Ironically, the redeveloped site of an old County Asylum outside Sheffield is now called: Wadsley Park Village. These old establishments were villages all along. Only the status of the residents has changed. McGoohan’s project was rife with direct and allegorical references to the internal politics of the Lunatic Asylum. Here are some examples from the first six episodes to enter production:
Around the halfway point of the first episode, Number Six is subdued by Rover and wakes suddenly (for the second time in this episode). This time he finds himself to be in a hospital, but when approached by an attendant he says, as any self-respecting madman would,
There’s nothing the matter with me
Perhaps not. But I’d like a check-up to make sure
I’m alright. I want to leave
There’s nothing to worry about…….
The attendant leads Number Six past a room full of passive patients, remarking,
Group Therapy. Counteracts obsessional guilt complexes producing neurosis
Then, Number Six sees a patient walk past him. The patient doesn’t look the way people look, outside the village.
FREE FOR ALL
The second episode produced has a curiously similar structure to the first, and likewise has a schizoid break about halfway through, as Number Six is propelled into the Labour Exchange, where he is subjected to a mind test of squares and circles and after another failed escape, he once again wakes in a hospital and soon is undergoing care in the community, at Home.
The third episode to enter production has psychiatrists firstly performing corrective treatment on the Rook character, by performing Pavlovian experiments upon him.
Later on, the Village psychiatrists become involved in conditioning the Queen character. It is described thus:
A development on research carried out on dolphins… Of course we haven’t got that far with humans.
The viewer is left sensing it is only a matter of time.
DANCE OF THE DEAD
The fourth episode to enter production begins with men in white coats and a clearly unbalanced Psychiatrist who enjoys his experiments a little more than seems healthy in a clinician.
Later in the episode, the new Number Two meets Number Six at a high viewpoint and is clearly concerned about his mental health. After some bickering she warns,
Don’t force me to take steps……. We indulge…… for a time. Then we take steps
Yes I know. I’ve been to the hospital. I’ve seen.
You’re not thinking of jumping?
It's become noticeable that "the hospital" is appearing in every single episode but nobody in the wards seems to be suffering from any physical ailment.
CHIMES OF BIG BEN
Subsection 6, paragraph 4. Add, on the other hand, persecution complex amounting to mania. Paranoid delusions of grandeur.
So quothes Number Two, after routinely observing and questioning Number Six. Is Number Two a gaoler? Or a diagnostic psychiatrist? The roles seem to be blurred. Later in the episode he also controls some kind of test upon Nadia, the new Number Eight.
Whilst Cognitive Therapy was relatively new in 1966, there were other changes in the thinking of the people of the western world in the 1960’s. Was the whole world an asylum? A place of safety? Or a place of Imprisonment? Who were the prisoners and who were the warders? Who decided who was mad, and why?
An investigative article in British newspaper, The Guardian, published on 19th March 1965, identified that perhaps one-quarter of the staff in a mental hospital could also be expected to suffer from major psychiatric disorders. Their investigation was soon revealed to be based upon Friern Hospital. Friern Hospital at this time accommodated 899 male and 1037 female patients; 116 male and 113 female nurses IIn July 1965 Lord Strabolgi in the House of Lords criticized 'a psychiatric hospital' concerning the extent to which patients were in the hospital merely because they were old. The hospital was later identified as Friern, and a Committee of Enquiry was held in 1966. http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/friern.html
Friern Hospital was formerly known as Colney Hatch Asylum. It lay just a few miles across open countryside from where Patrick McGoohan had his home, in Mill Hill, a suburb of London. From Sheffield to Mill Hill, the Asylum system of Britain was ubiquitous. How influenced was Patrick McGoohan by this British tradition? His mind was his own, but every single episode seems to concern itself to one degree or another with the controversial science. It is also worth noting, within the parameters of my overarching polemic in these blogs, that the prevailing presence of Psychiatry in episodes of The Prisoner is some evidence of McGoohan’s editing role on the series. It is plain that whilst each scriptwriter wrote as an individual, they all included similar elements of the control of people’s minds by the medical profession, and indeed a constant suggestion that Scientists, whilst admirable in their knowledge, are also to be feared in their personal motivations. In interview in 1990 McGoohan himself commented,
“When I used to get a script that came in from somebody else, I would make my suggestions as to how it was turning, and always, if something was becoming too pedestrian… as soon as it got like that, and I was reading it, I would say…. Give it a bend somewhere, so there is another slant on it, and there is something else to think about. And DID he mean that? Or he COULD have meant this?
What did he mean? How did he mean it. What does seem remarkable to me is that in all the many *authorised* scribblings I have read I cannot immediately recall any reflections upon the frequent inclusion of the same dramatic device in episode after episode. Moor lunacy next time...
Just one more thing.......
Having begun with Kirk Douglas, may I close with him too, in a reference from 1957.
I Am Spartacus!
It takes a man of true will, to change history.