We Want Information! And Cheesecake. But We’ll Settle For Just The Cheesecake.

So after a long spell without the pacifier, Joker and I had had enough, it was either get the TV installed or there were going be nightly bonfires on the front lawn and burning tires until someone fixed the problem.  But of course there was no one else and so I called up and got them to hook up our direct TV ourselves, and like magic, our conduit of media was once again connected to the universe we crave.   And just in time too.  Sunday night A&E aired the first of it’s episodes updating the classic British TV show ‘The Prisoner”.  I got into the original some years ago when Sci-Fi was just getting it’s wings and wasn’t afraid of airing stuff late at night that didn’t include bad 80’s horror shows or Girl’s Going Wild.

The original series was  the brain child of actor/ writer/ director Patrick McGoohan, the star of the hit British spy show ‘Secret Agent’ and George Markstein, a story editor on the series.  Not content with just continuing his career as a an actor shoveling out run of the mill action shows, McGoohan used his pull and fame to craft a deep and dark piece of work.  Falling somewhere in the vast expanse between Ayn Rand’s ‘Anthem’ and the James Bond series of movies/books, the show explored themes like paranoia, individuality, and defiance,  a poster child for trippy 1960’s unrest.  I came upon it at that perfect time in my life when I was exploring similar ideas in the books I was reading and it just clicked very hard with me.

And the final episode has a Beatles music cue that would blow your socks off.

So it was with no small enthusiasm that I sat down to watch the remake the other night.  And it was pretty damn good.  Although some things have changed, the Village being much larger and now isolated in the middle of a vast desert as opposed to next to the sea.  But the core ideas are all still present.

James Caviezel now takes the lead role as Number Six, a man who wakes up in the isolated sands outside of The Village with no idea how he got there.  Caviezel does a workable job, emitting a constant aura of confusion and angry distrust of everyone he meets, but he doesn’t have that heavy brow emphasized glare or the feel of pent up explosive danger of McGoohan’s version of the character.  The decision to change Number Six from an ex-secret agent to an information analysis is an interesting one, sacrificing a man prone to action for an extremely observant protagonist, we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out in the episodes to come.

Playing foil to Caviezel’s Number Six is Sir Ian McKellen, who hams it up as he is often fond of doing as the villainous Number Two.  But even chewing scenery Magneto-style isn’t enough to really take anything away from such a masterful actor and he comes across  as both a believable protector of his fellow Village citizens and sinister face to the secret plot that enslaves them all.  I bought it, and as a fan of the old show, I felt the casting of Number 2 was nearly as important as the lead, so I was pleased by what I saw in McKellen’s performance.

Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango?

Six’s fellow Villagers all still have numbers for identities instead of real names and there’s an ongoing attempt to convince him that they are living a perfectly happy existence in The Village.  Of course it wouldn’t be a show if everything was really peachy, and it becomes clear very quickly that their harmonious front is a cover for something much more sinister and/or strange.  Ideas of alternate realities immediately sprung to the minds of those watching with me, and I can’t really argue with that kind of logic.  The Village does seem to be in it’s own place and time, and the strange phantom twin towers in the distance raises many questions about the remote locale.  But part of the fun of the Prisoner has always been trying to explain what was really going on.  Much of the same theories people have built around ‘Lost’ were applied to ‘The Prisoner’, things like it being a kind of purgatory or the previously mentioned alternate reality theories.  None of it was really explained in the TV show, McGoohan certainly wasn’t telling, and it’s been way too long since I have read the Alan Moore written comic mini-series for me to recall if it was covered there.

And it’s mostly irrelevant.  The Prisoner, to me at least, was about the man himself and his struggle with his captors and fellow Villagers to dig out the truth and remain a free man.

So I’m in so far, here’s to hoping the rest of the episodes landed on the DVR.

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