Number Six (The Prisoner)
|The Prisoner character|
Patrick McGoohan as Number Six.
|First appearance||"Arrival" (original)|
|Last appearance||"Checkmate" (remake)|
|Created by||Patrick McGoohan
|Portrayed by||Patrick McGoohan (original series)
Nigel Stock (original series, episode: "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling")
Jim Caviezel (2009 series)
Mark Elstob (Big Finish)
|Nationality||British (original series), American (2009 series)|
Much of Number 6's background is kept a mystery during the series, including his name. Throughout the series, he is known by a variety of names, including: The Man, The Prisoner, Peter Smith, Schmidt, Duval, and ZM-73.
In the first episode, it is stated that he was born on 19 March 1928 (the same date as McGoohan's birthday), and that he held a position of some responsibility with the British government, possibly in some branch of British Intelligence, but the exact nature of his job is not known.
Possible life before capture
During the episode "Once Upon a Time", Number 6 undergoes an intense form of brainwashing/interrogation in which his mind is reverted to that of a child, and he is made to relive major events of his life.
Among these events presented is the suggestion that, as a young man, Number 6 caused a fatal car accident due to speeding. It is also suggested that he attended some sort of private school and was once punished for not telling the headmaster about some of his friends' rule-breaking activities. Later in the episode, it is also stated that Number 6 was a bomb-aimer during "The War." It was also established that Number 6 worked for a British banking firm before being enrolled in a top secret government job.
Other episodes suggest that he was a spy or similar operative, though director Alex Cox stated in a 2017 book that he was in fact a rocket engineer who resigned from his work because he felt his research was being misused. He is shown to be highly sagacious, if not a genius, with tremendous proficiency and expertise in subjects ranging from fencing, boxing and marksmanship to mathematics, languages and astronomy.
Prior to his capture by the Village, he was engaged to be married to Janet Portland, the daughter of his superior, Sir Charles Portland.
Capture and Village life
It is not clear why Number 6 was captured. One theory is that those in control of the Village are testing Number 6 to find out why he resigned from his engineering work. Several episodes allude that residents of the Village are either scientists or ex-spies.
In the final episode,"Fall Out", Number 6 and several other residents appear to have escaped the Village. However, his ultimate fate is not revealed, and McGoohan repeatedly maintained in interviews that Number 6 doesn't have his freedom.
Adaptations and remakes of Number 6
In the late 1980s, DC Comics published Shattered Visage, a four-issue comic book based on The Prisoner, with events taking place twenty years after the television series. It was illustrated by Mister X and written by Dean Motter and co-writer Mark Askwith.
In the mini-series, Alice Drake is shipwrecked on the shores of the Village and meets an older Number 6, the single resident of the Village.
Shattered Visage received mixed reviews, with many complaints stemming from the contradictions present in the comics when compared to the television series.
The Prisoner was remade in a 2009 mini-series produced by AMC with Jim Caviezel playing the part of Number 6. Despite receiving mixed reviews, the remake was nominated for several awards, including an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie and Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a Movie.
Many fans of The Prisoner believe that Number 6 is really John Drake, the character that McGoohan played in Danger Man. McGoohan has always denied the theory, and in a 1966 interview in The Los Angeles Times, he stated that "John Drake of Secret Agent is gone." Furthermore, McGoohan stated in a 1985 interview that Number 6 is not the same character as John Drake, adding that he had originally wanted another actor to portray the character.
However, script editor George Markstein, who co-created the series with McGoohan, always claimed that Number 6 is John Drake. According to Markstein, he conceived The Prisoner as a sequel of Danger Man when McGoohan resigned from the role.
Official novels based on the series also make this connection, specifically those written by Thomas Disch and David McDaniel, though these are generally not considered canonical. McDaniel's novel refers to Number 6 as "Drake" from its very first sentence: "Drake woke."
While John Drake and Number 6 look identical and have the same moral integrity, profession, skills, and mannerisms, some differences are noteworthy. Drake is a less emotional, more restrained character while Number Six has a tendency to be outraged and furious as well as superior and condescending. Drake is a regular smoker and drinker while Number Six smokes only twice in The Prisoner and claims to rarely drink.
In popular culture
- The Simpsons episode "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes", parodies The Prisoner, with McGoohan reprising his role as Number 6 and Homer Simpson as Number 5.
- Number Six, played by Tricia Helfer, is a character on the television series Battlestar Galactica. According to Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion, it is a tribute to the original character.
- In the second volume of the Tales of the Shadowmen series, Xavier Mauméjean's short story, entitled "Be Seeing You!", has Sherlock Holmes in the role of the original Number 6.
- Several Iron Maiden songs allude to the original series. In the song, "The Prisoner", lines from the original series are played at the beginning of the song. The Village is also the backdrop of the song, "Back in the Village" along with the lyrics: I don't have a number, I'm a name!
- In the Fringe episode entitled Letters of Transit, Walter Bishop says loudly "I am not a number! I'm a free man!"
- In the Battle Angel Alita sequel series, Last Order, main character Alita is confronted by Sechs, German for "Six," who is a clone of Alita during her TUNED years. Sechs, in turn, is trying to fight for her freedom and individuality and believes that defeating Alita will grant her that.
- In "Ready Player One (film)", the army of debt-indentured players belonging to Innovative Online Industries (IOI) is derisively referred to as "Sixers," because each has given up their name in exchange for a number.
- I Am (Not) A Number: Decoding The Prisoner, Kamera, 2017, ISBN 0-85730-175-6
- Calia, Barrington (Summer–Fall 1985). "Talking With McGoohan". New Video.
- An Interview with George Markstein Archived 25 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
- McDaniel, David (1969). The Prisoner #2. New York: Ace Books. p. 1. ASIN B001Q6TDUU.
- Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion, Titan Books, 2005, ISBN 1-84576-225-8