Cult Corner: What might fans of The Prisoner look for in newly licensed products?

Fans of The Prisoner aren’t young in age or huge in number… But what might they want to buy?

“I am not a number… I am a free man!” At the time of writing, it’s over 55 years since audiences first heard Patrick McGoohan intone those words. And yet, despite its critical acclaim and cult status, The Prisoner remains a surprisingly untapped brand… Personally, I’m too young to have caught it first time round, but I’d still love to see more activity around the IP. Before we get into that, though, it makes sense to give a brief synopsis of the show…

The Prisoner

The Prisoner’s premise is explained at breakneck pace during the show’s opening montage. We see a nameless character, evidently a British intelligence officer, drive to a secret office below London. He resigns angrily and storms out. Back home, we see him hurriedly packing a case before being knocked out by a jet of gas sprayed though a keyhole…

When he awakens, the man has been christened Number Six and transported to a picturesque coastal village. For the most part, the residents of The Village go about their daily lives almost mindlessly. Meanwhile, an ever-changing roster of leaders – always known as Number Two – manipulate, intimidate and interrogate the newcomer. Why? They want information… Information about the reason he resigned.

For the 17-episode duration of the show, Number Six remains an implacable, unknowable and unbreakable hero at the centre of a world both Orwellian and Kafkaesque. But despite his insisting that he won’t be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered, he remains – however defiantly – The Prisoner.

The Prisoner

I’ve just read that back and fear I’ve not done enough to communicate the strange appeal of this mind-bending show. It’s an indescribable blend of spyence fiction, psychological drama and – in the end – surrealist nightmare. But what might the show’s fans like to see licensed on the back of it?

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There have been a few official extensions to the original TV show… Notable among them is Nicholas Briggs’s three-volume audio project with Big Finish Productions. Dean Motter also created a sequel of sorts in graphic-novel form – Shattered Visage. Surely, though, this is the tip of the iceberg?

Escape-Room Games
This could be done as a live, immersive experience or as a Funko-style board game. Either way, there can’t be many intellectual properties SO well suited to the medium. If you solve enough puzzles, discover enough ploys and decipher enough clues, you escape… Or appear to at any rate!

Given the demographics of the property’s aging fan base, I would’ve thought a “Be seeing you!” spectacle case would make an excellent product. For similar reasons, I can also imagine a gift range of storecupboard essentials being sold in ‘Village Foods’ tins… And Number Six gin would seem like something of a no brainer.

The Prisoner

Sadly, what little has been made available here is a bit on the nose for me. I don’t think I can pull off a jacket with white piping on the lapels for example, or a multicoloured shoulder cape. Nor do I just I want the show’s logo slapped on a top, or a T-shirt with a huge image of Patrick McGoohan splashed all over it. For sure, though, I’d wear a polo shirt with white piping, or socks in an appropriate colour palette. There must be potential, too, for penny-farthing cufflinks and an official Number Two scarf.

The Prisoner

Final Thoughts
Fans of The Prisoner aren’t young in age or huge in number. In my experience, though, they do tend to be smart – and fervid about the brand. While the official merchandise that currently exists has some appeal, I suspect a bigger range of more subtle products would now hit the spot. Be seeing you!

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