The Prisoner
Promotional poster
Based onThe Prisoner
by Patrick McGoohan
George Markstein
Written byBill Gallagher[1]
Directed byNick Hurran[2]
Music byRupert Gregson-Williams
Country of originUnited States
United Kingdom
No. of episodes6 (list of episodes)
ProducerTrevor Hopkins[1]
Running time45 minutes (per episode) 360 minutes (Full running time)
Original release
ReleaseNovember 15 (2009-11-15) –
November 17, 2009 (2009-11-17)

The Prisoner is a 2009 six-part television miniseries based on the 1960s TV series The Prisoner. The series concerned a man who awakens in a mysterious, picturesque, but escape-proof village, and stars Jim Caviezel, Sir Ian McKellen, Ruth Wilson, and Hayley Atwell. It was co-produced by American cable network AMC with British channel ITV, which now holds the rights to the original series. It received mixed reviews, with critics feeling that the remake was not as compelling as the original series.


The series begins with an unidentified man waking up in the middle of a desert and finding himself witness to the pursuit of an elderly man by mysterious guards. The old man dies soon after, but not before asking the younger man to "tell 'them' I got out."

Soon, he arrives in an enigmatic community, referred to by its many residents as simply "The Village". Everyone he meets is nameless, but known instead by a number; he is disconcertingly familiar to them, and learns his own number is "6". Everybody he meets appears ignorant of the outside world, and the contradictions this creates in some of their thoughts.

Number 6 also appears unable to remember his real name, and recalls only brief flashes of his former life in New York City. One recurring proto-memory is having met and seduced a mysterious woman in a diner - implicitly this happened very shortly before his awakening in The Village. He finds himself locked in a battle of wills against an individual called Number 2, who appears to be the Village's leader and who goes to great lengths to make Number 6 assimilate.

Number 6, meanwhile, tries to connect with "dreamers" — Village residents who, like him, have been experiencing dreamlike memories of their lives outside of the Village. Although distrusting of all villagers, he does befriend Number 147, a Village taxi driver, and Number 313, a doctor with whom he develops a romantic connection.

Number 2 invites Number 6 to spy on his fellow villagers under the tutelage of Number 909. Each man investigates the other and 2 investigates both - it appears as if all the villagers are spying on each other and privy to one another's foibles. Number 2's son, Number 11-12, is meeting secretly with 909, and feels compelled to cover up these interactions by literally stabbing him in the back.

As Number 6's memories return piecemeal, his former name (Michael) is revealed in apparent flashback, as are a series of encounters between him in New York and many of the villagers. It appears that Michael used to work for a secretive surveillance company, Summakor, from which he (like McGoohan's spy in the original series) had recently resigned.

Number 2 has a heavily-medicated wife, and a son - Number 11-12. His son also feels like a prisoner, and Number 6's influence leads him to question his own identity, sexuality and - prompted by 6's unwillingness to conform - even the reality of his existence. Michael's feelings about his casual liaison with the now-better-recalled Lucy prior to his awakening in the Village resurfaces when he is matched by a Village agency with his onsite soulmate, and she turns out to be the same woman. Lucy now calls herself Number 4-15, is blind and initially claims no memory of their previous encounter. Number 2 manipulates 313 into betraying 6's relationship by making her own feelings for him clear, even as mysterious sinkholes open up throughout the Village into which several inhabitants fall.

Number 6 and Number 2 engage in a psychological battle involving their doppelgangers, but their final showdown reveals their doubles to be unreal - either imagined or hallucinated, bringing 11-12's concerns about the very fabric of reality to the fore, and further his existential crisis.

The final episode sees Number 2 discuss Number 313's returning memories of being Sarah, an alleged mentally disturbed woman in Michael's reality. Heavy flashbacks detail Michael's meeting with his presumed superior, Mr. Curtis; Number 147 is his driver, and the two discuss brainwashing en route to Mr Curtis, the 'real' identity of Number 2. The time relationship of the memories is questioned - Number 6 tells Number 147 that their minds are being trapped while their bodies are elsewhere, suggesting myriad interpretations of the layers of reality.

Mr. Curtis introduces Michael to his wife, Helen Blake, who has been theorising about different levels of consciousness and whether it is possible to visit them, "tak[ing] with us all these broken people and let[ting] them fix themselves" in a situation focusing on the fundamentals of life. The Villagers are revealed to have been subjects of Michael, identified by his surveillance work.

The Village exists in Helen's mind, a precarious existence threatened when Number 11-12 - having previously adjusted his mother's medication - assists in her suicide-death. Number 6 appears to be dying, sealing his fate and inability to escape. His planned funeral, however, is replaced with that of 11-12, who takes his own life. As Number 2's fictional perfect family life - and Village - crumble, he expresses a desire to cede control to Number 6-Michael, inviting Number 147 to support 6 as 'the One' capable of bringing clarity and morality to the Village - "freedom within the prison."

Mr. Curtis praises Michael's integrity, as he identifies people - including 909 and 554 - who have been 'fixed' by the Village, further confusing the time frame of interactions and overlap between the parallel narratives. Number 2 explains to 6 that it is his fear of leaving that manifests as Rover (the odd white ball that acts as boundary-keeper to the Village environs).

Number 6 pleads with Number 2 to release the villagers before they succumb to the holes tearing apart the Village; instead, he reveals a version of the truth - that they are all prisoners - as Michael learns about Sarah, who also resisted the Village and sacrificed her sanity.

In New York, Michael agrees to help Curtis save Sarah; in the Village Number 147 leads the villagers to anoint Michael-6 as 'the one' to save it alongside Sarah-313, the dreamer capable of making the sacrifice to help him sustain the unreality and try to make a 'good Village'.


Main cast

Guest cast



A remake of the 1967 TV series The Prisoner had been in the works since 2005.[3]

The miniseries was promoted at 2008 San Diego ComicCon via a skywriter airplane that sketched the phrase "Seek the Six" in the sky over San Diego. Although "Seek the Six" was initially thought to be a catchphrase of some sort, it did not appear in the final cut of the miniseries.

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.[4]


The Prisoner went into production in June 2008. Location filming for The Village was in Swakopmund, Namibia. A production diary is available.[5] After 18 weeks of shooting, principal photography wrapped on December 12, 2008.[6]

In an interview shortly after his death, Patrick McGoohan's widow said that producers of the new series had hoped that McGoohan would play a part in the revival:

They wanted Patrick to have some part in it, but he adamantly didn't want to be involved. He had already done it.[7]

This 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.[8]

Producer Trevor Hopkins confirmed in an interview 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 6 in the first series. McGoohan declined, but suggested he could play Number 2 instead.[4]


The series premiered on November 15, 2009,[9] as a miniseries on the AMC TV channel in the United States and Canada. It was also broadcast in the UK by ITV.[10][11] The six-part series premiered in the UK on April 17, 2010. AMC's website streamed all 17 episodes of the original Prisoner series in advance of showing the remake.[12]

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. ITV broadcast the episodes individually, over six consecutive Saturday nights in the spring of 2010. The DVD release restores the 6-episode format.


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

No. Title Original series title which inspired this title Original airdate
1"Arrival"[14]ArrivalNovember 15, 2009 (2009-11-15)
Number 6 wakes up in the desert, where he sees an old man, Number 93, and several pursuers shooting at him.[13] Number 93 is dragged into a cave by Number 6, where Number 93 tells Number 6 to "go to 554" before dying. Number 6 buries Number 93 and wanders into the Village, where he meets Number 2 and is grilled about the location of Number 93. He finds a confidant in Number 554, who is killed on Number 2's orders.
2"Harmony"[14]Living in HarmonyNovember 15, 2009 (2009-11-15)
Number 6 struggles to find allies to escape from the Village. Number 2 introduces Number 6 to his brother's family to convince him he belongs. Number 6 had a brother who drowned in childhood. As Number 6 begins to doubt himself, his brother admits to the facade and the pair make a failed attempt at escape. His brother drowns in the attempt, following an encounter with Rover, but Number 6 finds renewed faith in himself. Meanwhile, Numbers 2 and 11–12 are seen discussing 11-12's apparent lack of childhood memories.
3"Anvil"[14]Hammer Into AnvilNovember 16, 2009 (2009-11-16)
Number 2 offers Number 6 the opportunity to become an undercover agent, spying on suspected dreamers. Number 6 accepts with ulterior motives. He works with Number 909, who is spying on him. Number 6 follows Number 909 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 Number 909. Number 6 blackmails 11–12 to help him rescue Number 313, who has been captured and sent to the clinic.
4"Darling"[14]Do Not Forsake Me Oh My DarlingNovember 16, 2009 (2009-11-16)
The Village Matchmaking Service targets Number 6, pairing him with a woman, 4–15. Number 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 Number 6. They become lovers and plan to marry until Number 313 intervenes. 4–15 reveals to Number 6 that she is indeed Lucy, the woman Michael knew in New York; Number 2 has brought her to the Village to "break" his heart and spirit. 4–15 apparently dies by jumping into a bottomless pit that has appeared; in a concurrent flashback to New York, Lucy is apparently killed by an explosion in Michael's apartment.
5"Schizoid"[14]The Schizoid ManNovember 17, 2009 (2009-11-17)
Number 2 has embodied Number 6's animal desires in an identical double named 'Two Times Six'. Number 6 must find a way to reconcile himself with his desires or risk being manipulated by Number 2. Meanwhile, 11–12 confronts his mother, Number 313 sees more visions of her past, and Number 2 relaxes for a day as 'UnTwo'. In New York, Michael returns to Summakor to find answers. 11-12's mother reveals that bottomless holes appear when she is awake.
6"Checkmate"[14]CheckmateNovember 17, 2009 (2009-11-17)

Number 6 encounters new arrivals, which contradicts claims that no world exists. Number 2 shows off new houses, indicating the village is expanding. This is later revealed to be to increased pressure on Number 6 to replace Number 2 to stop the holes from destroying the village. Number 6 confronts Number 2 about the newcomers, but soon forgets as Number 2 reveals he has afflicted Number 6 with a disease that will kill him. Number 6 confronts 11–12 when he meets him at Number 909's grave and again at the Go Inside bar. 11–12 is unable to reconcile himself to his false identity. He 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, which Michael becomes increasingly aware of; he also encounters people in the real world that seem to be less tortured and more confident versions of people in the Village. Number 6's determination does not waver in the face of death and Number 2 allows him to live. In New York, Mr. Curtis, the real-world Number 2, introduces Michael to his wife, Helen, who, just as in the Village, is trapped in a sort of waking dream. Mr. Curtis explains that the Village is a form of therapy used to help people that Summakor has identified, although the “patients” may not have agreed to his procedure. It exists within the mind of Helen, 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 pulled into the Village because he worked so well at Summakor, finding people who needed 'help'. 11-12 is revealed to be the only resident of the Village who does not exist in the real world. Curtis' use of the Village was to work through his and Helen’s trauma of being childless, but the creation of the son threatened the Village's continued existence as it taxed Helen's mind to create someone new rather than engage existing minds. Neither could bring themselves to kill their son, but recent events have provided sufficient "rope" (inhuman behaviour including murder) that he hangs himself.

At his son's funeral, Number 2 rallies the Villagers and tells them Number 6 is the only solution to the holes, while in New York, Curtis introduces Michael to Sara, the real world counterpart of Number 313, who is homeless and insane because of childhood trauma. Michael is overcome and desires to help Sara and the villagers and replaces Curtis as the head of Summakor. Number 313, having become aware of her real-world self, becomes the dreamer, freeing Helen to return to the real world. Number 6, now stuck in The Village for good as the new Number 2, begins planning how to 'do The Village right'. Number 313, the new unresponsive dreamer, sheds a tear.


Critical response

The miniseries met with mixed reviews, scoring 46 out of 100 on Metacritic.[15]

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."[16]

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."[17]

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."[18]

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."[19]

The 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."[20] 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."[21]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated artist/work Result
2009 Satellite Award Best Miniseries The Prisoner Nominated
Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television Ian McKellen Nominated
2010 PGA Awards Television Producer of the Year in Longform Michele Buck, Damien Timmer, Rebecca Keane, and Trevor Hopkins Nominated
Emmy Award 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
Art Directors Guild Excellence In Production Design Award Michael Pickwoad, Claudio Campana, Delarey Wagenar, Emilia Roux, and Delia de Villiers Minnaar Nominated
Saturn Award Best Presentation on Television The Prisoner Nominated

Home media


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

Special features included 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:

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 include:


  1. ^ a b "AMC » the prisoner about the show". Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
  2. ^ "AMC » the prisoner about this website". Retrieved 20 October 2009.
  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. ^ a b "ComicCon Panel" special feature, included on the 2010 DVD release of the series by Warner Home Video.
  5. ^ "AMC—Blogs—The Prisoner". AMC. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
  6. ^ "Production Diary Week 18—That's a Wrap!". AMC. 12 December 2008. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Patrick McGoohan, 80; TV's "The Prisoner"". Palisadian Post. 22 January 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  8. ^ SFX Magazine, edition #188, November 2009, UK
  9. ^ "Newsflash! The Prisoner Miniseries to Premiere Sun., Nov. 15". AMC. 29 September 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
  10. ^ 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'
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Revisit The Prisoner Online
  13. ^ Number 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 Number 93, but declined.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "AMC » The Prisoner". AMC. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  15. ^ "The Prisoner - Season 1 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  16. ^ 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).
  17. ^ Entertainment Weekly, "The Prisoner (2009–2009)," by Ken Tucker (November 11, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  18. ^ The Chicago Sun-Times Archived 2009-11-18 at the Wayback Machine, "The TV Paige: AMC's 'The Prisoner' remake," by Paige Wiser (November 14, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  19. ^ The San Francisco Chronicle, "TV review: Prisoner remake captive of past," by Tim Goodman (November 13, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  20. ^ Alessandra Stanley (November 12, 2009) "Rethinking of a Number Between 1 and 10", The New York Times. Retrieved on November 12, 2009.
  21. ^ [1] (April 25, 2010-retrieved on November 12, 2010).
  22. ^ "The Prisoner (2010) (R2/UK BD) in May". Home Cinema @ The Digital Fix. Retrieved 25 April 2010.