Patrick McGoohan, RIP


The creator, star, and frequent writer and director of The Prisoner, that wonderful '60s pop-surrealist anarcho-paranoid science-fiction TV series, has died at age 80.

Number Two: It doesn't matter which side runs the Village.

Number Six: It's run by one side or the other.

Number Two: Both sides are becoming identical. What in fact has been created? An international community. A perfect blueprint for world order. When the sides facing each other suddenly realize that they're looking into a mirror, they'll see that this is the pattern for the future.

Number Six: The whole world as the Village?

Number Two: That is my dream. What's yours?

Number Six: To be the first man on the moon.

—episode two, "The Chimes of Big Ben"

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  1. Now I’m really bummed.

  2. I have the complete DVD set (given to me by a friend), which I need to revisit soon. It’s been a while.

  3. condonences to our very own Number 6. (Lost_in_Translation is also a fan).

  4. Be seeing you.

  5. Dinner is going to be unmutual in my household tonight….

  6. RIP. He will be missed…

  7. I went dressed as Number 6 for Halloween 8 years ago. It took fours hours before a guy walked by that knew who I was. And these were IT people, too.

    That day, I wept for geekdom.

  8. He’s not dead, he just excaped the Village.

    We’ll miss you McGoohan, 🙁

  9. I’m going to send a set of The Prisoner DVDs to the new SoS, asking her, “Is this The Village you were looking for?” I may also send an e-mail to President Obama asking him if he’s the new Number 2.

    McGoohan was great in a number of other roles, too. I’ve always regretted that he didn’t perform in more films. Sounds like he had better things to do that to act all the time. Good for him.

  10. I went dressed as Number 6 for Halloween 8 years ago. It took fours hours before a guy walked by that knew who I was. And these were IT people, too.

    See, this is why I dress as John McEnroe instead.

    That day, I wept for geekdom.

    Tell the truth–you were just blubbering because nobody got your costume.

  11. McGoohan was great in a number of other roles, too.

    e.g. Scanners

  12. Time to break out the Iron Maiden album.

    See, this is why I dress as John McEnroe instead. What? You cannot be serious.

  13. To the question of, “Who is number one?”

    Is the answer:

    “You are number six”


    “You are, number six”

    The last episode didn’t help.

  14. What? You cannot be serious.

    Come on, joe. Curly-headed verbally-abusive guy who throws hissy-fits if he doesn’t get his way… Epi is John McEnroe, he might as well dress up like him.

  15. I’m highly dubious that you were, in fact, at an IT-geek party. Number 6 is still generally recognized. Your IT-geeks must’ve been kidnapped, taken to the Village, and replaced with exact duplicates. Exact, except that they are now left-handed!

  16. It says something profound about McGoohan and about the character he created that I always think of The Prisoner when I hear “Number 6”, not of the BSG character, despite the Cylon’s vastly superior appearance.

  17. Time to break out the Iron Maiden album.


  18. I’m highly dubious that you were, in fact, at an IT-geek party.

    There were girls there, so you might be right…

    But seriously, it had a bunch of people who did desktop support and programming. I was fucking baffled. I even made the badge and everything!

    It was a weird party as is. Two guys dressed as Harry Potter got into a fight with each other. A girl dressed as a slutty cop kept showing everybody her hideous new tit-job and no one could figure out who invited her. A tenured librarian dropped trou in the backyard and took a huge dump while shotgunning a beer.

  19. RIP, McGoohan. Loved the prisoner.

  20. Brush with goodness:

    I flew with Iron Maiden from London to New York when they were starting their Powerslave American tour in 1984. They got really drunk on the plane. The stewardesses [flight attendants] got really annoyed.

  21. “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own!”

  22. Sam,

    I’m familiar with Danger Man and know that Number 6 is generally considered to have been Drake, but I’ve never seen it. Good?

  23. I was nine when it came on. I only remember bits of it.

  24. Okay, I need an opinion on Danger Man/Secret Agent. Anyone?

  25. Funny, I just watched that episode a few days ago.

    They’re all online on at

  26. I can’t opine, not having seen Secret Agent. I’ve only heard the song.

    “Fall Out” was easily the weirdest episode of television ever.

  27. Number 6 is generally considered to have been Drake

    That’s open to interpretation. McGoohan always denied it, though some people offer arguments that his denials should be ignored.

    It’s worth noting that the person who really did “resign” was not Drake but McGoohan himself, when he broke free of Danger Man and created his own television series. Maybe the Village is really an elaborate metaphor for ITV, and the final episode reflects the fact that McGoohan was executive producer all along.

  28. Maybe the Village is really an elaborate metaphor for ITV, and the final episode reflects the fact that McGoohan was executive producer all along.

    That’s the single most boring interpretation of the Prisoner that I’ve ever heard. Either it’s genius or rubbish, and I’m not sure which.

  29. PL,

    I’ve only seen four or five, so caveat televisor… they are a lot like early Avengers episodes. Kind of slow, very talky, and all about brains or brawn. I liked what I saw, but I was viewing them through a “looking for Prisoner clues” lens.

  30. Clearly, I need to watch it.

    Odd, but I was responding to Jesse’s post above, but now my response comes before his posting. There’s something very Villagesque about that.

  31. Either it’s genius or rubbish, and I’m not sure which.

    Maybe I have a genius for spouting rubbish.

  32. I was nine when it came on.

    So who was six? I’m so confrused.

  33. Now if six turned out to be nine,
    Paul doesn’t mind, no baby, Paul doesn’t mind.

  34. Maybe I have a genius for spouting rubbish.

    That’s rubbish, everyone knows you’re a genius.

  35. A tenured librarian dropped trou in the backyard and took a huge dump while shotgunning a beer.

    This was you…admit it.

    Maybe the Village is really an elaborate metaphor for ITV, and the final episode reflects the fact that McGoohan was executive producer all along.

    Just like Shrek was a metaphor for Jeffrey Katzenberg working for Disney!

  36. That’s the single most boring interpretation of the Prisoner that I’ve ever heard.

    Impossible. All interpretations of The Prisoner are equally boring.

  37. I always wanted to walk up to McGoohan and say, “I saw The Prisoner. What happened?”

  38. Number ?,

    That’s fine, so long as you mean the interpretations are dull, not the show.

  39. McGoohan lived in L.A., never gave interviews, especially about The Prisoner. My wife was (is?) a senior member of The Prisoner fanclub in France as a teenager; she’s visited The Village. Twice, I think. She wears the bicycle pin with some regularity.

    I always wondered if Victoria Clarke (that’s the name, right?), that DoD spokesman from the Rumsfeld days, was paying homage to The Prisoner with her jackets.

  40. This is a bummer. I first saw The Prisoner as a teen and it made a h-u-g-e impression on me. I couldn’t get enough of it.

    I’d like to say it started me down the path of anti-authoritarianism, but I’m sure it contributed in its own small and unique way.

  41. Many of my lunch hours in Junior High (circa 1969) were consumed by debating whether No. 6 was Drake.

    I maintain that since McGoohan conceived of the Village having played Drake, the unofficial answer is obviously Yes, but since the shows were produced by different companies the official answer must be No.

    The starting point for The Prisoner is from a line in Secret Agent Man’s U.S. theme: They’ve given you a number, and taken ‘way your name.

    Click my name to hear Johnny Rivers.

    Cap’n NoStar

  42. 1986. World Science Fiction Convention in Atlanta. The Georgia Libertarians hold a “Prisoner Party” in one of the big suites, involving a lot of drinking and a all night viewing of the whole series.
    My wife at the time and I arrive in matching black outfits with calligraphy buttons proclaiming “Ted Knight Lives!” (as he had just died that morning).
    At one point someone changes the tape, and what comes up is a episode we have never seen before, with peculiar people walking around the Village. Suddenly, we realize we are watching an artsy porn film shot at Portmeirion. I am very drunk by this point, but the guy playing Number 69 REALLY looks like McGoohan.
    I’ve spent 20-plus years looking for a copy of this film.

  43. I went dressed as Number 6 for Halloween 8 years ago. It took fours hours before a guy walked by that knew who I was. And these were IT people, too.

    Wha? What kind of pop culture idiots do you work with?

  44. Matt,

    I’d heard he was a bit on the reclusive side. Fitting for Number 6. I suppose his individual-vs.-The State position taken on the series was a real one for him.

    The Victoria Clarke comment makes me think I should’ve included a nod to The Prisoner in my The Top 100 Things I’d Do if I Ever Became a Libertarian President. Like, “Dress as Number 6 during the State of the Union address.”

  45. Jeff P,

    If something like that no longer exists, it should be made again.

  46. Jeff P,

    Was the dwarf Number 2 in any of the scenes?

    True made-up fact: Libertarians love dwarf porn.

  47. I’ll always remember him as Dr. Paul Ruth in Scanners.

  48. Crap, I almost forgot–I met a guy who looked like a McGoohan twin (though much younger) back in 2000-2001. I don’t know where he is today, but he was living in Seattle when I met him. He was the husband of a woman I worked with at Washington Mutual, and I stared at him so long when I first saw him that I had to say, “Did you ever get abducted and live in a place called The Village?”

    He could help remake your porn flick, Jeff P. Assuming he does that sort of thing.

  49. I used to get scared as a kid by The Prisoner, especially those killer balloons….in the 70s it used to be in reruns on (irony of ironies) PBS.

  50. I had the opportunity to revisit Silver Streak the other month (it doesn’t hold up well). McGoohan plays the baddie, and he’s pretty great, if over the top.

  51. By the way, where are we on Rover technology?

  52. By the way, where are we on Rover technology?

    In my understanding, weather balloons have always had those abilities.

  53. Yes, if you get close enough to one. But I don’t think they are quite that autonomous. I’m disappointed, and I imagine that our anti-immigration friends are disappointed, too. As are our anti-emigration friends, come to think of it.

  54. That sucks. I just received the first season of the TV show “Danger Man” on DVD today.

    “Don’t forget Danger Man (aka Secret Agent).”

    While the above quote may, technically, be true, Danger Man and Secret Agent are quite different. The original 30 minute-long Danger Man never aired in the United States. The show came to the United States was renamed Secret Agent and was an hour in length.

  55. Very sorry to hear he has passed away. What an achievement for liberty “The Prisoner” was. I’m glad the Reason cats quoted that exchange from “Chimes of Big Ben”, because it really does capture the essence of the program’s outlook. I’ve always thought that the scene is one of the most important in the series, and is often overlooked. As far as the debate about Danger Man and Drake being Number Six, the cool trick of “Prisoner” was how they brought in former guest stars from “Danger Man” and gave the characters they played the same names as they’d had on “Danger”. The implication is clear, Number Six is Drake, but, just like so many things in “The Prisoner” (ex, the opening line of “you are Number Six” actually revealing the identity of Number One if you insert the comma after the second word), McGoohan had faith in the intelligence of the viewer to make up his own mind. There hasn’t been a pro-liberty achievement like this on television before or since. It stands astride the media like a colossus.

    I loved the election. Where he tries to appeal to the public’s desire to be free and retain the scraps of individual liberty they have left, and he ends up getting no attention. Only when he changes his campaign slogan to “Less work, and MORE PLAY!” do they cheer and back him. Nice.

    He questions govt run roads, govt run courts, govt run schools, and war. He pushes individual determinism, but wraps that up within a Christian perspective (the “Be Seeing You” symbol was actually an ancient Christian symbol, the “Sign of the Fish”), and tells us to open our eyes to what is going on with the growth of government. Awesome.

    I do podcasts, and was planning on producing a pod questioning some of the underlying fallacies of James Buchanan in accepting the so-called necessity of the state when writing the goundwork he laid out for the Public Choice School. This changes everything. Time to concentrate on the remarkable achievement of McGoohan.

    (BTW, fans of Dr. Who will note that in “Masque of Mandragora”, Portmerion is the location used to depict medieval Italy. Nice. And one more thing, McGoohan said that the use of Number 1 facilitated their ability to use the Roman Numeral I, like the word “I”, the singular pronoun, throughout the show, implying that we are prisoners of our own making.)

  56. Shit. Godamnit.
    At least the man died leaving one great work of art.
    Thanks, Patrick, for everything.

  57. Gardner: Which episode had the scene where someone says something like “That would be anarchy!” — and Number 6 replies, “Hear, hear!”?

  58. Jesse-That could be Free For All. It’s certainly a familiar line.
    Incidentally, I’m not using this handle as some kind of comment on McGoohan’s passing. I’ve been Number 6 on line for close to a decade. That show was the best thing to ever appear on television.

  59. Jesse,

    According to this article (danger! PDF!), it’s from “Carnival of Death”:

    Number 2: “It’s the duty of us all to care for each other. . .Without discipline there would be anarchy.”
    Number 6: “Hear! Hear!”

  60. Jesse! Great memory! I don’t recall which ep that line is from, but I’ll do some digging and see if I can find out!

    Don’t go being “unmutual” now, hear? 🙂

  61. Kaaaaaaahn! I just read that Ricardo Montalban has died at 88.

    Cap’n NoStar

  62. Ricardo Montalban passed away today, as well. Rats.

  63. . . .as I just learned from the Captain.

  64. PL. Well done. In the span of a few minutes you come thru. Awesome.

  65. “We offered the world ORDER!”

  66. Jeff P,

    Would it have hurt us to allow Khan to enslave the Enterprise? I feel bad now.

  67. As a transhumanist I support eugenic supermen, but only if the chicks dress like Khan’s babe cohorts.

    Fantasy Island did have some Prisoner-esque moments. It’d be a great piece of fanfic if one was built on the cold war ruins of the other.

    Also, I always thought other brit TV stars should end up in the Village. John Steed. Hyacinth Bucket. The Young Ones.

  68. Maxwell Smart.

  69. In tribute, a collection of Khan toys

  70. My sister, younger, went for Secret Agent man, I for the Prisoner. However, my friend Jenny Loren, who appreciated both, far preferred the former, saying Prisoner was like one note isolated from they symphony of John Drake.

    And yes, of course they’re the same character. McGoohan didn’t own the rights to Drake, or that would’ve been made explicit rather than being left a tease. Jenny does say that as the Secret Agent series drew to a close, the development of his character and relationships prequel nicely to The Prisoner.

    I share his and his character’s birthday.

  71. Jeff P,

    That’s a lot of Khan.

  72. This site has lots of good Prisoner pics and tidbits:

    One my favorite lines from Dance of the Dead goes something like:

    #2: Have a drink.
    #6: I don’t drink.
    #2: Then you’ll enjoy it all the more

    I thinks it’s about 20% because of this series I need a new bulb for my projector (and another 40% just because of Blake’s 7 and Blackadder – yeah, nerd)

  73. Don’t forget that McGoohan appeared in four episodes of “Columbo” and directed five (winning a couple of Emmys for his work).

    As for Montalban, I’ll always remember him as the villain in one of the weirdest “Wild Wild West” episodes.

  74. He was also the villain in the Kathy Lee Crosby Wonder Woman movie.

  75. I remember that episode of The Wild, Wild West! Great fun.

    Jeff P,

    Lynda Carter is Wonder Woman.

  76. Cathy Lee Crosby is a flat-chested loser. Check me out.

    Wondersome, right?

  77. Y’know, as hot as Lynda was, that show was horrible. Three times as hokey as Bionic Woman. Especially when Diana Prince became a secret agent. There are no “classic” episodes of WW. Even as a hormonally driven teenager I found it unbearable. There were time you could actually see the soul-crushing pain on Lyle Waggoner’s face as he delivered his lines.

  78. BTW, McGoohan also starred in a Disney release called “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh”, in which he played a smuggler who fought oppressive gubment. The song was uncanny:

    “Scarecrow! Scarecrow-o…
    The soldiers of the King feared his name.
    Scarecrow, scarecrow-o…
    The country folk all loved him just the same.”

    And he had this “wicked” cackle, a signature laugh that would freak out the baddies. Awesome. It’s based on a real smuggler, who was also the inspiration for an early Dr. Who episode in the 1960’s.

    One more item. Ron Grainer composed the theme for “The Prisoner”, he also did the notes for Dr. Who, that were turned into the most incredible sounds by Delia Derbishire. Those Brits, man, they got a heck of a lot of talent! 🙂

  79. Dude, the old Wild Wild West ruled. I wept tears when they remade it with the f*cking Fresh Prince…
    I for one loved the midget. Sweet.

  80. RIP Mr McGoohan

    The Prisoner’s my fav TV show, I grew up not far from “The village” and me and my mates used to go get High there when we were kids. My sis got married there last year, now the rooms of the village are rentable and have TV’s that show the prisoner on loop!

    Its a shame he didn’t last out for the new series being shot in Africa

    Can’t be as good but should be entertaining all the same

    Be seeing you >o

  81. Those Brits, man, they got a heck of a lot of talent!

    Had talent, had.

    British pop culture is 99.99% shit now.

  82. MNG,

    You fool!!! It was not Smith but Kevin Kline! Though had you had no Kevin Kline, Smith would have made the movie unbearable then.

  83. Naga,

    That movie sucked on levels that movies shouldn’t suck on. I loved the series, though.

  84. “At least the man died leaving one great work of art.
    Thanks, Patrick, for everything.”


    John Drake was a secret agent of a type never seen before or since. No gadgets, few guns, no supervillians, and he is often struggling for his life of the lives of others.

    “Secret Agent” was one of the Triad (Intellect). The others were James Bond (Power) and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” (Adventure).

    If you saw representative episodes from all three series, you saw every spy show you will ever need. If you missed one, your education is sadly lacking and no substitute will suffice.

  85. “BTW, McGoohan also starred in a Disney release called “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh”, in which he played a smuggler who fought oppressive gubment.”

    This is available on Disney DVD (one of the metal-packed collections, I think it’s packaged with Leslie Nielsen as The Swamp Fox).

    I watched the show as a little kid, and didn’t make the connection between McG as Dr Syn and McG as John Drake until seeing The Prisoner. Beats heck outta me what synapse link fired to make me see that!

  86. Want a dose of irony? I just did a search at the Fry’s Electronics site for McGoohan. The result:

    “Number of Items 6”

  87. Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around…

  88. No Pro Liberate. Now don’t get me wrong, it sucked hard. Two dollar hooker at a truck stop kind of sucking. However, I believe movies of which you speak are rare. Such as this one. More on this here.

  89. While I watched most of The Prisoner and Danger Man as a kid, my favorite Patrick McGoohan role was when he was featured in Columbo. The acting chemistry between Patrick McGoohan and Peter Falk was utterly brilliant. R.I.P. Patrick.


  90. Alcatraz was built to keep all the rotten eggs in one basket, and I was specially chosen to make sure that the stink from the basket does not escape. Since I’ve been warden, a few people have tried to escape. Most of them have been recaptured; those that haven’t have been killed or drowned in the bay. No one has ever escaped from Alcatraz. And no one ever will!


    Watch the Complete 1967 Prisoner Series Online at

    Fans of The Prisoner circa 1967 were chomping at the bit when AMC
    started shooting its reinterpretation of the beloved television series
    last year. This year, fans are getting even more good news with the
    launch of’s classic Prisoner series minisite, where you can
    view full screen versions of all 17 original episodes or, if you don’t
    have that kind of time, watch one-minute recaps that tell you the story
    in brief. Delve deeper into the series with episodic photos from both in
    front of the camera and behind-the-scenes, and a No. 2 Tournament that
    pits No. 6’s foes against each other. Finally, log onto the Talk forum
    to share your theories with fellow fans.

    Click here to enter The Prisoner 1960s site.

  92. Oops.

    Colin @ January 14, 2009, 2:45pm already posted this information.

  93. How long will it take Obama to actually close The Village?

  94. I understand that on his death, a large, brilliantly white ball engulfed Patrick and then ascended.

    RIP Patrick…

  95. World’s most beautiful man. God should send him back as a permanent 32 year old. Perfectly handsome men like Patrick McGoohan should never

  96. My second grade school picture mimicks Pat’s steely glare from The Prisoner’s opening titles. My prom tux was dark blue with white piping.

    By hook or by crook, we’ll be seeing you, No. 6.

  97. he was also the secret agent, a spy show with one of the greatest theme songs in television history.

    my own brush with goodness: growing up as a lad in pacific palisades, there was a longstanding, pervasive rumor that patrick mcgoohan had purchased the house next to the house behind us (so that our properties touched at a single point) but nobody in the neighborhood, and i mean nobody, ever caught sight of him. that’s how secret he was!

  98. The Prisoner (that big ole bouncing ball and the villagers shuffling about in their bright clothing) really helped shape my view of the world.

    And the evil masquerading as benevolence and caring that kept The Prisoner from freedom.

    No, I won’t draw any parallels with this country’s new world order.

    Will I ?

  99. Gardner Goldsmith,

    More McGoohan trivia…

    My home (Dymchurch in Romney Marsh Kent) is the setting for the entirely fictional Dr Syn, and the character has since become the basis an enjoyable local pageant, complete with smugglers, excise men etc.

    McGoohan visited Dymchurch on several occasions and afaik used the beaches to film the sequences with the man-eating balloons.

    I have no idea what he thought of Dr Syn, but smuggling was a very active affair on Romney Marsh for a long time, being isolated, easily accessible by small boat and a shortish trip from France. Government was a dirty word on the marsh, being synonymous with taxes and soldiers. For various historical reasons, it had a unique government setup and a special relationship to the British crown.

    Needless to say, it has since been absorbed into the local government Borg, and the locals have been largely displaced, but there are parts of the marsh where the old independent ethos survives,and there is a healthy smuggling trade, though mostly in people now.

  100. He is very fondly remembered here.

  101. I noticed George Markstein in the credits. He wrote a few spy novels.

  102. I loved the Prisoner. I also loved it when McGoohan, as Edward Longshanks in Braveheart, tossed his son’s lover out the window.

  103. What always makes me laugh about the “Village” is that it resembles the town center of every freakin’ “planned community” ever built in the U.S., like Reston and Columbia. You know, the faux-Bavarian “village” cluster fronting on a small artificial lake? Guys like James Reston were too dense to appreciate the irony of their “planned” designs, since the TV series preceded their designs by a few years. But then, many politicians, policy makers, media types and other celebrity loudmouths whose opinions we didn’t solicit show the same lack of embarrassment when they sound like caricatures from an Orwellian nightmare.

  104. “”””””I loved the Prisoner. I also loved it when McGoohan, as Edward Longshanks in Braveheart, tossed his son’s lover out the window.””””””””

    Now, wasn’t that perversely satisfying? Was it not also delicious when the gay community screeched and howled that this was deliberate homophobia?

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