"No man is free who works for a living . . . but I am available." (-- Illya Kuryakin, "The Bow-Wow Affair")

These reviews/commentaries on the show's 105 episodes originally appeared in slightly different form on the Yahoo! Groups website Channel_D, from 2008 to 2010. If you're new to MfU fandom, these may give you some idea of the flavor of the series, which is still famous and beloved more than 50 (!) years after its premiere in 1964. Enjoy!

News: Decades Channel is running a "Weekend Binge" of MfU episodes on July 2, 2017. Check the schedule here.

(Except where otherwise noted, images are used with permission of the exhaustive site Lisa's Video Frame Capture Library. Thanks to Lisa for all her work!)

Friday, January 15, 2010

"The Neptune Affair" (ep. 1/11)

I only dimly recall this episode from the fall of '64. Only the fourth episode filmed, it shows that the producers and writers were still feeling their way as to how James Bondian they wanted the show to be. For trivia buffs, it sports appearances by John Banner (Sergeant Schultz of "Hogan's Heroes") and Marta Kristen ("Lost in Space"). We also get veteran character actor Henry Jones, who appeared in more than a few anthology and crime shows in the '60s.  Here, he makes a quite plausible villain.

Vince Lockridge's group might have begun with the same goal as Capt. Shark, that of surviving the expected nuclear holocaust. However, they plan to start the holocaust, and then not merely survive it, but to establish a New Order based on logic and efficiency! The fact that the concept of nuclear destruction cropped up twice in the first eleven episodes (and in ones filmed back to back, yet) was probably no coincidence. Cold War tensions were still singing in people's nerves after the Cuban Missile Crisis of '62.

Okay, let's play a game: Where along the California coast, as Solo says it is, would "Southport" be? My first thought was Northern California, near Oregon; less distance for Lockridge's rockets to travel to the USSR. But then, in those dock scenes, we see much taller buildings on shore than you'd expect in a small California town. Perhaps Vince's Boys were based near San Francisco -- Monterey, maybe?

For that matter, where in Russia would the cities Illya mentions be located? I presume the Ukraine, since that's the breadbasket. That's a long way from California, even taking a polar route. Mighty fair shootin', there, Vince.

Neat, that Solo instantly drops the "alfalfa" accent when he snags Vince and makes his break for it. His Harvey Muller is quite annoying (referring to women as "females"!) -- which is the point. High marks for both Solo's acting ability and the indoctrination team. This is the first episode to show U.N.C.L.E.'s cover identity programming. "Green Opal," shown earlier, merely alludes to the process.

This story makes Illya's Russian-ness clear. In the scene in the globe room, he is obviously upset at the damage the fungus is doing to his country's wheat crop (though some of that distress may be due to the thought that it may trigger nuclear war). He even says, wearily, that he needs to leave (for Orbesk? Maybe to attempt to defuse the situation?). When I saw the opening scene with Illya in uniform on CBN in the '80s, I assumed he was working undercover, posing as a military officer to gather info on the missiles -- that he wasn't necessarily in the Russian military. But the sailors look to him as if he's their officer, so . . .

You gotta give U.N.C.L.E. props for enlightened employee policies. We see Heather knitting as she works her afternoon shift on Channel D, and she has her dachshund right there with her. In those days you didn't bring your children and pets to work with you. On the other hand, not many jobs then or now allow you to work on your tan while on your shift, either.

Sharp and Bloch, the writers, apparently think that the title "Doctor" automatically means the holder is a medico. Lavimore would have been a professor, an academic, not qualified to treat Vince.

The Mark I Special appears from under Solo's windbreaker. (I have a jacket just like it in my closet, a McGregor "Drizzler.") Such a small gun compared to the Walther P-38!

The moment with the two teenagers on the beach was cut by CBN. It would have been a good place to end the story: They toss the popcorn box, rise, and stroll off, and Solo, having heard the boy's cynical comment, laughs to himself.

Verdict:  Despite some implausibilities, not a bad story. Very much a Solo tale. 

Great Lines:
Illya (harshly): "The grain shrivels and twists as if it were burning. The whole harvest turns to ash."
(As delivered by David in Illya's Russian accent, this is very effective, almost poetic)

Solo (as Harvey): "You keep talkin' about 'organizations,' there, Vince. Now d'you mean the Grange, or the 4-H?"

Lockridge (to Solo as Harvey): "You're far from being a stupid man.  Your stupidity's much too authentic."

Lockridge: "You're dead, you know that?"
Solo: "I wouldn't go so far as to say that. I figure, I've got the head man here; might be able to do some pretty fancy hoss trading --"


nephew-from-france said...

Not unpleasant or boring - but indeed quite easy to forget (and difficult to understand, to compound it) - if it were not for miss McNabb's original ways to pass her time while waiting for Napoleon's calls.
So out of step with normal secretary archetypes that she might have been a model for the Melissa McCarthy's hilarious character in the 2015 Spy movie.

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