The Prisoner Is Free at Last

Sunni's picture

That’s right: Patrick McGoohan died yesterday. I know he had other roles (but I didn’t recognize him as King Edward I in Braveheart), but like so many other fans, for me he was iconic as #6.

I barely recall catching some episodes of The Prisoner during its original run; I saw it largely because my aunts and uncles watched it. It was visually weird, but I liked the music. When MAL reintroduced me to the series a few years back, I remembered the music before I recalled the show—except for its signature line, of course. I had wondered if there was a method to the show’s surreal madness; the article confirms that there was:

McGoohan co-created and executive-produced the series [The Prisoner], which ran for only 17 episodes, as well as wrote and directed several episodes.

In a 1967 interview with The Times, he described the series as "Brave New World" stuff.

"Nobody has a name, everyone wears a number," he said. "It's a reflection of the pressure on all of us today to be numbered, to give up our individualism. This is a contemporary subject, not science fiction. I hope these things will be recognized by the audience. It's not meant to be subtle. It's meant to say: This little village is our world."

Of the enduring cult status of the series, McGoohan once said: "Mel [Gibson] will always be Mad Max, and me, I will always be a number."

I wonder how McGoohan felt about the apparent failure of the series to drive its point home sufficiently to its audience. Perhaps that isn’t a fair charge to lay at the series’ door—but it is certainly true that the trends weren’t much slowed by the show. It is still worth watching, in my opinion: the series was very well done, and little of it seemed dated to my senses.

Thank you, Mr. McGoohan, for intelligently entertaining and stimulating us.

Not Number Six. Never Number

Not Number Six. Never Number Six.

"I am not a number — I am a free man!"

True, but ...

His character in the series never had his name revealed.

I watched two episodes of it last night: the first one, which attracted the snolfs (they’ve seen the series before); and then Snolf the First requested The Girl Who Was Death. I stand by my assessment.

Your Title - Your Post

The Prisoner is Free at Last

I find the title of your post to be intriguing, as it is celebratory in nature, and yet contradictory to the most fundamental prejudices most humans hold: that against taking one's own life*. So absurd is this prejudice that there are LAWS against it! So... like whatcha gonna due, man, put me in JAIL for killing myself? I'm sure it reveals some very core inner psychological issue that is a part of what makes us human - but on an intellectual level, I just don't get it. (Like belief in magical entities and such.) What the hell business is it of someone, anyone, to decide whether or not an individual finds the income worth the outgo? In fact, with those I've discussed the issue, it appears that the belief is that ANY income at all, no matter how meager, is worth whatever the costs that might be incurred. Strange accounting, it seems to me.

I cannot imagine that there are huge numbers of people who have not, at one time or another, considered the voluntary cessation of their own lives. Yet this is an absolute taboo topic for discussion. It is even potential for being locked in a cage. Now THERE is something to make one want to stick around and enjoy life if ever something could change one's mind, huh?!

I'm reminded of the story of the frog in the pan on the stove. And thoughts of those who survived the German (or other) death camps. Some chose to live, others did not. How and why can anyone say which was the correct choice? The thing which bothers me most, I think, is not that someone would care to attempt to convince another that life is worth living, but rather the total disregard for the choice of another person over the most intimate decision he or she might ever make. I mean, if you really care about another, wouldn't you want to deeply understand their position and help them to confidently make such a choice, whichever way it went? Otherwise, you're just a fraud and a narcissist, pretending to care for another when all you really care about is making your own self feel good, or at least feel less bad.

I want to publicly state my appreciation for Thomas Szaz here. He is a mind and a soul rare in this world, and a treasure.

There was even a book published a few years ago on the issue of suicide, and all of the ways one might use to pull it off, as well as the complications, physical, emotional, with survivors and so on. An excellent piece of work, and so overdue.

This is an important, and very human issue, and if we respect each other it is one which should be discussed openly and honestly and not hidden away with those other terrible things like sex and love.

- NonE

* What an expression, huh? "Taking one's own life." Perhaps that is the only way in which we actually CAN take our lives for our own.

Very strange accounting.

In fact, with those I've discussed the issue, it appears that the belief is that ANY income at all, no matter how meager, is worth whatever the costs that might be incurred. Strange accounting, it seems to me.

I don’t follow that accounting method either ... but I think I’ve already said all I’m willing to say publicly on suicide in this space, for now anyway.

My mother was clear—and to many individuals, not just me—that if she became “a vegetable”, she didn’t want to be kept alive. Yet, when her brain cancer was detected, enough damage had been done that her cognitive abilities were permanently impaired ... and of course once the medical system tentacles get into one, it is exceedingly difficult to escape. We were very fortunate, in that her primary physician respected our wishes against things like feeding tubes, etc. that would have extended her suffering. But I didn’t dare try anything that would have ended her life sooner. Obviously, being caught in such a trap—between what I know she wanted and what the medical system provided her, but also what it and the law forbade—has left an enduring impression.

Last thought for now: I, too, appreciate much of what I’ve read by Szasz—yet I think scientific advances are showing him to be in error in some areas. That’s a point tied in to a future post on brains again, so I shan’t say more here.