The Prisoner Review: No Escape From Quality
THE PRISONER: Saturday 8th May, ITV1, 9pm ALERT ME
Having caused a small ripple in the OnTheBox comment pond last time, The Prisoner returns once more to be viewed, reviewed and debated over. Despite my passion for the original and being a professional hater of change (especially American-inspired alteration), I still unashamedly very much like this remake.
Contrary to my previous assertions, it’s nigh on impossible not to compare this to the original – but even when one does so, it has assets that stand up and even usurp the fantastic 60s classic. Take, for example, No. 2. In 2010 we have Sir Ian – a constant, devilishly clever, psychological bastard who is ever-present in the undermining of 6 and perpetual confusion of the viewer. Forty years ago, we had a shifting rota of differing No 2’s – each with their own styles, strengths and weaknesses. That isn’t a bad thing, but this time consistency gets under our skin as well as No. 6’s.
Indeed, we feel subjected to the same moral and philosophical questioning as the village’s inhabitants. Existential scruples like ‘Who needs purpose?’ and the red pill/blue pill symbolism of a mysterious black hole which could lead to escape (or ‘oblivion’), cause us to ponder our own notion of choice and free will.
In ‘Darling’, episode 4, No. 6 is drugged into liking a particular female so that No. 2 can use the connection to further delve into his thoughts. It is revealed that he remembers her from his previous New York life. And so follows a complex myriad of mixed emotions, all seeds sown by Sir Ian. What emotions are genuine in our own life, we wonder.
There are Orwellian, dystopic elements of this episode which, like many of the aspects of the Prisoner, ring true with our own messed up society. The mysterious appearance of a bottomless hole in the village brings the advice to buy a pig, because the grunting sound restores the climate – which is reportedly causing these cavernous spaces. This is no different to the media inspired hysteria we encounter and lap up whenever something of mild importance occurs in our own world. Additionally, the ‘Blink Match’ technology which is used to link no. 6 with his love interest is lifted straight from any shopping channel in the U.K or U.S.
Clearly, if you’ve seen the original – you’ll, like me, miss the wit and calm of Patrick McGoohan, and you’ll rue the style and sobriety of the old series. However, the same pertinent themes are well presented in this modern setting – and I’m a fan. Whether you have seen the 1968 version or not, The Prisoner 2010 is an important and gripping depiction of psychological torment, political allegory and philosophical questions.