An interview with Prisoner experts Rick Davy and Roger Goodman
Rick, I learnt much from your chapter in George Markstein and The Prisoner. So I knew you’d be the person to pose this question to. It's not directly related to GM&TP, but let's not be orthodox.
After watching the first episode of the Peter Capaldi Doctor Who (August 2014) I couldn't help but think that he was cheated of his screen time. I'm not sure if this is a good idea when you want the star of the show to shine.
Maybe you already know where I'm going with this!
I have never had a definitive, satisfying answer to the question of why Patrick McGoohan left the UK for the US — left his baby, The Prisoner — for Ice Station Zebra. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling was a late episode — Number 11.
By then I would think Patrick McGoohan was starting to be unhappy with his association with George Markstein, seeing how it all ended. This acrimony couldn't have happened overnight during Once Upon A Time (Episode 16, but understood as being 12th in the filming sequence. Stop me if I'm wrong with my numbers.) So why leave the show in Markstein's hands?
Why did McGoohan put an ocean a continent and eight time zones between himself and The Prisoner at that time?
I have heard that he needed to raise money to continue The Prisoner. But I thought he secured funds from Lew Grade. After all, I'd always heard that the US banned Living In Harmony, and that's horsefeathers. So is the story of the seven original episodes.
So, what's the old scoop with Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling? Did Patrick McGoohan sacrifice this episode so he could star as Davy Jones in a Hollywood biopic about The Monkees and, so, assure more attention to The Prisoner?
Or did he really take on Ice Station Zebra in order to net some greenbacks for The Prisoner?
I know I think too much about The Prisoner. But I hope you are at least amused.
Rick Davy: Good question you have posed, and one I hope to answer accurately. Although, of course, as I was not there at the time my answer cannot be proven, but more based on things I have heard and read.
Firstly, in terms of production order, your numbers are a little bit in error. Once Upon A Time was filmed 6th, back to back with The Chimes of Big Ben (so very early on).
The original plan, despite what certain on-line bloggers want us to think, was for The Prisoner to run in 2+ seasons of 13 episodes per season. The last episode of series one was to be either Many Happy Returns or Once Upon A Time. It was after the production of this finished, with a break in filming forthcoming, that George Markstein left the project.
Although Lew Grade did indeed pay Everyman Films a sum to produce the series, the costs far outweighed this budget; and whilst Grade supported McGoohan throughout the process, including in terms of finance, McGoohan did, indeed, need more to help finance Everyman Films continuing.
Thus, he agreed to make Ice Station Zebra during the hiatus between the first two Prisoner seasons and use his fee to aid Everyman's finances.
However, in another part of town, Grade agreed with Michael Dann of PBS that a summer season of 17 episodes was as far as the US networks would accept the project, and so Grade ordered that four more episodes only be made, ahead of schedule, and tagged onto the first season of 13 episodes, thus making a single 17 episode season.
This rather scuppered Patrick McGoohan's plans as he wasn't due to start production on the 14th Prisoner episode until a later date.
As McGoohan was already contracted to do Ice Station Zebra a solution was needed to accommodate the fact that he would not be present for the production of the required episode. Thus Do Not forsake Me Oh My Darling was hastily written, crew were asked for a further story (Living in Harmony), and a Danger Man script used for The Girl Who Was Death. This just left a finale to be written.
Markstein was not involved by the time Forsake was filmed/produced (hence, when Nigel Stock enters the underground car park it is not George Markstein behind the desk as he was in Many Happy Returns).
So, had the initial plan of two lots of 13 episodes occurred, Patrick McGoohan would have returned from a completed ISZ to start work on season two, and Forsake would not have existed.
Asked for any further detail about the Ice Station Zebra experience Roger Goodman added, “What I can tell you is that George Markstein went to see the film and said he was genuinely impressed by McGoohan's acting. He thought McGoohan's fist on the table moment was probably unscripted and so took his fellow actors suitably by surprise. He added that when Rock Hudson tried to repeat the effect later in the film it just didn't work."
More information about The Prisoner can be found in George Markstein and The Prisoner. Edited by Roger Goodman and published this Spring 2014 by pandqmedia, the book is available in a limited edition hardcover, as well as a softback, by mail through Amazon and instantly at the Prisoner Shop in Portmeirion.
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