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George Markstein, 'guru' to James Follett, and an excellent author in his own right.

George Markstein picture of George from the opening sequence of  'The Prisoner' with Patrick McGoohan.

George Markstein (August 1929 - January 15, 1987) was a German-born British journalist and subsequently writer of thrillers and teleplays. He may now be most often remembered as story editor and co-creator of British cult classic series The Prisoner, and for appearing briefly in its title sequence. However he also wrote for or story-edited a number of other television series, specialising in espionage stories; and latterly also jointly ran a successful literary agency for screenwriters. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Markstein)

Markstein was born in Berlin in Germany, but emigrated with his family to England with the rise of the Nazis. In the 1950s it has been rumored he worked in British intelligence but there is no historical evidence to this effect, before becoming a journalist, as a military correspondent crime reporter for The Overseas Weekly a tabloid paper that TIME Magazine notes was known for it's scandal driven content and it's reference as "The Over Sexed Weekly" by the U.S. G.I. readership, the masthead of the paper refers to him as the head of the London desk. He moved into television, first on the factual series This Week, before writing an episode for ITC's Court Martial (1966), and then joining Danger Man as story consultant for the last black-and-white episode (1966), then story editor for the two episodes which were made in colour (1967). Around this time he also wrote an episode for AR's Send Foster (1967), and worked on the script for Peter Yates's Robbery (1967), a fictionalised feature film based on the 1963 Great Train Robbery.

When Patrick McGoohan announced his decision to leave Danger Man, Markstein edited the material that McGoohan had worked on since 1962 that became the British cult classic series The Prisoner, created by, starring and often written and/or directed by McGoohan. Together with producer David Tomblin and the star McGoohan (uncredited), Markstein co-wrote the first story Arrival, and then settled in as script editor for the series. He later described the job of story editor as "the key man in any series, he is the man in whose hands is the ethos of the series, the spirit of the series, and it is his job to cast the writers and the authors the way a director casts the actors and the stars".

Markstein actually makes a fleeting appearance at the start of almost every episode of The Prisoner - as the balding, bespectacled 'man behind the desk', to whom McGoohan's character is seen angrily handing his letter of resignation; and played the same, non-speaking character in the episode Many Happy Returns.

Markstein's view of the series was for a more-or-less conventional action/espionage story. However as McGoohan controlled the series as Executive Producer, writer director and star from the series very inception, Markstein became increasingly dissatisfied and ultimately left the series after the conclusion of the initial block of thirteen episodes. A glimpse of Markstein's face remained in the opening credits, but it was without him that McGoohan took the series to its most surreal and existential levels in the final four episodes, and its bizarre conclusion.

Interview with George Marksten about The Prisoner.

Image courtesy of Sidney Allinson