Danger Man – The Turning Point [Back to the homepage]
Here we look at why Danger Man ended and ask the question did John Drake become Number Six?
Danger Man returned to British television screens (Series 2, Season 2 and Series 3) on September 23 1965 with a 23 week run that featured some of the best ever stories. The budget had been increased and this was reflected in production values and a list of guest actors that included Ian Hendry, Barbara Steele, Maurice Denham, Bernard Lee, Bernard Bresslaw, Susan Hampshire and Jane Merrow.
Drake was much the same, still dedicated and cynical, but more and more the series was to show the down side of being a spy. It’s almost as if the series is hinting that Drake is beginning to reach a turning point in his career.
In "Are you going to be more permanent" Drake openly flirts with Susan Hampshire, and is full of regret when it is revealed that she is an enemy agent. "Judgement Day" finds Drake in a situation he has no hope of solving. "The Man Who Wouldn't Talk" shows us a mortified Drake having to face the shocking truth of what can happen when a tortured agent turns psycho.
In "To our best friend" Drake must investigate an agent friend, suspected of changing sides, it's a mission he hates and one he regrets. "The Outcast" almost repeats the formula when Drake has to befriend a man who may or may not be selling secrets. Later he learns that the man is only guilty of a crime of passion, and there is nothing Drake can do to stop justice reaching out. Finally in "The man on the beach" Drake is forced to run from his fellow agents when M9 choose not to believe him. Drake's sarcastic smile is soon wiped from his face and near the shows conclusion, he is almost killed.
All in all, not a happy season for Drake, in fact if you really want to see a reason for Drake resigning view these episodes in the following order before watching "The Prisoner".
- Judgement day
- Are you going to be more permanent?
- The outcast
- To our best friend
- The man who wouldn't talk
- The man on the beach
Whether or not these stories were written to suggest a change in direction or simply born of a desire to take Danger Man into new areas is not apparent. What is known is that Patrick McGoohan was beginning to tire of being John Drake. He has stated that the show was beginning to repeat itself and he had already made various attempts at getting a film version of "The Prisoner" unsuccessfully off the ground.
This must have represented a major concern for ITC. Danger Man had become the company’s most successful production, out selling "The Saint" and making McGoohan the biggest name on the ITC pay role at the time. With McGoohan's contract for the series due to expire shortly, Lew Grade, always a keen business man had to keep the star happy. This explains why, eventually McGoohan was able to sell ITC "The Prisoner", but for the time being at least ITC were keen to keep the adventures of John Drake a float.
Plans were already underway to move Danger Man into colour for a fourth series and the waters were tested with the production of two shows "Koroshi" and "Shinda Shima" which began filming some two weeks after the completion of "Not so Jolly Roger". It is interesting to note that both the colour episodes of Danger Man that were produced only credit Ralph Smart as creator of the series, nowhere on the credits does it actually state that he was involved in their production.
Had Smart left or is there another reason?
These episodes were planned and scheduled before McGoohan dropped his bombshell – that he would not be returning to the character after the completion of filming five more shows. All of this implies that ITC thought they could keep the star within the fold. Hence several other episodes were either scripted or in development at the time of McGoohan making his announcement.
Of the unused scripts little is known, one ultimately became "The Girl Who Was Death" in The Prisoner", another, "To Trap A Rat", a Philip Broadley script was revised into an episode of "The Champions" and "Old Age Comes Not Alone", another Broadley story, remained unfilmed .
Time has not recorded the frantic meetings that occurred when the news of Danger Man's ultimate end reached Ralph Smart and Lew Grade, but meetings there would have been. McGoohan would have been offered a new deal, one that would have included a pay rise, more control over the series, more chances to direct, produce and even write. A similar deal had occurred when Roger Moore threatened to leave "The Saint". One thing was clear however, Patrick McGoohan had the full intention of bringing "The Prisoner" to the screen, the question that remained however, was in what form?
Perhaps Lew Grade’s main concern was to keep Danger Man in some form or other alive. By linking the two shows together "The Prisoner" (not an easy concept to sell) would have a ready market and make overseas sales easier to reach. Therefore it would make sense to use the name of John Drake. It is possible that Ralph Smart did not wish to relinquish control of his show. McGoohan had already moved Danger Man into stories that didn't fit into the Executive Producer's original conception, and excepting the fact that, as originally conceived "The Prisoner" was a semi-sequel to Danger Man, suggests that Smart was unhappy with this planned path ,and may have been unwilling to allow a character he had created to be used.
Which begs the question asked earlier, was Smart involved in the last two stories of Danger Man? Could it be that when McGoohan's intentions were revealed Smart withdrew from Danger Man and took steps to stop his character being used? This could have resulted in McGoohan's decision to not give number six a name, which in effect avoided any legal complications that may have resulted from the continued use of the character if named. This would also explain why McGoohan still maintains that "The Prisoner" is unconnected to Danger Man, to admit so would mean Ralph Smart's on the actors back. It also explains why "The Prisoner" carries so many references to Danger Man.
All of this is theory however, what actually happened those fateful months before the end of Danger Man and the start of filming on “The Prisoner” have been eroded by time and smoke-screened with a variety of stories.
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