I first watched THE PRISONER, I was mesmerized. I identified
with Number Six, and I racked my brain to figure out what the show
meant. It seemed to be telling me something about my own life, something
about the human condition, something important, if I could only
unravel the clues. Many Six of One members report similar
experiences. People have told me, for example, that when the show
first premiered, they made audiotapes and even took pictures of
the television screen, hoping to make sense of episodes later.
wasn't easy. The first time we saw it, "Fall Out" blew
all of our minds. McGoohan said viewers found "Fall Out"
confusing because they expected to see a super villain like Goldfinger,
and the episode didn't deliver one. I would add that we also expected
to see a superhero, but "Fall Out" disappointed us there
too. Number Six turned out to be a very complicated figure, not
what are we to make of Number Six?
start with the inscription our German contingent wrote in the Prisoner
Shop guestbook at last year's convention: "The German friends
of the Prisoner - Nummer 6 -- commemorate Patrick McGoohan with
a big THANKS for his gift for thinking people everywhere worldwide.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH, MR. EVERYMAN!"
NUMMER 6 M.A. DER AKADEMISCHE PRISONER
thinking people, let's think!
THE PRISONER is a complex work, but today I would like to focus
on Number Six, especially on what I'm going to call his "shadow
side." Our Everyman is a complicated guy - like each of us.
He has a capacity for good as well as for evil. That's evident by
the time we get to "Fall Out", but we've actually seen
many hints of it before.
for a minute about this dialogue from "Free for All":
You are afraid of death.
Number 6: I am afraid of nothing.
Manager: You are afraid of yourself. You are aware of that. Good.
what are we to make of this? Why does or should Number Six fear
HEROIC NUMBER SIX
in THE PRISONER, we see Number Six heroically defending his individuality,
not being frightened by it. It's a virtue he thinks others should
acquire. As he exhorts his fellow Villagers in "Free For All":
"Unlike me, many of you have accepted the situation of your
imprisonment and will die here like rotten cabbages. The rest of
you have gone over to the side of our keepers.... I intend to discover
who are the Prisoners and who are the Warders."
ZIEGLER MIT IAN L. RAKOFF, AUTOR DER EPISODE "LIVING IN HARMONY"
seems quite sure of himself. The series emphasizes that confidence,
since almost every episode begins with the iconic beach scene where
Number Six proclaims, "I am not a number! I am a free man!"
can think of many other occasions where Number 6 asserts his identity.
One of the most spectacular is in "Once upon a Time":
Six: Units are not for me.
Number Two: You are a member! Of the Village!
Number Six: No!
Number Two: You are a unit!
Number Six: No!
Number Two: Of society!
Number Six: NO!
Six' resistance is so epic that the Village president in
"Fall Out" concedes, "You have been such an example
to us... You are pure... Your revolt is good and honest." And
he instructs the tribunal: "He
must no longer be referred to as Number Six, or a number of any
kind. He has gloriously vindicated the right of the individual to
be individual and this assembly rises to you, sir!"
course, we didn't need to look at any of those clips, as we simply
could have recited together: "I will not be pushed, filed,
stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my
CONFLICTED NUMBER SIX
far there doesn't seem any reason for Number Six to be afraid of
himself - but The Prisoner reveals darker sides of our Everyman.
In "A. B. and C." we learn that Number Six can protect
his secrets from the Village in his drugged dreams, but his
real dreams reveal a man in unremitting torment.
14: Now we've got his thought waves, all we have to do is convert
them into pictures. And here are his thoughts.
Number Two: Extraordinary. How very single-minded.
Number 14: He's not conventional.
Number Two: I sometimes think he's not human.
Number 14: It's an anguish pattern.
reflection will reveal other troubling features about Number Six.
Though he begins his election campaign in "Free For All"
defiantly promising to distinguish the warders from the prisoners,
by the end of the episode, as he snaps out of his brainwashed state,
he speaks as though he's been a boss his whole life: "I
am in command! Obey me and be free!" It is no wonder that
Number Two promised Number Six that if he wins, he will be in charge,
and "Number 1 will no longer be a mystery to you, if you
know what I mean."
"Checkmate" hammers home that point, emphasizing Number
Six' affinity to his masters. The escape team's success depends
upon distinguishing the prisoners from their warders. This task
is easy once they realize that their jailers are naturally arrogant.
Unfortunately, so is Number Six, and his "reliable men"
abandon him just when freedom seems within reach. Number 2 sees
the funny side of this.
Number Two: You've only yourself to blame.
Number Six: How dyou make that out?
Number Two: I gather you managed to avoid selecting guardians
by detecting their subconscious arrogance. As it happened, there
was one thing you overlooked.
Number Six: What was that?
Number Two: Rook applied to you your own tests. When he took
command of this little venture, your air of authority convinced
him you were one of us. (He smiles)
Number Six: And he convinced the others. What's happened to them?
Number Two: Oh, they'll turn up tomorrow on the chessboard -
all his courage, Number Six is a prisoner of his own personality.
Others recognize him, not as a man free to choose his own identity,
but as someone who has more in common with Village authorities
than with his fellow inmates. If we think about how comfortable
Number Six is in using Village methods to destroy Number
Two in "Hammer Into Anvil," it's easy to see why the Manager
in "Free For All" observed, "You are afraid of
NUMBER SIX COMES FULL CIRCLE
scene in "Fall Out "where Number Six finally confronts
Number One reveals Number Six' desperation to define his own identity.
We hear the "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped" speech
two times as Number Six proclaims his autonomy. Then he unmasks
Number One, revealing a babbling ape. Behind the ape mask, we see
Number Six' leering face. There's nothing suave or masterful here;
Number Six has met his shadow side, and they are both screeching.
Ultimately, Number Six chases his alter ego into the rocket cone
preparatory to blasting him into space. Bizarre a development as
that is, it should not surprise us. Number Six always tries to destroy
his shadow self. Remember "Schizoid Man"?
off one's shadow self never works - it always returns, because it's
part of who we really are. So, by the end of "Fall Out,"
Number Six has come full circle. The undertaker is back on the prowl,
and Everyman is back in circulation. Both hero and villain, both
prisoner and warder, Number Six is a complex character in a complicated
narrative whose powerful story compels us to ask ever again: "What's
it all about?" It's good that we are thinking people, because
there are no simplistic answers.
is precisely why we come to the Village to enter into a "televisionary
masterpiece" and learn its wisdom. When we understand THE PRISONER,
we will understand what it means to be human: the good, the bad,
and the ugly. We are right to be afraid; we are also right to be
they are a burden)
1. Number Six is scared of himself. What should we be scared of?
Can any of us be free (or innocent), since, like Number Six we have
a "shadow side"?
One commentator has argued the whole point of THE PRISONER is that
each of us is a prisoner unto ourselves, responsible for our own
Village, our own pain and our own reformation. Convincing?
If there are no super villains and no superheroes in the real world,
what's the point?
It's clear that the Village is bad. Looking at the "shadow
side" of Number Six suggests that individuals, even the most
heroic ones, are flawed too. How then should we live? If Number
One is both within us and outside us, what hope is there?
McGoohan argued that Number One was "the most evil thing on
earth," and he identified it with "the evil part of
oneself that one is constantly fighting until the moment of our
demise." This shows that answers really are a burden to
others. Is this how you interpret Number One?
Early members of Six of One have told me that they called
it an Appreciation Society, not a fan club, because they were interested
in exploring the implications of THE PRISONER. Where do we go from
I have seen an early description of Six of One in which the society
claimed that, with its activities, The Prisoner had reached not
an end, but a beginning. Where do we go from "Fall Out"?
What episode of DANGER MAN does our discussion of Number Six' "shadow
side" bring to mind? What parallels do you see?
If you saw the AMC PRISONER, you know that [SPOILER ALERT]
it ends differently than "Fall Out." Is the AMC 6 a stronger
character than Number Six, or is he just delusional about his motives?
text wurde für die PRISONER Convention 2010 als präsentation
und diskussionsgrundlage verfasst.