I first saw Patrick McGoohan in the sixties cult series The Prisoner (1967), as a child in the late seventies. I was confused and confounded, but expected that most adults would understand this amazing programme. I watched it several times in my mid teens and still was a bit non-plussed, quickly realising that most of the adults actually didn't graps the layers of meaning within the show. As an adult, I now understand the complex issues and applaud the storytelling and flawless, stylised imagery. I have been a bit of a 'Prisoner' nerd ever since. On The Prisoner Facebook forum, the subject of The Prisoner (2009) came up and people voiced their opinions of the reimagined No.6 played by Jim Caviezel, opposite Sir Ian McKellan's No.2. The posts were generally negative. I too, saw part of the first episode and turned off midway through, deeming it a pile of tosh that couldn't hold a candle to the original. However, I decided to have another look and, although I am late to the party by a good nine years, I decided to look at it as a totally different series. Consequently, I have had a bit of a rethink.
Personally, I think it was a fair production, rather than a reproduction. It was not so much 'Prisoner Reimagined;' it was more a hybrid of other imagined dystopias - a kind of 'Brave-New-Fahrenheit-1984-Matrix' screenplay. I can even see aspects of Numb3rs and some of Groove Armada's At the River. They had clearly distilled the seventeen episodes of the original into an (ironic) six part mini series. That does make it sound like a ham-fisted, fanfic pastiche of the best dystopic fiction. It escapes this image - but only just. I think if they had marketed this as a brief nod to The Prisoner (though I suspect they wouldn't have got the funding) and played more with their own artistic representations, this would have been a far better series. Rover could have had a CGI make over and just be a combination of menacing sea swell and/or part of the sinister sink hole problem that the modern-day Village had incurred with increased regularity. I think more emphasis on the New Village logo, more brainwashed soundbites and a more unisex fashion style as per the original, wouldn't have gone amiss either.
I do not know whether this was intentional, but I liked that this series had steered away from No.6 as protagonist (Jim Caviezal as acceptable, but essentially empty eye candy) and instead focused on a far more mesmerising and static No.2 as central role antagonist (Sir Ian McKellan does this with usual aplomb). I also liked the incidental music a lot - big shout out to Robin Whittaker and Thomas Golubic for that. Unfortunately, part of the charm of the original series is that there was very fine word play between McGoohan and other characters. If it wasn't the fact that Caviezal's character was meant to be portraying a former crack IT/surveillance operative, you maybe forgiven for thinking that No.6 was as dumb as a bucketful of rocks. The cameras may have preferred the babe magnet Slim Jim, but the charismatic McKellen had more charm in his craggy little finger and in my opinion, stole the show.
In saying this, I still liked the reboot....but...with a bit more credible writing and some judicial editing, it could have taken an ok series to being a stand-alone classic, like its predecessor.