Writer Bill Gallagher Talks About The Prisoner


Jim Caviezel stars as Number Six in AMC's re-imagined version of the classic British TV series The Prisoner. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

AFTER a rather itinerant life, working in all manner of jobs – from window cleaner to welder – Bill Gallagher studied at the University of East Anglia, under Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. Subsequently, he taught drama and dramatic writing at the university before becoming a fulltime writer. His first stage play, Darkle, won The Sunday Times Playwriting Award.

Raised in the ship-building community of Newcastle, Bill now lives in Norfolk and has two children. With a passion for television drama, his credits include Maigret, Clocking Off, Hero of the Hour, Out of the Blue, Moving Story, Conviction, Four Fathers and Lark Rise to Candleford. Bill is the winner of Trik Awards and Monte Carlo Awards, and has been nominated for BAFTAs and Royal Television Society Awards. As a young boy, Bill saw The Prisoner during its original broadcast and was mesmerized by it, without understanding why. It has since haunted him in many ways that few dramas have. The following is a brief AMC Q & A with the writer.

How did you get involved with the re-imagining of The Prisoner?

Bill Gallagher – I had a phone call from Granada Television. It was such a surprising call…and I found myself having this bizarre conversation about reworking The Prisoner. I knew immediately I wanted to do it. I won’t claim to have been a longtime fan of the original series, but I had seen it once as a boy. It had such an impact on me. It was so strange and so unfathomable. It disturbed me like no other TV show. That stayed with me for a long time. That all came back to me, so I knew immediately I wanted to do it. And then the prospect of doing it terrified me.

What terrified you? Was it that the show had such a cult following?

BG – Partly, I respect the original. I am inspired by the original. But, it’s never about redoing it and pleasing the people who love the original. They love the original because of what it is. It was the scale of the task. It is such a mind-boggling concept. I knew I couldn’t just make a conventional drama built on conventional structures. I knew it had to be different.


Exactly what are Number Two's (Sir Ian McKellen) true motivations? Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

Talk about the character of Two and his backstory.

BG – In the original series, there was a series of Twos and he was The Village authority figure. what I was interested in was to stay with this man and to open up the battle between Six [Jim Caviezel] and Two [Sir Ian McKellen] and to get to know Two. Who is this man? What is his mission? What are his moral challenges? If he is a man with a vision, and that vision becomes The Village, then what are the costs to him? What happens when this man has a family? I was really interested in the character of Two and that couldn’t be achieved by replacing Two each week. His actions tell us who he is, but I was also interested in finding out why he does what he does, and what it has cost him.

How did you imagine the character of Six and his journey?

BG – Six begins from a premise that’s already given to me by the original series: there is a man cast into this strange place, he wants to escape, he rails against authority, and he’s determined to assert his own individuality. For me, it’s the man himself and his history. What if Six was a lonely man? What if he was a man who didn’t know how to form relationships? What if he was a man whose work separated him from the world? What are the challenges that are thrown to Six himself, in his own beliefs, in his own ideas, in his own failings? The series is a hero’s journey. That journey is an attempt to escape, an attempt to overcome the monster that is Two. But also, it’s a challenge to overcome the monster in himself.

The Prisoner debuts with two episodes on Sunday, November 15th @ 8 p.m. EST/PST and continues at the same time on Monday, the 16th and Tuesday, the 17th. Watch for more Q & As as well as cast interviews as the week goes on.

As noted above, all photos copyright of Granada TV and AMC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

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5 Responses to “Writer Bill Gallagher Talks About The Prisoner”

  1. pedrofeliz3b Says:


    see my blog on the remake, at http://pedrofeliz3b.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/the-prisoner-remake-brain-in-a-vat-revisited-or-the-matrix-part-iv/

    also my prior blog on the original series at I AM NOT A NUMBER—I AM A FREE MAN!!! THE PRISONER (1967) ABOUT TO BE REMADE ON CABLE TV

    –art kyriazis

  2. Number 6 Says:

    I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered! My life is my own!

  3. Bernard Smith Says:

    Dear Editor,

    I have a wonderful idea for Bill Gallagher to consider for continuation of the excellent series of programmes called the Prisoner started by PatrckMcGoohan and now Carriedon so well by Bill Gallagher.

  4. Bernard Smith Says:

    Dear Editor,

    I have a wonderful idea for Bill Gallagher to consider for the continuation of the excellent series of programmes called the Prisoner – started by Patrick McGoohan, and now carried on so well by Bill Gallagher…..Sorry-for the break..

    The idea is based on the great mystery surrounding the ultimate power, i.e. of No.1, who runs The Prisoner’s two villages. He seems to be a beneficial dictator who is not really interested in killing his prisoners but rather in controlling their minds. He could even be a piece of Computer software – or at least this could be his means.

    I have of course an ulterior motive in writig to you. I believe that any such power depends ultimately on information – information – information! This is the name of my website, where the book which I have written on the subject is available completely free!

    I was very much influeced by The Prisoner programmes when writing my book. Karen Langley, Secretary of the Prisoner Appreciation Society, has in fact written a splendid reviewof my book – which can be seen on my publisher’s website which is linked to my owm at:

    On a serious note, I see information as mankind’s most precious possession. Without it we just couldn’t exist. It is, for instance, vital for communication. Without it we would not be able to communicate at all. All species have to use information, as we have to, but we have used it so well that we have become the pre-eminent species on earth, leaving other creatures far behind. We can’t however take it for granted that this will always be so. There are great dangers to which we are vulnerable…. the use of it in The Prisoner shows how…

    I think perhaps you nay see how ny mind is working. I would love to discuss the possibilities with you.

    Yours sincerely,

    Bernard Smith

  5. Bernard Smith Says:

    Deart editor
    Re my previous post,

    For Karen Langley’s review of my book and her reference to the antics of No 2 etc.
    please go to the following website and click
    Free Preview:


    Bernatd Smith

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