Was the character in The Prisoner, Number 6, supposed to be the same character from Danger Man, John Drake? Patrick McGoohan denied it, but co-creator, George Markstein said otherwise.

6 Answers 6


Tricky question; for sure, the inspiration did come from Danger Man...

From the Wikipedia entry on the Prisoner:

Part of Markstein's inspiration from his research into World War II, where he found that some people had been incarcerated in a resort-like prison called Inverlair Lodge. Markstein suggested that Danger Man lead, John Drake (played by McGoohan), could suddenly resign, and be kidnapped and sent to such a location. McGoohan added Markstein's suggestion to material he had been working on, which later became The Prisoner. Furthermore a 1960 episode of Danger Man, "View from the Villa", had exteriors filmed in Portmeirion, a Welsh resort village that struck McGoohan as a good location for future projects.

(Info taken from: "In The Prisoner: The Official Companion to the Classic TV Series" by Robert Fairclough)

Now, McGoohan should be considered the ultimate source for this data, as:

McGoohan wrote a forty-page show Bible, which included a "history of the Village, the sort of telephones they used, the sewerage system, what they ate, the transport, the boundaries, a description of the Village, every aspect of it…".

Now, you were referencing the 1985 interview, and assuming McGoohan to be the ultimate authority, it should be conclusive:

McGoohan stated in a 1985 interview that No.6 is not the same character as John Drake, further adding that he had originally wanted another actor to portray the character.

Then, there is the issue:

Furthermore, Rogers states that Markstein had wanted the character to be a continuation of Drake, but that doing so would have meant paying royalties to Ralph Smart, creator of Danger Man

So what's it break down to? Number 6 certainly displayed a lot of similar behaviors and skills that Drake possessed, but 'in-universe', he wasn't ever shown to be Drake directly, and there were some hints that he was not; since McGoohan wrote the show's bible (from which everything was supposed to follow), I would think that should be the deciding factor.

Sadly, much of the above info is contested.. It's really hard to say for sure who wrote what..

All that being said, what really happened? You had two strong personalities involved, one who wanted it one way, one who wanted it the other, and then there was the issue of royalties... Unable to come to an agreement, they took advantage of the nature of the show, and left it ambiguous, which was totally in keeping with the theme of the show.

  • 3
    Now, for some real fun... Think about the final episodes... And consider that Number 6 may have, in fact, been Number 1 all along, testing the facility that he came up with the idea of, OR, the first real prisoner that it contained. (One argument says that he hypothesized the entire idea of the village, and then resigned when he discovered this 'inhuman' idea had been made a reality, only to find himself taken there.)
    – K-H-W
    Aug 6, 2011 at 14:31

Just passing through, friends.

Patrick McGoohan is a widely respected actor. Given the above data, and the universal respect for his work, I conclude he had only one failure: If he wanted Number 6 to NOT be John Drake, he did a very poor job of it. Anything, literally anything substantive could have derailed that idea. A mustache. A scar, a different haircut. Instead, he acts and reacts just the same as JD. (Mostly reaction, because of the evils around him).

So, either McGoohan failed to act-out a different character, or else there is some reason for him to fake left and move right, to act like John Drake, but say it isn't so.

My theory: It started out as John Drake, but the allegorical ending makes the idea in retrospect to be inoperative. If I may drill deeper: Since the story is about individual freedom, maybe PM is saying, "I can act any way I want, and claim to be any character I want to be, or any character I do not want to be".

My lands, he even made a finale that couldn't be put in a box!

  • If he admitted it was John Drake, then they'd have to pay royalties.
    – OrangeDog
    Apr 25, 2015 at 9:23

There is no way that No.6 could be John Drake as Patrick McGoohan stated that In reference to The Prisoner "John Drake of Secret Agent is gone.." in an interview in the Los Angeles Times August 1966. This was a full month before the cameras began to roll.

It is also nonsense that The Prisoner was based on George Markstein's concepts as McGoohan had outlined the premise of The Prisoner in an interview with Ian Sproat in 1965 before he ever met Markstein. Further McGoohan had already sold The Prisoner to Lew Grade before Markstein even had any knowledge of Inverlair Lodge which was made public knowledge at a later date.


This might be a helpful link: http://www.cosmoetica.com/B39-DES18.htm

Who is 6?

More specifically: Who is 6 John Drake (of Danger Man)?

PM has always insisted NO! 6 is never named by anyone, even when he re-encounters a former fiancé. Within the context of the show this is highly odd- even his fiancé? Surely, someone must slip up? Yet George Markstein, the principle writer for the show, has always said YES. Outside the series’ reality it is apparent that PM originally intended 6 to be Drake, but gradually went about obscuring this fact when fans started expecting a James Bondian villain behind the Village. Yet, some fans have claimed that in the show’s opening sequence the ID card that 6 turns in is stamped with computerese that spells John Drake, & there is, indeed, the aforementioned alleged ‘slip’ of 2 (or actor Leo McKern?) in Once Upon A Time where he calls 6 Drake by name (or not?). In the ‘I’m not a rat’ tete-a-tete does 2 say ‘Report to my study in the morning, Drake.’ or ‘Report to my study at the morning break.’?

Let there be no more confusion. My wife, Jessica, & I own the 10 DVD box set of TP, called The Complete Prisoner. & while on videotape it may still be arguable as to what 2 actually says to 6, on DVD it is clear: 2 calls 6 by name, he says, ‘Report to my study in the morning, Drake.’ It occurs about 18:55 minutes into Once Upon A Time.

The evidence?

1) 2 says ‘Drake’ with a D, not ‘break’ with a B! I heard it, Jess heard it, & while playing the disk to a visiting Jason Sanford & his wife, they heard the D sound clearly.

2) Vocalize the D & B sounds in a mirror. You will see that your lips are parted when you utter the D sound (even followed by the R sound) while your lips are together & pursed to form the B sound (even followed by the R sound). It’s a clear distinction, & at 18.55 into the episode 2’s lips are clearly apart. A lipreader can confirm. The D sound is uttered. Jess spotted this right away. It is about 99% certain that you hear the D sound spoken, but 100% that 2’s lips form a D, not a B.

3) Right before 2 utters ‘Drake’ or ‘break’ he is supposed to have uttered either ‘in’ if he’s summoning ‘Drake’, or ‘at’ if he’s ordering 6 to meet him at a ‘break’. There is no doubt that 2 utters ‘in’ not ‘at’- both soundwise & lipwise the difference is even starker than in ‘Drake/break’. Listen & watch the DVD- it is 100% certain that ‘in’ is uttered.

4) Since 2 definitely utters ‘in’ not ‘at’ he cannot be ordering 6 to ‘Report to my study in the morning break.’ for it does not make sense grammatically nor logically. People do things AT or ON a break- not IN. But, even if 1 accepts that Anglo phraseology differs from American, in that Brits go IN breaks, not ON, the other 3 points still rule it out, as well that 2 clearly states IN.

5) The reverse, however, is grammatically & logically fine: ‘Report to my study in the morning, Drake.’ People often ask or tell people things, & append the addressee’s name afterward. Why would 2 ask 6 to ‘Report to my study at the morning, Drake.’? It’s illogical.

6) The situation, at this point in the episode, is that 2 is playacting to convince a drugged 6 that he is different authority figures from 6’s past. Here, 2 is pretending he is the Schoolmaster of 6’s Elementary or High School. In formal schools, & even rigid public schools (in the US or UK) it is customary to address young males by their family names (whether or not preceded by a ‘Mr.’ or ‘Master’)- especially when being disciplined- as the situation is aiming for. Since 6 is going back to a time long before 6 was a spy, there is a no reason for 2 (as 6’s Schoolmaster) to address him as anything but his last name- if 2 DID call 6 ‘6’ it might snap 6 back to reality, lapse him out of believing he’s an errant child, & ruin 2’s hopes for getting information from 6. 2, therefore, must call 6 by his real name- as a disciplining Schoolmaster would! Think: 2 is pretending he is someone from the past, before 6 was 6, or a spy- he was just another kid with a familial name to be addressed.

These 6 points leave no doubt. 6 is Drake, as in John Drake. He looks like Drake, talks like Drake, has Drake’s temperament & beliefs, was in the same line of work as Drake, & his captors know & call him ‘Drake’- albeit only when it’s necessary to attempt to secure information, etc. In short, if it walks, talks, & quacks like a Drake- it is a Drake! While this may shatter the belief systems of some fans, it shouldn’t. Ask yourself- is Joseph K. any less an Everyman because we know his name is Joseph? Is Ishmael any less an everyman? Is Travis Bickle? Merely because we now know 6 is John Drake (or JD) lessens his everyman status not in the least. Others have claimed 6- regardless of being JD or not- is a misogynist &/or misanthrope. As usual, they trot out a set of arguments pro & con- but I won’t address that here as that seems yet another case of minutiae run rampant.

Yet, others have claimed that 6 is not JD, but, rather PM himself! These folk see the whole show as PM’s rejection of his persona as TV star. Others insist 6 must never be named, lest he could not be an everyman. We now know his identity & that his ‘necessary anonymity’ is not really necessary. While 6’s identity is 1 of the most hotly debated questions TP has inspired, there are others. The most obvious corollary to Who is 6?, is Is 6 #1? & if 1 is not 6, then who or what is 1?

  • 4
    Just a suggestion - paragraphs would make this much more readable. Aug 11, 2014 at 17:49

I would like Number 6 to be John Drake but ... Danger Man definitely took place in the real world (*) yet the Village is guarded by Rover ... and where exactly in the real world in the 1960s did that come from?

(*) It's true that in Danger Man Drake visited an awful lot of countries with names that are unrecognizable in the modern (or even 1960s) atlas. But, obviously, that was a subterfuge by the studio trying to prevent the show from being shut down for causing diplomatic problems between Great Britain and the actual benighted South American and Eastern European countries that everyone in the audience knew were being represented.


No, No.6 was not John Drake. McGoohan stated in the Los Angeles Times, August 1966, that "John Drake of Secret Agent is gone..." and John Drake was not the "new character" who was to be No.6 in The Prisoner.

Professional lip readers have stated the word spoken by No.2 is 'break' not 'Drake'. Besides the fully published shooting scripts clearly state the word as 'break' in print.

  • 2
    Can you back up this assertion; "Professional lip readers have stated"... Stated where, precisely?
    – Valorum
    Apr 9, 2015 at 23:50
  • 1
    Can you provide a link to the shooting script.
    – Valorum
    Apr 9, 2015 at 23:51

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.