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Series / The Prisoner (2009)

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A remake of The Prisoner (1967) in the form of a six-hour miniseries that ran in November 2009. Jim Caviezel starred as 6 and Sir Ian McKellen as 2 (no "Number" in this version).

This was not a direct remake, as characterization, atmosphere, and ending were almost entirely different. Patrick McGoohan died before the series aired, but had been invited to make a cameo appearance, which he declined; played now by another actor, the cameo in episode 1 involved 6 coming across an old man dressed in Number 6's outfit from the original series.

The 2009 remake provides examples of:

  • All Psychology Is Freudian: 2 has 6 speak to a psychologist, 70, so he can find out what drives 6's desire to escape the Village. 2 later visits 70 and mockingly talks about his own psychological problems, before deriding it all as Freudian mumbo-jumbo.
  • All Just a Dream: It turns out the Village is actually a sort of shared dreamspace on a level deeper than the subconscious. Which makes it all a dream, but not just a dream. This also means that 2 was telling 6 the truth all along: there really is no "New York" in their plane of existence, or ability for 6 to escape.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Rover returns, but this time as a giant weather balloon bigger than a building.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: 2 succeeds in escaping the manufactured reality of the Village with his wife, while 6 is corrupted into becoming the new leader with 313 as the new dreamer.
  • Big Bad: Unlike the original series, 2 is a single person who is clearly in control of the Village, and the final obstacle for 6 to overcome if he wants to escape it.
  • Big Brother Is Watching You: The Village is monitored by a network of agents and double agents who are constantly spying on the villagers (and each other) for any deviant behavior. Villagers themselves are also motivated to inform on their neighbors.
  • Bittersweet Ending: 2 uses 6's nobility and selfless humanity against him in the finale. In the real world, Dr. Curtis (2) had brought Michael (6) into The Village with the express purpose of training him as his replacement. After mentally breaking 6, 2 publicly announces that 6 is the only person capable of stopping The Village from collapsing. 6 agrees to become the new Dreamer, but 313 intervenes and takes the position instead, allowing 2 and his wife to go free and wake up from The Village. In her new dream state, 313 sheds tears for 6's new indefinite imprisonment as 6 begins imagining a new and better Village.
  • Bottomless Pits: One shows up in the fourth episode and becomes a critical plot point later. It's a sign that the dreamspace is falling apart.
  • Bury Your Gays: 909's death. Arguably 11-12's as well.
  • Catchphrase: Discounting "Be seeing you", apparently avoided during production; when the series was first announced, much of the publicity involved the phrase "Seek the Six" being connected to the show in some way, but once the show was actually made and prepared for broadcast, this catch phrase vanished from all publicity and is never heard within the show itself (if it was ever intended to be). The phrase has little apparent relevance to the series' storyline, either.
  • Cutting Back to Reality: In the episode "Schizoid", 6 starts seeing a double of himself with a darker personality appearing around the Village. Several times during the episode, a scene between the two of them ends with a cut to another camera angle in which the double has suddenly disappeared. In keeping with the series' Mind Screw nature, there's also one time where it's 6 who disappears while the double is still there.
  • Death of a Child: It looks like 147's daughter, 832, is about to fall into a Bottomless Pit, but she doesn't—until a few minutes later.
  • Don't Wake the Sleeper: The Village is not a physical location, but a shared dreamstate beneath the subconscious level which 2's wife discovered during her meditations, and requires an active "Dreamer" to keep the fantasy from collapsing. The events of the series are part of a plot by 2 to allow him and his wife to wake up from the dream, and 6 to take his place as the leader of the village. 6's Love Interest, 313, who in the real world is a severely mentally handicapped woman, becomes the new Dreamer.
  • Dream Apocalypse: All the people in the village have some sort of counterpart in the real world. 2's son 11-12 is one of the few people who doesn't have one, and also has no childhood memories. He tries to murder his "mother" and hangs himself when he realizes that he only exists in someone else's imagination.
  • Enemy Without: "Schizoid".
  • Evil Overlooker: An indirect example, with the top half of the poster being occupied by a menacing close-up of 2's eyes stacked on top an image of 6 with Rover rising behind him, posed to suggest he is facing insurmountable odds.
  • Evil Over Lord List: 2's last gambit is remarkably similar to #143
  • Flashback B-Plot: The action in the Village is interspersed with occasional scenes showing what 6 did immediately after his resignation, apparently leading up to showing how he was abducted and brought to the Village. Except it turns out that they're not flashbacks — they're what 6's conscious self is doing in the real world at the same time as his subconcious is experiencing the Village dreamstate.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: What eventually happens to 6.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In 'Schizoid' and 'Fall Out', 313 has flashbacks accompanied by the phrase "Put it on your head!" One of the flashbacks has a girl with a cardboard box on her head with a man standing next to her, possibly alluding to 313's deranged mental state.
  • Gainax Ending: It wouldn't be a version of The Prisoner without one.
  • Hospital Hottie: 313.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Unlike the chaste original (in which No. 6 didn't return the affections of the women who fawned after him), in this series we not only see romance develop between 6 and two other characters, but there's even a love scene with one of them.
  • In Name Only: The series has relatively little plot or character similarity with the original The Prisoner other than the very basic concept. The Village's nature is finally revealed to be very different and the ending is also completely different. There are similar riffs on certain individual episodes (eg "Schizoid" begins similarly to "The Schizoid Man" but 6's duplicate is a mystical Enemy Without rather than a recruited natural double). The show also acts as an example of why this trope is not necessarily a bad thing - those viewers and critics who disliked the new series generally didn't think that it should have been a straighter remake.
  • Just the First Citizen: In episode 3, a schoolgirl explains the meaning behind 2's name/title when 6 asks them who 1 is. Specifically, there is no "1" despite "2" clearly being in complete control of the Village, to emphasize his "humble" role as a mere public servant.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The explanation for the existence of The Village and its inescapability is that it is a collective subconscious dream state. At the end the villain arranges to be woken up by killing himself so he can return to the real world, leaving the hero behind to lead the Village.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The feminine charms of Hayley Atwell are somewhat "emphasized" ( likely in order to play up the misdirection related to whether her not her sequences were dreams or took place in the real world).
  • Mythology Gag: References to the original series could make for an incapacitating drinking game. In the first episode alone:
    • 93 wears the same outfit Number 6 wore in the original series. (Word of God is the role was originally offered to original Prisoner series co-creator and star Patrick McGoohan, who died soon after.)
    • 6's house is appointed with furniture of the same Zeerust-futuristic style used in the original series.
    • The scene transition to the inside of 93's house takes us to an extreme close-up of a lava lamp, which reproduces the original series's visual effect for Rover's launch sequence.
    • A rough sketch of a landmark 93 half-remembered from his life outside the Village is of the Houses of Parliament, home of Big Ben (now the Elizabeth Tower). One of the best-known episodes of the original series was "The Chimes of Big Ben", in which the landmark played a key part in the climax. The building was also prominently featured in the opening credits of the original series.
    • 93 himself bears a striking resemblance to the older version of Number 6 from the graphic novel follow-up "Shattered Village".
    • During his first meeting with 2, 6 pounds on in the desk between them in a way that seems very unnatural for the actor involved. He's recreating an iconic image from the opening sequence of the original series.
    • A pennyfarthing bicycle, which was the icon of the original series, is briefly visible during a nightclub sequence.
    • At the final episode, all of the villagers chant: Number Six is the One.
  • No Name Given: averted. Unlike the original series that only revealed a couple of guest prisoners' first names and never identified No. 6, we at least learn the first names of 6 and 2.
  • Not His Sled: Even though the episode titles (and by extension, most of the episodes themselves) are based on those from the original series, entirely different consequences occur.
  • The Reveal: Unlike the original show, the finale of the 2009 version reveals what The Village is: It's a Lotus Eater Dreamstate below the subconscious level that everyone is capable of sharing, discovered by 2's wife. To maintain it, she is forced into a waking dream state via drugs, so that she can keep The Village running. Dr. Curtis (2) places people inside The Village as a form of ambivalent, non-confrontational therapy. Because of its position below the subconscious, it keeps running even when regular consciousness is active — meaning the flashbacks are actually happening at the same time as the Village action is.
  • Sequencing Deception: One of the big twists is built on one. When the series cuts away to scenes of 6 in New York, immediately following his resignation, the audience is led to assume that they're flashbacks to before 6 was brought to the Village. The twist is that they're not flashbacks: 6 never physically left New York, and those scenes are occurring simultaneously with the events in the Village.
  • Shout-Out
    • In addition to elements actually carried over from the original series, there are passing references, like the penny-farthing bicycle hanging from the ceiling of the nightclub; and the fact that 6's duplicate is named "Two Times 6"; in the original show, the duplicate was named 12.
    • The opening credits lightly follows the same general pattern as the original's credits do, and the episode titles are derived from that of the original show.
    • A character appears briefly in the first episode who intentionally resembles an elderly version of the original No. 6 (and the part was originally offered to Patrick McGoohan himself).
    • The final scene of 6 and 313 is extremely similar in framing, mood, and implication to Remiel and Duma in Hell at the end of the Season of Mists arc of The Sandman (1989).
  • Soap Within a Show: Enthusiastically recounted relationship by relationship and name by name. The tackiness of the soap is another element of the Stepford Suburbia nature of the Village.
  • Take Up My Sword: What 2 eventually gets 6 (and by extension, 313) to do, so that 2 and his wife can finally leave The Village.
  • Thirsty Desert: Surrounding the Village, instead of the ocean in the original.
  • Villains Never Lie: In the first episode, when 6 demands that he be returned to New York, 2 responds that New York doesn't exist. He wasn't just gaslighting 6, the Village exists on an alternate plane of reality far below the subconscious. There really is nothing outside the Village.