Editor's Note: With the recent release of Titan Comics' The Prisoner: The Uncertainty Machine TPB, series writer Peter Milligan has agreed to provide some commentary on a key scene from the limited series.
This scene comes from episode two of The Uncertainty Machine. The issue is called "Dead Dogs Don't Dance," for reasons that seem to quickly become obvious. Though I wanted there to be some ambiguity in this title: yes, it refers to Emil, the young Breen’s canine buddy. But maybe we also think of Pavlov’s dogs and this agent Breen who in later life will certainly be conditioned.
Working on The Prisoner I was constantly aware of a kind of conversation or tension with the original TV series. I wanted enough in it so there seemed to be some real connective tissue: at the same time I was keen to give this story its own particular mark. In the original TV series Number Six was very much an enigma. Yes, it hinted that he was some kind of agent but that’s all. Things are different in The Uncertainty Machine and that’s why I wanted to have this flashback to a pivotal moment in the young Breen’s life.
The scene also allows me to show a gritty realistic side of life as a contrast to the surreal extravaganzas of the Village.
And in page two, that surreal quality intrudes, as the grim kitchen sink drama becomes a recognizable Prisoner story, with a classic piece of Prisoner iconography.
And now we see the importance of this scene for Breen’s character. His ability to stubbornly remain silent and refuse to speak to his father for a whole year – even when he was seriously ill - is both an interesting piece of ‘soft power’ and a key to understanding Breen as a secret agent later in life, especially one who’s resisting efforts to get him to divulge important secrets.
And then another layer is pulled away and we see the man that that dead dog helped to create. Just like his young self he is still remaining silent.
I always liked the beach location in the TV series and wanted to use it here, firstly to again remind the reader that for all it’s difference this is still a prisoner story, and secondly because that wide open space seems to highlight just how alone Breen is in his struggle with the enigmatic forces of the Village.
I like those sequences where one reality is continually pulled away, to reveal another reality, and so on. And we do that here as from the beach we move to the courtroom. Again, though I’m continually stressing that this is a new story with new characters I wanted to show where the story came from and confirm that we are in the same world as the TV show.
This court room scene Is an homage to a famous Prisoner scene from episode 48.
I probably saw most of The Prisoner as repeats but this court room scene is probably one of the most memorable though I always found it a bit irritating: it descends into quite broad and is perhaps a bit too obvious for my tastes.
Here we play it straighter, as Breen is in store for anther shock…