Will the Doctor be The Prisoner?

Well here’s an interesting tidbit of news:

Former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston will star as Number Six in a television remake of the cult favorite series, “The Prisoner”. “The 1967 series, starring Patrick McGoohan as a former secret agent who was kidnapped and imprisoned in a mystery village, baffled millions of viewers around the world,” says the Times. “The new version, made by Granada for Sky One, will incorporate the paranoia, conspiracy theories and hi-tech action sequences of modern-day spy dramas 24 and Spooks. … Hollywood stars have also pitched for the role but discussions with Eccleston are at an advanced stage, according to production sources. However, the Welsh tourist ‘village’ of Portmeirion, where the original ATV show was filmed, will be replaced by a more exotic foreign location, probably outraging fans of the original. … Damien Timmer, executive producer of The Prisoner, said: ‘The series is like Pandora’s box; it’s the ultimate conspiracy thriller. Like 24, the new series will entrap you from the opening scene.’ Granada hopes the series will tap into the show’s cult following, while also appealing to younger viewers. It is expected to appear before a long-mooted Hollywood film remake, and Granada is expecting to sell the show internationally. McGoohan won a global fan base for the 17-episode series, which made regular use of his catchphrase: ‘I am not a number; I’m a free man.’ His nameless character — Number Six — was abducted after resigning from a top secret government position and relocated to a sinister village where nothing was as it seemed. However, Granada is promising a ‘radical reinvention’ and a plot that will make sense to viewers who watch the six-episode series.” Meanwhile, according to the Mirror, “Director of programmes Richard Woolfe promised a ‘thrilling reinvention’ of the drama about an ex-secret agent trapped in an isolated village. ‘If Doctor Who set the standard, The Prisoner raises the bar,’ he said. … ‘This project has been subject to an unprecedented level of attention, attracting an array of A-list actors and writers,’ said commissioning editor Elaine Pyke. The new series will be made by Granada from a script Bill Gallagher, writer of the award-winning series Clocking Off. ‘The Prisoner is like Pandora’s box – it’s the ultimate conspiracy thriller,’ said Damien Timmer, executive producer of the show. ‘Like 24, the new series will entrap you from the opening scene. We hope it will tap into this iconic show’s existing cult following, whilst creating a whole new generation of fans.'” Also reported at the Daily Record, The Stage, The Register, Zap2It and various other Internet news sites.

My eyes lit up when I read that report.

Unfortunately, since I first saw it, there have been subsequent reports denying that Eccleston will play Number Six; so it’s not clear who will end up starring in the proposed remake. Too bad. Eccleston would have been a good choice.

I really liked Christopher Eccleston’s take on the Doctor last year (thanks to my family in Detroit, I got regular videos recorded from Canadian television) and was sad to see him go after only one season. This year, I discovered BitTorrent, and have been watching the first few episodes of the second season, with David Tennant starring as the Doctor. He’s starting to grow on me, and perhaps I’ll do a brief review of the first few episodes in the near future. He kind of reminds me of a fusion of Tom Baker (the whimsy) and Peter Davision (the youth and seriousness), with a little bit of John Pertwee thrown in every now and then when he does some act of derring-do. And, as I discovered a couple of episodes ago, this Doctor likes Ian Dury and the Blockheads and even proposed to take Rose (his latest companion) back to 1979 to see a concert, as Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick played in the background. (In a typical Doctor fashion, he miscalculated by 100 years and ended up in 1879.) Heck, if I were that Doctor, that’s one way I’d use the TARDIS, except that I’d go back to 1977 or 1980 to see The Clash at the height of their creative powers or perhaps back to 1972 to see David Bowie performing as Ziggy Stardust or Led Zeppelin at the peak of their thunderous touring prowess.

But I digress, as I am often wont to do.

A remake of The Prisoner is an intriguing proposition. As much as I liked the show when I saw it on PBS some years ago, it was very much a product of the 1960’s. The producers are going to have to find a way to update it convincingly (and coherently) for the new century, or the result will be very curious, to say the least, and probably not in a good way. It was a truly bizarre series, not for everyone, but nonetheless quite entertaining in its own way. I’d certainly be interested in checking it out if it ever is indeed made.

If Eccleston is not the new Number Six, then who should get the role? There’s an online poll going on over that very question. So tell me: Whom would you cast as Number Six? And what about the other roles? And how would you update the series for 2006?


  1. #1 guthrie
    May 12, 2006

    INtriguing. Unfortunately, every time I see things like

    “Meanwhile, according to the Mirror, “Director of programmes Richard Woolfe promised a ‘thrilling reinvention’ of the drama about an ex-secret agent trapped in an isolated village.”

    I want to scream and run away.
    If they aren’t careful it will just be another spy drama, whereas the Prisoner was much more than that. even nearly 40 years after it was made, it is still relevant. And the original had a certain breadth of vision and incredible paranoia behind it that I dont think any modern remake could match, even given the technological advances that can be taken advantage of to increase surveillance etc.

    I guess my favourite prisoner episode is either the 2nd last one or the one with the russian woman, I think episode 3 or 4.
    (Its awfy hard to talk about this without giving away the plots)

  2. #2 Ruth
    May 12, 2006

    When my daughter was into Teletubbies, it reminded me of what The Village daycare center would have been like-bright, cheery colors and voices,but with the everpresent central control. I liked The Prisoner and I hope they don’t labotamize it in trying to update it. Trivia note-remember when McGoohan played the warden in “Escape from Alcatraz”?

  3. #3 KeithB
    May 12, 2006

    In case anybody wants to know what they missed, here is what happened during the last episode.


    When I saw it way back when the bubbles and the two guys on the teeter-totter really creeped me out.

  4. #4 guthrie
    May 12, 2006

    I think thats the idea, Keith. I’d like to see the remake re-create that sense of creepiness.

  5. #5 Tony Jackson
    May 12, 2006

    Ah memories! I was nine years old when my parents let me stay up to see the original final two episodes of ‘The Prisoner’. I vividly remember that at the time it was a big thing. Finally, we were going to find out why Number Six resigned; we were going to find out who really ran The Village; and above all, we were at last going to find out who was Number One. Instead we got an incoherent stream-of-consciousness LSD trip. Oh well, it was the Sixties, and we weren’t supposed to understand it, just ‘go with the flow’!

    But seriously, The Prisoner was so much a product of its time that I doubt whether a remake can ever recapture that anarchic ‘Kafka-on-drugs’ thing that was the original series. And I would really be disappointed (although not at all surprised)if they swapped Portmeirion for somewhere more ‘exotic’. That said, if they really are determined to do a remake, Christopher Eccleston would get my vote as Number Six. No actor does ‘paranoid edgy’ quite like him!

  6. #6 EoR
    May 12, 2006

    Funnily enough, I’m halfway through watching The Prisoner on DVD at the moment, and was going to blog about this myself (but you’ve saved me the effort). Why do these people not have original ideas, but have to keep taking other people’s ideas and “reinvent” them?

    As some great philosopher said, “There ain’t half been some clever bastards”.

  7. #7 guthrie
    May 13, 2006

    Sure EoR, but they’ve been outnumbered by the gigantic number of people who think they are clever bastards, when they aren’t.

    As for Kafka on drugs, that was the whole point, and I think it worked well. But have there been any films in the last 10 years that come anywhere near that kind of effect? Or are modern audiences now trained to not want that, or is all we want a nice straightforwards storyline with no oddities?

  8. #8 Prup aka Jim Benton
    May 13, 2006

    I’m not ready to give up on the idea yet. After all, in the past couple of years, we’ve seen a thoroughly awful tv show turned into a great one (BATTLESTAR), and The Doctor reinvented in a way that kept the original tone and yet made it better. (Of course, we’ve also seen ATLANTIS *sigh*) They might just pull it off.

    But they HAVE to remember who “The Prisoner” really was, even though it was never actually said, John Drake.

    Btw, I am eager for the second season of the new WHO, but, now that I’ve met Captain Jack, I’m also curious about TORCHWOOD and eager to here how that one plays out.

    As for other ne —- glysyjkpfrk

    “Are you my mummy?”

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