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The Prisoner: Comic Whets Appetite for Mini-Series, But What Does It Mean?

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Having downloaded the PDF for The Prisoner comic, an eight-page comic made available at the San Diego Comic-Con that sets up the events of AMC's six-hour miniseries in November 2009 (starring Sir Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel), I feel decidedly underwhelmed.

I will say that I recognize the comic as a piece of promotional material. A teaser meant to whet the appetite, which in itself is no better and, let's hope, no worse than that "Last Supper" business NBC Universal and the people behind Battlestar Galactica shoved down our throats.

Without spoiling it for you, the comic denotes a completely different direction from its original source material, which… might be a severe mistake. The penultimate fait accompli of this remake, if you will.

The point of the series is this: an extremely valuable unnamed intelligence agent with a promising career suddenly, and without warning or any apparent rationale, resigns. After resigning, he is abducted and finds himself in a place called "The Village," where he is subjected to various attempts to extract the reason for his sudden resignation, which he doesn't care to disclose. There is also the question of which side "The Village" operates for and, while very much a prison of sorts, it is impossible to tell who are the prisoners and who are the wardens.

Everyone in The Village has a number. The unnamed prisoner, the protagonist of the story, is called Number 6. (To answer your question: Yes, this was the origin for the name of that blonde number with the glowing spine from that television show with the ship that looked like a cross between a ribbed prophylactic and an alligator on skis.) More often than not, the antagonist is a person referred to as Number Two, who apparently runs The Village. In the original 1967 series, the Number Two would often be a different person, mostly a man, and sometimes a woman.

Now, in the series, 6's mental faculties are undamaged, despite repeated attempts to warp his mind. However, in the new mini-series, it appears that the Prisoner has experienced memory loss, which is (according to one report, anyway) deliberate.

At the risk of sounding alarmist, this changes the entire concept of The Prisoner. The fact that Number 6 knows who he is, what he did, and why he did it was vital to the show, as he actively fought to protect his sense of identity through sheer force of will power and belief in himself. To have Number 6 deprived of the knowledge of who he is, and (if I'm reading it correctly) rediscover who he is in an enemy camp, means that the entire premise of the show has been changed.

While I will admit that there are various episodes of the original series where Number 6 is tricked into believing that he is, in fact, someone else (or retrained with a new personality during the "Ultimate Test"), the people who ran The Village were very careful to avoid actually damaging his intellect. After all, were his brain or intellect damaged, then they may never actually find out the answer to the question of why he resigned.

So, the question remains… is this new Prisoner a mere "prison break" story with some psychological contrivances and good actors, or will it actually follow the footsteps of its original source material and provide us with an innovative television series that dares to have us question or culture and our society?

I'll be waiting for an answer to that question, hoping that it will arrive in November.

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About Joe Beaudoin Jr.