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Series / The Prisoner (1967)

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Be seeing you.
Prisoner: Where am I?
No.2: In the Village.
Prisoner: What do you want?
No.2: Information.
Prisoner: Whose side are you on?
No.2: That would be telling. We want information. Information. Information.
Prisoner: You won't get it!
No.2: By hook or by crook... we will.
Prisoner: Who are you?
No.2: The new Number Two.
Prisoner: Who is Number One?
No.2: You are, Number Six.
Prisoner: I am not a number, I am a free man!
No.2: [Evil Laugh]

The Prisoner is a celebrated 1967 British Science Fiction drama with Spy Drama elements, filmed in Portmeirion, produced by and starring Patrick McGoohan, and co-created by George Markstein.

The series deals with the conflict between individuality and authority, told through an unnamed man's attempts to escape from a surreal Dystopian penal colony. Although that goal is continually thwarted, the Village's warders become just as frustrated as the Prisoner as they deal with a man who will not bend, will not break and never gives up the fight. Almost uniquely (for a series of that era not based upon a novel), it had a distinct Story Arc. The episodes had no clear progression, but the series did have a distinct beginning, middle and end, capped off by the Grand Finale "Fall Out".

The show is known for its obscure, confusing, yet intricate subtexts and plot twists, which culminated in the most notorious (and most beloved) Gainax Ending in British television history. Patrick McGoohan had almost complete creative control, a budget 40% larger than that of most other series, and no idea where the show was going from episode to episode. After what was broadcast as episode 11, the script editor, George Markstein, quit the series and was not replaced. Scripts and story ideas from that point on came from random people and places: a Western-themed episode was suggested by a video editor, and the infamous episode "The Girl Who Was Death" was an unused script from Danger Man (featuring characters, props and locations from said series). Finally, the series' infamous ending (reportedly written over the course of a weekend after ITC head Lew Grade abruptly cancelled the series, with one of the guest stars asked to write his own dialogue) takes a turn for the surreal, fuelled by McGoohan's wish to have "controversy, arguments, fights, discussions, people in anger waving fists in my face saying, how dare you?". Let's just say that had TV Tropes been created by an earlier generation of nerds, Gainax Ending would have been called the "Prisoner Ending" and leave it at that.

The characters:

  • Number 6: A nameless former spy who has resigned as "a matter of conscience". The only character to appear in each of the 17 episodes.
  • Number 2: A succession of leaders who live in the Green Dome. They all try in their turn to break Number 6. In general, each episode has a unique Number 2; a couple episodes have more than one, and a couple of Number 2s (played by Leo McKern and Colin Gordon) appeared in more than one episode.
  • The Butler: A silent dwarf played by Angelo Muscat who serves Number 2. He appears in most of the episodes and notably is the only Village resident to never display nor be identified by a number.
  • The Supervisor / Number 26: A nearly-emotionless balding gentleman with thick square glasses who runs the security room. He appears in many but not all episodes (and in a few of them his appearances are Stock Footage).
  • Rover: A white rubbery balloon of doom, used as an enforcer and prison guard. Not actually a person, per se, but definitely one of the more memorable entities in the Village. Appears in most episodes, even if only in passing.

To keep things focused on the story's development, McGoohan often censored any hint of romance between his character and female prisoners/collaborators in submitted scripts, keeping the characters' attraction to Number 6 strictly one-sided. Instead of romance, the story deals with the battles between Number 6 and his surroundings: his struggles are often physical, but in the end, always come down to his mental resilience. More than once, Number 6 breaks his opponents down by utterly crushing their sanity; indeed, towards the end of the series Number 6 is more often shown fighting the Village from within rather than trying to escape.

The series is believed by many to be a sequel of sorts to McGoohan's previous series, Danger Man, with "Number Six" actually being Danger Man's John Drake. There is at least one shared character (or possibly just a character with the same name and actor), Number Six's "civilian" clothes are the distinctive outfit usually worn by Drake, and a publicity photo of McGoohan as Drake is X'ed out during the opening credits. Official Prisoner continuation novels flat out name the Prisoner as Drake. For many years, McGoohan publicly maintained that the Prisoner was not Drake, but it is suspected that he was just being contrary. It has also been speculated that, if Number Six was actually said to be John Drake, then McGoohan would've owed royalties to Ralph Smart, the creator of Danger Man.

Some have even theorized that both characters are also the same person as the secret agent McGoohan played in the film Ice Station Zebra. Certain small differences in behaviour between the three characters (for example, Drake does not drink, the Prisoner drinks occasionally, and the Ice Station Zebra character is a borderline alcoholic) have been taken as hints toward the reason Number Six resigned his job (his refusal to divulge this reason is the MacGuffin for the series; his antagonists figure that if they can break him enough to get that information out of him, the rest will follow).

Another one of the primary topics of fan debate is what order the episodes are meant to be in. There are five principal orders out there, and to be honest the original broadcast order is the one that makes the least sense. The only episodes that everyone agrees on is the introductory episode "Arrival" and the two-part finale, "Once Upon A Time"/"Fall Out" (which were filmed nearly a year apart). Everything in-between is up for debate.

Recap pages are under construction.

Two remakes of the series exist:

  • A TV miniseries remake aired in 2009 with Jim Caviezel as 6 and Ian McKellen as the series' only 2 (this series did not use the word "Number" when referring to people).
  • An Audio Play series by Big Finish, written and produced by Nicholas Briggs, started in 2016 and stars Mark Elstob as Number 6, featuring a mixture of remakes of original episodes and wholly original stories. Two four-story series have been released so far, with a third scheduled for 2019.

This show provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • All Just a Dream: Possibly the final episode... or the entire series.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Used in the opening. Number Two's declaration that "You are Number Six" is stressed rather oddly... such that it comes off more as answering "Who is Number One?" with "You are, Number Six".
  • Anachronic Order: More details on the Other Wiki, which even helpfully lets you rearrange them in five different orders. "Arrival" is definitely The Pilot and "Once Upon A Time"/"Fall Out" is definitely the two-part Grand Finale . Other than that, no one can really say beyond a reasonable doubt what order the episodes should be watched in.note  That said, there is some consensus on the rough position of many episodes:
  • Applied Phlebotinum: That wonderful sixties version of the trope, involving giant talking computers with big knobs, all-purpose mind-altering chemicals, and multicoloured electronic beams of light.
  • Arc Number: While "2" and "6" are obviously recurring numbers, the digit "7" almost never appears in any regard. note 
  • Arc Words:
    • While the series didn't last long enough to form full story arcs, the General is name-dropped well in advance of appearing.
    • The finale also reveals that the phrase "You are Number 6," heard during the opening credits, actually should be seen with a comma: "You are, Number 6."
  • Armed with Canon: Co-creators Patrick McGoohan and George Markstein disagreed over whether The Prisoner was an ersatz John Drake from Danger Man or a completely new and independent character, with each creator bringing their own interpretations to their respective efforts. The record finds evidence supporting both sides, but George Markstein did quit after the 11th episode as a result of that and other tensions within the production.
  • Author Avatar: There are many, many clues suggesting that No. 6 represents Patrick McGoohan himself. The date and time of No. 6's birth, given in the pilot, are McGoohan's own; the Village authorities' extensive knowledge of No. 6's personal life reflects the reluctant celebrity's own frustration with living in a fishbowl, and their obsession with why he resigned reflects McGoohan's frustration with those who thought he owed them an explanation for why he quit being John Drake.
  • Badass Boast: "I am not a number, I am a free man!"
  • Bad Boss: While the various Numbers 2 are like this, apparently not caring if their underlings die, it's apparent that Number One is this to them. When some Numbers 2 fail, it's clear they're in utter dread of his wrath.
  • Becoming the Mask: The real threat represented by the Village. Yes, the people running it might torture or brainwash you, but eventually, they may not need to: the prisoners and jailers appear interchangeable, and the setting idyllic, with some prisoners eventually liking the place and choosing to serve it. Leo McKern's No. 2 is eventually revealed to be a former inmate.
  • Blob Monster: Rover resembles (and often functions similarly to) an amoebic white corpuscle as they were depicted in film at the time, even appearing to devour some of the villagers who were seen as threats (or infections) to the Village.
  • Bond One-Liner: Subverted. On the surface, Six is a Deadpan Snarker like Bond, but his "jokes" are always deadly serious.
  • Border Patrol: Stray beyond the mostly unmarked edge of The Village, and you can look forward to being captured or killed by Rovers - giant bouncing white balloons.
  • The Butler Did It: As good a guess as any. (No, really. The show's production assistant literally said this. It's as good a guess as any.)
  • Calvinball: Kosho, a game involving trampolines, padding, martial arts, and a pool of water, which No. 6 apparently plays twice a week. The rules can be guessed at somewhat, but it's mainly there to contribute to the general Mind Screw of the series.
  • Catchphrase: Several. "Be seeing you!", "Why did you resign?", "I am not a number, I am a free man!", "Who is Number One?", etc.
  • Celibate Hero: Number Six is engaged.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: A sequel miniseries (later collected into a TPB) called Shattered Visage. Among other things, it provided an explanation for the show's infamous Gainax Ending. It also comes close to performing a Gender Flip by featuring a new No. 6 who, this time, is a woman (in this story, the original No. 6, apparently driven mad, takes on the role of No. 2 — at least, until one of the original No. 2's returns to the Village). As for whether it's canon, well... the most McGoohan ever said about it was that he "didn't hate it."
  • Cool Car: The Lotus Seven, even though it's rarely used outside the intro.
  • Couch Gag: A rare serious example. Most episodes' introductions feature the back-and-forth quotation at the top of this page, but have redubbed No. 2's lines with the voice of the new No. 2 from the current episode, often featuring a brief shot of them.note 
  • Crapsaccharine World: The Village.
  • Creator Cameo: Besides McGoohan, obviously. His superior in the opening sequence is his creative partner and series script editor George Markstein.
  • Deadpan Snarker: With The Village being an overpowering, Orwellian superpower, Number 6 does most of his fighting with words. Needless to say, he's very, very good at it. But so are most of the Number Twos.
  • Deconstruction: Of the many spy shows proliferating television and film in The '60s, including the Bond series. Including the show McGoohan once starred in.
    • The spy hero does not always escape or foil his opponent's plans.
    • No one - including the spy hero - knows who can be trusted at any moment, or even what is actually happening.
    • Mad would-be dictators that show up on a weekly basis on most of those shows aren't a real threat in this show (we one we do meet is actually a caricature as part of a make-believe story Number 6 tells children as a bedtime story).
    • The spy hero has resigned from fighting the Cold War over "a matter of conscience", and we're given the strong possibility that the dystopian Village is run by his own "side", the NATO countries. There's also a strong undercurrent (spelled out by the Number Two in "The Chimes of Big Ben") that the two "sides" have become mutually indistinguishable in their methods, rendering the entire Cold War moot. See Take That! below for a bit more context.
  • Depending on the Writer: How independent and self-aware the other villagers are is determined by the needs of each episode's plot. In some, they're little more than lemmings, jumping to act en masse in whatever way their captors tell them. In others, they seem to be free-thinking individuals capable of resistance of against Number Two and his/her goons. While this trope can be detrimental to a show, in this instance it helped foster paranoia in the audience and made them question who was in on the grand scheme of things.
  • Determinator: Number 6. He does not give up.
  • Different in Every Episode: A subtle aural example: the section of the opening theme tune accompanying the scene where the future Number 6 confronts his boss is remixed to emphasize different instruments in each episode.
  • Discreet Drink Disposal: In "A Change of Mind" after Number Eighty-six drops a tablet in Number Six's tea, he pours it into a flowerpot.
  • The Dragon: The multiple Number Twos.
  • Driving Question: There are a set of them.
    • Number Six wants to know:
      • "Where am I?"
      • "Who are you?"
      • "Who is Number One?"
      • "Whose side are you on?"
    • Meanwhile, his mysterious tormentors want to know "Why did you resign?" And most likely, quite a raft of other things that we aren't privy to.
  • Dystopia: The Village, a more subtle example than most.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: For Number Six — escape the Village. For Number Twos — to break Number Six. The finale elaborates on this. Number Six gets home, and doesn't notice when a door in his old flat opens exactly the same way as the ones in the village. McGoohan later confirmed this was intentional.
  • Fictional Sport: Characters are often seen playing kosho, a sort of trampoline-based wrestling game over a swimming pool.
  • Filler: McGoohan has gone on record stating that only seven episodes in the series are essential to the main story arc. The rest were only filmed to satisfy the required episode count.
  • Foreshadowing: Although given the haphazard way the series finale was devised suggests this was not intentional, many have noted that if read with a different inflection than that heard on screen, one exchange between No. 6 and No. 2 in the opening sequence "Who is Number One"; "You are Number Six" can be seen as foreshadowing one of the big reveals in "Fall Out".
  • Gilded Cage: The Village, especially when the big white orb appears on the beach.
  • Girl of the Week: Usually one per episode, although they're all very different from each other. (Two of them are Number 2, a third is secretly the incoming Number 2-designate, some are openly Village operatives, some are moles, one dies after an attempt to break Number 6 by inducing a hallucination goes wrong.) Number 6 has no romantic interest in them whatsoever, though. As it turns out, he's already engaged. That doesn't stop several of them from expressing "interest" in No. 6, however (that said, in a case of creator-driven Executive Meddling, McGoohan continually removed any hint of romance between females and No. 6 from the scripts, allowing only a couple of story-related exceptions to slip through).
  • Government Conspiracy: Exactly who the conspiracy is is a complete mystery, and No. 6 is frustrated in early efforts to determine which side of the Cold War is running the Village. One No. 2 suggests that it really doesn't matter, as the two sides of the Cold War are becoming increasingly similar. However, one of No. 6's superiors is shown to be in league with the Village.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: "There will be joy, laughter, happiness, all at the carnival, by order."
  • Hell Is That Noise: The distorted roaring sounds the Rover makes.
  • Hero Ball: The intro has a touch of this. Number Six clearly anticipated some kind of retribution for resigning, given he immediately went home to pack in preparation to leave... So it's strange he didn't pack BEFORE resigning, rather than having to stop off at the one place they'd be most likely to set a trap for him.
  • Idyllic English Village: The Village is actually an elaborate prison for spies, but it's built to look like a cosy Britishnote  seaside town to dissuade escapes attempts. Many of the prisoners are perfectly happy to stay, seeing it less as captivity and more as retirement.
  • Impairment Shot: In the opening credits, the buildings outside spin in Number 6's vision as the Knockout Gas takes hold.
  • Implicit Prison: The Village is this, partly because it is a village (with separate bungalows and other buildings), and partly because of the Mind Screw (which avoids identifying the Village and its authority figures with any real-world nation or organization while making repeated demands for "information"). Once the big white orbs appear to thwart Number 6's escape attempts, it elides more clearly into a Gilded Cage.
  • Instant Sedation: The Knockout Gas in the first episode (and opening title).
  • Ironic Nursery Tune:
    • 'Pop Goes the Weasel' shows up with creepy frequency in both the soundtrack and in the story, but there's also 'Humpty Dumpty', 'Jack and Jill', 'The Duke of York', and several more. The show seems to fairly empty Mother Goose of her rhymes.
    • Also, there's the tune of 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow', if you want to count it.
    • And the Eton Boating Song ("Jolly Boating Weather") played on a flute like a child's rhyme.
  • Klingon Promotion: One No. 2 attempts this on his predecessor.
  • Large Ham:
    • Leo McKern as No. 2.
    • McGoohan in the unbroadcast (but later released on DVD) early edit of the first episode, which shows him giving a somewhat more "animated" reaction to seeing the Village out his window for the first time.
  • Later Instalment Weirdness The series spent the first twelve of its seventeen episodes (in production order) confined almost exclusively to The Village. But the next four episodes to be produced all spent the majority of their runtimes (apparently) outside the Village, with increasingly invokedbizarre in-universe reasons for doing so without having Number Six actually escape the Village note :
    • The 13th produced episode, "Many Happy Returns", simply has Number 6 escape from the Village after finding it deserted, only to be brought back at the end of the episode.
    • The 14th produced episode, "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling", cranks up the weirdness by having Number 6's mind be transplanted into the body of another person; he spends the majority of the episode outside the Village in his new body, before being brought back and the end and returned to his original body.
    • The 15th produced episode, "Living in Harmony", makes things weirder still by having Number Six be apparently become a sheriff in an American Western. Only in the final few minutes is it revealed that Number Six is still in the Village, under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.
    • The 16th and penultimate produced episode, "The Girl Who Was Death", has Number Six apparently back in his old life as a superspy, pursuing a female assassin across England. Only at the very end is it revealed that he is simply reading a bedtime story about himself to the Village children.
    • The 17th and final episode, "Fall Out", returned to being set mainly in the Village, but was enough of a invokedBizarro Episode to count as "Later Instalment Weirdness" in its own right.
  • Leitmotif:
    • In "Hammer Into Anvil" and "Do Not Forsake Me Oh my Darling".
    • "Pop Goes the Weasel" is used throughout the series. The episode "Once Upon A Time" establishes "POP" as an acronym for protect other people and originally "POP" was to be a featured element of the show's closing credits, but this was never broadcast (you still see it in the early edit versions of some episodes that have been released on DVD).
    • The Village's brass band plays Johann Strauss's Radetzky March almost every time they appear — even in a funeral procession.
  • Licensed Game: There was a computer game which was highly acclaimed and received a sequel. It may not have been officially licensed, though.
    • Steve Jackson Games' Tabletop Game GURPS has a sourcebook for the series.
  • Little People Are Surreal: The Butler.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Subverted since in the Village, the fact that Number 6 is a stubborn loner is his greatest strength. Doubly subverted in the episode "Checkmate".
  • MacGuffin: The real reason for Number 6's resignation, in two ways.
    • Many of the Village minders don't actually give a flying fuck about the answer — what's important is that Number 6 surrenders by telling them. In the very first episode the first No. 2 encountered states outright that they know why he resigned, and proceeds to characterize the interrogation of No. 6 as "a double check". No. 6 also outright states why he resigned, at least in broad strokes, in "Once Upon A Time". ("For peace of mind... Too many people know too much." Which is actually a reasonable reason for resigning.)
    • Others, like the Number 2 in "A, B and C", set off the plot of the episode in question because they think they'll learn the true reason Number 6 resigned. They never do.
  • Makes Just as Much Sense in Context: Several elements of the series are surreal, but a special nod goes to kosho, the sumo-like sport played on trampolines separated by a water pit. No explanation is ever given for it.
  • Mind Probe: There are several different machines that can at least partially tap into Number Six's mind and tell what he's thinking (or force him to think what they want him to think), but they can't seem to dig out the one specific response they need of him. It's stated in various episodes - especially "Dance of the Dead" - that use of such mind probes effectively lobotomizes the person affected. The Number Twos keep pointing out that the ones running the Village think Number Six can be useful to them... they just want him to break.
  • Mind Screw: The series as a whole, individual episodes in particular and the Grand Finale, of course, most of all.
  • Mind Screwdriver: The Shattered Visage comic. As stated before, however, its canonicity is uncertain.
  • The Mole: A lot of the drama that arises is because either No. 6 believes someone to be this trope, or someone else believes No. 6 to be this.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: The three episodes featuring female Number Twos ("Dance of the Dead", "Many Happy Returns", and "Free For All") are among those in which Number Six ends up most defeated and the closest to being mentally broken.
  • Never Trust a Title: Another odd aspect of The Prisoner is that many of the later episode titles don't refer to the episode you'd think they do at a glance.
  • No-Harm Requirement: In the show, an unnamed British secret agent is kept in a kind of freestyle sanitarium called The Village, which is located on an unnamed island. There, the staff and residents play bizarre mind games with him to compel him to reveal why he suddenly resigned from the intelligence service. Though The Hero gets brainwashed routinely, he's rarely hurt and never injured.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: He's often invited to dinner or breakfast or lunch with Number Two, but he seldom accepts outright. Naturally, since they know nearly every detail about Number Six's life, it's always Your Favourite.
  • No Name Given: The Prisoner's real name (although many fans assume he's John Drake, the character McGoohan played in his previous series, Danger Man (aka Secret Agent); in fact, he's not even called "Number Six" in the scripts, except by other characters, only "P" or "Prisoner".
    • In the episode "Many Happy Returns", Number 6 called himself "Peter Smith", but this could be an assumed/false name. It's also an obvious variation on his German code name, "Schmidt".
    • In "The Girl Who Was Death", a line of dialogue by a boxing referee is often misheard as announcing McGoohan's character by the name "Mr. Drake". However, officially published scripts and closed captioning reveal the scripted line is "Mr. X."
    • "Once Upon A Time" includes a line of dialogue (confirmed by examination of the script) in which No. 2 (pretending to be a teacher) says to 6 "Meet me in the morning break." A common mishearing of the line is "Meet me in the morning Drake."
    • Confusing things further, in the late 1960s three original novels were published based upon the series. The first two of these: "The Prisoner" by Thomas Disch and "Number Two" by David McDaniel, explicitly refer to No. 6 by the name Drake. It is unknown whether the novels were ever considered "canon" with the TV series.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • In the second episode Number Two says it hardly matters which side of the Cold War runs the village, since both sides are becoming identical.
    • George freely admits to being as much of a prisoner as Number Six, saying they're both "lifers".
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The Village seems full of people who can do this or sneak up Behind the Black, which is part of what makes it so uncanny.
  • Ominous Mundanity: The Village, which is located between The Mountains and The Sea. This keeps it very unclear where The Village is located, and, therefore, which side of the Cold War its masters are on. It also conveys to the various prisoners just how small their lives will be now that they're here: The Village doesn't need a name because it's the only one they'll ever see.
  • Ontological Mystery: Where exactly is the Village? Who runs it? Does it matter?
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: In "A Change of Mind" Number Six is made to believe his aggressive behaviour has been neutralized by ultrasound brain surgery - he comes to realize it had been staged and he was being kept passive with drugs, at which point he switches his drugged tea with a cup the scientist in charge is taking with him.
  • Post–Wake-Up Realization: After being gassed in his flat, Number Six wakes up apparently still in his bedroom. When he opens the blind on his window, he sees the Village outside.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Outside of "Do Not Forsake Me Oh my Darling" (produced when McGoohan largely wasn't there), "Dance of the Dead" (wherein a female character falls in love with No. 6), "Checkmate" (wherein a female character is hypnotised into falling in love with No. 6) and "The Chimes of Big Ben" (where it is hoped No. 6 would fall for a female prisoner with similar desire to escape), the characters' genders make no real difference to the plot.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: McGoohan was a staunch Catholic, and Six never resorts to a fight unless forced, never womanizes, and refuses to compromise his beliefs.
  • Recycled In Space: You can see this show as Nineteen Eighty-Four with an indomitable hero to give it some hope.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Pretty much the ultimate expression of this trope.
  • Retool: According to various histories of the series, had a second season been commissioned, No. 6 would have found himself acting as an unwitting agent of The Village and being sent on missions, a major retool of the format. The episode "Do Not Forsake Me Oh my Darling" is in some ways a backdoor pilot for the new format, complete with pre-credits teaser. It could be argued that McGoohan's opinion of the idea is evident in that he chose this episode to be the one shot while he was filming Ice Station Zebra, requiring another actor to play No. 6!
  • The Reveal: It's been suggested that the answer to the big question was given within the first few minutes of each show if you add one comma... "Who is Number 1?" "You are, Number 6."
  • Scenery Porn: The Village. You can always swing by for a stay....
  • Script-Reading Doors: Number Six's front door seems to know when he's entering or leaving his home. Of course, he is living in a panopticon....
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Whatever the evils of the Village, the men's black jacket with its white piping combined with the turtlenecked sweater is the sharpest prison uniform in all of fiction.
  • Shout-Out: The Shattered Visage comic series is just loaded with these, with the references running from Danger Man to the short-lived, little known medical series Rafferty, which starred McGoohan.
  • Sinister Surveillance: Number Six is always under surveillance... especially when he thinks he's not.
  • Small, Secluded World: The Village is virtually the archetype for this trope (although, technically, it's only secluded as far as Villagers are concerned).
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • The first episode introducing the Village in all of its apparent cheerfulness is equally as flighty, but this only serves to accentuate just how odd everything is.
    • The first half of the song "Pop Goes The Weasel" plays often, but noticeably lacks the signature second half.
  • Spy Drama: An actually dramatic drama, not just "will he kill the bad guy and get the girl"; indeed this trope is subverted at every turn.
  • Stock Shout-Out: The initial interview with No. 2 is frequently referenced. "Be seeing you" and the accompanying hand gesture are often used as hints in other media that the person giving them isn't to be trusted (most notably Bester and other PsiCorp characters in Babylon 5). Patrick McGoohan himself used it at least once while guest-starring on Columbo, appropriately playing a spy.
  • Story Arc: Number 6's struggle to escape the Village and his growing strength inside it.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Number Six will frequently ramp up the volume and intensity on the final word of a sentence, as in his famous "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or NUMBERED!" He does this also with a side of Large Ham in "Fall Out" in a desperate attempt to be heard over the robed Villagers who are drowning him out with their chants of "I, I, I" while he is making his testament.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Part of Number Six's problem is that the Village is rife with spies and hidden surveillance. As the show progresses, he learns first to hide intentions from their gaze, and eventually to twist these measures to manipulate his jailers.
  • Sword Cane: * In the episode "Hammer into Anvil", a particularly nasty Number Two is revealed to have turned his shooting-stick-of-office into a sword stick, and threatens to stab Number Six in the eyes with it.
  • Take That!:
  • Take This Job and Shove It: The office confrontation in the opening credits.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Although Number Six's attempts to escape inevitably ended in failure, he would occasionally be permitted a moral victory or a chance to outwit his captors in discovering his secret or one of their other plans.
  • Uncanny Village: Gotta watch out for those idyllic seaside resorts!
  • The Unreveal: The series is rife with them, even aside from those "answered" in its infamous Gainax Ending. Word of God said that anything meaningful enough to answer has been, and everything else, like who ran the prison or the specifics of Number Six's resignation, are utterly unimportant.
  • The Voiceless: The Butler.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Rover was initially meant to be a single entity, and had what was intended to be an on-camera "death". Though they'd already filmed a scene with him in "Once Upon A Time", the intent was always to reshoot it. When the show got cancelled, they no longer had the budget to do so, and so it lends the appearance of Rover being a type of weapon that inexplicably disappeared for several episodes.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: We never learn the location of The Village. The times we do get a location, they're contradictory; in "Many Happy Returns", the Prisoner builds a raft and drifts out to sea; the Village is apparently an island somewhere near Morocco according to his calculations. In "The Chimes of Big Ben" they say it's somewhere off the coast of Lithuania, although this turns out to be part of an elaborate lie to make #6 think he's escaped. In "Fall Out" it is apparently possible to drive straight to London from the Village.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Any episode in which Number Six apparently escapes the Village will see him being recaptured and/or the whole escape being revealed as a fake-out.
  • You Are Number 6: Trope Namer
  • Your Favourite: Happens quite often, since the overlords at The Village know nearly everything about the Prisoner and can accommodate him almost immediately. They know how he takes his tea ("With lemon!), what foods he likes, and so on, and regularly give him exactly that. In one episode, they change his favourite food to mess with his mind. (And in another, he takes his tea differently to mess with Number Two.)

"Be seeing you."


Video Example(s):


Master / Father / School

In a last-ditch effort to extract information from Number Six, Number Two makes him forcibly undergo regressive therapy, reverting him to a childlike state with limited communication.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / EmotionalRegression

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