Thursday, January 15, 2009

Be seeing you, Mr. McGoohan

Patrick McGoohan has passed away.

This man changed my way of thinking--of thinking being good for the soul. Of asking questions and probably not getting answers, but the questions are what are important.

McGoohan played Number Six in my all-time favorite TV show The Prisoner from the BBC of the late 60s. He is the mastermind creator behind that television masterpiece. I just got the 10-disc DVD box set for Christmas just this past month. Rumor has it, he was also set to be the first James Bond, before Sean Connery, but he didn't like the womanizing aspect of the character. He also played the king in Braveheart.
The Prisoner impacted my life at just the right time. I was still in high school. I had been watching and recording Doctor Who (the old one, way back when) on the PBS channel out of Chicago, WTTW. It was on at like 11 pm on Sunday nights and they were putting it on hiatus--something about money, you know PBS stations. They decided to try the then-twenty-year old show The Prisoner at Doctor Who's time slot. The previews, with that big white weather balloon, intrigued me enough to keep my VCR going. I was hopeful for a new show. I still have those exact VHS tapes.
I fell in love with the show. You have to remember the time period of the late 80s and the fall of communism and that I knew what an "Iron Curtain" was. I was reading/would read/had read (can't remember) Orwell's prophetic 1984. This is still one of the reasons that I choose to do that book with my seniors as the last thing they read in high school--sort of prepare them for the real world and its questions out there.
I will still watch The Prisoner for the rest of my life. I have seen the episodes dozens of times and each time they appear fresh, especially the really mind-blowing ones.
If I had ever met Mr. McGoohan, I would not have asked stupid questions. I would not have asked about the "order of episodes" or "what does it all mean?" This is the show that got me--the comic-book me, the sci-fi me, the continuity-of-fictional-universes me--to realize how deep an allegory could go. As Number Six said in the episode "The Chimes of Big Ben": "It means what it is." That still takes a deep understanding, especially in the final episode and the unmasking of Number One.
I I had ever met Mr. McGoohan, I would simply have said, "Thank you." I would have told him that he had broadened my mind, like Shakespeare and Tennyson. I think he would have appreciated that.
Be seeing you, Mr. McGoohan.

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