The Prisoner: A Change of Mind

Sent to Coventry (uh ... Portmeirion)
The Prisoner: Episode 12 
A Change of Mind
Written by  Roger Parkes
Directed by Joseph Serf (i.e. Patrick McGoohan)
No.6 : The butcher with the sharpest knife has the warmest heart"
No.6
is declared antisocial by two village thugs, and when he meets No.2 is told that he must be careful in his dealings with the Council committee, otherwise he might undergo instant social conversion, i.e. a lobotomy. He is assigned No.86 to assist him. Secretly, No.6 is being drugged, and led to believe that he has been declared "unmutual" by the whole Village (basically sent to Coventry by everyone). He is taken to the hospital for treatment.
This is a very dark episode that deals with all forms of coerced compliance to social norms imposed from above, and supported by invasive psychiatric and medical procedures. Those who would have lived through the McCarthy era in 1950s America, or under Stalinist Russia in the 1930s, would recognise the show trails, the forced (and false) public confessions. George Orwell made a feature of them with 1984, a text referenced here by the Big Brother style poster of No.2 with the motto "Your community needs you", mischievously parodying the Kitchener poster of WWI.
What is interesting here though is the modern, very 60s use of 'Social Groups' and cultural norms, whose purpose is a form of self-criticism designed to weaken the individual and make him or her fit in with a rigidly conformist society. It's interesting that No.10, who criticises No.42 for neglect of social duty, is Chinese. Mao's Cultural Revolution had just started in 1966 when The Prisoner started shooting, which used this form of psychiatric and communal bullying of self-criticism ostensibly to curb rampant egotism and for the individual to put the welfare of the community first. it was nothing of the kind, in fact it was Mao's pathetic attempt to keep control of the Party and thus power, in the face of his economic ruin of the country,  by destroying all elements he saw as hostile to himself. It is a perversity of the late 60s Left, especially in France (see Godard)
, that they embraced Mao so wholeheartedly, and so uncritically, just as they had Stalin until the mid-50s. Of course, as here, those methods can be turned against the leaders too, and in reality Mao lost control entirely of the Young Red Guards. Even Stalin came to be denounced as "unmutual", though sadly not until his death).
Again, we see the series attacking the misuse of medicine and the perversion of psychiatric methods to denigrate and destroy the individual for some mythical common good that was only a disguise for the maintenance of power and authority, and the security of the state. Here we have the use of brain surgery, the discredited practice of lobotomy, the removal of the parietal frontal lobes that cured aggression at the cost of destroying confidence and self-sufficiency. Of course, The Village can't afford to use this on someone as valuable as No.6, so subterfuge is used.
It's also distressing, but a sign of the show's critical facilities, that something originally intended for beneficial help and care, i.e. Social Welfare, here being used to bully and intimidate villagers at their weakest and most vulnerable emotional points. It makes an interesting point too about the evangelical zealousness of the convert with No.42,initially seen in tears in a slough of despair and depression, then defending herself in the Social Group, to fully paid up member of the Welfare Sub-Committee who, like all the others, turns on No.6.
This episode, along with Dance of the Dead, sees the common villager at their most negative and vicious, hounding No.6 like a mob. The attack on No.6 by the two woodland thugs at the beginning, and the attack by umbrellas of the Welfare Committee, culminating in No.6 being dragged to the Hospital, mirrors the mob attack at the end of Dance of the Dead, when No.65 is there declared guilty of treason and sentenced to death, while here declared "unmutual" (a nice attack on Anarchism's Mutual Aid term) and sentenced to lobotomy. It's also interesting to see No.6 genuinely feel pangs of loneliness, all the more upsetting given his usual stoical self-sufficiency.
The script by Roger Parkes is very good, and very strong. He fully understands the concept of the show, so much so that McGoohan was impressed enough to sack the original director and direct himself (under a pseudonym), which he does with his customary √©lan. The idea of getting No.6 to confess by making him feel he'd been operated on is very clever, as is No.6's undoing of No.2's plot. The acting is good too, from John Sharp's aphoristic No.2, Angela Browne's earnest but well meaning advocate No.86, and George Pravda's wonderful Doctor, "you passed out No.6, just at the most interesting point of the operation". Especial praise to young actress Kathleen Breck, with a wonderfully modulated performance as mentioned before as No.42.
After the last two episodes it's nice to see the series back on firm ground.  A strong plot, an interesting concept, some nice production design, uniformly excellent acting, and stylish direction. With a thirteenth episode already made, the show had now come to the end of series one. At the end of the wrap, Markstein resigned as script editor, and most of the crew went on to other projects. But whether McGoohan and Tomblin had the time, inclination, stamina, or strength and energy left to continue was another matter. Oddly, Pat took on the role of secret agent David Jones in the U.S. film Ice Station Zebra.

The Village rating (out of six): no.6
Cast

The Prisoner .................................................................. PATRICK McGOOHAN
Number Two .................................................................. JOHN SHARP
The Butler  ..................................................................... ANGELO MUSCAT
Number 86 .................................................................... ANGELA BROWNE
Number 42 .................................................................... KATHLEEN BRECK
Supervisor.....................................................................  PETER SWANWICK
Doctor ........................................................................... GEORGE PRAVDA
Lobo man ...................................................................... THOMAS HEATHCOTE
Committee chairman ..................................................... BARTLETT MULLINS
Number 93 ...................................................................  MICHAEL MILLER
Number 48 .................................................................... JUNE ELLIS
Social group member ..................................................  JOSEPH CUBY
Social group member ..................................................  MICHAEL CHOW
Woodland man ............................................................  JOHN HAMBLIN
Woodland man ............................................................. MICHAEL BILLINGTON
Be Seeing You!
<- It's Your Funeral                                                                                                               Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling ->

Comments