"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!)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"The Yukon Affair" (ep. 2/14)

The 1965 Christmas Eve episode is a series landmark:  It's the only time that a villain returned, played by the same actor.  (Thrush mistress of disguise Dr. Egret appeared twice in Season One, but was played by two different actresses.)  If they had recast the role, who could possibly have matched George Sanders as the urbane but deadly G. Emory Partridge?  Unfortunately we don't get Jeanette Nolan's daft, dangerous Edith in this one, but the entire story, while colorful, is daft enough without her.

I recall that CBN cut the teaser in the `80s, so it was new to me.  Nice touch, that scripter Marc Siegel gives us the pear tree "calling card" that Partridge sent to Waverly in "Gazebo in the Maze."  But why does Partridge attempt to kill Solo at all, let alone with the Quadrillenium X?  It was bound to bring the forces of the Command down on him.  Was that his plan -- to entrap Solo and Illya in order to earn a "premium" by handing them to Thrush?  (Yet he says seeing Solo in the igloo is a complete surprise!)  Solo, Illya, or Waverly should have speculated on this.  It's one thing for our heroes to be led into a trap; quite another for them to be trapped without any planning or forethought.

For a non-Thrush, Partridge has enormous resources.  How did he get away from the Command after the Eastsnout business?  And then, in just eight months (in our timeline), he has not only attempted to unseat a reigning sultan, but has set up the Q-X operation, no doubt with some Thrush help.  Remarkable -- especially since Solo says Partridge's sultan episode was "about a year ago"!

Interesting to see Solo and Illya as frogmen, being dropped off by sub.  Waverly must have called in some favors.  Problem: the location given by their computer lies in NE Alaska, not in Canada's Yukon Territory -- and about 100 miles inland from the Arctic Ocean!  A point near the ice-rimmed coast would have made more sense, and the story should have been titled "The Alaskan Affair."

Despite the illogicalities -- we see Partridge make an effort to lift a carving made of Q-X, and it's implied that Murphy's people carve the stuff!  How do children carve something fourteen times harder than diamond? With Q-X drills? --  the charm here lies with Solo and Illya.  Solo's enjoyment of Illya's discomfiture when he has disappointed Waverly; Illya's delight at the idea of dragging Solo along into the bitter conditions north of the Arctic Circle; and Illya's schoolmaster air about the aqualung/fuel device and the mission in general, are fun.  The most "U.N.C.L.E."-like moments, though, are Illya's neat escape from the local jail using his fuel cell, and Solo's swift concealment of his communicator and smoke bomb while alone in Partridge's sitting room.

I love Partridge's names, "Disraeli" and "Gladstone," for his team dogs.  One imagines he also has a "Stanley" and a "Dr. Livingstone."

Uh, Costume People, couldn't you have found something a little less silly to put on Solo's head than that thing with the flaps and straps?  A wool watch cap like the one he wore on the raft in "Shark" would have kept him from looking like Eb on "Green Acres."  Fortunately the Edwardian-style suit and cravat fit the Solo style much better.

Why is Partridge's jail guard wearing an RCMP uniform?  Has Emory a squad of rogue Mounties to enforce his dictatorship over the Eskimos?

Verdict:  The first truly silly story of Season Two, it could, like "Arabian," have been rewritten with some thought and research into a better adventure.

Memorable lines:
Solo (to Illya, as they sit captive in an igloo): "Well, the reception committee was Class A, but the accommodations leave much to  be desired."
Illya: "We'll complain to our travel agent."

Illya (to Murphy, about her father's harpoon skills): "A fine eye and a strong wrist.  I would sincerely appreciate being out of range of both."

Victoria (marveling): "How do you keep so fit, Mr. Solo?"
Solo: "I play games."
(Victoria with her Angelique-like style is much more Solo's type than is Miss Murphy, anyway)

Solo (holding the door to the general store for Illya): "Compasses, toys, formal evening wear, right this way in this department --"

Illya: "Life's too valuable to spend even a single minute of it in remorse!"

Partridge: "Children are so laxly reared nowadays. . . ."

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