Number 6

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Television series
German title Number 6
Original title The prisoner
Prisoner - Logo.jpg
Country of production United Kingdom
original language English
Year (s) 1967-1968
length 48 minutes
Episodes 17 in 1 season
genre Drama , mystery
Theme music Ron Grainer
idea George Markstein , Patrick McGoohan
production David Tomblin , Patrick McGoohan / Incorporated Television Company
music Robert Farnon
First broadcast October 1, 1967 ( GB ) on ITV
first broadcast
August 16, 1969 on ZDF

Main actor:

Supporting cast:

Number 6 (Original title: The Prisoner ) is a British television series from 1967 by Patrick McGoohan , who also played the lead role. When the nameless main character stops working as an agent for the British secret service, she is dragged to a remote location and held there as "Number 6". The often changing head of the place, "number 2", tries in each episode to find out the reason for the termination. In return, "number 6" tries to find out the identity of the chief, "number 1", and to escape the place.

The exterior shots were filmed in Portmeirion , a hotel complex in northern Wales .

The series already shows some postmodern features , even if this term was not yet established at the time of production. It is considered a milestone in television entertainment.


Portmeirion - Pantheon, in the series Official residence of "Number 2"

In the introductory sequence that precedes almost every episode, the basic plot is introduced: the protagonist , obviously an agent of the British secret service, angrily quits his job. Back at his apartment, he begins to pack his things and is stunned by the gas flowing in. Later, the agent wakes up, apparently still in the same room, in an unknown location, The Village . The village is characterized by a Mediterranean -style architecture and is inhabited not only by prisoners but also by guards. It is difficult to differentiate between the two groups as the residents all wear holiday clothing. Nobody in the village tells him where he is. Escape attempts are prevented by the guards and a large floating white ball called "Rover" (in the old German version "Hystero"), which can knock refugees unconscious and even kill them.

Instead of a name, each resident is identified by a number, which can be found on badges, apartment signs or telephones. The main character, whose name the viewer never learns, is referred to by everyone as "number 6". The person in charge in the place is a person who is referred to as "number 2" and is embodied by a different person in almost every episode. Women also occasionally appear in this role. The aim of "number 2" is to find out the reason for the termination of "number 6". For this purpose, brainwashing instruments are used in many episodes , for example rapid learning through hypnosis and conditioning through electroshock therapy . Interrogation techniques up to torture are also shown. “Number 6” passes those confusing, surreal situations that are supposed to serve his wear down only because of his strong will and logical thinking ability. An essential motive of his resistance is the insistence on his individuality and personal freedom.

The last episode of the original series ( Fall Out ) triggered stormy protests from the English audience because of the often interpretable ending and the refusal to conventionally "resolve" the enigmatic plot. Patrick McGoohan even had to go into hiding at times because fans molested him in front of his house. He drew the consequences for himself and his family and settled in California, where he lived until his death.


Script editor George Markstein was a journalist by profession and mainly devoted himself to intelligence topics, then began to work as a writer and screenwriter for television. From his journalistic activities he knew a place in Scotland - the property Inverlair Lodge - where the British secret service had interned agents and persons with sensitive knowledge about their own protection and the protection of the country. This knowledge formed the basis on which he, together with Patrick McGoohan, with whom he had already developed the series Secret Order for John Drake ( Secret Agent , also: Danger Man , 1960), laid the basic idea for number 6 .

The episode Colony Three (1964) from the Drake series shows parallels with number 6 : Drake goes undercover to a remote location somewhere in Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain in an exact replica of a typical British small town. This is inhabited by British citizens who have changed fronts for various reasons (love, money, ideology). They are all here for training purposes, only to later return to Great Britain undetected as spies. Nobody can leave the place, everyone is permanently under surveillance by responsible persons in the background, who are referred to as "number 1" and "number 2". Like “Number 6,” Drake is given a tour of the place and in one scene a resident is electrocuted. In the end he manages to leave the place.


Patrick McGoohan originally planned a mini-series with seven episodes. Lew Grade , head of ITC Entertainment , wanted to sell the series in the USA and therefore needed a larger number of episodes. In the late summer of 1966, the first outdoor shoots took place in Portmeirion, Wales . The first episodes to emerge were: The Arrival , Free Choice , Checkmate and The Prosecution . The end of the planned first season was the episode Pas de deux ( Once Upon a Time ).

Markstein left production before the completion of the first 13 episodes due to differences with McGoohan over the possible progress of the series. After completing these first episodes, there was a production break of several months and McGoohan himself took on his first Hollywood role in Ice Station Zebra (director: John Sturges ). During his absence and when the first episodes were already on TV, it was decided to shoot more episodes and finish number 6 after 17 episodes. The cost was extremely high and the audience low. After a few personnel changes, the team resumed production. In 1967 additional outdoor shots took place and new scripts had to be developed under great time pressure. One result of this production process is the episode 2: 2 = 2 ( Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling ), in which the personality of "number 6" was transferred to another person. As a result, McGoohan was not needed and Nigel Stock was able to take over the role of "Number 6" completely. McGoohan himself only appears shortly before the end in a scene made after his return from the USA.

After another four episodes produced, Pas de deux became the first part, together with unmasking ( Fall Out ), and finally to the double finals.


The opening credits end in each episode with a dialogue between "Number 6" and "Number 2". Exceptions are the episodes The Arrival , 2: 2 = 2 , Harmony and Unmasking . In the German version the text is spoken by the respective "number 2". In the original, however, the reigning "number 2" only speaks the prologue in the episodes The Bells of Big Ben , AB and C. , Der General , Die Anklage , Schachmatt and Pas de deux . The rest are voiced by Robert Rietty. The episodes Harmony (14) and Unmasking (17) have no opening credits, instead the final episode begins with a ten-minute compilation of the previous episode. The episode 2: 2 = 2 (13) has an additional scene before the opening credits (“pre-credit sequence”).


The order of the episodes differs depending on the country or broadcasting station. The series had its television premiere not in the UK, but in Canada. Harmony was not shown on the US premiere of CBS. When it was broadcast again in 1969, the series was complete.

The episodes were broadcast in Germany in the so-called standard British order. The "correct" order is controversial.

( total )
( St. )
German title Original title First broadcast in UK German language first broadcast (D) First broadcast in the USA Production
1 1 The arrival Arrival 09/29/1967 August 16, 1969 ( ZDF ) 06/01/1968 1
2 2 Big Ben's bells The Chimes of Big Ben 06.10.1967 March 14, 1970 (ZDF) 06/08/1968 5
3 3 A., B. and C. A., B. and C. 10/13/1967 October 25, 1969 (ZDF) 06/22/1968 10
4th 4th Free choice Free for All 10/20/1967 July 31, 2010 ( ARTE ) 06/29/1968 2
5 5 The lookalike The Schizoid Man October 27, 1967 July 31, 2010 (ARTE) 07/06/1968 7th
6th 6th The general The General 03/11/1967 November 15, 1969 (ZDF) 07/13/1968 11
7th 7th Congratulations Many happy returns 11/10/1967 09/13/1969 (ZDF) 07/20/1968 13
8th 8th The accusation Dance of the Dead 11/17/1967 January 3rd, 1970 (ZDF) 07/27/1968 4th
9 9 Checkmate Checkmate 11/24/1967 November 29, 1969 (ZDF) 08/17/1968 3
10 10 Hammer or anvil Hammer into Anvil December 01, 1967 February 28, 1970 (ZDF) 08/31/1968 12
11 11 The official seal It's your funeral December 8, 1967 December 13, 1969 (ZDF) 08/10/1968 8th
12 12 Change of heart A change of mind December 15, 1967 08/14/2010 (ARTE) 08/24/1968 9
13 13 2: 2 = 2 Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling 12/22/1967 January 24, 1970 (ZDF) 08/03/1968 14th
14th 14th Harmony Living in Harmony 12/29/1967 08/21/2010 (ARTE) - 15th
15th 15th 3 - 2 - 1 - 0 The Girl Who Was Death January 18, 1968 02/14/1970 (ZDF) 07.09.1968 16
16 16 pas de deux Once Upon a Time 01/25/1968 April 11, 1970 (ZDF) 09/14/1968 6th
17th 17th Unmasking Fall Out 02/01/1968 April 25, 1970 (ZDF) 09/21/1968 17th


  1. ATV did not air the series simultaneously across the country. The earliest broadcast was on ATV in Midlands / Grampian . It was first broadcast later in other areas of the UK .
  2. Original title: "The Queen's Pawn"
  3. Original title: "Face Unknown"
  4. a b EA in Scotland, the EA at ATV Midlands / Grampian took place one day later.
  5. Original title: "Degree Absolute"

Number 6 in Germany


Thirteen episodes of the series were dubbed in German in 1969 and broadcast on ZDF Saturday nights between August 1969 and April 1970 . ARTE then showed number 6 in full for the first time in the summer of 2010 : The four episodes that were not processed by ZDF at the time were dubbed for it. "Number 6" was now spoken by Bernd Rumpf , as the voice of McGoohan's former voice actor Horst Naumann had changed too much.

Dubbing and speaking

Dialogue book and dialogue direction:


role Voice actor
"Number 6" (Patrick McGoohan) Horst Naumann (1969) , Bernd Rumpf (2010)
Supervisor ( Peter Swanwick ) Leo Bardischewski (1969) , Lothar Hinze (2010)
"Number 2" ( Leo McKern ) (Ep. 2, 16 and 17) Walter Reichelt
"Number 2" ( Colin Gordon ) (Ep. 3, 6) Ernst Fritz Fürbringer
"Number 2" ( Guy Doleman ) (Ep. 1) Christian Marshal
"Number 2" ( George Baker ) (Ep. 1) Manfred Schott
"Number 2" ( Eric Portman ) (Ep. 4) Klaus Sunshine
"Number 2" ( Anton Rodgers ) (Ep. 5) Ilya Richter
"Number 2" ( Peter Wyngarde ) (Ep. 9) Herbert Weicker
"Number 2" ( Patrick Cargill ) (Ep. 10) Christian Marshal
"Number 2" ( Derren Nesbitt ) (Ep. 11) Jan Hendriks
"Number 2" ( John Sharp ) (Ep. 12) Peter Groeger
"Number 2" (Clifford Evans) (Ep. 13) Alf Marholm
"Number 2" (David Bauer) (Ep. 14) Ernst Meincke
"Number 2" (Kenneth Griffith) (Ep. 15) Gerd Duwner
Nadia ( Nadia Gray ) (Ep. 2) Eva Pflug
Engadine (Katherine Kath) (Ep. 3) Maria Landrock
Number 58 (Rachel Herbert) (Ep. 4) Debora refuses
Employment Agency (George Benson) (Ep. 4) Michael Pan
Alison (Jane Merrow) (Ep. 5) Gundi Eberhard
Number 12 (John Castle) (Ep. 6) Volker Lechtenbrink
Mts. Butterworth (Georgina Cookson) (Ep. 7) Carola Höhn
Observer (Norma West) (Ep. 8) Ingrid Capelle
Tower (Ronald Radd) (Ep. 9) Walter Reichelt
Watchmaker's daughter ( Annette Andre ) (Ep. 7) Ursula Herwig
"Number 86" (Angela Browne) (Ep. 12) Christin Marquitan
The Colonel / "Number 6" ( Nigel Stock ) (Ep. 13) Klaus Kindler
Seltzman (Hugo Schuster) (Ep. 13) Wolfgang Buettner
"Number 8" / The Kid ( Alexis Kanner ) (Ep. 14) Sascha Rotermund
"Number 48" (Alexis Kanner) (Ep. 17) Jürgen Claussen
Richter (Kenneth Griffith) (Ep. 17) Christian Marshal

number 2

Although a new number 2 appears in almost every episode, there are exceptions to this principle: Leo McKern is number 2 in two episodes: "The Bells of Big Ben" and "Pas de deux", and appears again as defeated former number 2 in "Unmasking". The number 2 of the episode "A, B & C" ( Colin Gordon ) outwitted by number 6 acts again as number 2 in the episode "The General" and is again outwitted. The number 2 of the episode "Hammer or Anvil" was played by the same actor (Patrick Cargill) as Thorpe , a disloyal assistant to number 6 former London boss from the episode "Congratulations". The number 2 of the episode "3 - 2 - 1 - 0" is played by Kenneth Griffith , who also appears as a judge in the final episode "Unmasking".


The series shows a clear use of thing symbols . In addition, a number of motifs with a leitmotif character appear in different episodes:

Penny farthing penny farthing

Penny farthing penny farthing

The penny farthing high wheel is ubiquitous in the series and is shown on the dog tags, the helicopters, on cans, on taxis and is the emblem of the place. For Patrick McGoohan it was an ironic symbol of progress, as it stands for movement as well as for immobility and persistence.


Rover is a white balloon that is used in the village and its outskirts, among other things to prevent prisoners from escaping or to discipline them. It moves on land, hovering and hopping, and can also perform its task above and under water, trapping and enclosing fugitives. As a rule, he stuns his victims, but can also kill them ( Der doppelganger ). He appears in the opening credits and in numerous episodes.

Patrick McGoohan stated that rover represented our greatest fear. With it, he could be anything, for example the unknown, the invasion of privacy, bureaucracy, or taxes.


The game of chess is used as a recurring motif in the series and is seen more often. The game already appears in the first episode, which culminates in the statement: "We are all farmers" . As a result, Checkmate , a chess tournament with living people is also held. The episode's author, Gerald Kelsey, had seen such a chess tournament while visiting Germany.

George Markstein saw international espionage as a kind of chess game and brought this view to the series. Checkmate can be understood as an interpretation of this point of view.

Masks and masking

The clothes of the residents of the place are very uniform. In addition to two-tone striped sweatshirts and fine knit sweaters , colorful capes , straw and pepita hats , most of them wear white trousers. Some men, including "Number 6", also wear brown (mohair) or blue jackets with white lapels.

Masks and costumes also form central elements of individual episodes. In The Prosecution , a carnival event turns into a trial against "Number 6". Judges and assessors appear as Napoleon , Queen Elizabeth I and as Roman Emperor. In contrast, “Number 6” himself wears a suit from his “real” life that he was assigned as a costume. Other characters in the episode are dressed up at the ball according to their roles. The personal observer of “Number 6” appears as a good shepherdess (“Little Bo Beep”). A former colleague of his, who is called up as a character witness at his request, is presented as a fool who is no longer able to speak.

In the last episode, the participants of a tribunal in which “Number 6” takes part as a guest of honor appear in white hooded capes. Guests also wear black and white split face masks. On their nameplates they are referred to as "reactionaries", "dissenters" or "nationalists". The indictment is read by the allegorical figure "Anarchy". "Number 1" is, in unmasking also a white cloak. Under his black and white mask he also wears the mask of a monkey, under which the grinning face of "Number 6" comes to light.


The series is not limited to thing symbols , but also has a very parabolic character that affects different fields. Stefan Höltgen from F.LM - Texts on the Film emphasizes in this regard, for example, that it is entirely possible to evaluate The Prisoner outside of contemporary, political discourses:

To see “The Prisoner” merely as a political parable of the Cold War and in this respect perhaps as a variation and reflection of agent stories à la “James Bond” would not do the series justice. Behind every episode of “The Prisoner” there is always a sociological, psychological or philosophical question in addition to the political one. Whether it is about the essence of identity in modern times, the Kafkaeske / Camus'sche absurdity of running against “power” or the construction of one's own life (course) through retelling: “The Prisoner” finds a “ Agent "who can live through it: number 6."

- Stefan Höltgen : F.LM - Texts for the film

Cultural influence

The series, which today enjoys cult status among fans , is to be assigned to the category of mystery television series according to today's understanding and is therefore considered to be a forerunner to the later mystery successes such as Twin Peaks and the X Files .

Iron Maiden recorded an excerpt from the dialogue that is spoken at the end of the opening credits in The Prisoner on their album The Number of the Beast . The track Back in the Village by Iron Maiden in the Powerslave album also relates thematically to the series: Questions are a burden / And answers are a prison for oneself .

In the animated series The Simpsons , episode: Mr. X and the Website Trash , Homer suddenly finds himself as "number 5" on an island that is very similar to the Village . There he also meets "Number 6", to which Patrick McGoohan lent his voice. Homer escapes the island by stabbing the white balloon rover with a fork. In the Simpsons episode In the Clutches of a Cult , Marge manages to escape a giant bubble reminiscent of Rover. In addition, music is played that is very similar to the title theme by Ron Grainer.

An “Ident” of the Gorillaz group also shows parallels: In it, the “2D” staring out of a window - similar to “Number 6” - is put out of action with a gas fed through the mail slot, only to wake up in a completely different place .

In Roger Avary's gangster film Killing Zoe , the completely drugged protagonists talk about drugs and episode AB and C. in number 6 during a night drive through Paris .

Under the slogan "Escape - to the totally New Renault 21!", The car manufacturer Renault launched a television commercial in Great Britain in 1989 that was based entirely on the intro and motifs of series number 6 . Scenes such as the control room, equipment details such as the ball armchair from “Number 2”, the white balloon rover or a pin with the “21” on it are faithfully reproduced. The spot ran for about three months.


computer game

In 1980, Edu-Ware released a text adventure of the same name for the Apple II based on the series . In this, the player must escape from an island without ever revealing the three-digit code that he receives at the beginning of the game. The game was reportedly used as a training tool for Central Intelligence Agency agents. In 1982 a version called Prisoner 2 appeared with better graphics and minor changes to the game mechanics, which was also available for Atari 8-bit and IBM PC .

2009 TV series

In 2009 the six-part series The Prisoner was created , which is based on the same basic idea, but is neither a direct remake nor a sequel.

DVD and Blu-ray releases

  • DVDs for all episodes of the series first went on sale in Germany in October 2006. A new edition of the DVDs and, for the first time, a Blu-Ray edition were published by Koch Media in November 2010 . Newly sampled and revised HD material served as the source .
  • In the UK, the series has been available in high definition on Blu-ray since 2009.
  • In May 2020, Pidax Film- und Hörspielverlag will publish a new DVD edition (seven DVDs), the content of which is identical to that published by Koch Media in 2010. The extensive booklet is not included in the package.


  • The white balloon, which serves as the “watchdog” of the place, was a production-related embarrassment solution. After initial attempts with a mechanical vehicle had failed, weather balloons, which had been observed by chance, were used. The partially filled with water balloons were pulled on a thin rope and the film was then played backwards. Therefore, the residents of the place often have to stand still when the balloon appears. In the original, he is called "Rover" in the episode The Schizoid Man . In the original German version he is once called "Hystero" in The Arrival . In the episode The Double , which was only dubbed in 2010 , he is called "Rover" as in the original. The white balloon can also be seen in the 2009 series The Prisoner .
  • The location of the place is described in the series contradictingly. In The Bells of Big Ben it is said that the place is in Lithuania , on the Baltic Sea, 30 miles from the Polish border. (The German version differs here and relocates the location to Bulgaria .) Congratulations , however, the location is on an island off the coast of Morocco . The unmasked location is at the end of a long tunnel that leads to the A20 in Kent .
  • Patrick McGoohan gave up his role as John Drake on the series Secret Mission for John Drake to star in number 6 . McGoohan always denied that he was also portraying John Drake in the series. Nevertheless, some connections between the two series are noticeable. The main location of number 6 , Portmeirion , also serves as the setting for the very first episode, View from a Villa, and others in the first season of Secret Mission for John Drake . Number 6 also meets in episode 3 - 2 - 1 - 0 Potter, who also acts as a contact for John Drake, both times played by Christopher Benjamin.
  • Besides “Number 6”, only a few characters appear in several episodes. These include the butler of "Number 2" ( Angelo Muscat , 14 episodes) and the supervisor ( Peter Swanwick , 8 episodes).
  • In the series, you often see lava lamps in the houses.
  • "Number 6" drives a Lotus Seven with the number KAR 120C.
  • In the original version, the episode Congratulations has almost no dialogue for the first 25 minutes. You can only hear the prologue and a few words, some in incomprehensible language. In the German dubbed version, the speaker of “Number 6” reads the diary entries and translates them for the viewer.
  • Before the start of the British series, Alexis Kanner tried his hand at high-cycling in front of the journalists, but only got a few steps and fell.
  • Six of One is a British fan club for the series that has existed since 1977 and also organizes regular fan meetings at Portmeirion . The fan films Resolution and Village Day were shown at these meetings .


  • Peter M. Gaschler: Number 6 doesn't give up. The British cult series "The Prisoner" In: The Science Fiction Year 2011, ed. by Sascha Mamczak , Sebastian Pirling and Wolfgang Jeschke , Wilhelm Heyne Verlag Munich 2011, pp. 562–577. ISBN 978-3-453-53379-0
  • Harald Keller: Cult series and their stars , Bertz / Edition Splitscreen 1996 or the new edition: Rowohlt-Verlag, Reinbek 1999
  • Matthew White & Jaffer Ali: The Official Prisoner Companion , New York 1988. (English)
  • Alain Carrazé & Hélène Oswald: The Prisoner. A Televisionary Masterpiece , as a preface an interview with Patrick McGoohan, London 1990, new edition: Virgin, London 1995 (English)
  • Robert Fairclough: The Prisoner. The Official Companion To The Series , A Carlton Book, 2002 (English)
  • Andrew Pixley: The Prisoner - A complete production guide , 2007 (English)
  • Roger Langley: Patrick McGoohan. Danger Man or Prisoner? , Biography revised & updated edition, with a new foreword and contributions by Catherine McGoohan, Tomahawk Press, Sheffield 2017 (English)
  • Jean-Marc Lofficier: LE PRISONNIER ou Le Fantôme de la Liberté , in: L'Écran Fantastique 4/1978 (French)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Number 6 , accessed on December 6, 2008
  2. Number 6 in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  3. ^ Ziauddin Sardar : Postmodernism and the other: the new imperialism of Western culture . Pluto Press, London 1998, ISBN 978-0-7453-0749-7 , p. 1.
  4. TV masterpiece "The Prisoner": The Spy Who Confused Me . Spiegel Online . July 24, 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  5. Page to the series on
  6. ^ A b Robert Fairclough: The Prisoner. The Official Companion To The Series ; A Carlton Book 2002
  7. The world is a village . Telepolis . April 14, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  8. ^ A b Andrew Pixley: The Prisoner - A complete production guide , 2007.
  9. Harald Keller: The stranger in the holiday complex. In: Frankfurter Rundschau. July 23, 2010, accessed March 17, 2015 .
  10. Number 6 in the German synchronous file
  11. ^ Matthew White, Jaffer Ali: The Official Prisoner Companion, New York 1988, p. 122.
  12. Interview With Patrick McGoohan. In: Alain Carrazé & Hélène Oswald: The Prisoner. A Televisionary Masterpiece, London 1990/1995, p. 7
  13. ^ Matthew White, Jaffer Ali: The Official Prisoner Companion, New York 1988, p. 13.
  14. ^ Matthew White, Jaffer Ali: The Official Prisoner Companion, New York 1988, p. 81.
  15. ^ Robert Fairclough: The Prisoner. The Official Companion To The Series ; A Carlton Book 2002, p. 70
  16. ^ Robert Fairclough: The Prisoner. The Official Companion To The Series ; A Carlton Book 2002, p. 73
  17. Stefan Höltgen: Number 6 does not give up. F.LM - Texts on the film , accessed on April 12, 2020 .
  18. TV review: 'Prisoner' remake captive of past. In: San Francisco Chronicle . November 13, 2009, accessed March 21, 2015 .
  19. Commercial on
  20. Steven Weyhrich: Appendix A: Apple II Software Hits, 1981 . In: Apple II History . Archived from the original on July 10, 2010. Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved November 5, 2010. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  21. ^ Polley Paula: Playing Games with the CIA . In: Atari Connection . May 1983, p. 28.
  22. Steven Weyhrich: Appendix A: Apple II Software Hits, 1982 . In: Apple II History . Archived from the original on July 10, 2010. Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved November 5, 2010. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  23. ^ Matthew White, Jaffer Ali: The Official Prisoner Companion, New York 1988, 125.
  24. ^ Matthew White, Jaffer Ali: The Official Prisoner Companion, New York 1988, p. 147.
  25. ^ Matthew White, Jaffer Ali: The Official Prisoner Companion, New York 1988, p. 131.