Sunday, 22 December 2013

Danger Man: I Can Only Offer You Sherry

Watching through The Prisoner, focussing on the hypothetical identification of John Drake with Number 6, has made me reflect that I haven't really seen McGoohan in anything other than The Prisoner & Danger Man. I thought I had better make an effort to to see what he is like in different roles, to get a feel as to the breadth of the characters he is capable of & the relative closeness of Drake & Number 6. Some actors play a relatively homogenous array of roles (Ross Kemp springs to mind, in fact it's odd to see him coming across as an affable chap in documentaries), while some actors can seemingly take on different personas at the drop of a hat (my vote is on Tom Hardy for this). In an attempt to become better-acquainted with McGoohan's acting ability I bought some Columbo DVDs today. Unfortunately I managed to miss the episodes in which he appears as the villain (derp!), but am looking forward to seeing Honor Blackman as a no-doubt seductive killer. All of this introduction was pure background to why I'm doing a Danger Man post in the meantime: I want to see how much Danger Man's Drake fits in with what - hypothetically - he would become in The Prisoner. You see, I just can't help feeling they're the same person! I've chosen a late episode, one of the fifty-minute ones, & I'm taking a slightly unfair advantage here as this is one which particularly feels to me like The Prisoner.
I'll grant you that many a 60s detective series employed ideas which got used in The Prisoner, what is of interest to me in this one is the brooding feeling of being watched, relentlessly, of being the object of scrutiny. It also uses the all important theme of knowledge, of its security & misuse: in this case a woman is the character isolated for the purposes of scrutiny, & Drake is trying to find out why, in the service of the bigger aim of finding out about a leak of information. Of course the theory is that Drake came up with the idea of a village as a sort of containing 'home' to ensure the safety of ex-agents' knowledge. The Drake in this episode is exactly the sort of person who would come up with that sort of idea, given that he clearly works for an incredibly diffuse & knowedgeable organisation. M9 clearly has world-wide connections, raising the question of globalisation underlying the perennial question of The Village's location. The 'organisation' running The Village in The Prisoner is at least only perceived as merely European: in this one a police chief in an Arabic-speaking, presumably Middle Eastern?, country knows who Drake is. Interestingly, coming back to Danger Man from The Prisoner, that is in the wrong chronological order, makes The Prisoner feel even more chilling, as if it is focussed on only the European part of a global conspiracy.
Drake in this episode looks like Number 6, he talks & acts like Number 6. This is why I need to see McGoohan in different roles, to see how he acts different roles. In later interviews, though, he comes across as quite different, albeit obviously older, than Drake or Number 6. His appearance as Number 6 is complete, & this episode is a major source in the Drake as Number 6 debate, since Drake dresses identically in this Danger Man to how Number 6 dresses in the title sequence of The Prisoner. Arguments aside, the person we see resigning in The Prisoner, is the Drake we see in this episode of Danger Man. It has been chewed over endlessly, but Drake in this episode is exactly the moral sort of person he is supposed to be, & the sort of moral person Number 6 was. He obviously pretends, of necessity, in this episode, but it is in the service of a greater cause. Drake's actions in this episode also strike me as the sort of things Number 6 does: finding existing allies, forcing the all-important character of Jean Smith on side,  & setting up a plot to capture his opponents in flagrante, as it were. He uses the advanced technology of the time, as Drake often does: I have only just realised that the surveillance equipment Drake uses in Danger Man is - as it were - used against him by his captors in The Prisoner, exactly the sort of cat & mouse reversal motif that reoccurs over & over again in The Prisoner, used as one single monumental reversal between Danger Man & The Prisoner.
I like Danger Man, purely as first-class television, enormously, preferring the fifty-minute later episodes over the thirty-minute episodes. In this one I particularly like the use of stock footage mixed with the otherwise completely studio-bound production. Some of it may seem slightly corny from this length of time, such as the spy film old faithful of the wall safe behind a picture. My personal high point in this has to be Drake's receipt of intelligence from a fortune teller who is completely obviously a male agent in drag (played wonderfully by Warren Mitchell)! Wendy Craig, an actress who normally irritates the pants off me, does a really good ambivalent, compromised naivete act.
But can I think of any way in which this episode would contradict the Drake as Number 6 theory? Frankly, no I can't, even admitting that I was convinced of this identification to start off with. So this episode both confirms my hypothesis & is a stonking good bit of television in itself.
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