Tag Archives: patrick mcgoohan

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.


Retro Saturday:Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers)

Patrick McGoohan played the character of John Drake, an secret agent for an organization affiliated with NATO in Danger Man(Secret Agent in US) from 1960-1962 and from 1964-1968 he was an agent with British M9. What set it apart from others in the genre was reliance on wits rather than gadgets and gimmicks. And it had a dark theme to it as well as good people sometimes suffering bad things (being killed by an enemy, being arrested for a crime they did not commit)as a consequence of his actions. And Drake did not always follow his orders getting him into conflict with his superiors in the second series.

It was an excellent and well done series with interesting plots and intrique that often put Drake in danger. When the show was imported to the US, the title was changed to Secret Agent and added the song Secret Agent Man sung by Johnny Rivers for the opening and closing of the show. The song became a hit and still is popular to this day. Some people (myself included when I first heard it)often hear Rivers seemingly sing the words “secret asian man….” This is because he stretches the word agent into a-G-ent (secret a-G-ent man) resulting in the g sort of sounding like an s when it is not. It was done for stylistic reasons and makes it easier to sing in this manner. At any rate here is a 1966 performance of Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers.