Monday, July 21, 2008

One of Our Favorite Heroes: John Drake


John Drake was the debonair and duty-bound secret agent played by Patrick McGoohan in the British television series Danger Man (19601962, 19641966) (also known as Secret Agent). Unlike James Bond, he never carried a gun, rarely used far-fetched gadgets, never got the girl, and rarely killed anyone on screen.

Drake's background was never explored in detail in the series, and also appeared to undergo an amount of retconning involving his nationality. In the first Danger Man series (1960–61), Drake speaks with a slightly exaggerated American accent and is described as being an Irish American. In this series he is an operative working for a branch of NATO. In the second series (1964–66), Drake now speaks with a less pronounced accent that is more British with Irish undertones which is 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.).

Drake 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 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 1964–66 series sees Drake receiving orders from Hobbs, a somewhat cold M9 official who is always seen fiddling with a knife. 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 wardrobe supervisor.

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.

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