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The Prisoner (2009 miniseries)

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The Prisoner (2009 miniseries)

AMC Prisoner
Promotional poster
Based on The Prisoner 
by Patrick McGoohan
George Markstein
Written by Bill Gallagher[1]
Directed by Nick Hurran[2]
Country of origin United States
United Kingdom
No. of episodes 6 (List of episodes)
Producer(s) Trevor Hopkins[1]
Running time 45 minutes (per episode)
Original channel AMC,
Original run November 15, 2009 (2009-11-15) – November 17, 2009 (2009-11-17)
External links

The Prisoner is a 2009 television miniseries based on the 1960s TV series The Prisoner about a man who awakens in a mysterious, picturesque village from which there is no escape and wonders who made the village and why. It was co-produced by American cable network AMC with the British channel ITV.


A remake of the original series had been in the works, in one form or another, since 2005.[3] The series premiered on November 15, 2009[4] as a miniseries on North American cable channel AMC in cooperation with British broadcaster ITV.[5][6] The six part series premiered in the UK on April 17, 2010.

Plot overview

The series begins with an unidentified man waking up in a desert and finding himself in the middle of a pursuit as mysterious guards chase an elderly man through a canyon. The old man dies soon after, but not before passing a message on to the younger man: "Tell them I got out."

Exploring the desert, the man arrives in an enigmatic community, whose residents inform him that it's called simply The Village. Everyone he meets is known only by a number—he learns his number is 6—and he discovers that they have no knowledge or memory of the outside world.

6 himself is unable to remember his real name, or much of his life before the Village, only snippets of memory of New York City and a mysterious woman he met in a diner and took home. Meanwhile, he soon finds himself locked in a battle of wills against 2, the Village's leader, who goes to great lengths to make 6 assimilate into life in the Village. 6, meanwhile, tries to contact "dreamers"—Village residents who, like himself, have been experiencing flashes of memory of their life outside the Village. Along the way, he befriends 147, a Village taxi driver; 313, a doctor with whom 6 develops a romantic connection but who has her own secrets; and "11–12", 2's son, who begins to question the reality of the Village.

Each episode title in the series is one word taken from an episode title from the original programme.


Main cast


  • John Whitely as 93 – Episode 1, "Arrival"
  • Jessica Haines as 554 – Episode 1, "Arrival"
  • David Butler as 37927 / The Access Man – Episode 1, "Arrival" and Episode 5, "Schizoid"
  • Jeffrey R. Smith as 16 – Episode 2, "Harmony"
  • James Cunigham as 70 & Shadow 70 – Episode 2, "Harmony"
  • Leila Henriques as The Winking Woman – Episode 2, "Harmony"
  • Vincent Regan as 909 – Episode 3, "Anvil"
  • Warrick Grier as 1955 – Episode 3, "Anvil"
  • Lauren Dasnev as 1100 – Episode 3, "Anvil"
  • Sara Stewart as 1894 – Episode 4, "Darling"


The Prisoner went into production in June 2008. Location filming for The Village was in Swakopmund, Namibia. A production diary is available.[7]

After 18 weeks of shooting, principal photography wrapped on December 12, 2008.[8] AMC streamed all 17 episodes of the original Prisoner series in advance of showing the remake.[9]

According to Patrick McGoohan's widow, producers of the new series had hoped that McGoohan would play a part in bringing the revival to the air. "They wanted Patrick to have some part in it, but he adamantly didn't want to be involved. He had already done it," she said in an interview shortly after McGoohan's death.[10] This however was contradicted by Ian McKellen in an interview featured in the November 2009 edition of SFX Magazine where he was quoted as saying:

"He was asked to be in the first episode, there being a part that would have been very ironically fitting, but apparently he said that he didn't want to do it unless he was offered the part of Number Two."[11]

The miniseries was promoted at 2008 San Diego ComicCon via a skywriter airplane that sketched the phrase "Seek the Six" on the sky over San Diego. Although "Seek the Six" was initially thought to be a catchphrase of some sort, there was no reference to it in the final program.

A further promotional event for the miniseries was held at the 2009 ComicCon, including a spoiler-heavy, 9-minute trailer and a cast and crew discussion panel, during which producer Trevor Hopkins confirmed that he had invited McGoohan to play the role of the Number Six-like old man encountered by Caviezel's character early in the first episode. This is suggested by the jacket worn by the old man – the same style jacket as worn by number Six in the first series. McGoohan declined, but suggested he could play Number 2 instead.[12]

Critical reception

The airing of the miniseries resulted in mixed reviews, scoring 46 out of 100 on Metacritic.[13]

Los Angeles Times television critic Robert Lloyd wrote "why anyone, on either side of the screen, should be particularly interested in his fate, is never made clear nor compelling," and further states "the payoff is weak, and more than a bit daffy." In a comparison with the miniseries to AMC's hit series Mad Men, he writes "the difference [is] that 'Mad Men' is never boring."[14]

In Entertainment Weekly, TV critic Ken Tucker writes "it lacks the wit and zip of the original Prisoner," and concludes "It's self-absorbed to the point of incoherence."[15]

Chicago Sun-Times reviewer Paige Wiser declares "There's also a reason why I am not conking myself on the head with a croquet mallet, but The Prisoner somehow has the same effect," and with reference to viewing all six hours of the miniseries, concludes "I urge you to heed my advice: Opt out while you can."[16]

San Francisco Chronicle critic Tim Goodman writes "The Prisoner is not compelling. It rambles too much. Its vagaries are not interesting, its unorthodox storytelling not special enough."[17]

New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley struck a contrary note: "This version of The Prisoner is not a remake, it's a clever and engaging reinterpretation by Bill Gallagher, who shaped the script to contemporary tastes and sensibilities — notably, a postmodern fatigue with ideology and big thoughts." She concludes "The 21st century adaptation pays only lip service to the human condition, and instead explores a power struggle between two human beings. It's unlikely to prove as lasting, but the new series still manages to be thrilling."[18] Furthermore it was positively reviewed in the Radio Times and also by Sam Wallaston who writing for The Guardian, described it as "a triumph with something of The Truman Show about it" with "a tension and a claustrophobia that gnaw away at you, making you look at your own psyche."[19]


No. Title Original series title which inspired this title Original airdate
1 "Arrival"[20] Arrival November 15, 2009 (2009-11-15)
6 wakes up in the desert, where he sees an old man, 93, being shot at and chased.[21] 93 is dragged into a cave by 6, where 93 tells 6 to "go to 554" before dying. 6 buries 93, and wanders into the Village, where he meets 2 and is grilled about the location of 93. He finds a confidant in 554, who is killed on orders of 2 as 554 formally introduces 6 to his new home.
2 "Harmony"[20] Living in Harmony November 15, 2009 (2009-11-15)
6 struggles to find allies to escape from the Village. 2 introduces 6 to the family of his brother to convince him he belongs. 6 had a brother before who drowned in childhood. As 6 begins to doubt himself, his brother admits to the facade and the pair make a failed attempt at escape from the Village. His brother drowns in the attempt, following an encounter with Rover, but 6 finds renewed faith in himself. Meanwhile, 2 and 11–12 are seen discussing 11-12's apparent lack of childhood memories.
3 "Anvil"[20] Hammer Into Anvil November 16, 2009 (2009-11-16)
2 offers 6 the opportunity to become an undercover agent, spying on suspected dreamers within the Village. 6 accepts with ulterior motives. However, the situation becomes tangled as 909, the man he is working with, is spying on 6. 6 soon turns 909s game against him by following him into the Go Inside bar, where he finds him meeting with his secret lover, 11–12. He blackmails the two men. Rather than allowing the relationship to be discovered, 11–12 kills 909. 6 blackmails 11–12 to help him rescue 313, who's been captured and sent to the clinic.
4 "Darling"[20] Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling November 16, 2009 (2009-11-16)
The Village Matchmaking Service targets 6, pairing him with a woman, 4–15. 6 recalls 4–15 from a brief encounter with his New York alter ego, Michael, shortly before he was taken to the Village. 4–15, however, pretends that she does not remember 6. 4–15 and 6 become lovers, and plan to marry, until 313 intervenes. 4–15 reveals to 6 that she is indeed Lucy, the woman Michael knew in New York; 2 has brought her to the Village to "break his heart," and break him in the process. 4–15 apparently dies by jumping into a bottomless pit that has appeared in the Village; in a concurrent flashback to New York, Lucy is apparently killed by an explosion in Michael's apartment.
5 "Schizoid"[20] The Schizoid Man November 17, 2009 (2009-11-17)
2 has embodied 6's animal desires in an identical double named 'Two Times Six'. 6 must find a way to reconcile himself with his desires, or risk being manipulated by 2 through them. Meanwhile, 11–12 confronts his mother, 313 sees more visions of her past, and 2 relaxes for a day as 'UnTwo'. In New York, Michael returns to Summakor to find answers. 11-12's mother reveals that when she is awake, bottomless holes (or voids) appear in the Village.
6 "Checkmate"[20] Checkmate November 17, 2009 (2009-11-17)
6 encounters new arrivals, contradicting claims there is no world beyond the village. Meanwhile 2 shows off new houses, indicating the village is expanding. This is later revealed to be so that pressure on 6 to replace 2 intensifies to a crisis as the fabric of the Village develops more frequent sink holes - the More Village houses are literally built upon sand without foundation as Curtis' wife is losing control in the real world. 6 confronts 2 about the newcomers but soon forgets as 2 reveals he has afflicted 6 with a disease that will kill him, believing the threat of death will break him. 6 confronts 11–12 when he meets him at 909's grave, and then again at the Go Inside bar. But 11–12, unable to reconcile himself with his existence as a lie, proceeds to smother his dreaming mother and hang himself. In New York, Michael is escorted to a car so he may meet "Mr. Curtis." Events in New York and The Village begin to parallel each other, and Michael is aware of it. 6's determination does not waver in the face of death, and 2 allows him to live. However, 2 intends to use 6's sense of nobility to finally control him. In New York, Curtis, who is 2, introduces Michael to Curtis' wife, who seems to be in a sort of waking dream, and reveals the purpose of the Village to 6. Curtis explains that the Village is a form of therapy used to help people that Summakor has identified, although without regard to those people's desires. It exists within the mind of his wife, who 'discovered' the Village—a dream present in everyone at a level of consciousness deeper than the subconscious—and was its first inhabitant. Michael was drawn into the village because he worked so well at Summakor, finding people who needed 'help', and Curtis does not want Michael to resign. It is clear that Curtis' son in the Village is the only person not based on real people in the real world and is not an avatar; and that has drained his "mother", the dreamer. Curtis' use of the Village was to work through their trauma of being childless but the creation of the son threatened the continued existence of the Village. Neither could bring themselves to kill their son and over the 6 episodes we see him provided with sufficient rope (inhuman behaviour including murder) that he hangs himself. In the Village, at his son's funeral, 2 rallies the Villagers and tells them 6 is the only solution to the holes, while in New York, Curtis introduces Michael to Sara, the real world counterpart of 313, who is homeless and insane because of childhood trauma. Michael is overcome with his humanity and desire to help Sara and the villagers, and replaces Curtis as the head of Summakor. In The Village, 6 becomes the new 2, while 313 becomes the dreamer who keeps the Village in existence, freeing Curtis' wife from being the dreamer and allowing her to return to the real world. 6 begins planning how to 'do The Village right' and 313, a long way off from her healing, sheds a tear, knowing that number 2 finally has won and 6 is now stuck in The Village for good.

Note: AMC's original airing of the series combined the episodes, with episodes 1 and 2 airing on day 1, etc., with only one set of opening and closing credits for both. The DVD release restores the 6-episode format.

Awards and Nominations

Best Miniseries (nominated)

Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television: Ian McKellen (nominated)

– Television Producer of the Year in Longform: Michele Buck, Damien Timmer, Rebecca Keane, and Trevor Hopkins (nominated)

– Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie: Ian McKellen (nominated)

– Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a Movie: Florian Hoffmeister for the episode "Checkmate" (nominated)

– Excellence In Production Design Award: Michael Pickwoad, Claudio Campana, Delarey Wagenar, Emilia Roux, and Delia de Villiers Minnaar (nominated)

– Best Presentation on Television (nominated)

DVD release

In early 2010, Warner Home Video released The Prisoner in DVD format in Region 1/North America in a 3-disc collection.

Special features include deleted scenes for all episodes (including scenes from "Arrival" that explicitly indicate that 2 orders the bombing of the diner), and commentaries on "Arrival" and "Checkmate".

Featurettes in the set include:

  • "A 6 Hour Film Shot in 92 Days: The Diary of the Prisoner" – behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the series, featuring footage previously available online.
  • "Beautiful Prison: The World of the Prisoner" – a second behind-the-scenes documentary.
  • "The Prisoner ComicCon Panel" – Jim Caviezel, Lennie James, Bill Gallagher, and others discuss the then-upcoming series at the 2009 San Diego ComiCon.
  • "The Man Behind 2" – Jamie Campbell Bower conducts a tongue-in-cheek interview with his TV father, Ian McKellen.

ITV Studios Home Entertainment released a UK DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 3 May 2010.[22] The listed extras include the deleted scenes, ComicCon panel and McKellen interview, but differ otherwise. They will reportedly include:

  • "The Making of" for all six episodes
  • "Inside The Prisoner" for all six episodes
  • The Prisoner Read Through
  • Character Profiles


  1. ^ a b "AMC » the prisoner about the show". Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  2. ^ "AMC » the prisoner about this website". Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  3. ^ It was announced in late 2005 that Granada would revive the series for Sky1 in 2007. BBC News: Remake for cult show The Prisoner Christopher Eccleston was initially rumoured to be considered for the title role and it was reported that the series would be titled Number Six instead of The Prisoner. Abortive remake plans actually pre-date 2005, with Simon West at one point in the early 2000s (decade) reported as directing a theatrical version. Patrick McGoohan himself had mulled over plans for a remake as early as the 1970s.
  4. ^ "AMC—Blogs—The Prisoner—Newsflash! The Prisoner Miniseries to Premiere Sun., Nov. 15". 2009-09-29. Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  5. ^ In December 2006, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the American cable TV channel AMC was co-producing The Prisoner with Sky1, and that it would run at least six to eight episodes, beginning in January 2008 (both in the UK and USA).ICv2 News — AMC Remaking 'The Prisoner'
  6. ^ In May 2007 it was reported that Sky One had pulled out of the re-make due to a disagreement with AMC. In August 2007, Richard Woolfe, head of Sky One, stated: The Prisoner is not happening. It's a very quintessentially British drama and there were too many creative differences trying to share it with an American partner. I didn't want to be responsible for taking something that is quintessentially British and adapting it in a way that I didn't feel was reflective of the way people would remember it and the way people would want it to be. So we called time on that.Digital Spy: Q & A with Sky One head Richard Woolfe
  7. ^ "AMC—Blogs—The Prisoner". Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  8. ^ "Production Diary Week 18—That's a Wrap!".  
  9. ^ Revisit The Prisoner Online
  10. ^ Palisade interview with McGoohan widow
  11. ^ SFX Magazine, edition #188, November 2009, UK
  12. ^ "ComicCon Panel" special feature, included on the 2010 DVD release of the series by Warner Home Video.
  13. ^ "The Prisoner - Season 1 Reviews".  
  14. ^ The Los Angeles Times, "The Prisoner: The AMC remake of the cult classic '60s British spy-fi series won't hold viewers captive," by Robert Lloyd (November 14, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  15. ^ Entertainment Weekly, "The Prisoner (2009–2009)," by Ken Tucker (November 11, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  16. ^ The Chicago Sun-Times, "The TV Paige: AMC's 'The Prisoner' remake," by Paige Wiser (November 14, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  17. ^ The San Francisco Chronicle, "TV review: Prisoner remake captive of past," by Tim Goodman (November 13, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  18. ^ Alessandra Stanley (November 12, 2009) "Rethinking of a Number Between 1 and 10", The New York Times. Retrieved on November 12, 2009.
  19. ^ [1] (April 25, 2010-retrieved on November 12, 2010).
  20. ^ a b c d e f "AMC » The Prisoner". AMC. Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  21. ^ 93 is dressed identically to the original Number 6 from the 1960s series; according to an interview with Ian McKellen in SFX #188 ("The New Number Two", p.51), McGoohan was offered the role of 93, but declined.
  22. ^ "The Prisoner (2010) (R2/UK BD) in May". Home Cinema @ The Digital Fix. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 

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