Very much a harbinger of the spy/adventure series which would dominate 60's television and movie screens worldwide, Danger Man was a slick, professional and exciting package that turned its coolly handsome Irish leading man into a near overnight international star. Danger Man was developed because of ITC boss Lew Grade's desire to produce UK TV series' that were suitable for export to the USA. With this in mind he got Australian born Ralph Smart, a veteran of other ITC series such as The Adventures of William Tell, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and The Buccaneers to come up with an idea for a new series. The spy novel was proving very popular with the public at this time, even though it had not yet hit the cinemas, and Smart can take credit for anticipating the impact it would have on viewers.
Patrick McGoohan starred as NATO agent John Drake a character based on Ian Fleming's James Bond, and had McGoohan not insisted on certain script changes, his portrayal of John Drake would have been much closer to the printed Bond than the cinematic version was. At McGoohan's insistence Drake never became involved with female company on an intimate basis and rarely involved in gunplay, preferring old-fashioned 'fisticuffs' when faced with a fight. Indeed, McGoohan even turned down the title role in the Bond movies on the grounds that the sex was unacceptable because he was a married, practicing Catholic, and he felt the character of Bond was too immoral and wantonly violent. Danger Man was transmitted in America under the title Secret Agent, and the original 30-minute episode format was expanded to 60 minutes from 1964 onwards. The first 38 episodes featured a voice-over by McGoohan as Drake is seen leaving a Washington federal building before getting into a white sports car and driving off. "Each goverment has its Secret Service. The United States has the CIA, France has the Deuxieme Bureau, England MI5. NATO too has its Secret Service. A dirty job to be done? That's usually when they call on me. Or someone like me. By the way, my name is Drake, John Drake." Doctor No, the first Bond movie, was still two-years away. Two 60-minute colour episodes were filmed in 1967 ('Koroshi' and 'Shinda Shima' released as a 90 minute feature under the first title) for a projected fourth season, which was abandoned when McGoohan became involved in his next TV project - The Prisoner.
Boasting good writing and benefiting from a characteristically intense and charismatic performance from the always compelling McGoohan, Danger Man paved the way not only for the plethora of secret agent series' which followed, but also laid the foundations for a genuine televisual phenomenon. Without the international success of the agent named John Drake, a former agent identified only by the designation of Number 6, might well never have arisen to enthral and perplex an entire generation of viewers.
Published on December 6th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus & Peter Henshuls for Television Heaven.