10 Reasons why Twin Peaks fans should watch The Prisoner

Suffering from Twin Peaks withdrawal since the end of The Return? Scratching around the TV schedules for something that will grab you in the same way? Search no more – we have the box set for you. And it’s 50 years old this weekend.

      1. It’s the singular product of an artistic visionary

Five decades before Showtime gave David Lynch and Mark Frost a blank slate on which to create their vision of Twin Peaks The Return, ITC gave Patrick McGoohan the go-ahead to create The Prisoner. Having decided to walk away from his starring role in the hugely successful spy-fi series Danger Man, McGoohan took on the immense task creating, writing, directing, showrunning and starring in a series that was to be unlike anything that had appeared on TV before.

      1. It broke the constraints of TV as a format

Shot on film, and with an immense budget for a TV series of the day, The Prisoner broke many of the rules of conventional TV, playing with its own meta-narratives and steadfastly refusing to explain itself to the audience. One episode begins with a near-wordless twenty minutes of action; another barely even features McGoohan at all; and the series finale is as legendary as that of Twin Peaks. Only it happened 50 years ago.

      1. The setting itself is one of the best characters

Like the seemingly quaint logging town of Twin Peaks that holds many dark secrets, the Village – the setting of much of The Prisoner – is a character in its own right. The beguiling facade of the Village, with its beautiful architecture and stylish residents, threatens to seduce the viewer, even as its terrible purposes become known.

      1. If you love it, you can literally visit it

Filmed partly on location at the remarkable resort of Portmeirion in North Wales, the Village looks like it belongs anywhere and nowhere in the world. Visiting Portmeirion today feels like stepping into the very heart of the Village, so much so that if you’re walking on the beach, you can’t help looking around you to check that Rover isn’t following close behind…

      1. It’s a 1960s technical marvel

If there’s one image you’ve seen from The Prisoner, it’s almost certainly Number 6 (the Village moniker given to, and rejected by, McGoohan’s otherwise nameless protagonist) being chased by a giant white ball, otherwise known as Rover. This remarkable effect was achieved through the use of literally hundreds of weather balloons during filming, which tended to pop after every take. In other episodes, the use of split screen to create two Number 6s in a room together looks surprisingly seamless five decades on, while ingenious workarounds were used to create effects like giant flat screen TVs that bely the era it was made in.

      1. Its aesthetic is timeless

The Prisoner, like that other 60s classic The Avengers, leaned heavily on iconic 60s fashions, but the genius of the production design is that the Village was a place out of joint with the rest of the world. From the bold stripes of shop awnings to the pastel Mediterranean buildings, from the colourful capes and scarves worn by residents to the now-iconic piped jacket of Number 6 himself, the Village seemed not quite in the 60s, but neither in the future. Watching it now gives the curious sensation of watching a show both of its time, and also for ours.

      1. Its cultural influence is still felt today

The Prisoner has been referenced in works by Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, and appears in TV and film as far afield as The Simpsons, The Matrix, Shrek, Mad Men, and even the recent Battlestar Galactica. Iron Maiden recorded songs about it. And it has long been debated whether Twin Peaks itself contains nods to the series – the mask revealing a monkey beneath in Fire Walk With Me, the Number 6 telegraph poles, and the huge screens on which the criminal gang at The Farm watch Mr C interrogate Ray. But like McGoohan, David Lynch won’t be explaining anything to us.

      1. Its themes about the nature of individuality and society are universally relevant

The Prisoner is so much more than a psychedelic spy-fi romp in 1960s couture. At its heart is the tension that exists between personal freedom of conscience, and the demands of any society to live by its rules. But who sets those rules? Who is Number 1? It’s hard to watch the episode Free for All and not see in it the mirror of our modern political system, or our often poisonous public discourse and social media shaming held up to us in A Change of Mind. Fundamentally, The Prisoner is about a struggle to remain true to oneself, at all costs. 50 years on from its creation, it still remains controversial in some countries. On the series’ original 1968 screening the episode Living in Harmony was even banned in the USA.

      1. Its 50 year anniversary is the perfect time to start watching

The Prisoner debuted on UK television on 29 September 1967, and in the US on 1 June 1968. For its 50th year a brand new blu-ray set is being released that has every extra you could possibly want. Official celebrations are happening in the UK and USA, and fan-meets around the world will celebrate the show, its staying power a testament to the ability of the series to speak to each new generation.

      1. There’s so much more to discover beyond the series

The Prisoner ran for just 17 episodes, but there is much more to explore. A graphic novel sequel Shattered Visage was published in the 1980s. And a long-lost comic book series from the legendary Jack Kirby will finally see the light of day in March 2018. In 2009 a modern-day reimagining/sequel of the series was made (with mixed results). And Big Finish Productions have released two wonderful volumes of audio dramas, featuring both adapted and original stories.

The Tally Ho is a new podcast series from Time for Cakes and Ale, and it launches in just a few days! Named after the newspaper published in the Village, The Tally Ho is releasing a series of special episodes to commemorate the 50th anniversary, with interviews from writers who have published works about the series, fans, and people involved in the recent TV and audio reworkings. And in the new year, we’ll be bringing you an in-depth episode-by-episode podcast looking at the original 17-episode run in its entirety, with some very special guests. We hope to bring The Prisoner to a new audience of fans. If you loved Twin Peaks and you’re looking for something challenging, provocative and artistically unique, you can’t go far wrong with The Prisoner. 50 years later, it is still happening, again.

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