Finally, it seems we have some solid information about the new Prisoner TV series that is shooting this year. I first read the news at AICN, though their television reporter wasn’t quite sure if Six Of One was a reliable source. Six of One is the name of the official Prisoner appreciation society (fan club, then) and the main hub of Prisoner news on the internet. Patrick McGoohan himself is a member and honorary president. The society has been going for over 30 years, and covered every scrap of news about the remake, so I’m more confident about this information, which they have posted as an exclusive without qualification.
As we’ve known for a while, the British channel ITV (the broadcasters of the original series) and the American channel AMC will co-produce a remake of The Prisoner. What we now know is that the new mini-series will be six episodes, each one hour long, so there is that ‘six of one’ again. Main character Number Six will be played by Jim Caviezel and antagonist Number Two will be played by Ian McKellen. The show, which is shooting in Cape Town and Namibia, will be directed by Jon Jones.
The first thing that struck me was the shooting locations. Namibia? This is the biggest departure from the original show so far. In the first show, the Village was shot in Portmeirion, Wales. That Village was a twisted British holiday camp curio, beautiful but surreal, a miniature, exaggerated Italy with a grey sea. The holiday camp aspect was, like the gardens given to the inmates in The Great Escape, meant to encourage Number 6 to stay and relax. So what will a Prisoner Village be like in Namibia? A desert camp? It seems to miss the point of the original if the Village itself is made harsh or unwelcoming. It was more a prison of ideas and frustration than one of walls or blasted landscapes.
Likewise, I’m not sure about Jim Caviezel as Number 6. His name to me immediately conjures, not his Jesus role, but his sleepy performance from The Thin Red Line or even Frequency. He certainly doesn’t strike me as a tightly wound provocateur. I have no doubts about Ian McKellen as Number Two, I can see him playing the part very much in the style of Leo McKern, who was the most popular original Number Two. It might have been an idea to have a different, high profile actor play Number Two in each episode, as in the original where the character changed several times, with the same code number.
Of director Jon Jones, I only know his TV movie A Very Social Secretary, a satire about the sex scandal that surrounded former British MP and cabinet member David Blunkett. While it was quite funny, especially Bernard Lee’s performance, it didn’t give anything like a hint of how the same director might handle a property such as The Prisoner. But this, like Jim Caviezel, like the location shooting, like the American co-production angle, all makes me very curious as to what they have planned for this new version which, with all these changes, must certainly be a very different animal from the original. According to Six of One, shooting does not begin until the start of August, so hopefully we’ll see a trailer or promo of some sort this winter, which will give us a better idea of what to expect.