“I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. I am my own man.”
Patrick McGoohan was Danger Man John Drake, Dr. Syn (alias The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh), Edward Longshanks, Dr. Paul Ruth in Scanners, Agent David Jones in Ice Station Zebra and erstwhile nemesis to Columbo (he starred in four episodes – a record!) and many, many others in his long career, but to most of us he’s the creator and star of one of the most original and daring TV shows ever created. He was The Prisoner, the former British agent (John Drake, perhaps?) who left the service in an outrage (replayed in the opening sequence of every episode) and was subsequently sent to a kind of holiday colony for retired intelligence agents, a velvet prison created as a surreal mirror of the world. It’s an ingenious political allegory played as a conspiratorial mind-game. No other TV show dared be as enigmatic, as philosophically complex, or as genuinely suspicious view of global power politics.
If you’re looking for a proper tribute to McGoohan, you can’t do better than a Prisoner marathon, but also note that in late 2008, Walt Disney released Dr Syn, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. The two-disc set feature the complete three-part series as original broadcast on Disneyland in 1963 and the subsequent feature film version edited down from the series. McGoohan is Dr. Christopher Syn, alias The Scarecrow, a rural country priest in 18th century Britain who leads a double life as a masked smuggler and gangleader, a kind of Robin Hood by way of Batman.
There are tributes aplenty across the web and David Hudson has done a fine job of collecting them at The Daily @ IFC.com. Also be sure to see Jim Emerson’s video essay on the opening sequence of the series on his Scanners blog here, which he reposted in tribute to McGoohan here.