About a month ago, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward got in touch with me about cult TV series The Prisoner. He thought he might have the original ‘No 6’ badge which star Patrick McGoohan wore in the series. I wrote a blog about it.
Rick Davy of The Unmutual Prisoner and Portmeirion Website has sent this reply which, I think, is just as interesting as the original blog…
I found the blog piece delightful and fascinating. What a story, and what a wonderful set of items to now own! Not heard of MGM sending actual artefacts before. Photos yes, artefacts no!
I personally think this is unlikely to be an original badge, and agree with one of your conclusions that this may have been something reproduced and sent to various folk who wrote to Patrick McGoohan / MGM. The reasons I believe it may not be genuine are as follows (and I’m not saying this to annoy or depress, but to help John Ward build an overall picture for these wonderful items):
a) Number Six only wore/used his badge for around 5 seconds, in a scene from the episode Arrival, where he is handed the badge outside of the Hospital in The Village (in reality, Castell Daedraeth in Portmeirion). He immediately tears off the badge and tosses it into a Village taxi. At no other point in the episode, or series, does he wear the badge (you may recall he defiantly states “I am Not a Number!” at the start of each episode). Because of this, the badge will not have been used in any beach scenes and therefore any ‘sand’ is likely to be coincidental.
b) The series’ propsman Mickey O’Toole, who was in charge of creating and organising the badges, when interviewed about the series, spoke at length regarding the re-use of the Number 6 badge. As extras from the series who appeared in Portmeirion when they shot the series from September 1966 were keeping their own numbered badges as souvenirs, the production crew found themselves short of numbered badges, so re-used the Number 6 badge by adding other digits, so there are 3 different Number 66 background characters in the first episode Arrival, for example, produced by simply stenciling another ‘6’ onto the existing ‘6’. Therefore, the original ‘6’ badge probably didn’t last beyond those first two weeks of filming, as it was modified to become a different number.
However, that’s not to say that other Number Six badges were created and not used – such items were not catalogued, so you’d be justified in arguing that other 6 badges could have been produced. However, filming and production on the series was completed in February 1968 and, as such, it’s highly unlikely that any aspect of the series’ production remained at the studio for 12+ months after that.
By mid-1968 the props were broken up (with a few taken home by members of the production crew earlier that year (See https://www.theunmutual.co.uk/propscostumes.htm for some examples) and the costume store at MGM moved to nearby ABPC Studios (now known as Elstree Film Studios) for use in other series. By the time your letter was sent from MGM in 1969, it’s therefore incredibly unlikely that any aspect of the series remained at MGM to be mailed to you as it had all moved a year or so before.
But there certainly cannot be any proof that this is NOT an original 6 badge used in production, as the design certainly 100% matches those used in the finished episodes.