really wanted was "how much does the outside world know about you, and ultimately us?"

The Butler was the only human of the bunch, sworn to secrecy and servitude.

Number Two is a Time Lord.
Number Six and the rest of the village are only led to believe he's a succession of Number Twos, when in fact each version of Number Two is a different regeneration, hence the perpetually chummy attitude he takes with Number Six. In fact, Number Two is a prisoner like everyone else in The Village, except he is continually executed for failure to break Number Six only for his regeneration to try again.

(For the new 2009 series) Number Two is Magneto post X-3
Not only are they played by the same actor (Ian McKellen), they act very similarly. Given that the purpose of the Village in the new series can be summed up as 'Using Psionics to help people heal', this is quite possibly actually true.

There is no Number One.
He is like Big Brother, just an idea to keep people in line. Number 2 is the real controller of the Village, through and through, with no higher authority.
  • This idea is referenced in the Shattered Visage comic series. At the end, Drake asks Number Six who Number One is, and Six asks her why there even has to be a Number One at all.

The Prisoner is a surrealist work of art, not a television series.
The only way to make any sense of the series is to start with the premise that the series does not make sense: it is trope-subversive. It is meta. It exists not to tell stories about characters or plots, nor to be shown in any particular order, but to tell ideas, outside of the bounds of traditional storytelling. It invites the audience to play, to interpret, ... to make wild mass guesses; to think. The ambiguity of the answer to Number 2's question "Who is Number 1?" between "You are Number 6" (ignoring his question) and "You are, Number 6" (answering his question in a solipsistic confirmation - himself answering himself, if the series ending can be taken to offer any clues) - that ambiguity exposes a fundamental meme in the series: the ambiguity of reality; the indeterminate nature of truth. This is also reflected in the nature of the central conflict: the desire to uncover information, the need to get a handle on what is real, what is the truth about Number 6, Number 2, and other characters: a need that is inevitably left unsatisfied, because that is one of the key messages of the series: there are no real answers, and if you had them, you wouldn't know if they were the truth!

There is no way to tell for certain what is "real". We have to devise our own answers; we have to interpret: which is what art invites us to do. Audience interpretation is a necessary part of what makes art art. Without audience interpretation, there is no art. It's been over forty years, and people still ponder and debate over the meaning of MacGoohan's masterpiece: it still resonates with us today, prodding us to think. It is art, not story, Q.E.D. (Of course, I could be wrong!)

The point of the show is to incite individuality in the viewer by raising questions instead of providing easy answers.
What better way to spread Number Six's stubborn adherence to free will than to take a television program, at the time something not typically all that thought-provoking, and use it to make the audience think for themselves? Number Six is Patrick MacGoohan, who is Number One, and we are all the prisoners in his experiment to spur individual thought...
  • And everyone who contributes to the WMG page is an Unwitting Pawn in said experiment.

Fall Out was an attempt to finally break Number Six that failed at the last second.

Everything from the room with the Judge to Six meeting One was an elaborate "play" or "farce" in a similar vein to Living in Harmony (or to the explanation used in Shattered Visage). Said judge and robed figures were actors, while the armored guards were there just to stop Number Six if things got out of hand. The goal was to induce a mental breakdown via their bizarre, overwhelming behavior and the unmasking of Number One (who was another actor made to resemble Number Six through their futuristic technology - if they can watch people's dreams or raise the dead, it ain't that much of a stretch to have them be able to change a person's physical appearance).

Upon meeting "Number One", Six, whose psyche had already been assaulted by Number Two's experiment from the previous episode and by the incidents in the room with judge, begins to go crazy, but his independent mind, resilient will, and devoutly-held principles win out at the absolute last second (right after the Number One actor escapes through the upper hatch). The idea was that, after the meeting, he would descend down the staircase as a broken man and finally tell the authorities everything they want to know. Instead, Six not only arrives mentally intact, but uses the guards' thwarted expectations (and the Butler's helpful Heel-Face Turn) to catch them off guard and (along with Number Two and Number Forty-Eight) shoot his way out.

The rest is pretty simple to explain. He escapes and is free from the village..., but the government might now be using the same invasive, oppressive technology and methods that the village used...or maybe automatic doors became all the rage.

The last shot mirrors the beginning because it shows us that Number Six is now once again "behind the wheel" and taking charge. Remember, in every other case that shot was used, it led up to him "taking charge" by handing in his resignation. Reusing this shot shows that he has resumed his position as master of his own destiny. As government (possibly) becomes more centralized and Village-like, it might be more difficult for him to maintain this position, but for the moment, he is a free man.

So there you have it. What is typically considered the Ur Example of the Gainax Ending, now reimagined as a clear-cut Happy Ending.

Number Six is Peter Smith
When he tells Mrs. Butterworth in Many Happy Returns that his name is Peter Smith, he's telling the truth. It just sounds like a lie because he's hesitant; he's been in The Village so long, wondering who he can trust, and not telling anybody anything about himself that sharing something as simple as his given name is now incredibly difficult for him.

Number 48 is Number Eight's Identical Twin Brother
He was given his brother's hat following the events of Living in Harmony.

First of all, Number Eight seemed to die at the end of Harmony. You could chalk this inconsistency up to them raising him from the dead in a similar way they did with Number Two. That said, even taking that into consideration, it seems odd that Number Six would allow him to leave the village with him, the Butler, and Number Two given the fact that Number Eight is an unhinged murderer. Therefore, they must be two separate characters.
  • I'll buy it. Number Eight has a completely different personality than Number Forty Eight; even Number Two's post resurrection new personality wasn't that different from his personality in "The Chimes Of Big Ben" and "Once Upon a Time". So, obviously, Number Eight was the serious twin who got a job with the Village superiors immediately (hence his being in cahoots with Number Two in "Living In Harmony"). Number Forty Eight was the free spirited twin, which is why he's on trial for his rebelliousness. Now what I'd like to know is, where does the photographer from "The Girl Who Was Death" fit into the family tree?

The Schizoid Man is the last episode of Danger Man.
In other words: Curtis is John Drake. (This theory is full of SPOILERS. Beware!)

You see, Drake got a call from an old friend asking him to do a job where he pretends to be someone else. Drake agrees, uses Curtis as an alias and flies out to meet his friend, not knowing that the friend is the new Number Two of The Village (or even, at that point, that The Village exists at all).

Once he gets there, Drake is kind of horrified by the place (shades of Colony 3) and the fact that the government he works for (and, it's implied, all governments) is a part of it, but he agreed to do the job and John Drake keeps his word.

The longer he "is" Number Six, however, the more he sees Six's point of view and begins to root for him. He also becomes more disillusioned than he already was with his own work (it's shown in some episodes of Danger Man that he gets easily annoyed and fed up with his superiors). But he realizes if he resigns, he'll end up a permanent resident, just like his doppelganger.

So Drake decides to make the ultimate sacrifice, pretends to freak out and commits suicide by Rover not only to save himself from incarceration in The Village but to give Number Six a chance to escape. Too bad he didn't mention Susan first.

Number Six fails in his escape attempt because he didn't know about the death of Curtis's female companion Susan. "Wait, but John Drake wasn't married." Prove it. We never saw his personal life. He always claimed he wasn't married, but that could have been a lie to protect her (or Susan could have been a girlfriend or fiance). On Danger Man, Drake never fooled around with the many women who really seemed to want him to fool around with them. Obviously he's an honorable guy who wouldn't take advantage, but maybe he had a ladyfriend back home who he was loyal to as well.

Patrick McGoohan is on record saying that Number Six is not John Drake, they just happen to look alike. Just like Number Six and Curtis. I'm just sayin'.

Number Six doesn't know why he resigned.
Also, none of the series actually happened. He really did just quit his job and go on vacation; everything that happens in the series is just a dream or daydream our nameless hero has while on his vacation as he tries to sort out in his head why he resigned and what he's going to do with his newfound freedom (from work).

The Village is run entirely by the Soviet Union. The British Government is not involved at all.
In The Chimes of Big Ben, Number Two said that it doesn't matter which side runs the village because both sides are becoming increasingly similar. At first glance, this seems to simply be a rather cynical remark on the Cold War.

However, you could also read his remark this way: The Soviet Union has heavily infiltrated the governments of the western nations via spies; therefore, these other nations are poised to become conquered by, and therefore become like, the SU itself.

Once Number Six resigned, the agency was actually okay with it and was content to leave him alone, but the man behind the desk (a spy for Russia) contacted his superiors. Taking advantage of the fact that Number Six was no longer on the British government's radar, they snatched him and took him to The Village.

The Number Two from A, B, and C has been appointed to find out to whom (if anybody) Number Six leaked info, but that's only part of the story. Had he been successful, his superiors would have contacted (or captured) this spy to find out what other countries are plotting against England and then contact this nation to form a secret alliance (and threaten to out them to the British unless they comply).

The island The Village is on is The Island from LOST

Think about it. It apparently moves from place to place, weird things happen on it, and you never really escape from it.

(2009 remake) The new Number Six is Mr. Reese.
I haven't seen the new "Prisoner" remake yet, but it would seem to make sense...Number Six, the former spy, leaves the Village and drifts off as a vagrant until Mr. Finch finds him and gives him a much more benevolent direction and purpose.

There is more than one Village

and The Prisoner is moved around from Village to identical Village at different intervals so he can't figure out where he is. It would explain why each time he escaped/was let go that he escaped from a different point on the globe and why there would suddenly be an overhaul of all the Villagers (the Supervisors and the Butlers are all clones).

The Village, and the events of the series, are the protagonist's attempt to work things out in his own mind.
Similar to a couple of other ideas above, the events surrounding the Village are simply a metaphor or dream-state the Prisoner is in as he goes to resign. The system trying to break him isn't a real organization (whether the British Government, Soviet Union or shadowy Illuminati/NWO type affair) but the mental internalization of "the system" inside his mind, representing his own fears of what might happen if he attempts to leave his job (the possibility of being used and broken by someone) and his struggle to find his own sense of self over and above loyalty and obedience to the country. Hence the repeat of the opening scene at the end- it's the only part which is actually real, and the rest takes place in his head. At the end we see the door to his house is number 1, yet it opens like in the Village- symbolising that whilst perhaps he hasn't entirely beaten the system, he's ultimately number 1, master of his own destiny, having overcome his fears.

The series is a metaphor for the relationship between the individual and society.

This is played upon in the "trial" scene in the final episode, where Six is compared to the revived Number 2 and Number 48 as different types of "rebel". It could be that the whole thing is a metaphor- the Village symbolises the controlling and conforming aspects of society, trying to mould the individual to its will. Six represents in individual trying to find his own identity in the midst of a would-be-conformist society. He tries to "resign" - to be his own man- but the Village (the system) tries to break him, and can't understand why he wants to drop out. His attempts to escape are ultimately futile- because there can be no true escape from wider human society, so he tries to resist and subvert it. Again, the closing scene could be significant- still a "prisoner" who is part of society, but is the true individual, having overcome the conforming aspects of it and having become "Number 1" in the sense of being master of one's own destiny.
  • Note: this theory draws quite heavily upon the trial in the final episode, specifically the comparisons between the revived Number 2, Number 48 and Number Six, and what they are said to represent.

The Village is run by the Illuminati.

Hence the fact we don't know which organisation really runs it. It's pretty much stated by one character that it's some secret organisation which has obviously infiltrated the governments and security services of all the major countries, and there's even use of the "all seeing eye" symbol at one point. Not to mention the frequent attempts at mind control and brainwashing by various means.

Number 6 was to be Number 007.

As we now know, James Bond is simply a name assigned to anyone who is assigned to an MI-6 agent whose position is 007. As this show premiered the same year that both You Only Live Twice and the David Niven version of Casino Royale were released, clearly Agent Connery was on his way out. Enter Agent Drake whom MI-6 had wanted to supersede Agent Connery in the position. Alas, Drake's refusal to shoot-to-kill resulted in a resignation from his post, but he didn't want to disclose this fact because he'd simply realized that he'd continue to feel pressure from MI-6. So they gassed him, kidnapped him and the rest is history... meanwhile, Agent Lazenby didn't work out, but Agent Moore turned out fine.
  • Number Six is Alec Trevelyan- 006, get it? That gives him a motive to betray the spy agency Numbers 2 work for, and there's nothing saying Number Six couldn't be of Russian descent.

Patrick McGoohan is Number One.
When Number Six pulls the mask of Number One, the face he sees is not that of himself, but of Patrick McGoohan. Six finally learns the truth in Fall Out, and the truth is that he's a fictional character who is going through hell at the behest of his creator. McGoohan is Number One.

The final episode didn't happen.
Ok, this is going to be a very meta theory, with a good touch of Death of the Author in it. I thought it would be interesting to see a WMG that's completely down-to-Earth, to contrast with all the more surreal and artistic interpretations...however, obviously, that can't be done for the final episode, which works only as a surreal experience. However, it occurred to me that if Mc Goohan can simply say that only 7 of the episodes "count," then I can likewise declare which episodes do or don't "count" for my theory. And I say that only the first 16 "count."

Now, my theory: Number 6 was a secret agent who resigned. His government wanted to know why, so they kidnapped him and sent him to the Village (which he knew nothing about previously), and tried to break him to find out why he resigned. Why he resigned is a McGuffin, and probably had to do with some Offscreen Villainy by his government, that was unrelated to the plot of the actual show. The remainder of the series, which has No Ending, is his struggle to not undergo a breakdown, and to escape.

The Village is run by the Inebriati.
It would explain why the villagers are all madly cheerful nearly all of the time, and why the various plans to break Number Six aren't very sensible.

There is a link between The Village of the Danger Man episode "Colony 3" and The Village.
"Colony 3" features a seemingly innocuous English-style village set up in an unnamed Communist nation. Even though it's purpose is explained early in the episode, and lacks the surrealist touches of Number Six's prison, they are rather reminisent of each other. Perhaps it was a test-run for the real thing? (Presumably in Real Life, Patrick McGoohan thought it was an interesting idea, and ran with it.)

All the Leo Mckern/ Number Two episodes should be watched in order.

Mc Kern's Number Two is brought in as the final Number Two to break Number Six. He starts with a conventional approach like his predecessors ("The Chimes of Big Ben"), but realizes that it won't work. He reviews what has been tried before (at the beginning of the episode "Once Upon a Time"). The reason he didn't do this sooner is that he was merely told that it was a difficult prisoner. When he realizes he's dealing with someone completely different, he calls Number One to authorize "decree absolute", thus setting up "Once Upon A Time" and "Fall Out".

And where do these episodes fit? BEFORE the episode "The Girl Who Was Death", which is the REAL ending of the series, when the Village is reduced to HOPING Number Six will reveal SOMETHING, ANYTHING to them. Of course, Number Six isn't buying their cheap tricks, as usual. He may be still a prisoner, but he's the one in charge now.


PrimevalWMG/Live-Action TVPunky Brewster

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