Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Prisoner

Spoiler Rating: High. I mean get real, this show has been out since 1968. I'm probably the last fanboy in the world to see it. Well, at least the last in my generation. Not that Nickie didn't try to get me to see it, and we did watch the first three episodes, and I enjoyed it enough, but for some reason we never got back to it. Not enough spaceships, perhaps? Beats me. But I digress.

Well, at least Rich got me back on the right path and showed them to me. Now a great wrong has been righted and I've finally seen it.

So, what'd I think of it?

Well obviously it's given me a lot to think about over the last four months. And that was part of what I always liked about it, that it would stay with me after I watched it. I'd find myself thinking about it during the week, considering different angles of what it said.

Not to mention it has a great theme song and 60's cinematography.

The final meeting between Number 6 and Number 1 is probably one of the worst kept secrets in science fiction history, right up there with the endings to Soylent Green and Planet of the Apes. I tried to put it out of my mind as I watched the series, but I have no doubt that it colored my perceptions somewhat. Which is a bit of a shame, because if I hadn't already known it, I wouldn't have interpreted it that way. What I saw left me with the message that beasts and madmen are the ones in charge. The fact that the madman is also played by Patrick McGoohan adds an extra level to it, that the madmen and the beasts are also in ourselves. I had been taking the lesson that we become our own jailers by turning into the things we fight, which is probably a valid interpretation; but I the interpretation I got on my own is that we can drive those bestial and maniacal sides of ourselves out and take charge.

The lessons in the show about the importance of the individual in society obviously spoke to me. Rebellious individuals like Number Six are the ones who shake up society and bring about change. And then that change becomes the status quo for the next generation to rebel against and shake up.

Which leads to the concept that we are all prisoners to society. Which is true of course, we have to live within the rules, codes and mores of society. I wanted to change the world when I was 21, and if I couldn't change it I'd start up my own commune where we'd all live the way we want. I still think of that a lot, but I'm also happy living in my suburban home in my conventional marriage with my conventional daughter and four cats. Do we redefine freedom as we get older, or do we just sell out? My family has freedom to believe what we want, but we're still prisoners of the economic system. Heck, I find that I censor myself when talking with other co-workers, other parents or even my daughter. But what's the alternative? Utopia or anarchy? "All You Need Is Love" while the machine guns are blazing?

I could probably ramble on and on, but you get the point. There's lots of great questions raised in this show, and just like Evangelion, possible answers are given in clues but ultimately you are left to interpret them for yourself, with no real wrong answers.

Like I always say when I finally get around to watching or reading a classic... "Now I understand what all the fuss is about," and "They call it a classic for a reason."


RevNickie said...

Hilarious that you mention me at th beginning. I saw this in FB, and was like "srsly? only now?"

I am teaching a class on the Sociology of Culture now, and can point to this show as a true counter-point to the whole cold-war era "we're the good guys against the commies" thing. Patrick McGoohan was of course the main character on "Secret Agent" (or "Danger Man") a cold-war era western spy action show, which did deal with ethical concerns. The theme song lyrics of the American version contain the line "They're giving you a number/And taking away your name." The Prisoner is a commentary on overly jingoistic portrayals of the west against the rest. You never know whose side his captors are on. The point is that it is unimportant. Neither side is morally correct when mutually assured destruction (via nuclear holocaust or conventional wars) is at stake. Good write up from you!

Fer said...

Why thank you!! Yeah, I can't believe it took me this long either. Most guys buy a sports car for their midlife crisis; me, I feel the need to finally see any classics that I've missed.

Loved the cold war analogy. I knew about the "Secret Agent" connection, and that of course it didn't matter which side ran the Village, but it hadn't occurred to me that being deep in the middle of the cold war saying "our side might not be any better than theirs" was making such a radical statement.

greatplaidmoose said...

I'm very glad you enjoyed it. Its one of the few television shows that are touted as the greatest of all time that I really feel there's no fan bias or hyperbole making that claim.

And its a rare show in that although certainly the costumes and effects are dated, the concept is not and although written during the cold war it all very much applies today as it did then.