I was sad to pick up the newspaper this morning and read that actor Patrick McGoohan had died yesterday at age 80. (Yes, believe it or not, I still get some of my news first from the morning paper.)

I was, and still am, a big fan of  The Prisoner, the late ’60s cult-classic TV series for which McGoohan was both creator and star. I remember watching the series as a teenager, and later re-watching it as a young adult, marveling not only at the  twisty plotting and clever dialogue but at the fantastic setting of The Village, where McGoohan’s character, a kidnapped secret agent, was being kept as a prisoner known only as Number Six.

For a long time, I thought that The Village was some amazing cinematic set constructed just for McGoohan’s show, rather as Robert Altman had constructed a town in Malta as the set for his film Popeye. Only later did I discover that The Village is a real place: the fairytale resort of Portmeirion, on the coast of Wales. I resolved long ago to go to Portmeirion on some future vacation. And though I haven’t made it there yet, I still hold out hope that the journey could happen someday.

So many bits of The Prisoner are imprinted on my brain, although I haven’t viewed the series in years. The driving, pulsating theme music; the cool car McGoohan drives in London, a vintage Lotus roadster with the very British licence plate of “KAR 120C”; his awakening to the surreal world of The Village, where everyone dresses nicely and wears a badge bearing their number; the Prisoner’s defiant rant, “I am not a number! I am a free man!”; the deferential dwarf butler; the tall guy who looks like an undertaker; the Village’s omnipresent symbol of the penny-farthing bicycle; the bureaucratic “new Number Two” saying, “By hook or by crook, we will”; the mystery of Number One; “Be seeing you”; and the ominous watchdog Rover, a giant balloon-like bubble that chases and envelopes anyone who tries to escape.  I swear that I have had nightmares about that Rover.

When I went online to read more about McGoohan’s passing, I discovered that the cable channel AMC is making a new version of the series, starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen. This, of course, seems like complete heresy — but I’m cautiously hoping to be pleasantly surprised when I actually see the series.

Meanwhile, I also discovered that AMC is doing us the enormous favor of streaming all 17 episodes of the original Prisoner on its website.  Go check them out.

And, oh yes… be seeing you.

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