The Prisoner: Opening Credits


A clap of thunder, over a shot of high, massing clouds.
A shot of a long, straight, borderless road, looking like an airport runway, stretching out to the perspective point. A speck, in the distance, races towards the camera at fantastic speed, the music reaching a crescendo and pulsing into a strong theme, punctuated by thunderclaps as the car passes beneath the camera.
Close-ups, from different angles, of McGoohan sat behind the wheel. The car is a Lotus 7 in British racing green. McGoohan’s face is set, the face of someone who has reached a difficult decision, on which he’s about to act, about which he has mixed feelings.
The Lotus dodges through London traffic, slipping quickly past the Houses of Parliament before the car turns off right.
An overhead shot, of the car turning into the entrance to an underground car park, white, broadheaded arrows painted onto the concrete.
McGoohan arrives at an entrance barrier and takes a ticket. Before the barrier has time to rise, he drives on, under it.
He pulls up in a corner of the car park, leaps out of the car and heads towards a pair of Way Out doors.
The theme pauses, marking anxious time. McGoohan stalks along a metal-walled corridor. It is lit at intervals by overhead lights, leaving pools of shadow between. Close-ups of McGoohan’s stride, moving into and out of the light, a diagonal overhead shot of his face, the expression strained.
The interior of a pair of metal doors, thrown open from outside. McGoohan stands poised, his arms holding the doors wide, before striding forward.
Over his shoulder, looking into a well-appointed Civil Servant’s office. A small, balding man, in pin-striped trousers, sits behind a large desk covered with papers, looking down.
McGoohan prowls backwards and forwards, speaking volubly as the man seems to ignore him. His anger flares: he reaches into his jacket for a large white envelope, slams it down on the desktop. If we look quickly enough we can see it has ‘Private and Confidential  By Hand’ written on it, before McGoohan slams his fist down on the desktop. Everything jumps, including a bone china cup and saucer, the saucer splitting in two.
Back in the car, over McGoohan’s shoulder as he drives up the exit ramp into the daylight.
At the top of the ramp, at ground level, a black car emerging from the left courteously slows down to allow the Lotus to turn out of the ramp and right across our screens.
We follow the car through more London traffic. It overtakes an undertaker’s hearse and speeds away, but the hearse remains visible in the background. There are close-ups of McGoohan’s face, smiling ruefully. He’s done whatever’s necessary, and is glad of it, but it’s not been an easy decision.
Close-up on a B&W photo of McGoohan, as a typewriter key types a series of x’s diagonally from top left to bottom right. More traffic. The same photo and typewriter key, etching x’s from top right to bottom left.
A long hall of filing cabinets. Something slides along a rail on the left hand wall. A cabinet drawer slides open. The camera focusses on the picture, now with a great X across it. It falls into the drawer, which slides back in. The camera follows it, closing in on the drawer label: RESIGNED
A quiet side street. The Lotus pulls up outside the last house on the left. Credits come up: “Patrick McGoohan is”: “The Prisoner”. We cut to McGoohan, leaping out of the car. In the background, a black blur resolves into focus as an undertaker’s hearse.
McGoohan bounds up the steps and lets himself in. Over his shoulder, as he goes through the door, the hearse pulls forward, pulling up gently behind the Lotus.
McGoohan enters a comfortable living room. He takes a suitcase across to a table before a corner window, returns to another table in front of the camera point, picking up his passport, before returning to the suitcase, into which he places photos of holiday destinations.
A tall, thin, cadaverous man gets out of the hearse. He is in full rig: long black coat, top hat. He climbs the steps to the front door.
McGoohan is bent over the photos. Close-up on the keyhole into his room, as a cloud of white gas hisses loudly through it. The hissing continues as we cut back to look face on to McGoohan. The cloud starts to gather. Suddenly McGoohan stiffens, having heard the gas, and starting to feel its effect. His eyes panic, realising he’s been caught, angry with himself at letting his guard down.
We focus on his paralysed eyes. Visions of the towerblocks he can see through his window slide crazily across his face, before his eyes close.
He falls back, consumed by the gas, his hands clawing at and dragging down the blind, as he collapses onto a coach against the wall. The music stops.
After a moment of blackness, the picture returns, accompanied by cool, placid music, a single wind instrument. McGoohan is lying on the same couch, exactly as he fell. His eyes open but he doesn’t move, glancing around. His brow furrows: he swings himself into an upright position, wincing slightly, as if he has a residual headache from the gassing. He stands, still puzzled. Why the attack if nothing has been done to him?
He reaches for the blinds, drawing these up to let sunlight in. We cut to outside the window, looking in at him as the blind rises, his eyes following its trailing edge until he freezes in shock.
Cut to what McGoohan sees through his window: an Italianate stone village, built around an elongated square containing fountains and a pond, a gallery beyond, domed buildings on the low hillside around it. The episode title card appears, in a distinctive font, used exclusively throughout the Village, and now known as Prisoner Font.
From episode 2 onwards, a slightly edited version of these credits is followed by a series of questions and answers – a catechism – over selected scenes showing the exterior of the Village, its interior offices, McGoohan running across the sands and being charged by Rover and, finally, a moonlight gesture of defiance and (impotent) rage.
McGoohan:    Where am I?
No. 2:        In the Village.
McGoohan:    What side are you on?
No. 2:        That would be telling.
McGoohan:    What do you want?
No. 2:        We want information. (repeated slightly louder) Information. (repeated even louder) Information!
McGoohan:    You won’t get it!
No. 2:        By hook or by crook (pause), we will.
McGoohan:    Who are you?
No. 2:        (face appears on screen) The new Number Two.
McGoohan:    (rapped out stonily) Who is Number 1?
No. 2:        You (slight pause) are Number 6.
McGoohan:    (in rising anger), I am not a number, I am a free man!
No. 2:        (harsh, derisive laughter).
The episode begins.

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