Man drives very fast into an underground car park, hands his notice in to a bloke in a cupboard, packs his bags for Hawaii, gets gassed, wakes up stuck in a Italianate tourist attraction, gains the appellation Number Six, dons a monochrome Joe Maplin’s jacket and spends 17 episodes doing an allegory of civilisation replete with discomfited weather balloons and a “row of cabbages”, aka lots of extras in stripey tops. Cooked up by PATRICK MCGOOHAN with producer DAVID TOMBLIN and script editor GEORGE MARKSTEIN. Sold to Lew Grade on the back of a cigar packet between 6.30 and 6.40am one Friday morning in spring 1966. A month of location work at Portmerion in North Wales in the autumn (largely McGoohan bawling at the cabbages or looking narrow-eyed into the middle distance or bawling at the cabbages while looking narrow-eyed and having spasms) was followed by a whopping 15 months of studio stuff at MGM. Original seven episode concept got hiked by Lord Lew to 13 then to 26 then down to 17. Fantastic “I am not a number” title sequence came replete with who’s-the-Number-Two-this-week? revelation, giving the likes of ANTON RODGERS, PATRICK CARGILL, CLIFFORD EVANS, KENNETH GRIFFITH, LEO MCKERN, MARY MORRIS, PETER WYNGARDE and ERIC PORTMAN a turn in the giant bubble chair. McGoohan: “I need a penny-farthing, mini-mokes, giant computers with wheels rotating one way then the other, Fenella Fielding to be Gladys Pugh, a mammoth chessboard you can walk on and the Albertus font without any dots on the i or j.” Lew: “Great!” One year later: McGoohan “I don’t have an ending”. Lew: “Great!” Best episodes: The Schizoid Man (two Patrick McGoohans!), Many Happy Returns (they let the Prisoner escape just to spite him), Hammer Into Anvil (the Prisoner wins), The Girl Who Was Death (McGoohan does the Avengers, only better), Free For All (the cabbages fight back) and A, B and C (the Prisoner dreams of Peter Bowles). Worst episodes: It’s Your Funeral (the Prisoner saves a wimpish Number Two), The General (education is bad!), Living In Harmony (look – it’s a Western!), A Change of Mind (the Prisoner gets a pretend lobotomy), Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling (McGoohan skives off) and Once Upon A Time (McGoohan kills Leo McKern with long words). Finale contained some great bits but a hell of a lot of crappy, let-it-all-hang-out, make-you-own-mind-up laziness, including the unmasking of Number One as a gorilla/McGoohan, a space rocket taking off, Dem Bones, All You Need Is Love and McGoohan, McKern, the titchy butler and Alexis Kanner jiving on the back of a lorry. Dazzling, maddening, inspiring, depressing, iconic, moronic and unique, everyone who cares about good and bad telly should watch the Prisoner all the way through at least once. Be seeing you.