Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Patrick McGoohan, RIP

Another icon passes on.

Patrick McGoohan is probably best known to contemporary audiences for his deliciously wicked turn as King Edward "Longshanks" in Mel Gibson's Braveheart, but for many his definitive role came much earlier, either as the heroic John Drake in the Brit-American TV show Danger Man, or even more likely, as the enigmatic Number Six, former secret agent trapped by unknown enemies, in the classic British series The Prisoner.

One of the most memorable and visually-arresting shows to emerge from its era, The Prisoner's scant seventeen episodes created such a lasting mythology that much of its uniquely '60s iconography is easily recognizable even to those who may be unaware of the original source.

Although McGoohan didn't create the initial concept, he did shepard it as both star and producer, and is largely responsible for the subversive, anti-establishment tone it struck, quite revolutionary for its time. Indeed, McGoohan's indignant proclamation to his captors that he would "not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered," emerged as something of a personal mantra over the years.

Although there had been rumblings over the years of a new take on The Prisoner, some with McGoohan's involvement and some without, it wasn't until this year's just-announced miniseries version on A&E, with Jim Caviezel as the titular captive and Ian McKellen as his persecutor, that anything crystalized. It's just a shame that Patrick McGoohan won't be around to give the new version his blessing.

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