Number 1 is the entity (presumably) in charge of The Village and is presented as the unseen primary antagonist of the 1967-68 British television series The Prisoner. Mentioned throughout the series, the character formally appeared in the 1968 finale episode "Fall Out" and was portrayed by Patrick McGoohan, while Roy Beck (who also appears uncredited as a jury member) — keeping his face turned away from the camera — doubled for McGoohan in certain scenes.
Fall Out (1968)
The connection between Number 6 and Number 1 — the entity presumably in charge of the Village — is left intentionally ambiguous and has been the subject of debate and analysis since the final episode of the series aired. In "Fall Out", Number 6 encounters a man who is supposedly Number 1: upon removing two masks worn by him (the first a Greek tragicomedy mask, the second an ape), a person who is identical to Number 6 is revealed. After a manic chase around the control room, this man quickly escapes through a hatch (which Number 6 locks) and never appears again.
An allegorical device, Patrick McGoohan noted that the "Fall Out" Number 1 character represented the dark side of oneself and the life-long struggle with it. He contrasted this evil with other evils, including the atomic bomb, which flow from this flawed nature. Beyond the allegory, speculation as to the identity of this person varies from Number 6 having created The Village in his mind, a twin brother of Number 6, John Drake (McGoohan's character in the 2 Danger Man series), a likely mind-straining hallucination, or that he is Patrick McGoohan himself (who, as creator of the show, ultimately controlled The Village). It may be of importance that Number 6's address number at Buckingham Place, London is N° 1.
In the late 1980s, DC Comics published Shattered Visage, a four-issue comic book mini-series based on The Prisoner, drawn by Mister X creator Dean Motter and co-written with Mark Askwith. Taking place twenty years after the TV series, a shipwrecked woman named Alice Drake is washed up on the shores of the Village. She comes across an older, bearded Number 6.
During the story, Number 2 claims that Number 6 was imprisoned, interrogated, and eventually broken for the secrets he contained. According to his version of events, what is seen onscreen in "Fall Out", the last episode, is a drug-enhanced psycho drama, in which Number 6 was lauded for his individuality and thus granted a number of his preference, Number 1. The paradox that Number 6 was the only individual, and therefore Number 1, apparently broke his mind. However, Number 2's account is contradicted by British intelligence files indicating that Number 6 "did not talk," leaving Number 6's motives for remaining in the Village open to interpretation.
In a later confrontation between Numbers 1 and 6 which leads to a fistfight, Number 2 calls Number 6 a coward, saying that 6 lost twenty years ago and won't return to the outside world because then he'd have to face defeat. At the end of the story, Number 6 and Alice Drake have returned to London. Number 6 is clean-shaven and tidily dressed. Alice asks Number 6 who Number 1 was. Number 6 asks in reply, "Does the presence of Number 2 require the existence of Number 1?" He assures her that the secrets the Village sought from him are safe. "None of us would be here if they weren't," he says with a confident smile.