Recent days have seen the deaths of a couple of men whose work meant something to me, Ricardo Montalban and Patrick McGoohan.
All of Montalban's obits focus on his roles in Fantasy Island and Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, the latter of which was just one of the reasons I was a fan. In fact, Mr. Montalban had a distinguished Hollywood career for decades before he made his big splashes as Mr. Roarke and Khan Noonian Singh. I wonder if he looked at Khan the way Alec Guinness regarded Obi Wan Kenobi: "I spent my whole life building a respected career in some really great films and I'm gonna be remembered for this?!" If so, he was gracious enough to never express it.
The best memorial to Mr. Montalban I've seen is a story writer Mark Evanier tells about working on a comedy program when Montalban made a cameo appearance. It's a great, revealing anecdote that hints at why he deserves to be remembered with esteem and respect beyond that earned by his performances. You should go read that.
Mr. McGoohan created and starred in a 1960s British series called The Prisoner, which is one of the best programs ever made. It tells the story of an unnamed spy who, at the start of the series, resigns from his job for reasons we never learn. He goes home to pack, knock-out gas pours through his keyhole, and he wakes up in a bizarre village run by people (maybe good guys, maybe bad guys) who want information from him. The series is a terrific meditation on freedom, individuality, conformity, and the little prisons people build for themselves every day. It's also strange and frustrating, both of which only add to its charm. Programs like Twin Peaks and Lost owe everything to The Prisoner. Truly great.
I have some sentimental attachment to The Prisoner because in the late '70s the 17-episode series was rerun on public broadcasting stations. That's when I discovered it and Mom and I got into it together. It was appointment television for just the two of us. We eagerly awaited each episode and dissected them for hours afterward, discussing the symbolism and teasing out clues. It built a special connection between Mom and me that I'll always treasure and for which I'm grateful to Mr. McGoohan.
Comics blogger Heidi MacDonald posted the best appreciation of McGoohan and his work I've seen in recent days. Worth the read if you're interested. If my description has tempted you, full episodes of The Prisoner are available online.
What's Up, Washington & Jefferson?
Over the past couple of days, I've gotten a noticeable boomlet of visitors from Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. Usually I see little clusters like that when a local book review or somesuch appears. This time I'm clueless. Who are you people and what do you want with me?