- For the 1979 Australian television soap opera see Prisoner.
The Prisoner was a controversial 1967 UK television series, starring Patrick McGoohan and created by McGoohan and George Markstein. McGoohan himself wrote and directed several episodes, often under a pseudonym. McGoohan played Number 6, an otherwise-unidentified secret agent held captive in The Village, a special prison appearing to an outsider like a resort town, but in fact manifesting a vast coercive apparatus, bent on holding its inhabitants in complete isolation, and depriving them of their will, the secrets they each possess, and eventually their identity. However, Number 6 refuses to bend or break and never gives up resisting the warders as he tries to escape and find out the secrets of his prison.
With its 1960s counterculture message and themes, the programme has had a far-reaching effect upon science-fiction-fantasy-genre television, and popular culture in general.
Only 17 episodes were made, though McGoohan's original plan was for just seven. The network wanted a full season of 26 episodes, and 17 was decided upon as a compromise. The entire series is available on DVD in several countries, with some releases including early versions of the episodes "Arrival" and "Chimes of Big Ben".
Numerous plans to make a big screen version of the series have been considered since the 1970s, usually with star Patrick McGoohan in the position of executive producer. To date, no film production has come to fruition.
There are still fan societies devoted to the series. There is a Prisoner memorabilia shop in Portmeirion, Wales, the site of the filming of the series. Portmeirion has also played host to several fan conventions.
In 2002 the series won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.
Format and structure of the programme
The series attracted considerable attention. Rather like the later Twin Peaks, many viewers had no idea what was going on in the episodes, but watched it compulsively anyway. However, the final episode caused so much confusion that the television network was besieged by phone calls and McGoohan was even hounded at home by baffled viewers demanding explanations.
The series featured striking and often surreal story lines, including one diversion into outright parody ("The Girl Who Was Death") and simulations of hallucinogenic drug experiences. In "Many Happy Returns", Number 6 awakens to find the entire Village deserted, and eventually makes it back to London on a makeshift raft, only to find a surprise waiting for him; more than half of the episode contains no dialogue. "Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darling" did not star McGoohan at all (except for a few shots), as he was in America filming Ice Station Zebra; the episode featured the contrivance of Number 6's mind being implanted in another man's body (Nigel Stock , from The Great Escape), who is then sent out of The Village to help capture a scientist.
The opening sequence
The title sequence features the hero, played by McGoohan, apparently a secret agent working in some government intelligence building in London, having a fierce argument with his superior and resigning. After this altercation, the hero drives home in his Lotus Seven; intercut with footage of him driving are shots of his photo and identity documents being mutilated and filed as "resigned". Returning to his flat he quickly packs his possessions, with a colourful travel brochure nearby. Knockout gas is piped into the room by a tall man dressed as an undertaker, rendering him unconscious.
On awakening, the hero finds himself in a strange village of Mediterranean architecture, filled with other people of various nationalities dressed in bright colours in a peculiar nautical style. Many also turn out to be ex-spies being held captive, not all of whom are on his side. No one has a name; they all have numbered ID badges. Our hero is Number 6; his real name is never mentioned in the series, although many fans like to think it is John Drake, the lead character of McGoohan's prior series Danger Man (Secret Agent in the US). (This would actually have been expensive, if it were even possible, to establish as series canon; the rights to the character of John Drake were owned by Danger Man's creator, Ralph Smart.)
The following dialogue exchange runs over the opening titles of several of the episodes:
- Where am I?
- In The Village.
- What do you want?
- Whose side are you on?
- That would be telling.
- We want information. Information. Information.
- You won't get it.
- By hook or by crook, we will.
- Who are you?
- The new Number 2.
- Who is Number 1?
- You are Number 6.
- I am not a number — I am a free man!
- (Laughter from Number 2.)
The Village is located in an unknown country (the series was filmed at Portmeirion near Penrhyndeudraeth in Wales, and at Borehamwood Studios in England, using clever camera tricks to make the resort look larger than it is). In one episode of the series its location is hinted somewhere in Morocco, in another - "Chimes of Big Ben" - Lithuania (on the Baltic coast "30 miles from the Polish border").
The Village publishes a newspaper, the Tally Ho. The Village administrators consist of a formal council which meets in a large chamber, which of course in reality is completely under the control of Number 2. Debates are held with a strange, mindless uniformity of opinion. "Work units" (referred to as "credit units" or "credits" in some episodes) serve as currency in Village shops; rather than using cash, everything is paid for by Villagers using a form of hole-punched credit card. All day long, pleasant classical music and public announcements are piped into all dwellings and gathering areas, such as the Café and the parade grounds. All of the media and signage in the town displays a consistency in design, incorporating sailing or resort themes. The "logo" of the Village is a penny farthing bicycle.
An underground control centre monitors closed-circuit television cameras located throughout The Village. Regular observers continually spy on Villagers' every movements, and foil Number 6's escape attempts with the aid of Rover, a large balloon-like device that chases and suffocates him, dragging him back to land if he was attempting to escape by sea via the nearby beach. Rover was originally intended to be a robotic machine, rather like a Dalek (See Doctor Who), but when the prototype failed to work during the first episode's shoot, the crew used a weather balloon out of desperation. In hindsight, this change was probably beneficial to the series, since the original rover might appear quite quaint by today's special effects standards. The simplified replacement has the advantages of appearing more high-tech, and downright frightening when a victim is being suffocated.
Number 6 always wears a Village-supplied black suit with white piping, though never his "6" ID badge (except briefly in an election campaign in "Free For All"). Characters say goodbye to each other with the phrase "be seeing you", accompanied by a waving gesture consisting of thumb and forefinger forming a circle over the right eye, then tipped forward in a kind of salute. "I'll be seeing you" was a popular expression in Britain in the 1940s, when it was jocularly pronounced "Abyssinia". McGoohan uses the phrase "be seeing you" in real life.
In the series finale, "Fall Out", and despite compelling evidence presented for the Morocco location given in an earlier episode, we learn that The Village is actually located somewhere in Great Britain, within driving distance of London.
Number 6's real name is never revealed. As stated elsewhere, many fans of the series believe him to be John Drake from Danger Man; nothing seen on screen supports nor directly contradicts this, though McGoohan has stated the characters are different. It is worth noting, however, that at least two of the official licenced novels based upon the series by Thomas M. Disch and David McDaniel both directly refer to No. 6 by the name Drake. However, novels are generally not considered canon and it appears the use of the name Drake in these two books may not have been authorized.
We know that Number 6 held a position with a British government organization, and though the nature of his work is never explicitly defined, there are indications that he was an agent of some sort (such as a list that he reels out, of aliases and code names he has been known by, in "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling", plus other indications in episodes such as "Once Upon a Time" and "Many Happy Returns").
One difference between Number 6 and John Drake is that, while Drake avoided relationships with the opposite sex, Number 6 is shown to have had a romantic relationship with a foreign spy (as seen in the episode "A, B and C"), flirts with a fellow prisoner in "Chimes of Big Ben", and develops a deep friendship with another female prisoner in "The Schizoid Man". The episode "Do Not Forsake Me" reveals that Number 6 was engaged to be married at the time of his resignation, implying that he is something of a womanizer.
Little else is learned about Number 6's background other than he fought in "the war" (presumably World War II but possibly another war), is a trained athlete, and is under medical advice to avoid sugar. In the episode "Once Upon a Time", in which elements of No. 6's early life are apparently recreated, it is suggested that No. 6 may have been once involved in a motor vehicle accident in which someone was killed; however, since these and the other "recreations" from his past were part of the Village's "Degree Absolute" programme to break No. 6's will once and for all, it cannot be said for certain whether this was an actual event in his past.
The detailed reason behind his resignation was never revealed. The closest he came was in the penultimate episode "Once Upon a Time" in which he revealed that he quit because "too many people know too much". The show's co-creator, George Markstein was once quoted that he felt Number 6 resigned because he discovered the existence of The Village, though the series doesn't really support this view. Interestingly, the first episode reveals that the keepers of The Village are already aware of the reasons behind Number 6's resignation; they simply want to perform (in Number 2's words) "a double-check". This, combined with repeated references to Number 6's "importance" to The Village, suggest that he's been kidnapped for reasons far more complex than his resignation. But, like so many other things in this series, the exact reasons are never clearly revealed.
The Village is openly administered by Number 2, whose identity changes each episode, though some Number 2's did make repeat appearances (notably Leo McKern, who appeared in three episodes). Number 1 was never seen (except perhaps in the final episode, though even this is debatable and subject to interpretation). The character of Number 2, though having complete control over The Village, serves at the pleasure of Number 1, and Number 2s were often sensitive to the fact that they themselves were effectively prisoners of Number 1, who was beyond all account. The fate of failed Number 2s is left ambiguous. The very first person seen in the position willingly gives it up to another, while the No. 2 played by Colin Gordon was ulcer-plagued and jumped whenever the phone line to No. 1 rang. Although the various No. 2s are said to be prisoners, they are never seen among the general population of the Village except while serving as No. 2.
The episode "Free for All" suggested that the status of Number 2 was an "office" that one could be "democratically elected by the people" to fill, though this is flatly contradicted in other episodes. Apparently at least some of the Number 2s encountered by Number 6 are simply "interim" Number 2s, filling in for an absent, soon-to-retire Number 2 who finds himself the target of an assassination attempt in the episode "It's Your Funeral". Of course, given the nature of The Village, nothing is necessarily as it seems. "It's Your Funeral" also made reference to several Number 2s who were never otherwise featured in any episode.
Most Number 2s seen are male, but three are female (not counting the other Number 2s seen in "It's Your Funeral", one of whom was also a woman). Interestingly, two of the three women spend their respective episodes diguised as somebody else. The third female Number 2, who appears in "Dance of the Dead", is speaking dialogue originally written for a male actor, Trevor Howard who pulled out of the production just before filming.
Throughout the series, Number 2 tries to find out why Number 6 resigned. Number 6 refuses to answer, considering his reasons a "matter of conscience", and not open to inquiry. A variety of interrogation, intimidation, drugs and mind control techniques are used. An intriguing subtext is that Number 6 never learns the identity and loyalty of his jailers — is he being questioned by "us" or "them", or in the context of the Cold War, the West or the Soviets? (The series never answers this question.) Several episodes end with Number 2 being sent home (or to a worse fate) in disgrace, having failed to break him. Number 6 is this important because he possesses valuable secrets and because he is the only resident to resist interrogation and assimilation successfully. However there are other aspects to his importance which are never revealed but which clearly prevent the Number 2s (even the more ruthless ones) from using the same sort of invasive, torturous and damaging methods exercised on other prisoners.
In the final episode we see the last Number 2 enter the Peers' entrance to the Palace of Westminster, thus meaning he is (or was) a member of the House of Lords.
Number 6 spends the first half of the series seeking ways to escape, then turns his attention to finding out more about The Village and how to bring it down from within. In "Hammer into Anvil", he reduces the new Number 2 to a mad, paranoid wreck through a series of pranks. The later episodes feature less in terms of action-packed escape attempts, and more psychological storylines that posit observations on the nature of power, force , and authority, and their relationship with liberty. As the Number 2s become successively more coercive, invasive and desperate, the stakes become higher, and Number 6's behaviour becomes more and more uncompromising to his jailers. This trend finds a conclusion in the final episode, "Fall Out".
After each ultimately unsuccessful escape attempt, the episode ends with an image of Number 6, behind bars.
This is the original order in which the episodes were broadcast in Britain, not the production order or chronological story order.
||Original airdate (UK)
||Number Two played by
October 1, 1967
||The Chimes of Big Ben
October 8, 1967
||A, B and C
October 15, 1967
||Free for All
October 22, 1967
||The Schizoid Man
October 29, 1967
November 5, 1967
||Many Happy Returns
November 12, 1967
||Dance of the Dead
November 26, 1967
December 3, 1967
||Hammer Into Anvil
December 10, 1967
||It's Your Funeral
December 17, 1967
Andre Van Gyseghem
||A Change of Mind
December 31, 1967
||Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling
January 7, 1968
||Living in Harmony
January 14, 1968
||The Girl Who Was Death
January 21, 1968
||Once Upon a Time
January 28, 1968
February 4, 1968
Alternate versions of "Arrival" and "Chimes of Big Ben" exist and have been released on DVD. "Living in Harmony" was not broadcast by CBS during its original run of the series in 1968.
Analysis and interpretations
The major philosophical theme of The Prisoner is the inherent unavoidable conflicts between the needs of the individual and the needs of the society to which he belongs, and what rights each of the two can demand from the other. The Village is trying to force Number 6 to conform, to adapt, and above all to play their game on the society's terms. Number 6 is in turn trying to escape, to think for himself, to be independent and thereby be able to pursue his own goals. Sometimes Number 6 succeeds, sometimes he fails, and sometimes he fails by resisting, in that in resisting on their terms he has succumbed to the greater trap, that is, playing the game The Village has put before him.
The final episode suggests that The Village is on the mainland of Britain: Number 6 and his friends are able to drive from the Village onto the English motorway system, taking the A20 back to London.
During the opening dialogue in most episodes, Number 2 can be heard to say "You are Number Six". Some people claim that this is a direct response to the previous question "Who is Number 1?", while others contend that Number 2 does not answer the question. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that different actors give different readings of the line, some placing a pause in the statement, creating the affirmative "You are, Number Six" while others don't. However, the dialogue in the series is rife with phrases with two meanings. So, Number 2 may be saying "You are Number Six", but it is possible that it was the intention of the writer to allude to the other possible meaning of the phrase.
The symbol of The Village is the penny farthing bicycle; almost every Villager wears a badge, displaying the penny farthing with his number in the large wheel. Also, the closing credits feature an animation incorporating the device. McGoohan has stated the vehicle is a symbol of progress, though there is some evidence that it was a symbol of Portmeirion before the series began, and McGoohan adopted the symbol.
The identity of Number 6 remains the show's most hotly-debated topic, with many believing that he is John Drake, the spy character McGoohan played for many years on Danger Man a.k.a. Secret Agent. At least one later episode of The Prisoner was actually adapted from a Danger Man script, and a character named Potter who had appeared in the earlier series did appear on The Prisoner. Otherwise, McGoohan has stated for decades that No. 6 was not John Drake.
References in popular culture
The Psi Corps in Babylon 5 used the phrase "Be Seeing You" and the accompanying Village salute in a deliberate homage to The Prisoner. The shows creator, J. Michael Straczynski, has admitted this is Prisoner reference. In the episode "Signs and Portents", one of the rangers initiates radio contact to his ship with the phrase "Six to One", and in the episode "A Voice in the Wilderness" the phrase "EYE AM KNOT A NUMBER AYE AMA FREE MAN" appears on a computer screen in the background. The episode "Comes the Inquisitor" in the second season features an extremly Prisoner-like interrogation sequence, in which an archaically attired British man attempts to break Ambassador Delenn's personality.
Several images from the final episode, Fall Out, of which a house on a trailer bed is the most obvious example, appear in Terry Gilliam's 1984 film Brazil.
Colossal Cave Adventure
One of the most obscure pop culture references to Rover (see above) comes in David Platt's 1979 version of Crowther & Woods ancient computer game, Colossal Cave Adventure when a player attempts to enter a large vault without the correct password, Platt sics Rover on him/her. Platt's laconic prose correctly captures all the eldritch noises, shrieks heard in the distance and terrifying suspense as Rover is "born" from a glop of subterranean goo (like a blob in a Lava Lamp) and begins a chase which proceeds with the unerring ferocity of Nemesis to inevitable death. Mike Goetz 1983 extension of this version also summoned Rover when a player pilfered a poster off the walls of the computer room (in Witts End).
The Italian/Slovac progressive rock band/collective headed by the anonymous Mr. Doctor released their second album titled The Girl who was... Death, a concept album fully based on The Prisoner, from the album title, to the lyrics (Mostly made up of quotes from the show), to the track listing (Though the album is comprised of a single track, the track listing is simply the name of every single episode of the television show), to performing the theme song as a secret song at the end of the album.
In the 1997 Hollywood action film Double Team (also known as The Colony), protagonist Jack Quinn (Jean Claude Van Damme) finds himself held against his will on an island community reminescent of The Village. The Colony as it was called was home to a large number of criminal experts thought dead to the outside world, and featured a high-tech anti-escape system that involved a laser perimeter.
Steve Jackson Games' popular role-playing game system GURPS released a (now out of print) world book for The Prisoner. It included maps, episode synopses, details of the Village and its inhabitants, and much other material.
The Matrix is very thematically similar to The Prisoner, with the protagonists struggling to maintain identity (represented by the fact that they give themselves new names, which the agents refuse to refer to them by) in a false simulation of the real world. When Neo runs through an apartment in the final sequence, frame by frame scrolling reveals that an episode of The Prisoner is playing on the television.
The Invisible Man
In the 2000 American television series The Invisible Man, the agency that he works for uncovers that there are some former government agents that are still receiving paychecks. All but one of them have been dead for years. When the invisible man and his partner go to talk with the remaining agent, they get caught up in the faked death of this agent. They are rendered unconcious and wake up in a place very much like The Village. It is populated by former secret agents, and there is no escape. Except that the security measures didn't account for an invisible man.
The opening dialogue is sampled in the intro to the Iron Maiden song "The Prisoner", inspired by the series. The band has also recorded another song called "Back In The Village", also inspired by the series.
The popular show The Simpsons had multiple references to the Prisoner. In one episode, Marge tried to escape a cult and was pursued by Rover. Marge turned and Rover enveloped Hans Moleman. Another episode, The Computer Wore Menace Shoes, had the final act completely based on The Prisoner. Homer became trapped on an island which was similar to the Village and Patrick McGoohan even reprised his role as Number 6 (Homer was Number 5). While on the island, some of the reasons for prisoners being there were revealed. Number 27 could turn water into gasoline, Number 12 knew the deadly secret behind tic-tacs , and Number 6 invented the bottomless peanut bag. While trying to escape, Homer was pursued by Rover and easily popped it with a plastic fork. The episode ends with Homer returning to Springfield, only to be abducted again, this time with his family, but they find that life in The Island isn't that bad after all.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Patrick McGoohan was scheduled to appear in a second-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled "The Schizoid Man" which was named after a Prisoner episode. Although McGoohan ultimately pulled out of the episode, the title remained the same. A later episode, "Chain of Command", featured an interrogation sequence reminiscent of the "degree absolute" brainwashing method seen in "Once Upon a Time".
They Might Be Giants
In They Might Be Giants' song "Damn Good Times" on their album The Spine, there is a line that is "When my friend got amnesia/She can't remember the show she saw/Like the one with the guy with amnesia/Who got off from the island on a helicopter." This may or may not be a reference to Number Six in The Prisoner.
The Truman Show
When the main character of The Truman Show, Truman Burbank, a man whose entire life is filmed, goes to visit his friend Marlon at work, the outside view of the shop pays homage to The Prisoner, with the familiar red and white awnings of the village. Marlon's cart has the word "goodies" written on the side, in the village font, Albertus.
Brief references to The Prisoner appear in many TV shows and movies and comic books, such as Three's Company, ReBoot, the comic book limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the 1986 documentary series The Celts . The series has also been referenced in a number of music videos. They include the video for the XTC song The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul, which was filmed entirely on location at Portmeirion and featured costumes and props similar to those used in the series. The XTC video was filmed as part of a larger programme, The Laughing Prisoner, as part of the last episode of the UK Channel 4 music series The Tube, in which presenter Jools Holland was abducted to The Village. The programme also featured British comedy actor Stephen Fry as No.2, and Stanley Unwin. XTC were also filmed in Portmeirion singing The Meeting Place. Other guests were Siouxsie and the Banshees, filmed playing The Passenger on the Hotel lawn, and Magnum , playing at night on the Bristol Collonade. Popular Italian rapper Caparezza winked at the series in his video "Fuori dal Tunnel", featuring the aforementioned giant white balloon.
Interesting trivia/things to watch out for
- Despite the similarity between the characters, McGoohan has publicly stated Number 6 is not John Drake, the main character of Danger Man. Despite this, co-creator and series script editor George Markstein always maintained that Number 6 was John Drake. It has been suggested that Number 6 was supposed to be John Drake, but that Everyman Films were unable to obtain permission to use the character. If this were so, it could be argued that John Drake and Number 6 were officially different people, but unofficially the same.
- The episode "Living in Harmony" was not aired in the United States, for the ostensible reason that it used (unfeatured) psychedelic drug use as a feature of its plot. Since many other episodes feature blatant drug use, it is more likely that the episode was withheld on account of its strong pacifist message, and that message's implications vis a vis the Vietnam War.
- There are two world maps on the wall behind Number 6's former superior in the title sequence.
- Number 6's address in London, shown in the opening sequence, is at Number One Buckingham Place, a real-life address which as of the early 1990s was a law office. The buildings seen swirling around at the end of the opening credits are buildings which were actually seen when you look out the window of the location, although most were demolished in a redevelopment of the area in 2003.
- Leo McKern's hair and beard are trimmed much shorter in the final episode than in the one preceding it because he did another film during the long lag between the two episodes' shoots. The show accommodated this by showing McKern covered in shaving cream and getting barbered before making his entrance.
- Some Village exteriors were actually shot on a sound stage, and sometimes backgrounds are clearly discernible as large blown-up photos of Portmeirion.
- Part of the opening theme tune (during the scene where McGoohan's character confronts his superior) has a different mix each episode.
- The interrogation soundtrack does not play over the opening credits of the episodes "Arrival", "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling", "Living in Harmony" and "Fall Out", the last episode. As well, the voice of Number 2 in the dialogue is not always the same as the voice of Number 2 in the episode (primarily to hide Number 2's identity until the episode's finale); the uncredited voice actor used on these occasions never actually played Number 2 on screen.
- The Tally Ho headlines, all the public signs in The Village, and the show's credits use a version of the Albertus display typeface in which the lowercase letter e was altered to make it look somewhat like the Greek letter epsilon (ε), and the dot above the lower case i and j are removed.
- In the episode "The Chimes Of Big Ben", Number 6 and his Russian neighbour Nadia are encased in a box, that divided the two of them. Whilst conversing in the box between a wood divider, McGoohan ruins the illusion that they are separated by sticking his hand over the edge of the wooden divider.
- Number 6 is occasionally seen participating in the game or martial art Kosho, conceived by Patrick McGoohan for the series. It is played on two trampolines set on either side of a four-by-eight-foot pool of water and surrounded by a wall with an angled ledge and hand-rail. Two opponents wear a boxing glove on their left hand and a lighter padded glove on their right, and attempt to knock each other into the pool.
- The musical score in the final episode is different compared to the previous 16 episodes. It has a more modern, contemporary feel (and even features the Beatles song, "All You Need is Love ").
In 1969, Ace Books in the United States published three original novels based upon the series. These books, which take place after the events of "Fall Out" are somewhat controversial for stating explictly that Number 6 is John Drake from Danger Man and are not considered canonical with the rest of the series.
The Prisoner by Thomas M. Disch (a.k.a. I Am Not a Number!)
- The Prisoner: Number Two by David McDaniel (a.k.a. Who is Number Two?)
The Prisoner: A Day in the Life by Hank Stine
Some sources erroneously list Disch as the creator of the TV series as he is the writer of the first novel based upon the show. All three novels have been reprinted numerous times over the years; most recently the Disch and Stine books were republished in 2002.
In the 1980s, Roger Langley of the Prisoner Appreciation Society wrote three novellas based upon the series:
- Charmed Life
- Think Tank
- When in Rome
These books were made available through the fan club, and at the Prisoner Shop in Portmeirion and are long out of print.
In 2004, Powys Media announced plans for a new series of novels based upon the series, with the first volume scheduled for release in the United States in March 2005. To date three novels have been announced, with the first to be published in trade paperback format with a hardcover edition to follow later. According to Powys Media, at least six books are planned.
In the early 1970s, Marvel Comics considered launching a comic book based on The Prisoner, with art by Jack Kirby. A test issue was put together but never published. Original artwork from this comic still exists and occasionally turns up for auction.
In the late 1980s, DC Comics published a four-issue comic book mini-series based on The Prisoner, written by Dean Motter and drawn by Mark Askwith. The comic story takes place 20 years after the events of the series, and involves a female former agent washing ashore at The Village, where an elderly Number 6 now lives alone. The series was later reprinted as the graphic novel, Shattered Visage.
In the 1970s, Eduware produced The Prisoner, a video game for the Apple II computer based upon the television series. The game was reportedly not officially licenced, so a number of changes had to be made in order to distance the game from a few of the more recognizable Prisoner elements. The game designers incorporated elements of Franz Kafka's The Castle into the game, in which the players assumed the role of a character referred to as # (the "number sign" in the United States and Canada). # wakes up on The Island, and explores the 20 homes, shops and service buildings there, trying to find clues as to how to escape.
The player is given a three-digit number, which signifies #'s reasons for resigning. The game then attempts at numerous times to trick the player into revealing the number. One of the most nefarious was a simulated game crash which included the error message "Syntax error in line ###" where the line number was the player's resignation code. The significance of this is that, in the Apple II's BASIC programming language; out of pure habit, the next step most users would take at this point would be to investigate the erroneous line to try and correct the error, using the command "List ###" where ### once again is the line number. Typing the game's three-digit code at any time resulted in the game being lost, and that included typing the line into the BASIC command.
Considered unique among games of this sort, The Prisoner was reportedly used as a training tool for Central Intelligence Agency agents.
In 1981, Eduware released a new version of the game, Prisoner 2 with colour and improved graphics.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04