Prisoner Writer Explains Why Our New Paranoia Is Different

AMC's reboot of The Prisoner was previewed at Comic-Con yesterday, and in addition to the amazing footage, series writer Bill Gallagher was on hand to tease more, including why this series isn't a remake, but a "response" to the original.

On whether or not he pictured original series lead Patrick McGoohan when writing the series:

No, I deliberately didn't do that, I didn't think of an actor at all... I won't cast it in my head, because then I box myself in, and I can't do that. It has to be this imaginary character. I didn't have McGoohan in my head because [this Prisoner] is a different kind of Number Six, he's a different character, he has different attitudes. In the beginning of the series, Six wakes up the middle of the desert, no idea where he is, no idea how he got there, no idea what to do, and immediately he's hurled into an event, which is this old man is trying to escape, he's being pursued by soldiers. And he rescues this old man. For me, in my head, that's McGoohan, the old Six. And that old man dies. In my head, he dies to allow us to imagine a new Number Six. McGoohan said that the end plate on the old series should've said "The Beginning," because the cycle goes on, and so in my imagination, [that scene is where] one cycle ends and another cycle begins. And so that scene allowed me to imagine my own Number Six.

On easter eggs from the old show:

There are lots of little things. Some of them are visual, some of them are story, stories that we were inspired by, and also some of them are little lines of dialogue. One of the difficulties we have is that we're aiming for 45 minute episodes and some of them come in very long, we have to cut for story, so some of that gets lost, unfortunately. But there's still a good deal of it in the show. Partly as a way of building on that series, partly as a little fun thing, and partly thematic... This bloody place goes on and on and on, you know? In episode two, Six gets involved in a trip to a place called Escape Resort, and when you go to Escape Resort, it's like the original Village, and people are dressed like they were in the original Village.

On whether the new show is a sequel:

I can see why you'd say that, I talk about it being cyclical, but I have to think about it on different layers and different levels, to imagine it. It's not sequential in that, this happens then that happens, not at all, and my approach was not to recreate it, and not to reinvent it, but to respond to the original. If they said that, what do we say?

On the thematic differences between the original and the new series:

McGoohan's piece was based upon the assertion of the individual, and I allowed myself to look at it in the polar opposite way. What happens if the cult of the individual is allowed to run? We're all obsessed with self, we're all obsessed with more, and now, and me, and gimme... and what happens if that's affected us, and what if that kind of world, what are the consequences of that? McGoohan says, 'Look. We live in a world which is authoritarian, and we've got to break it.' What if we live in a society now that's selfish and dangerous?

On who the bad guys are:

There is a strand of fear in [the series], but that fear comes from the world that Six comes from. He fears the people around him: Who are you, you know? He doesn't know who he can trust, so trust is a big theme of the series... If you were to say that [in the era of the original series] it was Communism, it was West versus East, then what is it now? It's a different kind of threat, it's an unknowable threat. How do you battle that? In terms of the Village, when Six first comes to the Village, there are acts of terrorism, and what he comes to believe is that the terrorism is by the state itself within the village... That 'State versus State' thing seems to have gone, we have to come at the kind of threats at a different level.

On the way the series ends:

The final episode has a climax, it has a conclusion, there's a reversal, and there's explanations and revelations, but they're not conventional, and I hope they'll be shocking, you know, that people will not expect this ending at all. What I hope is that, what we get in the end is more disturbing than where we were at the beginning... When we get to the end, what I hope is that people will get challenged by it, and disturbed by it, in the way that the original challenged and disturbed. What I hope people will feel is that there's a sense of, 'I know what that's about, I think I know, oh my God, this was that and that was this, so that's how it works. But I don't like it.