Danger Man (retitled Secret Agent in the
United States for the revived series, and Destination Danger and John
Drake in other overseas markets) was a British television series
broadcast between 1960 and 1962, and again between 1964 and 1968. The
series featured Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake.
idea for Danger Man originated with Ralph Smart an associate working
with Lew Grade, head of ITC Entertainment. Grade was looking for
formats that could be exported.
Ian Fleming was brought in to collaborate
on series development, but left before development was complete (just
as he had done for the Man From U.N.C.L.E.). Like James Bond, the
main character is a globetrotting British spy (although one who works
for NATO rather than MI6), who cleverly extricates himself from
life-threatening situations and introduces himself as "Drake...
When Fleming left the project he was
replaced by Ian Stuart Black, and a new format/character initially
called "Lone Wolf" was developed. This later evolved into
After Patrick McGoohan (right) was cast,
he also affected characters development. A key difference from Bond
traces to the family-oriented star's preferences: no firearms (with a
few rare exceptions, such as episode 26, "The Journey Ends
Halfway") and no outright seduction of female co-stars (though
Drake did engage in low-key romance in a few episodes). As a
practicing Catholic, McGoohan felt explicit sexual content and
excessive violence were unacceptable, a conviction that allegedly
resulted in him turning down the part of James Bond.
The first series of 39 half hour, black
and white episodes portrayed John Drake as working for a Washington,
D.C. based intelligence organization, apparently on behalf of the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), whose assignments
frequently took him to Africa, Latin America, and the Far East. In
episode 9, "The Sanctuary", Drake identifies himself as an Irish-American.
Drake is sometimes at odds with his
superiors about the ethics of the missions. Many of Drake's cases
involved aiding democracy in foreign countries, and he was also
called upon to solve murders and crimes affecting the interests of
either the U.S. or NATO or both.
For the second and third series which
aired several years after the first, the episode's length was
extended to an hour and Drake underwent retconning. His nationality
became British, and he was an agent working for a secret British
government department, called M9 (analogous to Secret Intelligence
Service), though his Mid-Atlantic English accent persists for the
first few episodes in in the second series. These were also filmed in
black and white.
Other than the largely nominal change of
employer and nationality, Drake's mandate remains the same: "to
undertake missions involving national and global security". In
keeping with the episodic format of such series in the 1960s, there
are no ongoing story arcs and there is no reference made to Drake's
NATO adventures in the later M9 episodes.
The pilot episode was written by Brian
Clemens, who later co-created The Avengers. In an interview Clemens
said, "The pilot I wrote was called 'View from the Villa' and it
was set in Italy, but the production manager set the shoot on
location in Portmeirion, which looked like Italy but which was much
closer. And obviously the location stuck in Patrick McGoohan's mind,
because that's where he shot his television series The Prisoner much later."
During production of the second series
some location and background material was shot by a second unit
director. When Ralph Smart saw the dailies in the diring room he
hated them. Smart called up the second unit director and said
"Look, these are terrible, you'll never be a film director,"
and then he fired him. The name of the second unit director was John Schlesinger.
When American financing for a second
series failed to materialize, the programme was cancelled. The first
series had aired in America each Wednesday, 8:30 to 9:00 pm on CBS
from April to September in 1961. It was used by the network as a late-spring
replacement for Wanted Dead or Alive, which had just wrapped its
third and final season. A five-disc box set DVD release of Danger
Man's first series by A&E Home Video in 2000 erroneously states
on its cover notes that these first 39 episodes were never broadcast
in the US.
After a two-year hiatus, two things had
changed; Danger Man had subsequently been resold all around the
world, whilst repeat showings had created a public clamour for new
shows. Also by this time, James Bond had become popular, as had ABC's
The Avengers. Danger Man's creator, Ralph Smart, rethought the
concept; the second series' (1964) episodes were an hour long and had
a new musical theme, Edwin Astley's "High Wire". Drake
gained an English accent and did not clash with his bosses at first.
The revived Danger Man was broadcast in the U.S. as Secret Agent,
first shown as a CBS summer-replacement program. It had a new
U.S.-only theme song, "Secret Agent Man", sung by Johnny
Rivers, which became a success in its own right. In other parts of
the world, the show was titled Destination Danger or John Drake.
fourth series consists of only two episodes, "Koroshi" and
"Shinda Shima", the only two episodes of Danger Man to be
filmed in colour. These two separate but related episodes were recut
together as a feature for cinemas in Europe and for American
broadcast, as done with two-parters from other ITC series such as The
Baron and The Saint. Whilst "Koroshi" retains a strong
plot-line and sharp characterizations, "Shinda Shima" drew
heavily on contemporary Bond movies, principally Dr. No. When the
episodes were completed, McGoohan announced he was resigning from the
series to create, produce, and star in a project titled The Prisoner,
with David Tomblin as co-producer and George Markstein as script
editor. Markstein was then the Danger Man script consultant. A number
of behind-the-scenes personnel on Danger Man were subsequently hired
for The Prisoner.
The two colour episodes aired (in black
and white) in the UK in the time slot of The Prisoner, which could
not make its scheduled broadcast dates. The European cinema film
feature version, Koroshi, did not receive theatrical release in the
US, but instead aired on network television as a TV movie in 1968.
In the second series, Drake displays an
increasingly resentful attitude towards his superiors at M9, first
answering unwillingly to "Gorton" (Raymond Adamson) and
later to "The Admiral" or Hobbs (Peter Madden). In the
series "Hardy" was played by Richard Wattis.
Guest stars included Donald Pleasence,
Howard Marion Crawford, Donald Houston, Maurice Denham, Joan
Greenwood, John Le Mesurier, Sylvia Syms, Paul Eddington, Patsy Ann
Noble, Lois Maxwell and Burt Kwouk.
"Every government has its secret
service branch. America, CIA; France, Deuxième Bureau;
England, MI5. NATO also has its own. A messy job? Well that's when
they usually call on me or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake,
- From the first series voice-over
The first series intro featured a
Washington title sequence, a composite of the United States Capitol
in the background and the Castrol Building, complete with London Bus
stop, in the Marylebone Road, London as the foreground. This building
is now Marathon House converted from offices to flats in 1998. In
reality, no such building is allowed to exist in Washington, D.C., as
the Height of Buildings Act of 1910 limits the heights of building
(except churches) to 130 feet, thus giving the United States Capitol
building, at 289 feet, an unobstructed view from any part of the
city. (This has led to the popular belief that buildings in
Washington, D.C. are restricted to the height of the U.S. Capitol
building.) In the opening title voice over the line "NATO also
has its own" is not always present. The sequence featured
McGoohan leaving a building and getting into a convertible and
first opening sequence for the hour-long series features a
photograph of a benevolently-smiling McGoohan zooms partly out
towards the right of the frame, then stops, adding the legend
"Patrick McGoohan as". The three-ringed 'target' revolves
round in time to the three-note orchestra hits to obscure McGoohan's
photo as it reveals the programme logo on a pure black background.
The second version was in two segments. The first segment is filmed,
comprising a full-length McGoohan in stark negative, menacingly
taking a few paces towards the camera, before he then stops. In quick
succession, the camera zooms-in fast onto his eyes, freeze-frames,
then switches from negative to positive. The legend "Patrick
McGoohan as" is added. This then switches to a different photo
with McGoohan looking left out of picture. The familiar three-ringed
'target' then reveals the programme logo on a pure black background
as before. The music was re-recorded for this version of the ident
and lasted for the rest of the programme's run.
The second Danger Man theme, "High
Wire," first appeared in series 2. The original version features
a subdued rhythm section with almost inaudible drums. This was
replaced with a revised version with drums and bass pushed to the
fore in the mix. The end credits theme tune was set to end in the
same manner as the opening theme, ending on the held, questioning,
lower "E". The two-note coda was added soon afterwards to
make a definite ending. The revised theme featured this as a normal
end to the tune. As series 4 was to be made in colour, a completely
new arrangement was recorded which owed much to the arrangement on
Astley's full-length version of "High Wire" (released on
single the previous year). The feature film Koroshi was created from
the only two episodes made for series 4, "Koroshi" and
"Shinda Shima", and uses this new arrangement over the
closing titles only.
CLUB FEATURETTE DEPARTMENT
Danger Man was broadcast in the U.S. as Secret Agent, first shown as a CBS summer-replacement program. It had a new U.S. only theme song, "Secret Agent Man", sung by Johnny Rivers, which became a success in its own right. Rivers' version peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the Canadian RPM charts, one of the biggest hits of his career. Numerous covers and adaptations have been recorded since then with the song becoming both a rock standard and one of Johnny Rivers' signature songs. Surf rock band the Ventures did an instrumental version for their 1966 album, "Go with the Ventures". In 1974, the song was recorded by Devo and again in 1979 on the "Duty Now for the Future" album with a jerky, heavily modified arrangement and significantly altered lyrics. Bruce Willis recorded a version for his 1987 album "The Return of Bruno".
In the United States from 1964 to 1966,
Danger Man was rebranded, "Secret Agent Man", and got it's
own theme song written by P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri and sung by
Johnny Rivers. The Rivers' version peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot
100 and #4 on the Canadian RPM charts, one of the biggest hits of his
career. Numerous covers and adaptations have been recorded since then
with the song becoming both a rock standard and one of Johnny Rivers'
CBS, solicited publishers to contribute a
15-second piece of music for the opening of the U.S. show to replace
the British theme, "High Wire". CBS executives were worried
the show might not be successful without a "hummable" theme
song. Sloan wrote the guitar lick and the first few lines of the
song, with Barri (Sloan's songwriting partner) contributing to the
chorus. This fragment was recorded as a demo by Sloan and Barri,
submitted to CBS, and, to Sloan's surprise, picked as the show theme,
which led to Sloan and Barri writing a full-length version of the
song. The original demo of the song used the "Danger Man"
title, as shown by the surviving demo of the song, which Sloan sang.
When the show's title was changed, the lyrics were also changed.
Ultimately, "High Wire" was also retained by CBS, as it
played over the episode credits following the "Secret Agent"
In 1965, surf rock band The Challengers
recorded a version for their album The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that
features vocal harmonies, horns, and vibraphone. This would be the
first commercial release of the song, though it was never released as
a single and consequently didn't garner much attention.
Sloan and Barri's publisher/producer, Lou
Adler, also produced and managed Johnny Rivers, so Rivers was chosen
to add the vocals for the TV show. Rivers claimed he came up with the
opening guitar riff that was inspired by the "James Bond
Theme", although the lick is clearly heard on Sloan's demo
version. Rivers' original recording was merely the show theme, with
one verse and one chorus. Later, after the song gained in popularity,
Rivers recorded it live, with two more verses, and the chorus
repeated twice more. The live version was recorded in 1966 at the
Whisky a Go Go, but not released until after a few studio production
touch-ups were done by Adler shortly after. The song evokes secret
agents both musically (making use of a memorable guitar riff) and
through its lyrics (which describe the dangerous life of a secret
agent). The lyric; "they've given you a number and taken away
your name" referred to the numerical code names given to secret
agents, as in "007" for James Bond, although it also acts
as the (unintentional) setup to the "continuation" of
Danger Man, the cult classic The Prisoner.
original novels based upon Danger Man were published in the UK and
US, the majority during 1965 and 1966.
Target for Tonight by Richard Telfair, 1962
(published in US only)
Departure Deferred and Storm Over Rockall
by W. Howard Baker, 1965
Hell for Tomorrow by Peter Leslie, 1965
by W.A. Balinger [W. Howard Baker], 1966
No Way Out by Wilfred McNeilly, 1966
Several of the above novels were
translated into French and published in France, where the series was
known as Destination Danger. An additional Destination Danger novel
by John Long was published in French and not printed in the US or UK.
At least one of the novels, The
Exterminator, was later republished in the 1970s by Zenith
Publications in the UK, with no direct reference to Danger Man on the cover.
The adventures of John Drake have also
been depicted in comic book form. In 1961, Dell Comics in the US
(whose book-publishing cousin issued the Telfair novel) published a
one-shot Danger Man comic as part of its long-running Four Color
series, based upon the first series format. It depicted Drake as
having red hair, a trait shared with Patrick McGoohan, but which was
unseen as Danger Man had been made only in monochrome at that time.
1966, Gold Key Comics published two issues of a Secret Agent comic
book based upon the hour-long series (this series should not be
confused with Secret Agent, an unrelated comic book series published
by Charlton Comics in 1967, formerly titled Sarge Steel).
In Britain, a single Danger Man comic book
subtitled "Trouble in Turkey" appeared in the mid-1960s and
a number of comic strip adventures appeared in hardback annuals.
French publishers also produced several issues of a Destination
Danger comic book in the 1960s, although their Drake was blond.
Spanish publishers produced a series
titled 'Agent Secreto'. The Germans were particularly prolific, using
'John Drake' and a picture of McGoohan, as the cover for hundreds of
DRAKE, JOHN DRAKE
Unlike James Bond, John Drake, the
fictional secret agent played by Patrick McGoohan in Danger Man never
carried a gun, never got the girl, never killed anyone on screen and
rarely used far-fetched gadgets.
The gadgets Drake employed were more
realistic in nature, related to actual items used in spycraft. No
underwater sub cars for Danger Man. The first gadget appeared in the
episode "Time to Kill" in 1959, three years before Bond hit
the big screen with Sean Connery. That "gadget" was a
sighted rifle made from parts hidden in a car and a loaf of bread.
Other equipment Drake used included a cigarette lighter that hid a
tiny camera, a smoker's pipe that fires a radio transmitter dart,
toothpaste that can melt glass, the contents of a toilet case that
assemble into a shortwave radio, cigars that were exploding flash
bombs, microphones hidden in fishing rods, rifles that shoot movies,
umbrellas that shoot tracking darts, an electric razor that has on
different occasions been a concealed tape recorder, a drill and a
radio transmitter. Drake also had a portable typewritter that had a
hidden camera, a tracking receiver and could also be used, in
emergencies, as a typewritter.
background was never explored in detail in the series. In the first
Danger Man series (196061), Drake speaks with a slightly
exaggerated American accent (commonly referred to as a Mid-Atlantic
accent), and is described as being an Irish American. In this series
he's an operative working as a liaison to NATO from an unknown
Washington-based agency. In the second series (196466), Drake
speaks with a less pronounced accent that is more British with Irish
undertones which was McGoohan's natural accent. In this later
version, he works for a fictional British secret service branch
called M9; no further reference is made to him being American. He is
now said to be British, except in one episode in which he identifies
himself as being Irish. In both versions of the series, Drake is
depicted as something of a lone wolf and a maverick. In one early
episode he initially refuses a mission that requires him to
assassinate a man; he reluctantly takes the mission and is visibly
upset when his target is accidentally shot during a struggle. Other
episodes (particularly during the later series) have him clashing
with his superiors, or at least strongly disagreeing with their
methods. In the history of the series, Drake is shown only once
intentionally shooting anyone to death, and then only in
self-defence. (He is shown shooting people on another occasion, but
only during a dream sequence; the aforementioned early episode
shooting is depicted as being unintended). Drake was not opposed to
using lethal force when absolutely necessary, however, and on rare
occasions did kill villains using other methods (throwing off a
train, causing the collision of two airplanes, etc.).
is most often shown working alone, having received his orders from
unidentified officials (or sometimes stumbling upon a case by
himself). During the 1960 - '62 series, he is shown occasionally
answering to a British superior named Hardy (played by Richard
Wattis), and in one episode Drake's Washington, DC office is shown
and it's learned that he has a secretary. The first season of the '64
- '66 series sees Drake receiving orders from Hobbs, a somewhat cold
M9 official who is always seen fiddling with a letter opener. In the
following season his superior is a former brigadier, Gorton. During
the final full season, Drake is on his own, except for one episode in
which he takes orders from an M-like character played by Bernard Lee
who played M in the James Bond films. In one episode of the third
series, viewers are introduced to a group of M9 technicians who
support Drake's missions, including a Q-like gadget man and a
Drake is almost never shown becoming
romantically involved with his leading ladies. This was a requirement
put in place by McGoohan who didn't want Drake to become a clone of
James Bond in that respect. McGoohan allowed a couple of exceptions
(particularly in two episodes guest starring Susan Hampshire, both of
which imply Drake and the two different characters played by
Hampshire continue a relationship "off camera") and there
is a considerable amount of sexual tension present in other episodes.
In "The Black Book", an episode in which Drake becomes
attracted to a young woman involved in a spy ring, it's learned that
Drake cannot allow himself to become involved with anyone due to his
line of work; this is graphically illustrated in the American version
of the opening credits which depict a female form being separated
from Drake by a set of bars.
Danger Man McGoohan went on to make The Prisoner. Prisoner fans
frequently debate whether John Drake of Danger Man and Number Six in
The Prisoner are the same person, (we say he is). Like John Drake,
Number Six is evidently a secret agent, who clashes with his bosses,
but one who has resigned from his job.
McGoohan denied that the character of
Number Six in The Prisoner was meant to be Drake, and stated in a
1985 interview that the two characters were not the same, and that he
had originally wanted a different actor to play the role of Number
Six. His co-creator of The Prisoner, George Markstein, claimed
otherwise. Markstein had wanted the character to be a continuation of
Drake, but by officially doing so would have meant paying royalties
to Ralph Smart, the creator of Danger Man.
The debate over the identity of Number Six
stems from references in dialogue to the character being a former
agent, the appearance of "Potter", a character from the
final season of Danger Man, and the fact one episode ("The Girl
Who Was Death") was based upon a script originally written for
Danger Man. Some of the officially licensed novels based upon the
series refer to Number Six as "Drake", including Number Two
(1969) by David McDaniel which does so in the very first line of the book.
According to The Prisoner: The Official
Companion by Robert Fairclough, the Prisoner episode "The Girl
Who Was Death" was based upon a two-part Danger Man script that
had been planned for the fourth series. In this surreal episode,
Number Six meets "Potter", John Drake's Danger Man contact.
Christopher Benjamin portrayed the character in both series, with the
episode also featuring an actor named John Drake in a small,
non-speaking role. As well as guest-starring in this show, Paul
Eddington played another spy and No.6's former colleague, Cobb, in
the opening episode of the latter show.
The first Danger Man season includes four
episodes which use footage filmed in the Welsh resort of Portmeirion,
which later became the primary shooting location of the Village in
The Prisoner. Further inspiration came from a Danger Man episode
called "Colony Three", in which Drake infiltrates a spy
school in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The school, in the
middle of nowhere, is set up to look like a normal English town in
which pupils and instructors mix as in any other normal city, but the
instructors are virtual prisoners with little hope of ever leaving.
It is often thought this episode was a precursor to The Prisoner; it
was filmed in the new town of Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
Even reference books conflict on The
Prisoner as a Danger Man continuation. Vincent Terrace's The Complete
Encyclopedia of Television Programs 1947-1979 postulates that John
Drake's resignation reason is revealed in the "Do Not Forsake Me
Oh My Darling" episode, which is a follow-up to a mission
assigned to Number Six before he was sent to The Village.
The Drake/Number Six debate may never be
solved but we thought of a way to confuse things even further. Why
not make a feature film of The Prisoner and cast an ex-James Bond
actor as Number Six, say Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig?