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Featured TV on DVD Review: Secret Agent a.k.a. Danger Man: The Complete Series

September 26th, 2010

Secret Agent a.k.a. Danger Man: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon

Secret Agent, a.k.a. Danger Man, introduced the world to Patrick McGoohan, who later went on to play Number Six in The Prisoner. Secret Agent is not as well known a show in most regards, its theme song being an exception, but with its 50th anniversary upon us, it is getting a new DVD box set. But has the show aged well enough in the past 50 years that it is still worth checking out? Or have tastes changed in the secret agent genre so much that this show has been left behind in history.

First a note: This 18-disc box set contains all 80+ episodes from both of the show's runs, which are technically two separate TV shows. It also has a running time of close to two-and-a-half days. Days! I did not watch every single episode to review the DVD, but I don't think this will be an issue for a couple reasons. Firstly, I've seen the show in the past, so all I needed was a refresher to remind me of what I've previously seen. Secondly, this is not the first time it has been released on DVD, so the review doesn't really need to introduce the show as much as if this was its DVD debut.

The Show

Secret Agent is a TV series that had a bit of a strange run. It started in 1960 as a 30-minute British / American co-production, but while it was a hit in Europe, it struggled to find an audience in the States, and without an American backer, the series was canceled. Then Dr. No happened and the ratings prospect for a secret agent TV series was a lot more rosy. The show was brought back with a couple changes. Firstly, it was now a 60-minute show, which allowed for more complex stories. Secondly, Patrick McGoohan was allowed to use his natural, British accent and didn't have to pretend to be American. The former is more important than the latter, but the British accent does improve a persons natural charm, which is handy for a spy.

In the show he plays John Drake, an agent of a secret organization that works for NATO. (That's the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and not the National Association of Theater Owners, although I would watch a TV show about a spy working for the latter. "We believe the gentleman sitting in the third row from the back has snuck in outside food instead of paying for food at the concession booth. Your mission is to establish contact, determine if he has contraband food items, and deal with the situation. You are authorized to use deadly force.")

Sorry, got a little off-topic there.

Patrick McGoohan plays John Drake, a secret agent working for NATO. Because NATO is an international organization, he must travel throughout Europe to deal with threats to the western world. Given the time this show was made (1960 - 1968) it should come as no surprise that many of these threats came from the Soviet Union, like the rogue assassin, who killed a scientist that had defected. However, he also deals with independent minded criminals, like a bank embezzler, who is killed after stealing $5 million in NATO gold. Or he even investigates the death of a leftist politician, who was killed by the military in his South American country.

John Drake doesn't like to use guns and violence to solve these cases, and rarely uses gadgets and technology, which definitely sets him apart from James Bond. Also, John Drake doesn't make it a habit of seducing every woman he meets during the course of his investigations, partially because he's a gentleman, and partially because a large percentage of the women he meets are trying to kill him. (However, this was also true of James Bond, and that never stopped him from trying.) John Drake was very much an intelligent, thinking spy that would rather rely on his wits than his fists, guns, or gadgets. (He does use all three, he just doesn't rely on them.) This does help keep the show a little relevant today, as nothing ages a show faster than going high tech. You either go so high tech that it is practically fantasy, which can be fun, or your high tech gadgets look out of date within a decade, if not less. Seeing a comically large camera introduced at cutting edge spy equipment is funny when most people reading this will have a much better camera in their phone, which is twice as small.

On the other hand, while John Drake rarely does any killing, this is quite a violent show, especially for the 1960s. Unfortunately, given the Standards and Practices of the time, most people who are shot just grab their chest and fall over. The lack of realism does age the show, and I would rather have no violence than bad attempts at G-rated violence, but this is a minor problem.

One last note, there's not a whole lot of character development over the course of the seasons, which means you can pop in any episode you want and check them out in practically any order and they are just as effective. This does mean they are not as well suited to a marathon session, but that's where special features come into play, right?

The Extras

Unfortunately, there are almost none. There are plenty of image galleries spread throughout the DVD, plus a short bio / filmography for Patrick McGoohan, and most importantly there's the U.S. opening for the show that includes the famous theme song.

The Verdict

There's a man who leads a life of danger
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
With every move he makes another chance he takes
Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow

Even if you've never seen the show, you've probably heard the theme song. Secret Agent: The Complete Series first aired in September of 1960, meaning we've recently passed the show's 50th birthday. While not every element of the show has aged perfectly, it has held up well enough that fans of the secret agent genre will be entertained by the mysteries found within this 18-disc Megaset. Also, it's hard to top Patrick McGoohan when it comes to charm and charisma. The lack of extras is disappointing, but the price per minute is hard to beat and it is worth picking up for fans of the show, while those who have never seen it should at least give it a rental.


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