“I AM not a number. I am a free man.”
Every day’s a sunny day in The Village.
Last night I was among 400 people invited to an exclusive UK screening of a 21st century version of The Prisoner.
If you’re reading this in America, you may already have seen all six parts.
Transmitted this week in the USA by ITV’s co-production partner AMC.
So if you’ve got an opinion on the new series, I’d love to hear what you have to say.
The rest of us will be keen to know what’s in store when ITV1 broadcast the drama in 2010.
I was just 10 when ITV began screening the original series of The Prisoner in 1967.
Starring Patrick McGoohan as Number Six, a former British secret agent held prisoner in a strange seaside village.
Where everybody was a number, not a name, and there was no escape.
Like millions of others, it held me spellbound for 17 baffling episodes before a quite incredible ending.
Nothing like it had been seen before and over 40 years later it’s still a cult classic.
The “re-imagining” sees American actor Jim Caviezel in the role of Number Six.
He played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
Our very own Sir Ian McKellen is Number Two, the sinister figure who appears to control The Village.
He was at last night’s screening in London of the first two episodes and told us:
“It was about 18 months ago when this script arrived. The title was enough to make me read it immediately.
“It was just a job that I had to take and I didn’t know who else was going to be in it. All along, I knew this was going to work.”
The original series was filmed in the North Wales village of Portmeirion.
While the new production was shot in Namibia and South Africa.
The spectacular setting reminded me of The Truman Show crossed with Michael Palin’s Sahara.
With several flashbacks to Number Six’s previous life in New York.
Including the opening titles which see him quitting his job via the usual method of spraying the word ‘Resign’ in red paint on your office window.
In episode two we discover he was an analyst for a company that monitors CCTV patterns around the globe.
Spotting something sinister about people disappearing, making a report and then…
The first we see of Number Six is waking up on a desert ledge, amid memories of his old life back in Manhattan.
An old man is running through the hills, being chased by men with guns.
“Be seeing you,” says the old man – revealed to be Number 93 – before he dies.
A phrase which you will hear again.
There’s no point spoiling the fun for those yet to see the series.
Which has, I think it’s fair to say, attracted mixed reviews in America.
Personally, I was eager to see a lot more after the first two episodes.
There are some neat echoes of the 1960s in The Village, including the décor of the homes.
Along with vehicles which include Commer vans, Morris Minors and, joy of joys, a Bubble Car.
And talking of bubbles…fans of the original will not be disappointed…
“There is no New York. There is only The Village,’ insists Number Two.
“There is no out. There is only in.”
Other things to watch out for include:
*A ghostly ice-like twin towers building in the desert.
*A ship’s anchor.
*Brian Wilson songs.
ITV Director of Television Peter Fincham is one year older than me and spoke before the screening of his own memories of The Prisoner.
“I’m Number One, I guess,” he joked.
“It was a brilliant series – television drama didn’t have to be what you expected it to be. It could surprise you.
“It didn’t even need to reveal its meaning to you. It could confuse you. It could leave you wondering what you’d just seen.”
As for the 2009 re-make, he added: “It’s changed a lot, though it’s the same in some ways.
“It has echoes of The Prisoner of the sixties but it’s a thoroughly modern series.
“Its themes of freedom of the individual against the state, of the pressure to conform, they’re timeless.
“And you’ll find them all in this new version of The Prisoner.”