I've found the "Village" portrayed in Patrick McGoohan's "The Prisoner" to be a more profound message about the world that we actually live in. If the viewer can get over it being a product of its time, as well as the confusing ending, there's a lot of allegory packed into the show that reflects the direction our own societies are headed in:
- Surveillance is not only treated as a given but is incorporated into the conveniences of everyday life. (e.g. The door to Six's domicile opens not automatically but because he is constantly being watched)
- The state wants your "information", so much that it knows more about you than you know about yourself. (e.g. The authorities predict precisely what Six would want for breakfast, right down to how many strips of bacon)
- The line between government and corporation are blurred so much that all food is produced and branded by the Village, which even has its own logo plastered on everything. (All of the food provided to Six is branded as "Village Food")
- The inhabitants of the village all wear the same colorful(albeit ridiculous looking) clothing, almost all of which is unisex. People come from all sorts of ethnicities, yet are made to comply with a single bland culture in under the superficiality of being "international". (The push for gender equality and diversity, while laudable, can easily turn into its own opposite)
- Most of the village inhabitants(or inmates) are infantilized, are essentially adult children who wear child-like clothing and are even seen playing like children. They have no responsibility or agency, but are perfectly content to live a pointless existence inside a resort-like prison.
- The village has a "democratic" system of electing "Number 2", but this system is merely superficial as those who are actually in power and the media have already chosen who they want in said position, and the population is easily swayed to vote for the chosen one.
- Children are completely housebound, only every being seen in one scene of a single episode in the series. Some have read into this as suggesting that the children of the village are always kept inside for safety reasons, much like how todays helicopter parents and governments overprotect children out of irrational fears like "stranger danger".
- The veneer of the village is cheerful in a saccharine-sweet way, so as to drown out any of those negative thoughts or "sudden attacks of egoism". Much like how we are constantly bombarded by music when we are shopping or simply trying to have a conversation at public venues, the Village has a vast system of PA speakers that are playing cheerful or calming music. The village only goes further in that it also plays music in people's homes without their consent.
- The government of the Village is difficult to comprehend, and those who run it are really prisoners themselves, but work within seemingly indefinite layers of bureaucracy. Nobody actually knows who is actually in charge.
- Those who don't wish to participate in the society of the village, yet would be content on being left alone, are considered "unmutual" and made to be social pariahs. Labeling someone with such a blanket term is an easy way to convince the dim-witted masses into agreeing with a position they might not even understand.
- The education system in the village, in the little glimpse that way saw it, is very interested in making "learning" so efficient as to sacrifice understanding for the sake of rote memorization. A system called "speed learn" is used to give everyone an education in a matter of hours, yet all those who are "educated" can do is recite what exactly they were told without any insight or understanding of their absorbed knowledge.
A series called "Tyranny of the Masses" analyzes The Prisoner in greater detail, though anyone watching The Prisoner by itself without expecting it to be a spy-thriller should be able to figure out a lot of those things anyway.
Overall, I've found The Prisoner to be much more eye opening than even Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World, yet next to nobody I've told has heard about it. It's much more profound and in allegorical to our time, despite it having broadcasted in 1969.
Or let's take this one from Wikipedia:
"We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
Unfortunately we are working on more and more technical means which could enable such a system to persist. Many options to overthrow such systems are already getting less and less successful. With scale able mass surveillance it is (or will be in the future) possible to quell any unrest before it becomes mass unrest. Which is not that hard if you have enough information early enough, can actually process that data and have a functioning security apparatus.
To give an example, in Germany Soccer fans are categorized by the police in A - normally peaceful fans, B- open to join a riot and C- looking to start a riot. Majority of fans are category A, a minority are category B and a few are category C. For the police its generally sufficient to quell category C so category B (or even A if things really go south) wont become a problem for them. Similarly, there is a different willingness of people to go out and protest to topple a regime. Its a lot easier to join in when there are already hundred of thousands in the streets but very few will risk trying to start something like that. Being able to prevent the individuals from the last group from acting up is sufficient to quell the threat of a regime getting toppled.
Another point is that surveillance is becoming more and more absolute. Its not just targeted at the population or even the category C equivalent but everyone, including the people keeping the regime running. In the end you are left with an negative apparatus without anyone actually profiting from it which reinforces itself eternally by complete surveillance of every last individual, which are dealt with as soon as they try to organize with others. Its the perfect prison we are building for ourselves.
They always need entities willing to follow orders and the who has all answers which are "bad" in some way including from abilities limited abilities in preference for by loyalty, limited loyalty but able, or under influence. If they become sick of the status quo surveillance can't stop them from deciding they would rather be "king" instead or a more generous "king" would sit better on the throne.
Weaponized autonomous drones may change that but subsitutes subvertability for loyality. Both meat and machines for the dictators of their hellscape require maintenance and means of sustaining and grasping control weakens them.
That tangent aside - if nobody can stop a subject from doing x /right now/ and they don't care about being known it is nothing buy the illusion of control.
We have seen how it is a farce against terrorism as it fails to prevent anything and only at best helps to convict the violent people already out to gain attention who also often don't get trials anyway.
One novel that I like better than Nineteen Eighty-Four, despite it being written in a mediocre way(I think I heard that Vonnegut gave his own work a B-), is Player Piano, which is about a dystopia where automation has made so many people obsolete that the only people who have jobs are a small number of engineers who maintain the machines; the middle class is basically gone and there's either the wealthy or aspiring-wealthy and the obsolete.
Player Piano is worth a read, but Orwell's works are written far better. Yet, Player Piano has stuck with me more because I find it more relevant to current day issues. Sure, surveillance and wrongthink are subjects of politics today, but they are rather hashed out, whereas nobody really knows exactly what the future holds for automation and AI, and what it represents for humanity. If a story is written poorly but is about a relevant or high-concept idea, I appreciate it more than something executed well but is less profound(this is just my opinion, and I'm sure most people will disagree with me on that point).
In a similar vein, the reason I appreciate The Prisoner more than I do the works of Orwell, Huxley, or Vonnegut, is that while its production and writing could have been a lot better, I think it does a better job at addressing modern issues and covers a wider number of subjects. It just doesn't beat viewers over the head with these ideas like Orwell does to his readers, which might be one of the biggest reasons that it gets overlooked.