The Prisoner changed my destiny, and Twin Peaks kicked it in the nuts

This is a guest article from Annie Dubé, we hope you enjoy! Please leave a comment and let Annie know what you think.


When I learned that Mark Frost and I shared a common hero, I thought: well this all makes so much sense since him and Lynch were my creative role models of 2017.

Is it future or is it past?

I must have been around 12 years old when there was a French-dubbed rerun of The Prisoner in Quebec somewhere in the mid-nineties.

My father was thrilled to watch one of his favourite cult tv series from his youth decades later. While my dad had been my first hero when I was a toddler, he would soon learn that he had been replaced yet again.

From the first episode, #6 had made his nest in my heart and was already my newest role model. The intro of the show never got old. Episode after episode, I would enjoy thoroughly seeing Patrick McGoohan bang on the table next to his resignation later, and I shivered every time I would hear ‘Je ne suis pas un numéro, je suis un homme libre!’

The rare other weirdo students at school who watched the show had my utmost respect. We were all special for it. I thought that loving The Prisoner was a great sign of intelligence, and freedom. Maybe I was wrong about that, but for the most part I did and still do feel like this TV series was a magnet to gather individuals with unique minds. We were those who could not feel as alive by watching most modern, local French-Canadian shows on cable TV.

Episode after episode, I would rejoice at every attempt the retired spy would make to escape The Village. I was gutted that he’d persistently fail. But then he’d try again with his head held high. Somehow, I knew that his renewed state of imprisonment was the promise of a new episode next week. Often, on a Saturday, I would return from my figure skating lessons and sit by the telly to watch it and remain in a dream state for hours to recollect how heroic, smart and handsome #6 was.

The 60’s aesthetics and futuristic representation of technology was perfectly mixed with a spirit that highlighted the lack of a true democratic spirit, which was inspiring to me in the 90’s, when everything seemed fluorescent and wrapped in plastic. Nothing felt better than seeing McGoohan’s character outsmart everybody in the Finale of the show. The music, the new allies, the masked assembly, the ridiculous decorum filled with the foolish and the bad: everything was so perfectly different from what I would have ever expected. The show was over, but it’d stay with me forever.

A few years later, I asked for the DVD collection in the original language and my love only grew bigger while hearing ‘I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own’ with the original, splendid British accent.

For years I kept that hero of mine in my heart, as I went through my college years, my travels, and my first jobs. In fact, maybe I kept him a little too close, as I am utterly convinced that I resigned a few times from awful jobs with that character in mind, at least subconsciously. I was done for life: I’d never be a normal member of The Village. I’d rather be a disharmonious poet, I thought. Even though I did and still do love harmony. But not at any price, when blind obedience to bad souls seems like the song to tune to.

Meanwhile…

Last year I encountered a documentary on YouTube (watch here) and I was shocked to hear about McGoohan’s demons  which he carried with him on the set. I would never in a million years have guessed that he was horrible to many of his co-stars and crew, that he was violent, intimidating, and mainly a drunk. How could I have foreseen this? I had been in love with the idea of him through a screen for over 20 years.

When Andrew Grevas made a call for submissions at 25 Years Later Site, I knew I had to talk about why The Prisoner had made me the semi-free spirit that I feel I am. How he had taught me freedom through his impossible odyssey of imprisonment. And how this probably lead me much later in life to become a dedicated Twin Peaks fan in my thirties.

As I recently re-watched all the episodes one by one to refresh my memory ahead of writing this paper, I realized it was much harder for me to watch the show now. While I can still see the handsome rebellious secret agent whom I fell for as a teen, I also wondered if McGoohan was a good actor at all, or if he just mainly played himself in this setting which was perfect to express his feeling of inadequacy. Did he create this hostile secret location as a metaphor for how he felt about the world, or about himself? It’s true that the art of acting evolved since then, just like productions and even the audience. There is something vintage and very charming about acting techniques from 50 years ago, including an occasional ridiculousness. Fighting scenes in The Prisoner, for example, are staged so stiffly. It’s so bad that it becomes good again.

As I became more critical towards this cult TV show, I felt a sadness growing inside.

Then I began to understand that there was more to this loss of magic than just the passage of time and various testimonies about the actor’s real-life behavior.

Suddenly, I figured it out.

Mark Frost and David Lynch broke my television.

Twin Peaks: The Return has really spoiled everything for me. Well, except… Twin Peaks, which only got (even) better than before with Season 3, in my opinion.

I noticed recently that a lot of popular shows simply don’t do it for me anymore, while merely a year ago I was still binge watching a lot of popular series.

Nowadays, except for a few shows like This Is Us and La Casa De Papel, which I fairly enjoyed, I’d rather stare at my immobile white ceiling fan than watch most audio-visual productions available to us.

And while I re-watched the 18 episodes from The Prisoner, I suffered a bit. I still loved many things about it, but the truth is: it wasn’t Twin Peaks.  And maybe nothing will ever be.

I am like a broken television set waiting to relive Season 3 for the first time again. If I could erase my memory and start all over what happened a year ago, I would.

Will another show ever spoil Twin Peaks for me like Twin Peaks did The Prisoner? Hell, I hope not. And yet, I keep an open mind. Please surprise me, life.

Nowadays in my psyche, #6 is dead, yet he lives. His arm bends backwards. I feel as though I now know his shadow self. That’s a cue for you readers to imagine McGoohan with black lipstick and screaming with horror at the camera in the Black Lodge.

The Prisoner most certainly still deserves its cult status, if only for all the great shows it inspired and influenced years later from its cultural legacy. Also, because McGoohan had a way to awaken our inner outsider.

But he’ll never make my heart full like Dale Cooper, or my shit-digging shovel gold like Dr Amp’s.


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2 Replies to “The Prisoner changed my destiny, and Twin Peaks kicked it in the nuts”

  1. “I am not a number! I am a free man!” THE PRISONER was more Sixties than the Sixties and knew that the real war between oppressive governments and individuals was the war for our minds. Win the mind and the body automaton-ically follows. But the deliberate logic of oppressors founders before the deliberate irrationality of free souls.

  2. Thanks for the article. I remember they did a remake of the prisoner about ten years ago. The critics didn’t like it but I did probably because it was in that same mind bending space as Twin Peaks. Doctor Who is a bit like that for me now. It’s my earliest memory of television – 2 1/2 – but it just stopped worrying for me after David Tenant left and became too nice. Again Thanks for sharing.

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