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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mini-series “The Prisoner” poses deep philosophical questions

Published: November 20, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

AMC’s hit mini-series “The Prisoner” is worthwhile television for Brandeis students. Staying true to the original series upon which it is based, “The Prisoner” tells the story of one man’s attempt to escape the utopian village where he (Jim Caviezel) one day wakes up and finds himself.

Before waking up in the village, the man is shown resigning from his mysterious job (in the original he was a type of spy).

When speaking with the man who runs the village, Number Two (Sir Ian McKellen), Six is told that the New York he remembers never existed, and that he lives, and always has lived, in the village.

The protagonist is presented with pictures of his childhood and other evidence planted to suggest that his “real world” was nothing but a dream. Among these items he comes across an ID card. With this ID card is his picture and in the space for a name it says “Number Six.”

A regular phrase that Number Six is compelled to repeat as he tries to maintain his senses of reality, self and sanity is, “I am not a number, I am a free man,” a quote often referenced in pop-culture (FOX’s The Simpsons reference the quotation in no less than four episodes).

According to an interview with J.J. Abrams for TV Guide, “The Prisoner” was one of the main influencing factors for recent popular shows like Lost.

Not only is the premise of the series indicative of its strength, but the cast is strong as well. Caviezel (aka Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ”) was perfectly cast in his role as Number Six in order to fill the shoes originally played by the late Patrick McGoohan.

He maintains a level of intensity necessary to convey the difficulty with which he strives to maintain his identity, while seamlessly shifting to pure joy upon discovering evidence that his beliefs are right in the form of a sketch of the statue of Liberty drawn by a fellow village member based on a dream.

McKellen (aka Gandalf and Magneto) shines as he manages to portray an eccentric and amiable Number 2, who can rapidly become a ruthless tyrant and go so far as to pull a grenade out of his pocket and threaten one of his most loyal workers.

So what’s the big deal? The thing is that this show (it is a mere six hours total minus commercials) expands your mind.

What if you woke up and everything around you suggested that the world you “knew” was nothing but a dream?

What would you do if you could not even remember your name? This may sound like “The Matrix” but this show presents a similar idea in a more believable setting.

I implore you to look into this rare series that has the potential to change the way you look at the world, even if only slightly.

The series has been airing this last week on AMC (Channel 59) and is also currently available on iTunes. Additionally, AMC offers the original series for free via streaming on their website