How to ruin The Prisoner in six easy steps.

So I finally got around to watching the AMC remake of The Prisoner this past weekend. I’m a huge fan of the original, which is as old as I am, and I didn’t hold out high hopes for AMC’s take on it. Still, it starred Sir Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel so I set up the DVR to record it and then promptly forgot I had done so. Stumbling across it this weekend I figured I’d watch the first episode before deciding if I’d watch the whole thing.

I ended up watching the whole thing. Not because it was so compelling, but because it took a couple of episodes to get a handle on what was supposed to be happening because the storytelling style they used was as clear as mud. Jumping back and forth between hallucinations, flashbacks (or what you thought were flashbacks), and multiple events happening at the same time, the first episode was a jumbled mess. By the time all six episodes were done I was left with a rather unpleasant aftertaste as all the plot holes and just plain stupidity came crashing down on me.

So here is a list of how they screwed up a classic series. Note: This will be spoiler heavy, but I figure you’ve either already seen it or you don’t intend to. If by chance you haven’t seen it and were thinking of doing so then take my advice and watch the original series instead. You’ll sleep better than I did.

  1. Make sure the viewers are completely unable to tell what the hell is going on for at least the first two episodes. This will ensure that they watch at least three episodes and makes them more likely to watch all the episodes because they’ve already invested so much time in it.
  2. Change the main character so that he’s the complete antithesis of the character in the original series. If the original is strong-willed and daring then make the new one a weak-willed pussy who wouldn’t have lasted two minutes in the original show.
  3. Completely subvert the message of the original show. If the original was all about rebellion and individuality then make this one, ultimately, about submission and conformity.
  4. Make sure in your version that the bad guys win. (See number 3 above)
  5. Don’t worry about whether or not any particular scene makes any sense whatsoever. In fact, be sure to put in scenes that are impossible to make heads or tails out of or if they actually ever happened at all.
  6. Plot holes? Of course there will be plot holes. Acknowledge this by making them a literal part of the story.

That’s all it takes. Now for some spoilery specifics:

It took till the second episode for me to guess that The Village was not a real place that exists on Earth, but most likely someone’s “dream world.” They confirm this in the fifth episode, but by then you’ve been so beaten over the head with the “subtle” clues that you’d be a complete moron not to have realized it sooner. The woman who is doing the dreaming is kept in this state by Number 2 using three colored pills which we later learn are 1) a sedative 2) a hallucinogenic and 3) something the doctor has never seen before! There is also a fourth, black, pill that can wake the woman up from her induced state, but that’s a bad idea because it causes holes to open up in the reality of the dream world. Note: These pills are given daily to the woman in the dream world. How, exactly, non-existent dream pills manage to accomplish this is never explained. Nor, for that matter, is it explained how she is able to pull people into her dream world.

The company behind all of this is a surveillance company which monitors and analyzes data from all manner of sources to pick out people who may be potential threats to society. The hero quits his job after becoming disillusioned with humanity after all the terrible things he’s seen people do. The company’s dream world project is supposed to help bad people be better people by trapping part of their consciousness in said dream world and giving them productive work which somehow makes them not do bad things back in the real world. The people they are helping are never asked if they want the help or ever told what is happening to them.

It is possible for your dream world counterpart to be killed (by other dream world inhabitants, including ones that don’t exist outside of the dream world) or obliterated (by falling into a plot hole) without any discernible affect on the real world person. In fact, Number 2 is feared by most of the residents precisely because disobedience can result in a trip to The Clinic for re-education (using more dream world drugs that can to anything you can, well, dream of) or, worse, your death in the dream world. None of which makes a damn bit of sense once you get to the end of the story and realize how all of this fits together.

This is partially because one of the things you realize is that what you thought were a bunch of flashbacks between the hero and a woman he picked up on his way home (who turns out to be a fellow company employee sent to figure out why he quit) are actually happening at the same time as the events in the dream world rather than prior to his arrival there. This reveal turns the whole story into a jumbled mess that the more you think about the more pissed off it makes you for wasting your time.

In the end, yes I’m going to spoil the ending, our hero ends up going back to the company he just quit because he realizes his love interest in the dream world, the aforementioned doctor, is a babbling lunatic in the real world. The only way she can have a normal life is if the dream world continues, but it’s falling apart because the woman doing the dreaming, who’s married to Number 2 in the real world, has apparently been woken up too many times or something so they need a new dreamer. So in order to save the dream world and help the doctor the doctor becomes the new dreamer and Number 6 becomes the new Number 2 while his real-world counterpart is promoted to heading the project. How this benefits the doctor is beyond me as she’s now catatonic in both realities removing the only real benefit to her being in the dream world. Meanwhile Number 2 and his dreamer wife are able to leave the dream world and go about their happy lives earning billions doing whatever the fuck it is their company does.

That’s all I’ve got the energy to relate right now and I’ve hit only the low points of the story. Spread that out over six episodes and put in a metric ton of steaming bullshit nonsense to fill up the space between and you’ve got AMC’s take on The Prisoner. If I were to try and cover every ridiculous scene and plot hole  — Why does the company blow up the apartment of the woman 6 seems to instantly fall in love with in the real world? Why does 6 fall head over heals for the woman sent to spy on him? How in the hell does Real World 6 see Dream World 6 when looking out the window of the office building of the company he works for? Why the fuck do they use numbers for everyone in the dream world anyway? — I’d be typing here all night.

So to sum it up: This take on The Prisoner will make you hate yourself for even thinking of considering to explore the remotest hint of the possibility that you might actually watch it. It will keep you awake at night as each new ridiculous plot hole reveals itself to you just as you’re about to fall asleep causing you to sit up and exclaim to the dark night: Just how the fuck is THAT supposed to work anyway? If you’re married, it could potentially lead to a messy divorce as your wife gets sick of you bitching about how much better the original series was even if it did have it’s own mind fuck ending.

5 comments

  1. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you eversomuch for sparing me from eventually trying to watch that dreck.

    Oh. My. God.

    I think the writers, director, and producers need to be sent off to a little seaside village in Wales, never to be seen again.

  2. Italian Job.
    Alfie.
    Get Carter.
    The Prisoner. Michael Caine is probably happy the yanks have decided to pick on someone else.
    (Also- The Office, Men Behaving Badly, One foot in the Grave, Coupling, there are many, many more)

  3. I actually liked it fairly well, but then again I don’t have a problem with surrealism. It wasn’t Gabriel García Márquez, but I thought it was a pretty good effort at the genre for television.

  4. When I heard about it, I hoped it would be good. After it came out and I read reviews, I knew it would be a disappointment. I’m giving my friends Th Prisoner on DVD for X-mas.

    @ Mistermook
    I think the problem is that it’s a remake of The Prisoner that had very little to do with The Prisoner. It’s just another instance of Hollywood taking an older piece of intellectual property and ruining/updating it for modern audiences. I would say it never works but occasionally it does.

  5. I think the problem is that it’s a remake of The Prisoner that had very little to do with The Prisoner.

    I think the problem is with imagining that it’s a remake rather than a reimagining. It’s not taking The Prisoner as if it were Shakespeare, recasting it and redoing it with new actors and set pieces. People don’t do that outside of theater these days, and sometimes they don’t do it in theater.

    It’s like every modern movie that’s “based on Jane Austin” that doesn’t involve period clothing. You can spend a lot of time getting upset that the plot is only vaguely related to the original, or you can look at the new piece and try to take it on its own merits.

    I’m not saying the new miniseries was perfect either, I think it had some issues in the editing and holes that I think they’d have done better stretching the thing out for one more episode and rewriting the end a bit. But it is a pretty neat bit of surrealism starring at least one good actor.

    Besides, it had Hayley Atwell’s breasts in it. That’s enough to give ANY show a peek, in my opinion.

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