Friday, January 16, 2009

Repainting the Sistine Chapel

Among the handful of TV programmes I watched without fail in my youth - Doctor Who, The Avengers, Top of the Pops, Match of the Day (this was in the days before Monty Python) - one stood out for its originality and inventiveness. The Prisoner was, and remains, one of the most intriguing television series ever produced. Now comes news that its star and creator, Patrick McGoohan, has passed away at the age of 80.

McGoohan gave good performances in later years, but nothing he did subsequently could ever match the impact of The Prisoner. A new generation of fans have discovered via DVD the story - more relevant than ever in these days of universal surveillance - of the captive who refuses to submit to his mysterious captors, defiantly proclaiming "I am not a number - I am a free man!"

Sadly, along with the news of McGoohan's death comes the news that a remake of The Prisoner is in the works. What is this awful compulsion that film makers have to redo the classics? The Mona Lisa has been painted; the Venus de Milo has been carved; Beethoven's Ninth has been composed. No one tries to remake them, so why are films different?

I'm not saying all remakes are bad - some try to reinvent the original in interesting ways - but far too many creative people spend their time reinventing the wheel, and only succeed in diluting the iconic power of the original. There is only one King Kong; only one Solaris; and only one Prisoner. Leave them alone and find something new to create.

I live in fear that one day Hollywood will be stupid enough to remake Casablanca...

P.S. It's bad enough that some idiot colourized it. As Calvin and Hobbes fans will know, the world was not yet coloured back then.


jb said...

The Telegraph's obit has some interesting aspects of McGoohan's character - shades of old fashioned moralism. (The 3 of us would have got on well, methinks..)
"The Prisoner" isn't recreatable. Period.

Evie said...

The worst is when people from the younger generations say things like "There was a Mission Impossible on TV? Was Tom Cruise in it?". Or "Lord of the Rings is a BOOK??".

Andrew said...

I remember William Hartnell as the first Doctor. I was fine with the transmogrifications until Tom Baker disappeared. It was never the same again. I wonder if anybody will watch a remake of the The Prisoner, except those of us who want to make the comparison and assert that nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Private Beach said...

I also started from the beginning, but Jon Pertwee was my favourite Doctor (every fan has one).