A show that mixes action, humor, philosophy and suspense all into one. The original 1960s television series, , embodied this; a show that had a little of everything and left you amazed in terms of style and substance. Unfortunately, it is in many of these areas that the show’s remake, the mini-series , comes up short. This new version , while having a few strengths of its own right, fails to meet the expectations set-up by its classic ancestor.
The original series had a deceptively simple premise: a former secret agent, Number Six (the eponymous character), retires, but winds up being is kidnapped and taken to the a remote island prison, The Village, where the warden, Number Two, attempts to break his will and destroy his individuality. In each episode, the Prisoner ultimately prevails, managing to keep his sanity and his sense of free-will and identity, yet still failing to escape the island. The series is ultimately resolved in a surreal plot twist that continues to be debated over today.
The new series keeps the two main characters, but changes the setting to that of city in the desert. Number Six is now an office worker instead of a secret agent, most likely to help the viewer relate to him. The series is six episodes, nearly a third of the length of the original, and is episodic in structure.
The new series seemed very promising at first with a frenetic pace and great sense of mysteries. The Village’s quirky inhabitants combined with the eerie, yet utopian feel of the setting makes for a great atmosphere. The editing is particularly noteworthy, being fast and non-linear in order to create a frantic, yet suspenseful pace to the series.
Ultimately, the editing also becomes one of the show’s downfalls. By creating such a jarring dissonance between the scenes, the viewer is often left wondering what is real and what is not In a manner that turns him off as opposed to engaging him. Certain moments in the series left me particularly confused, including one or two episodes where I had absolutely no idea what had really happened. While suspense and cliffhangers are classic literary conventions, there’s only such much a viewer can take.
Thematically, this series feels almost like a betrayal of the original. The old series was about the triumph of the individual will over collective oppression. While I won’t divulge the details of the new series’ ending, it almost seemed to arrive at the opposite conclusion. I say almost because the series winds up feeling very incomplete.
That being said if the series does wind up continuing with a full season, there could be great future potential. While the old show seemed to support the ideas of modernity, of the rational man and the power of his individuality and reason, the new one appears to be a product of postmodernism, emphasizing the murkiness of concepts like free will and whether or not its even possible to be a true individual.
The music of this series is probably the greatest highlight. An eerie mix of orchestral and piano music, the incidental music is further enhanced by electric and computerized sounds that add to the unsettling and sometimes tragic atmosphere. While, the plot of The Prisoner may have been terribly muddled, the series does have occasional sentimental moments further heightened by the music.
Despite all of its unique stylistic conventions, this remake ultimately fails because it strays too far from the source material. Differentiation is a crucial component of any remake, but completely changing the theme makes it a mockery of the original. Those who watch this show with no knowledge of the original will probably find themselves deeply confused by the incoherence and frenetic pace as well as bizarre, incomplete ending. Those who have watched the original will be disappointed by the drastic changes as well as lack of humor, clever dialogue, and action. The show as a whole, while ambitious and still full of potential, failed to truly form a engaging story in its mini-series run and sacrificed coherency in a failed attempt for depth.