Tag Archives: chimes of big ben

Retro Sunday: The Prisoner Theme

Last week we had Johnny River’s song for the show Secret Agent. Today is the theme from The Prisoner (1967-1968,UK)which many believe is the sequel to Secret Agent. Both starred Patrick McGoohan as the main character. The Prisoner dealt with a McGoohan’s character apparently resigning from his top secret job and then being abducted. He finds himself in an Orwellian village where everyone has a number, is under constant surveillance,and ruled over by Number 2. They try various methods to break him, chiefly to reveal why he resigned although other reasons emerge as well. The series dealt with some heady things such as liberty and privacy and a nearly omniscient government. Such themes are still topical considering how technology allows not only government to monitor us but data mining of just about everything we do for commercial and government use. Collectivism vs. individualism is the bigger theme and today we can see it being debated when a collective decides certain disquieting voices must be silenced through a variety of means without a regard to individual liberty

The opening theme is from episode two, The Chimes of Big Ben. This is considered one of the best episodes though very early on. Part of it is due the actor who plays Number 2, Leo McKern. His Number 2 is remembered because of his wit in sparring with McGoohan’s Number 6. Was Number 6 John Drake of Secret Agent? McGhoohan said he was not but others who worked closely in developing the show worked on Secret Agent as well. In fact the earliest conceptions before McGoohan was involved were of Drake actually the person who thought up such a place for retired agents and that he resigns to see if it lived up to what it should be. Certainly that makes a lot of sense rather than it being a long nightmare (which in the end seems like it). What makes us a prisoner though is not just being forcibly locked up against our will but sometimes the circumstances of our lives. Drake (lets just assume it here)was in a role that he could never ever really leave. No matter how much he wanted to go on vacation, he would always be the secret agent.