The Prisoner (2009 miniseries)

The Prisoner is a 2009 six-part television miniseries based on the 1960s TV series The Prisoner. The series concerned a man who awakens in a mysterious, picturesque, but escape-proof village, and stars Jim Caviezel, Ian McKellen, Ruth Wilson, and Hayley Atwell. It was co-produced by American cable network AMC with British channel ITV, which now holds the rights to the original series. It received mixed reviews, with critics feeling that the remake was not as compelling as the original series.

The Prisoner
Promotional poster
Based onThe Prisoner
by Patrick McGoohan
George Markstein
Written byBill Gallagher[1]
Directed byNick Hurran[2]
Music byRupert Gregson-Williams
Country of originUnited States
United Kingdom
No. of episodes6 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)Trevor Hopkins[1]
Running time45 minutes (per episode) 360 minutes (Full running time)
Original networkAMC,
Original releaseNovember 15 (2009-11-15) 
November 17, 2009 (2009-11-17)
External links


The series begins with an unidentified man waking up in a desert and finding himself in the middle of a pursuit as mysterious guards chase an elderly man through a canyon. The old man dies soon after, but not before passing a message on to the younger man: "Tell them I got out."

The younger man arrives in an enigmatic community, whose residents inform him that it's called simply "The Village". Everyone he meets is known only by a number—he learns his number is 6—and he discovers that they have no knowledge or memory of the outside world.

Number 6 is unable to remember his real name and recalls only snippets of his life in New York City. He had met and seduced a mysterious woman in a diner. He finds himself locked in a battle of wills against Number 2, the Village's leader, who goes to great lengths to make Number 6 assimilate. Number 6, meanwhile, tries to contact "dreamers"—Village residents who, like him, have been experiencing flashes of memory of their lives outside of the Village. Along the way, he befriends Number 147, a Village taxi driver; Number 313, a doctor with whom Number 6 develops a romantic connection, but who has her own secrets; and "11–12", Number 2's son, who begins to question the reality of the Village.


Main cast

Guest cast

  • John Whiteley as Number 93 – Episode 1, "Arrival"
  • Jessica Haines as Number 554 – Episode 1, "Arrival"
  • David Butler as Number 37927 / The Access Man – Episode 1, "Arrival" and Episode 5, "Schizoid"
  • Jeffrey R. Smith as Number 16 – Episode 2, "Harmony"
  • James Cunigham as Number 70 & Shadow Number 70 – Episode 2, "Harmony"
  • Leila Henriques as The Winking Woman – Episode 2, "Harmony"
  • Vincent Regan as Number 909 – Episode 3, "Anvil"
  • Warrick Grier as Number 1955 – Episode 3, "Anvil"
  • Lauren Dasnev as Number 1100 – Episode 3, "Anvil"
  • Sara Stewart as Number 1894 – Episode 4, "Darling"



A remake of the 1967 TV series The Prisoner had been in the works since 2005.[3]

The miniseries was promoted at 2008 San Diego ComicCon via a skywriter airplane that sketched the phrase "Seek the Six" in the sky over San Diego. Although "Seek the Six" was initially thought to be a catchphrase of some sort, it did not appear in the final cut of the miniseries.

A further promotional event for the miniseries was held at the 2009 ComicCon, including a spoiler-heavy, 9-minute trailer and a cast and crew discussion panel.[4]


The Prisoner went into production in June 2008. Location filming for The Village was in Swakopmund, Namibia. A production diary is available.[5] After 18 weeks of shooting, principal photography wrapped on December 12, 2008.[6]

According to Patrick McGoohan's widow, producers of the new series had hoped that McGoohan would play a part in the revival. "They wanted Patrick to have some part in it, but he adamantly didn't want to be involved. He had already done it," she said in an interview shortly after McGoohan's death.[7] This was contradicted by Ian McKellen in an interview featured in the November 2009 edition of SFX Magazine where he was quoted as saying:

"He was asked to be in the first episode, there being a part that would have been very ironically fitting, but apparently he said that he didn't want to do it unless he was offered the part of Number Two."[8]

Producer Trevor Hopkins confirmed in an interview that he had invited McGoohan to play the role of the Number Six-like old man encountered by Caviezel's character early in the first episode. This is suggested by the jacket worn by the old man – the same style jacket as worn by Number 6 in the first series. McGoohan declined, but suggested he could play Number 2 instead.[4]


The series premiered on November 15, 2009[9] as a miniseries on North American cable channel AMC in cooperation with British broadcaster ITV.[10][11] The six-part series premiered in the UK on April 17, 2010. AMC streamed all 17 episodes of the original Prisoner series in advance of showing the remake.[12]

AMC's original airing of the series combined the episodes, with episodes 1 and 2 airing on day 1, etc., with only one set of opening and closing credits for both. ITV broadcast the episodes individually, over six consecutive Saturday nights in the spring of 2010. The DVD release restores the 6-episode format.


Each episode title in the series is one word taken from an episode title from the original programme.

No. Title Original series title which inspired this title Original airdate
1"Arrival"[13]ArrivalNovember 15, 2009 (2009-11-15)
Number 6 wakes up in the desert, where he sees an old man, Number 93, and several pursuers shooting at him.[14] Number 93 is dragged into a cave by Number 6, where Number 93 tells Number 6 to "go to 554" before dying. Number 6 buries Number 93 and wanders into the Village, where he meets Number 2 and is grilled about the location of Number 93. He finds a confidant in Number 554, who is killed on Number 2's orders.
2"Harmony"[13]Living in HarmonyNovember 15, 2009 (2009-11-15)
Number 6 struggles to find allies to escape from the Village. Number 2 introduces Number 6 to his brother's family to convince him he belongs. Number 6 had a brother who drowned in childhood. As Number 6 begins to doubt himself, his brother admits to the facade and the pair make a failed attempt at escape. His brother drowns in the attempt, following an encounter with Rover, but Number 6 finds renewed faith in himself. Meanwhile, Numbers 2 and 11–12 are seen discussing 11-12's apparent lack of childhood memories.
3"Anvil"[13]Hammer Into AnvilNovember 16, 2009 (2009-11-16)
Number 2 offers Number 6 the opportunity to become an undercover agent, spying on suspected dreamers. Number 6 accepts with ulterior motives. He works with Number 909, who is spying on him. Number 6 follows Number 909 into the Go Inside bar, where he finds him meeting with his secret lover, 11–12. He blackmails the two men. Rather than allowing the relationship to be discovered, 11–12 kills Number 909. Number 6 blackmails 11–12 to help him rescue Number 313, who has been captured and sent to the clinic.
4"Darling"[13]Do Not Forsake Me Oh My DarlingNovember 16, 2009 (2009-11-16)
The Village Matchmaking Service targets Number 6, pairing him with a woman, 4–15. Number 6 recalls 4–15 from a brief encounter with his New York alter ego, Michael, shortly before he was taken to the Village. 4–15, however, pretends that she does not remember Number 6. They become lovers and plan to marry until Number 313 intervenes. 4–15 reveals to Number 6 that she is indeed Lucy, the woman Michael knew in New York; Number 2 has brought her to the Village to "break" his heart and spirit. 4–15 apparently dies by jumping into a bottomless pit that has appeared; in a concurrent flashback to New York, Lucy is apparently killed by an explosion in Michael's apartment.
5"Schizoid"[13]The Schizoid ManNovember 17, 2009 (2009-11-17)
Number 2 has embodied Number 6's animal desires in an identical double named 'Two Times Six'. Number 6 must find a way to reconcile himself with his desires, or risk being manipulated by Number 2. Meanwhile, 11–12 confronts his mother, Number 313 sees more visions of her past, and Number 2 relaxes for a day as 'UnTwo'. In New York, Michael returns to Summakor to find answers. 11-12's mother reveals that bottomless holes appear when she is awake.
6"Checkmate"[13]CheckmateNovember 17, 2009 (2009-11-17)

Number 6 encounters new arrivals, which contradicts claims that no world exists. Number 2 shows off new houses, indicating the village is expanding. This is later revealed to be to increase pressure on Number 6 to replace Number 2 to stop the holes from destroying the village. Number 6 confronts Number 2 about the newcomers, but soon forgets as Number 2 reveals he has afflicted Number 6 with a disease that will kill him. Number 6 confronts 11–12 when he meets him at Number 909's grave and again at the Go Inside bar. 11–12 is unable to reconcile himself to his false identity. He proceeds to smother his dreaming mother and hang himself.

In New York, Michael is escorted to a car so he may meet "Mr. Curtis". Events in New York and The Village begin to parallel each other, which Michael becomes increasingly aware of; he also encounters people in the real world that seem to be less tortured and more confident versions of people in the Village. Number 6's determination does not waver in the face of death and Number 2 allows him to live. In New York, Mr. Curtis, the real-world Number 2, introduces Michael to his wife, Helen, who, just as in the Village, is trapped in a sort of waking dream. Mr. Curtis explains that the Village is a form of therapy used to help people that Summakor has identified, although the “patients” may not have agreed to his procedure. It exists within the mind of Helen, who 'discovered' the Village—a dream present in everyone at a level of consciousness deeper than the subconscious—and was its first inhabitant. Michael was pulled into the Village because he worked so well at Summakor, finding people who needed 'help'. 11-12 is revealed to be the only resident of the Village who doesn't exist in the real world. Curtis' use of the Village was to work through his and Helen’s trauma of being childless, but the creation of the son threatened the Village's continued existence as it taxed Helen's mind to create someone new rather than engage existing minds. Neither could bring themselves to kill their son, but recent events have provided sufficient "rope" (inhuman behaviour including murder) that he hangs himself.

At his son's funeral, Number 2 rallies the Villagers and tells them Number 6 is the only solution to the holes, while in New York, Curtis introduces Michael to Sara, the real world counterpart of Number 313, who is homeless and insane because of childhood trauma. Michael is overcome and desires to help Sara and the villagers and replaces Curtis as the head of Summakor. Number 313, having become aware of her real-world self, becomes the dreamer, freeing Helen to return to the real world. Number 6, now stuck in The Village for good as the new Number 2, begins planning how to 'do The Village right'. Number 313, the new unresponsive dreamer, sheds a tear.


Critical response

The miniseries met with mixed reviews, scoring 46 out of 100 on Metacritic[15] and 6.3/10 on IMDb out of 7,092 users.

Los Angeles Times television critic Robert Lloyd wrote "why anyone, on either side of the screen, should be particularly interested in his fate, is never made clear nor compelling," and further states "the payoff is weak, and more than a bit daffy." In a comparison with the miniseries to AMC's hit series Mad Men, he writes "the difference [is] that 'Mad Men' is never boring."[16]

In Entertainment Weekly, TV critic Ken Tucker writes "it lacks the wit and zip of the original Prisoner," and concludes "It's self-absorbed to the point of incoherence."[17]

Chicago Sun-Times reviewer Paige Wiser declares "There's also a reason why I am not conking myself on the head with a croquet mallet, but The Prisoner somehow has the same effect," and with reference to viewing all six hours of the miniseries, concludes "I urge you to heed my advice: Opt out while you can."[18]

San Francisco Chronicle critic Tim Goodman writes "The Prisoner is not compelling. It rambles too much. Its vagaries are not interesting, its unorthodox storytelling not special enough."[19]

New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley struck a contrary note: "This version of The Prisoner is not a remake, it's a clever and engaging reinterpretation by Bill Gallagher, who shaped the script to contemporary tastes and sensibilities — notably, a postmodern fatigue with ideology and big thoughts." She concludes "The 21st century adaptation pays only lip service to the human condition, and instead explores a power struggle between two human beings. It's unlikely to prove as lasting, but the new series still manages to be thrilling."[20] Furthermore, it was positively reviewed in the Radio Times and also by Sam Wallaston who writing for The Guardian, described it as "a triumph with something of The Truman Show about it" with "a tension and a claustrophobia that gnaw away at you, making you look at your own psyche."[21]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated artist/work Result
2009 Satellite Award Best Miniseries The Prisoner Nominated
Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television Ian McKellen Nominated
2010 PGA Awards Television Producer of the Year in Longform Michele Buck, Damien Timmer, Rebecca Keane, and Trevor Hopkins Nominated
Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Ian McKellen Nominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a Movie Florian Hoffmeister for the episode "Checkmate" Nominated
Art Directors Guild Excellence In Production Design Award Michael Pickwoad, Claudio Campana, Delarey Wagenar, Emilia Roux, and Delia de Villiers Minnaar Nominated
Saturn Award Best Presentation on Television The Prisoner Nominated

Home release


In early 2010, Warner Home Video released The Prisoner in DVD format in Region 1/North America in a 3-disc collection.

Special features included deleted scenes for all episodes (including scenes from "Arrival" that explicitly indicate that 2 orders the bombing of the diner), and commentaries on "Arrival" and "Checkmate".

Featurettes in the set include:

  • "A 6 Hour Film Shot in 92 Days: The Diary of the Prisoner" – behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the series, featuring footage previously available online.
  • "Beautiful Prison: The World of the Prisoner" – a second behind-the-scenes documentary.
  • "The Prisoner ComicCon Panel" – Jim Caviezel, Lennie James, Bill Gallagher, and others discuss the then-upcoming series at the 2009 San Diego ComiCon.
  • "The Man Behind 2" – Jamie Campbell Bower conducts a tongue-in-cheek interview with his TV father, Ian McKellen.

ITV Studios Home Entertainment released a UK DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 3 May 2010.[22] The listed extras include the deleted scenes, ComicCon panel and McKellen interview, but differ otherwise. They include:

  • "The Making of" for all six episodes
  • "Inside The Prisoner" for all six episodes
  • The Prisoner Read Through
  • Character Profiles


  1. "AMC » the prisoner about the show". Archived from the original on 2009-10-09. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  2. "AMC » the prisoner about this website". Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  3. It was announced in late 2005 that Granada would revive the series for Sky1 in 2007. BBC News: Remake for cult show The Prisoner Christopher Eccleston was initially rumoured to be considered for the title role and it was reported that the series would be titled Number Six instead of The Prisoner. Abortive remake plans actually pre-date 2005, with Simon West at one point in the early 2000s (decade) reported as directing a theatrical version. Patrick McGoohan himself had mulled over plans for a remake as early as the 1970s.
  4. "ComicCon Panel" special feature, included on the 2010 DVD release of the series by Warner Home Video.
  5. "AMC—Blogs—The Prisoner". Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  6. "Production Diary Week 18—That's a Wrap!". AMC. 2008-12-12. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2008-12-26.
  7. "Home - Palisadian Post". Palisadian Post.
  8. SFX Magazine, edition #188, November 2009, UK
  9. "AMC—Blogs—The Prisoner—Newsflash! The Prisoner Miniseries to Premiere Sun., Nov. 15". 2009-09-29. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  10. In December 2006, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the American cable TV channel AMC was co-producing The Prisoner with Sky1, and that it would run at least six to eight episodes, beginning in January 2008 (both in the UK and USA).ICv2 News — AMC Remaking 'The Prisoner'
  11. In May 2007 it was reported that Sky One had pulled out of the re-make due to a disagreement with AMC. In August 2007, Richard Woolfe, head of Sky One, stated: The Prisoner is not happening. It's a very quintessentially British drama and there were too many creative differences trying to share it with an American partner. I didn't want to be responsible for taking something that is quintessentially British and adapting it in a way that I didn't feel was reflective of the way people would remember it and the way people would want it to be. So we called time on that.Digital Spy: Q & A with Sky One head Richard Woolfe
  12. Revisit The Prisoner Online
  13. "AMC » The Prisoner". AMC. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
  14. Number 93 is dressed identically to the original Number 6 from the 1960s series; according to an interview with Ian McKellen in SFX #188 ("The New Number Two", p.51), McGoohan was offered the role of Number 93, but declined.
  15. "The Prisoner - Season 1 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  16. The Los Angeles Times, "The Prisoner: The AMC remake of the cult classic '60s British spy-fi series won't hold viewers captive," by Robert Lloyd (November 14, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  17. Entertainment Weekly, "The Prisoner (2009–2009)," by Ken Tucker (November 11, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  18. The Chicago Sun-Times Archived 2009-11-18 at the Wayback Machine, "The TV Paige: AMC's 'The Prisoner' remake," by Paige Wiser (November 14, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  19. The San Francisco Chronicle, "TV review: Prisoner remake captive of past," by Tim Goodman (November 13, 2009—retrieved on November 18, 2009).
  20. Alessandra Stanley (November 12, 2009) "Rethinking of a Number Between 1 and 10", The New York Times. Retrieved on November 12, 2009.
  21. (April 25, 2010-retrieved on November 12, 2010).
  22. "The Prisoner (2010) (R2/UK BD) in May". Home Cinema @ The Digital Fix. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
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