nr6de: Pat, thanks for doing this interview albeit not face to face, what I would have appreciated.
If you remember, in 2009 when the German Prisoner, known as NUMMER 6, celebrated its 40th TV screen premiere I went asking a number of people "What makes The Prisoner special? What is it that got you hooked to the series?" And the final line of your answer to the question was: "What was the question again, Arno? Why is THE PRISONER so special? Well, here's your answer: The Prisoner taught me about life!"
DIESER TEXT AUF DEUTSCH
It would keep ringing in my ears all the time. After all, this is a notion inherent in many answers, if not, one way or the other, in every answer to my question. THE PRISONER affected one's personal course of life. Arguably, TV was relatively new at the time, hence TV as such changed many lives. But I wouldn't be able to say this of another TV show. How do you feel right now that we have reached the 50th anniversary? Unbelievable isn't it!
PD: Did I really say 'it taught me about life'? Sounds a bit presumptuous. It taught me a lot about life though ;-)
nr6de: What was your initial approach to LE PRISONNIER, how did you come across it?
PD: I must have been eight or ten years old. Every Saturday afternoon, I used to watch a TV programme called "La Une est à vous". It was dial-in programme where viewers had to phone the
– Où suis-je ?
– Au Village.
– Que voulez-vous?
– Des renseignements.
– Dans quel camp êtes-vous?
– Vous le saurez en temps utile... Nous voulons des renseignements, des renseignements,
– Vous n'en aurez pas!
– De gré ou de force, vous parlerez.
– Qui êtes-vous?
– Je suis le nouveau Numéro Deux.
– Qui est le Numéro Un?
– Vous êtes le Numéro Six.
– Je ne suis pas un numéro, je suis un homme libre!
– Ha ! Ha ! Ha ! Ha ! ...
TV's switchboard in order to select a specific series. These were classified according to various genres : adventure, sci-Fi, western, espionnage etc. Very often, the same series were chosen : WILD WILD WEST with Robert Conrad, THE AVENGERS with PatrickMacnee, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE with Steve McQueen, THE OUTER LIMITS etc. THE PRISONER seldom came up but I remember vividly one episode with the Rover balloon which scared me so much that I had to duck under cover underneath my grandparents' living room table!
nr6de: LE PRISONNIER appeared on French TV screens in 1968, well one year before NUMMER 6 in Germany. How was the series received at first?
PD: Back in 1992, I saw a broadcast with the original program broadcasters who said it worked very well for about 3000 people. He meant that it appealed only to a niche of viewers. The general public did not understand that THE PRISONER was not John Drake from DANGER MAN ["Destination Danger" in France] (er, he wasn't, was he?), which was a hugely popular series in France (and Germany too I believe). A few episodes were repeated several years later, as "fillers" whenever there was a strike on French TV. It's not until 1983 and the scifi programme TEMPS X that it appealed to a new generation of mode demanding viewers.
nr6de: Back in 1968/69, in France as well as over here only 13 episodes were broadcast, is this correct? In Germany we can only speculate, and we have, as to why this was the case. How about in France, was there ever any reason given?
PD: You may know that at the time, TV companies bought series by batches of 13 instalments. So when what should have been series 2 of THE PRISONER came up with weird instalments such as "The Girl Who Was Death", "Do Not Forsake Me" and "Living in Harmony", the powers that be chose to purchase only the final episode. And guess what? We had to wait until 1984 to see "Once Upon A Time"!
nr6de: The episode "The General" - "Der General" in German - was originally titled "Le Cerveau" - "The Brain". Why did they do that?
PD: Back in 1968, Général De Gaulle, French WWII hero, was head of state. The title "The General" may have drawn attention from the broadcasting authority which was under strict state control. So the episode was re-titled "Le Cerveau", "The Brain".
nr6de: Jacques Thébault was the Number Six voice actor in France, the man who dubbed Patrick McGoohan. I can't remember who, but it was said that the French dubbing was rather flat, perhaps not particularly accurate. What would you tell people?
PD: I would challenge the fact that it was "flat". Thébault's voice was not as metallic-sounding and harsh as McGoohan's, that is correct, but it was perfect to our French ears. Thébault was a respected voiceover artist who dubbed a lot of major Hollywood (and TV) stars including Steve McQueen, Christopher Lee, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman to name but a few. He died aged 90 in 2015. He attended one of our conventions in the early 90s.
nr6de: In 2010 Franco-German TV station ARTE did the dubbing of the four non-German episodes. We both wrote about the event. Have you ever listened to the old episodes for which Horst Naumann did the dubbing and to our "new Number Six", voice actor Bernd Rumpf? In case you have: what do think of his dubbing job?
PD: I listened to a couple of Naumann's dubbed episode ("Das Amtsiegel" for instance) and liked it. I couldn't say why but I prefer his work over Bernd Rumpf. In France three episodes remained unscreen for a long time (until 1991). Thébault did the voiceover work but his voice then definitely sounded different, older (mind you, 25 years later!) and not as clear sounding. Perhaps it was the same with Rumpf?
nr6de: The French PRISONER fan club or society is called Le RÔdeur, they have their own website and an additional blog has been set up too. Tell us a bit about its inception! Who was responsible in the beginning?
PD: Christian Delattre, our webmaster and myself, designed the website structure in the very late 1990s. I provided the original content and Christian devised the various modules and later added an interactive forum. Earlier this year, I decided to set up
PATRICK DUCHER EXPLAINS EVERYTHING
my own blog and publish regular posts in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast. I interviewed long-time fans, journalists, graphic artists etc. There's still an interest for the series in France, a strong one, despite the fact that the general public no longer watches TV the way they used to. The youger generation finds it hard to understand that we had to wait for a full week before watching an episode! Now it's all about binge watching…
In November 2018 we organised our 20th PRISONER convention in a little village near Lyon. There were quizzes and games, and interviews with four authors, including Michel Senna, who wrote the first French filmography of McGoohan, Bernard Godeaux, from Belgium, presented an essay about the cinematographic aspects of the series, Le rÔdeur's founding father Jean-Michel Philibert introduced his 450 page essay about some philosophical, political and sociological aspects of THE PRISONER and myself presented a collection of McGoohan quotes (more than 200!)
Bonjour chez vous!
Interview conducted in English in October 2018, questions by Arno Baumgärtel. The book "Le Prisonnier - Une énigme télévisuelle" (Edition Yris) by Patrick Ducher and Jean-Michel Philibert was originally published in 2003.