In our series examining one of the most iconic TV series of all time, The Prisoner, we’re taking a look at the various facets that make Patrick McGoohan’s 1960s masterpiece such a compelling watch.
Here, we’ve got six of the best guest stars for you…
6. Jane Merrow
(Alison in ‘The Schizoid Man’)
McGoohan’s such a softy for the opposite sex (in fiction anyway), and it’s no more evident than it is here with No. 6’s new BFF Alison, a young would-be photographer who also has a penchant for telepathy.
Being very attractive and beautifully dressed (well, for The Prisoner at least), Merrow’s character fools us all into thinking she’s on our side. Oddly, our man Six doesn’t seem to begrudge her betrayal. As I say, he’s a softy.
5. Nigel Stock
(The Colonel in ‘Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling’)
A familiar face on UK television, primarily for his role in Sherlock Holmes as Dr. Watson, Nigel Stock had the unenviable task of replacing creator Patrick McGoohan as No. 6 for almost the entirety of an episode.
The story itself was borne out of necessity (McGoohan had popped off to film Ice Station Zebra with Rock Hudson) and we find Six’s mind is placed into the body of The Colonel, played by Stock, in another scheme concocted by The Village. His portrayal is rather subdued and his impression of the titular hero isn’t what you would call accurate, but he gets points for playing such a major role for a considerable amount of time, if slightly unimpressive.
4. Peter Bowles
(A in ‘A, B and C’)
Who doesn’t adore a bit of Bowles action? The lovable charming rogue in To The Manor Born (and Only When I Laugh) stars as a charmer with a dark edge in one of the many “drug” episodes of The Prisoner.
His character, simply titled ‘A’, is planted into No. 6’s dreams (brought on by Village pharmaceuticals) in order to find out why Six absconded from the service. Needless to say his efforts don’t work but his moustache is perfection personified, as are his exquisite sounding vowels. A class act.
3. Nadia Gray
(Nadia in ‘The Chimes of Big Ben’)
Only two episodes in and The Prisoner delivered a classic story; an hour that not only included excellent displays from the lead and visiting No. 2, Leo McKern, but also a sympathetic and incredibly likable performance from actress Nadia Gray as fellow Village detainee, Nadia.
Becoming “friends” with Six (well, as much as you can) after demonstrating some fine swimming skills (whilst trying to escape by sea), the couple hatched an audacious plan of their own to get back to Blighty. Gray’s heartfelt characterisation and possible love interest makes for intriguing viewing within the confines of the usually calculated and cynical world of The Prisoner. Of course, to top off her performance, she was hiding something from No. 6….
2. Justine Lord
(Sonia in ‘The Girl Who Was Death’)
Girl who was utterly bonkers more like! Justine Lord shoots across the screen like no other character in The Prisoner‘s seventeen episode run. It helps, of course, when the story lends itself to some unusual acting choices.
As if gearing up for the finale, the production team let rip with some nods to Danger Man (McGoohan’s show before The Prisoner) and James Bond (a part McGoohan turned down) and Lord’s Sonia matches the insanity.
She’s on the hunt for No. 6 in an almost lustful fashion as she tries to blow him six ways from Sunday with machine guns and explosives. And she almost wins; Justine Lord, we salute you!
1. Alexis Kanner
(The Kid in ‘Living in Harmony’/No. 48 in ‘Fall Out’)
Matching Justine Lord in the crazy stakes is Alexis Kanner, who impressed so much in his first outing as a mute, slightly fey but skin-crawlingly creepy cowboy (in the mind-fuck that is ‘Living in Harmony’), he was invited back for a speaking part as a the stereotypical groovy, teenage hipster in the finale to beat all finales, ‘Fall Out’.
It’s also worth pointing out that Kanner pops up briefly in ‘The Girl Who Was Death’, but it’s his role in The Prisoner’s denouement that lives long in the memory as he leads the “enemy” in a chorus of Dem Bones. His striking looks are matched by his equally striking performances and it’s a pity his talent didn’t make him the star he deserved to be.
Watch an action-packed classic clip from the show…