R.I.P. Patrick McGoohan
15/01/09 17:19 | Permalink
I am not the type of person who squeals with excitement when I see a celebrity. In fact, I usually walk the other way. However, there was one celebrity I hoped to one day meet: Patrick McGoohan. Unfortunately, that will not happen, since Patrick McGoohan passed away on January 13, 2009. He was 80.
Patrick McGoohan was the man behind the 1960s British television show "The Prisoner." For those who don't know, the show is about a secret agent who resigns "for his own reasons." As he is packing for a vacation, he is knocked out by gas. He awakes in what looks like his apartment, but soon learns it's really an exact reproduction located in "the Village." The character, known only as Number 6, is then interrogated by "Number 2":
Prisoner: Where am I?
Number Two: In The Village.
Prisoner: What do you want?
Number Two: Information.
Prisoner: Which side are you on?
Number Two: That would be telling. We want information, information, information...
Prisoner: You won't get it.
Number Two: By hook or by crook we will.
Prisoner: Who are you?
Number Two: The new Number Two.
Prisoner: Who is Number One?
Number Two: You are Number Six.
Prisoner: I am not a number. I am a free man.
Number Two: Ha, ha, ha, ha....
All but two episodes begin this way, with a new Number Two in place to discover why the Prisoner resigned. With each episode, more invasive means are used to get the answer. But the Prisoner never breaks. He breaks them.
I take the show as celebrating the strength of the true individual, a person who does not cave in to the pressures of society. My wife and I watched all of the episodes (1-2 each evening) a few months ago. Although the show's sets now look a bit dated, the show's subject matter is chillingly relevant: supposedly "free elections" where the result is foreordained; an authoritarian government that knows everything its citizens say and do; the illusion of freedom in a free society.
Today, we have "American Idol" and "Survivor." In 1967, we got "The Prisoner." I am forever grateful to Patrick McGoohan for the latter.