Last updated : 15th November 2015
|Episode 'The Madness of Mickey Hamilton'|
|Story Synopsis||A man whose child was left severely brain-damaged after birth and wife subsequently died from a drugs overdose blames the hospital they were treated at. He seeks revenge by systematically exterminating the medical staff.||Writer||Chris Wicking|
|Guest Stars||David Calder, Ian McDiarmid, Shelagh Macleod||Director||William Brayne|
& Filming Dates
|Block 2, Episode 12
|Original UK Transmission||Season 3, Episode 5
24th November 1979
A great episode that invites the audience to sympathise with the killer.
Indeed Ian McDiarmud - here in one of his earliest television roles - is excellent as the unfortunate, unhinged Mickey. As is Marjorie Yates playing his nerve-racked, put-upon sister. Some great drama from both actors, with the script really giving us an insight into Mickey's character - very unusual for this series.
When Mickey arrives home from his killing spree, a letter has arrived from his daughter's hospice and a voiceover of the nun explains that the child is close to death. In the original draft of the script there was no voiceover and we were simply to see Mickey read the letter silently and burst into tears - I think that would made the scene far more effective.
There is some levity, though: the explosives demonstration scene is great fun - Shaun Curry blatantly overplaying the Sergeant-Major bit to perfection! The scene of Bodie, Doyle and Cowley utterly exhausted when they finally reach Mickey's flat is grimly funny given the task at hand.
When Doyle meets with Mr Sylvester's gang of unco-operative villains in the cafe, Ray threatens them with the line "I might have to get a bit naughty!", which is more akin to The Sweeney!
The scenes where the nun and the priest unwittingly encourage Mickey in his actions act as good, if a little corny, plot devices and give the story a further dimension: God's representatives are sanctioning murder.
The final scenes with Doyle trying to reason with Mickey are well-played and superbly scripted, bringing some real dramaturgy to the series. "Your child was injured because there aren't enough doctors!" - yet another piece of social commentary still relevant to the Britain of today.
This is a sad story, another betrayal but not of The Lads. The villain is a pathetic madman, hardly worthy of the forces brought against him. Excellent social commentary underneath this one.
There are funny moments:
Bodie being embarrassed by his girl kissing him when others (Doyle?) can see. The little exchange B&D have over that girl. Both Lads ignoring their girls until they suddenly remember. Scruffy Lads told to "smarten up" by a prickly Cowley. The effect of the 25 flights of staircase on everyone.
Cowley is particularly nasty during this episode, picking on Doyle and bull-dog determined to hold on to the case even when it's clearly out of CI5's jurisdiction. Doyle, in his turn, challenges Cowley sarcastically, so the give and take is two-way.
We see a "kinder, gentler" Doyle in this one. He is careful with the sister even when he needs the information she has. The scene with him and Hamilton at the finale is an excellent glimpse of the finer side to Raymond. Of course we also see him brutally shove the guy off his car when he's talking to his informant. Doyle is many-faceted for which, I expect, we can thank Martin Shaw.
A strange exchange of grins occurs when the CI5 trio enters the conference center. Bodie and Doyle walking behind Cowley give one another this oddly cheerful look while the situation and Cowley's dialogue is anything but funny. Enquiring minds wonder what was going on! <G>
Nice, unspoken communication between the two agents when they are standing on the stage and hear Mickey up above. Good close-up of Doyle!
Both men look good in this one. And Bodie spares us the AGLJ for part of the show. (Awful Grey Leather....)
Good episode, though after watching it to get the plot I tend to ff through the non-Lad parts.
Mickey, further tortured by the sight of his daughter in an oxygen tent: "But she can't see me."
Hospice Nun: "It was inevitable - you've always known. There's nothing I can say to make it any easier... except perhaps that when it happens, she'll just slip quietly away to where there is no pain ever - a soul as blessed as hers."
Mickey: "She shouldn't have been this way."
Nun: "There's a reason - an ultimate meaning, I'm sure."
Mickey: "Oh, yes, there's a reason: they didn't care. Her mum was just another woman having a baby, that's all. Nothing special - nothing to get worked up about. So they didn't make enough preparations, did they? They didn't try hard enough when things started to go wrong. That's the reason: those doctors."
Nun: "Statistically Cathy and children like her represent only a minute percentage of all births in this country."
Mickey: "Yeah, well that just makes me even more determined to do the right thing."
Nun, misinterpreting and still not grasping Mickey's mental state: "I'm sure you will."
Mickey, astonished: "Really?!"
Nun: "It's all you can do. Soldier on!"
Mickey, grateful for her apparent approval: " 'Soldier on'. I will do - thank you, sister."
Cowley, impatient: "Will you have this data fed in by the time Bodie gets back?"
Computer operator Julie stands no nonsense from the old man: "If he's coming on foot!"
Doyle: "I think he's got a death-wish."
Cowley: "I noticed! He wishes some doctors dead... and makes his wish come true!"
Doyle: "No, seriously. I mean the way he just walked in there and out again in broad daylight."
Cowley: "Damn it, that helped him! Nobody expects that sort of atrocity!"
Doyle: "It's as if the sheer enormity of it made him... He's looking for a comparable punishment. He's looking to get caught. He wanted to do it - but, at the same time, he didn't. It's like a cry for help. I've come across it before - it's a fairly common syndrome."
Cowley: "OK, but a wee bit less Freud and a lot more action!"
Doyle: "Sure. I think we've got another problem, though."
Cowley: "Like what?"
Doyle: "Oh, you don't want to hear it - it's just more Freud!"
Cowley: "LIKE WHAT?!!"
Doyle: "Like what's he going to do next?..."
Consultant Pagett-Munro talking to students, with Mickey overhearing: "Get them out one way or another as quickly as possible - for their own good and for the good of the hospital. And never get personally involved."
Doyle, referring to the doctors: "You think they killed your wife? She killed herself."
Mickey, beginning to break down: "Don't say that! They could have saved her."
Doyle: "She took an overdose."
Mickey, having to agree: "She blamed herself for Kathy. But that was their fault, too. Now she's dying! She's only seven. Why should they get away with it?!"
Doyle: "Come on, Mickey - they did their best - they're not super-human."
Mickey: "No, they're animals! Uncaring animals!"
Doyle: "By killing those doctors, you rob other people of even the chance to pull through."
Mickey: "What do I care? Other people? Maureen's dead, isn't she?!"
Doyle: "OK, so a woman comes into hospital tonight with an overdose. No doctors. No doctors because you killed them all. So she dies. Yeah - you think about it."
Mickey: "My child's going to die. She's going to die!"
Doyle: "Your child was injured because there aren't enough doctors."
Doyle: "Poor devil."
Cowley: "Don't you forget what all this is about: they're burying three doctors tomorrow - together they left eight children!"
Doyle: "Still, somebody should have helped him before."
Bodie: "Maybe nobody could have?"
Doyle, angry: "I don't believe that."
During the shrapnel bomb demonstration scene, the Sergeant-Major's topcoat is missing any expected insignia.
Shannon, looking over the hospital through binoculars, reacts to the shooting of Dr Norris before it has actually happened! The two adjacent scenes were clearly edited together in the wrong order!
As Bodie breaks into Mickey's flat, we see him wrap his left hand up in a handkerchief to protect it from shattering glass. However as he breaks the pane the makeshift bandage comes lose and he grabs it in his right hand. Cut to interior shot of the flat and we see it has magically reappeared tightly wrapped around his left hand again! (Very well-spotted, Mike Morgan!)
When Doyle is slumped on the couch in Mickey's flat, he has a large box of ammunition in his lap which suddenly disappears. (Thanks to Gerardo Aguinis).
The only episode to feature the genuine registration number of Bodie's 1978 Capri (COO 251T).
Also notice bit-part player Maurice Thorogood, as the doctor who is Mickey's first target, also appeared in the previous episode, 'Dead Reckoning', as the bridegroom!
Mickey's daughter was played by Michelle Beckley, an ardent fan of The Professionals who required oxygen tent hospitalisation in real life. Her appearance in the show was arranged with the BBC's "Jim'll Fix It" programme. Apparently on asking Martin Shaw on how to play a comatose character, his advice to her was "Just act like Lewis!". (Thanks to Jane King)
The episode's writer, Chris Wicking, discussed his delight at the very "open" format for scriptwriters on The Professionals and offered these thoughts in an article for PrimeTime magazine in 1981:
"We eventually settled on an idea that probably sprang out of DIRTY HARRY. We open with a man on a rooftop with a rifle. The 'lunatic killer' who's after random targets. There had to be an ultimate pattern to the randomness, though, and [script editor] Gerry [O'Hara] suggested that the character should have a personal vendetta against, well, why not priests? I was amazed. Could we do a show about a priest killer? Apparently we could. But I couldn't generate enough feeling against priests (where Gerry evidently could, having had a miserable childhood jumping to their whims.) What about doctors? Sure, doctors would be OK.
"So the character, Mickey Hamilton, hated doctors enough to want to kill them. Why? And why should CI5 get involved? So I had him miss his first target (though the audience knows who he's really after) and hit someone in a car driving across his field of vision at the moment he fired. And the someone was an African diplomat, which makes the abortive killing appear to be a political assassination attempt and therefore justifies CI5 involvement. For it was important to me that the 'real' world of the story should be more of a 'working class' one than usually appears in these kind of shows, where the villains all live out in the stockbroker belt. Mickey would live in a high-rise council flat where the lift doesn't work and be a 'victim' of a hospital system which has many cracks and flaws. His wife has had a child and the complications at birth have made the child a vegetable for all her life and she is now on the point of dying. His wife, blaming herself, has later taken an overdose, and has died, at the same hospital. Mickey cracks up, believing that neither tragedy need have happened, blames the doctors and wants to kill them all so they won't ruin other people's lives. Such is 'The Madness of Mickey Hamilton'. Other characters, like his sister, never listen to what he's saying, and a priest, who doesn't know what he's talking about, says it probably is alright to "kill with kindness", which seems like a blessing and tacit permission to blow up a medical conference for the third act climax.
"As an admirer of Budd Boetticher movies, where his leading character never explains himself and it is left to the support cast to provide information, it became a little game to never have Mickey explain himself properly, leaving his sister, characters at hospitals etc to do the exposition - in order that there would be 'mystery' about him to keep people watching, which would hopefully turn to sympathy, just as Cowley, Bodie and Doyle come to understand and be moved by the various kinds of loss of life. ("I think I'd go mad if I had to live here" says Cowley, looking at the crumbling high rise.)
"So what? you may say, this is not earth-shattering dramaturgy. Even so, I was delighted to get my rocks off and find a way to satisfy the 'requirements' of the series while dealing, however tangentially, with things that concern me. I was delighted, too, by the way Bill Brayne directed it, in a very 'organic', non-flashy style, confirming (with my "critic's" hat on) that he is one of the few contemporary British directors with the gift of clarity, directing for 'the whole' rather than using some of 'the parts' to show off. I had quite consciously shied away, though, from dealing with the three regulars, who function as little more than investigators. As it happened, I needn't have worried, for part of the 'freedom' lay in these very areas. "
You'd do well to recognise Ian McDiarmid (Mickey) as the aging Emporer in the Star Wars installments Return of the Jedi, Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Otherwise he's better known amongst the acting fraternity for his theatrical work both as actor and director. (Thanks to David Taylor.)
Barry Stanton would later appear in 'Spy Probe'. Previously seen in the New Avengers story 'Hostage'. Had a bizarre cameo in a Young Ones episode as a postman with thespian aspirations!?! Still acting today but spends most of him time as a theatre director, apparently.
David Calder (Inspector Shannon) is best remembered for the late 80s Sci-Fi show Star Cops, though he's better known amongst fellow actors for his theatre work.
Shelagh Macleod (Toni, Doyle's girlfriend) worked in the US for much of the 1980s guesting in action shows like The A-Team, Airwolf and Streethawk (which I quite like - shame they canned it after one season!). Returned to the UK in the 1990s to appear in a few episodes of The Chief with Martin Shaw. Most recently to be seen in the reasonably popular medical drama (yes, another one!!!) Peak Practice.
It's a shame that this great story has clearly had a problematic storage history. When viewed via the Granada Plus transmissions and Contender video release, the BRITE tape for this episode appears to suffer from an over-saturation of the red part of the colour spectrum, particularly in the first few minutes. I can only guess that Contender toned this down for their first DVD release as this is better balanced and actually looks a lot better than most other eps in this respect.
However the film print used as a source for the BRITE tape (and, of course, ultimately DVD) betrays signs of appalling manual handling: the opening few minutes are scratchy in the extreme and at the 21-minute point a livid green "tramline" scratch (lasting for about fifty seconds) indicates that damage has gone right down to the print's emulsion backing.
Fortunately Contender's re-relases in 2005 yielded some notable improvements, so BRITE appears to have fixed a lot of the problems. Additionally there is very brief shot of Mickey hiding in the washroom that hasn't appeared on previous repeats, video and DVD releases. There is known to be a problem with the episode print at this point.
The source print had used a combined soundtrack, rather than the usual superior sep-mag. The most noticeable effect of this is the rather muffled dialogue track all through the episode. At 17 minutes - just prior to Mickey shooting the first doctor - an audible crackle and thump coincide with a short musical sting being abruptly cut off. I would guess some frames of the print have been trimmed here, presumably because they were damaged. For TV transmission in 1979 the first advert break appeared here. From 1981, however, it had been moved forwards to the scene where Doyle meets his African contacts and is told that the names on the list of possible suspects can be ignored. The Mr Lemon character adds "And that's official!" and the ep goes straight into the break bumper with no fade-out. Similarly the return bumper is not followed by the usual vision fade-in we land half-way through a short shot of the lads arriving at the hospital in the Escort. The lack of professional quality editing here suggests LWT themselves performed this.
Later in the episode Doyle is asked by the black nurse whether he has spoken to "the sister". Is it a reference to the hospital ward sister? The scene appears to be missing a line of dialogue here (coinciding with a mid-dialogue change of camera angle) as we expect the nurse to say "No - I mean Hamilton's sister", a line which does appear in the original script. This suggests another frame-removal operation, however there is no evidence of a split & join in the film print such as a sound "splat".
Network's BluRay release of 2014 generally fixes the picture quality glitches. However the aforementioned washroom shot is still missing, suggesting that it had been excised from the film negative, possibly sometime between the 1979 original transmission and the 1981 repeat. Also the "sister" dialogue isn't present, either... assuming it ever existed - of course it's possible that the actress playing Sister Noel simply forgot to say the line and the director didn't notice!
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