question above all questions: Who is Number One? An
answer is given indeed in THE PRISONER or, rather, a couple
of answers, that is. Which does add even more to this particular
There is George Markstein who, along with McGoohan was the
main source for the series, very much deserves this attribute. He
is the bald man behind the desk, seen briefly in almost every opening
sequence, who is confronted with the apparent anger and presented
the papers of resignation of the man who later will be known as
Number Six. In reality things had happened vice-versa.
on George Markstein is scarce. Inconsistent dates of birth circulate. What appears to be fact is that he was born in Berlin in 1929 (English Wikipedia: 1926, French Wikipedia: 1929) and, together with his Jewish mother, moved to Great Britain in the 1930s when the Nazis took over power
in Germany. Elsewhere it is reported that he also lived in the USA during his youth. He died early in 1987.
After World War II he worked as a journalist in England, during the Cold War in the 50s he was a writer for a US Forces magazine. He
worked for the young British televison writing telescripts, later he became a writer of political novels. He also was script
editor on THE ODESSA FILE, a movie directed by Ronald Neame.
ROGER LANGLEY: COOL CUSTOMER: GEORGE MARKSTEIN (D)
His researches made him aware of a certain place where, during WW II, the British government had detained people with too much delicate knowledge in order to protect their knowledge or to keep them away from an enemy. They would be sent "on holiday"
so nobody would be able to get hold of them. One such "holiday resorts" for high-profile officials, located
far away in Scotland, was called Inverlair
Markstein pursued this thread, going further as to keep the character
of Number Six and the audience guessing which side was responsible
for the abduction. This was also the subject of the novels he kept
writing. As a consequence he regarded himself the inventor of THE
English Wikipedia entry now in disuse it was reported that Markstein had in fact developed
a conclusion to the series. But because of his conflict with McGoohan
he left the production and the idea was abandoned.
In this treatment Number Six, being a young agent, suggested measures
of how to get along with "retired" secret service persons
who would always be security risks, they would be kept in safety
for the rest of their lives under unintrusive surveillance. Years
later Numer Six discovered that his plan had been put into reality
- but his idea had also been perverted. The Village he had conceived
had become an interrogation and detainment camp. So, Number Six then
staged his resignation from service and, as expected, was brought
to that place. His intention was to learn as much as possible about
it and eventually destroy it from within. But as a prisoner himself
with many agents of different nationalities around, doubts arose
as to which side ran the camp. Was it his service or that of "the
the entire world was a potential "holiday camp", he would
have taken the Prisoner to the outside world where he, nonetheless,
would have stayed a prisoner of his circumstances.
McGoohan and he, had been working on DANGER MAN (SECRET AGENT),
the PRISONER precursor. To Markstein it was obvious that Number
Six was John Drake. McGoohan and he, opposite poles, are
the fundamental currents at the basis of THE PRISONER which
at the same time mark a distinguishing line: symbolic-allegorial,
existentialistic the one; the other political-practial, down-to-earth
in a way, straight forward oriented to the spy genre. Markstein
left the production before the first 13 episodes had been completed.
There was nothing left for McGoohan and him to discuss.
in an interview, left no doubt on his attitude towards things developping
in the series, "rubbish" the word he used. McGoohan,
as he saw it, was an egomaniac who would proceed only his own way,
control everything and would eventually drift into pointlessness.
THE PRISONER, to him, was the work of a team of talented people
like David Tomblin, Jack Shampan, the directors involved and of
course the authors. It wasn't just McGoohan's "opera".
On his leaving the crew he stated: "I walked out. That's
why it became silly, you see. It needed a certain hand at the helm,
CHRIS RODLEY ÜBER SIX INTO ONE: THE PRISONER FILE (D)
DAVE BARRIE: THE MARKSTEIN-McGOOHAN DEBATE (E)
MORE: COLONY THREE - DANGER MAN
will probably remain forever uncertain as to how many percent of
creative input must be attributed to any, Markstein or McGoohan.
As a matter of fact, McGoohan did have his own and quite clear conceptions
of the series as such and its features, the Village structure,
how it was supposed to work, e.g. telekommunication and certain
details concerning the production design. And
while McGoohan refused to comment on the series or the conclusion
in particular, at the most he would give cryptic statements, Markstein
did not like reading too much into it. And discussing a television
series like THE PRISONER in university courses (like in Canada)
was a rather absurd imaginaton to him.
Markstein in his own words talking for the 1984 documentary "Six
Into One: The PRISONER File" can be found as a video on the web. While Larry Hall's website, the original transcript source, is no longer online.
FOR THE 1984 SIX INTO ONE: THE PRISONER FILE DOCUMENTARY
him McGoohan as Number Six, as a TV star he was a prisoner of his
role, his face, his success. Regarding his own contribution he,
with a good deal of self consciousness, was flattered by the thought
being the real Number One.