THE DOCTOR IS IN
Fits, starvation, suicide, panic attacks: just
what ailments is Archie suffering from?
Oh, the humanity ...
A laundry list, apparently. A stronger case can be made for some conditions than for others. Listed below, in no particular (dis)order, are some of the diagnoses viewers have proposed for Archie at one time or another. Follow the links for handy quick-reference evaluation charts.
All of this must present quite a challenge for Horatio Hornblower, R.N. (Registered Nurse, that is), but he rises to the occasion admirably in The Duchess and The Devil. And by the end of The Wrong War, Archie does seem to be finding his feet again. And by the time of Mutiny and Retribution, he appears to have become as healthy, strong, and confident as -- well, as Horatio. Quite a remarkable feat, under the circumstances: even adjusting for inflation, it is highly doubtful that an 18th century naval officer's entire annual salary would pay for so much as a millisecond of psychotherapy ...
Archie's fits are somewhat mysterious. Has he had them all his life? If so, why is he in the Navy? It would seem to be the worst possible situation for him -- and in fact, during the cutting-out of the Papillon, he suffers a fit at the worst possible moment, with disastrous consequences. Or is it a problem that developed subsequent to his joining the Navy? The fits certainly do seem to be triggered by either the presence of, or memories of, Jack Simpson.
If one accepts that Archie's fits are epilepsy, there still isn't really much of an answer. Heredity and fetal injuries are among the possible causes of epileptic seizures, which would suggest he's had them all his life. Then again, other possible causes like poisoning, brain tumors and infections can occur at any age. Interestingly, a severe blow to the head can do the job just as well -- and Simpson would presumably have been only too happy to oblige.
Whatever the cause, thankfully Archie appears to have completely outgrown the fits by the time of Mutiny. But out of morbid curiosity, just how strong a case can be made for epilepsy? The two main classifications of epileptic seizures are generalized (grand mal) and partial (temporal lobe):
SYMPTOMS OF A GENERALIZED EPILEPTIC SEIZURE
Hmmm, maybe we're onto something here ...
SYMPTOMS OF A PARTIAL EPILEPTIC SEIZURE
Close, but my money's still on the generalized seizure.
NOTE 9/23/2001: I am pleased to say that a bona fide medical student (as opposed to a superficial charlatan like yours truly) has evaluated the case for Archie's epilepsy. Click here to read Suze E. of Western Australia's assessment of our favorite patient.
NOTE 5/17/2003: And I am equally honored to post another erudite contribution on the subject of Archie's fits. Click here for Keyanna's fascinating alternative diagnosis.
An alternative explanation for Archie's fits: are they severe anxiety attacks?
SYMPTOMS OF A PANIC ATTACK
Eh. Too close to call.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
A particularly vivid image of Archie's inner torment comes near the end of The Duchess and The Devil, when he's in the boat heading back to the Spanish prison to honor Horatio's parole. As the Indy fires a salute, he flinches noticeably with each shot. Even when the guns have ceased, the look on his face is like "I know I have to do this, but ... what the hell am I doing?" It's an expression that, to some viewers, has PTSD stamped all over it.
SYMPTOMS OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
A perfect score for this one, it would seem ...
MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER
One would think that a single viewing of The Duchess and The Devil should satisfy any doubts on this point. And yet, it is difficult to forget the cheerful chatterbox who welcomed Horatio aboard the Justinian in The Duel, or the assertive officer of Mutiny and Retribution. (Of course, Simpson was nowhere around in either of those situations ...)
SYMPTOMS OF MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER
Very likely. But it appears that Archie is not without the resources to deal with it.
For a full discussion of why this would even be considered, see the Nasty Jack page (unless you are the squeamish type).
SYMPTOMS OF RAPE-TRAUMA SYNDROME
Well, it certainly doesn't disprove it. Poor Archie ...
All right, all right. So method acting wasn't taken quite as far as some individuals seem to feel it should have been for the sake of ten minutes' worth of film in The Duchess and The Devil. But Archie nevertheless chose to commit suicide, and while there is some doubt as to whether Hunter was maliciously eating his food or just letting him slip away, we do in fact see Archie outrightly refusing water. The self-destructive intent is difficult to dispute.
Is it indicative that Archie chose starvation as a suicide method? Anorexics often feel they have no control over their lives: the intake of food, at least, is something they can regulate. For Archie to have ended up in prison and suffered a month's punishment in a hole -- all because he had a fit at the wrong time and place -- is ample reason for him to feel he has no control. And the presence of always-in-command Horatio probably doesn't help; indeed Archie is quite vocal in his resentment of the whole situation.
SYMPTOMS OF ANOREXIA NERVOSA
Inconclusive. Perhaps he chose starvation simply because there was no other method at hand.
For much of The Duel, Archie seems reasonably confident and cheerful. Then Simpson comes back, and it's all downhill from there. In The Duchess and The Devil he reaches absolute rock bottom in his opinion of himself, but by the end it appears he's starting to find his way back. In The Wrong War some of his old humor resurfaces early on -- yet even by this time he can't stop questioning his worth and abilities. It is therefore immensely gratifying to see him later navigating his way through the chaos of Mutiny and Retribution with such determination and confidence. Way to go, Archie; we always knew you had it in ya!
SYMPTOMS OF SELF-ESTEEM DISTURBANCE
Ohhhh ... somebody give that boy a hug! Now!!