The Prisoner: An Illustrated History by Andrew Pixley (book review).

I pulled this book, ‘The Prisoner: An Illustrated History’ by Andrew Pixley, last year and with my current ‘Psi-Kicks’ storyline drawing tags from ‘The Prisoner’ TV series coming to an end, thought it might be a good idea to fit this book in, just in case I missed anything. You’ll have to decide that for yourself when you read them.

I’ve read other books about ‘The Prisoner’ in the past although missed the first edition of this one from 2007. Pixley covers the history of how actor Patrick McGoohan wanted to move on from ‘Danger Man’, taking his production team with him into an idea in development with David Tomblin and George Markstein based on where and what did you do with retired spies during World War Two, a secret village up in Scotland. So they made it more modern for the late 1960s and a spy/agent who just wanted to resign. I liked how certain information was dropped in, including why he was called Number 6 because it’s the only single number that becomes a different number upside down.

It’s rather weird noting that there were at least 4 different soundtracks before Ron Grainer’s was chosen. There’s all kinds of information included and I would hesitate to say that the bibliography being complete.

Of course, a problem with any book on an old TV series is the availability of photographs, let alone using any that haven’t been used before. In some respects, there are far too many close-ups of McGoohan making it more of a love letter to him than showing more from the production and The Village itself. Doing another page flick does show some divergence in some chapters but don’t take it as being comprehensive. As an ‘illustrated history’, I think there were a few things missing like the Village map as shown in the series and certainly more pictures of Rover. Yeah, I know, it’s only a weather balloon bouncing around but as the guardian of the Village it does seem poorly neglected.

The focus of the book is more in production than in the action of the episodes, although that might be more down to page count than examining the reality. That tends to come out in the poorly represented episode guide at the end of the book. It isn’t as though there wasn’t enough space to give a proper cast list.

It’s rather interesting with all these ‘Prisoner’ books, that its sorely lacking in comments from the authors, although I haven’t read them all, not only in their appeal but any thoughts on what they thought the series was finally about. Granted they might be wary of becoming just another interpreter of McGoohan’s ideas but ‘The Prisoner’ is supposed to be open to all types of analysis. Even I’ve done that…twice and could probably do a third.

The fact that McGoohan had a scattershot of stories after his proposed six episodes clearly meant he had to dig deeper into exploring the implications that we are all prisoners of our society in some way or other. The fact that the 2009 version lost its way, shows they didn’t really understand the foundation it was built on. I agree with Pixley that ‘The Prisoner’ was way ahead of its time in terms of implication and deep thinking but the same can be same of a lot of series when you apply modern day thinking to them. Looking at the original ‘The Avengers’ TV series which has had similar analysis over the years. It would be interesting to see someone deal a similar hand to, say, ‘The Champions’ and how teams step into the breech.

I’m probably being over-critical but if you haven’t picked up this book on ‘The Prisoner’, then you’re likely to, if only to complete your collection. Don’t get locked in.

GF Willmetts

July 2021

(pub: Network, 2017 – second edition. 127 page medium-size illustrated hardback. Price: I pulled my copy for about £10.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-9929766-2-0)

check out website:


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.