"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!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"The Take Me to Your Leader Affair" (ep. 3/16)

Here we are about halfway through Season Three.  "Leader" has more holes in its plot than a target at the U.N.C.L.E. firing range, and suffers from No Money in the Budget Syndrome -- but it moves fast, and is notable for a few items.

We open up with Solo and Illya visiting yet another Caribbean island to see Dr. Cool, and encounter his daughter, Coco.  She pops a paper bag at them -- and yet, these two experienced agents don't immediately whip out their guns?

This is the debut of the special U.N.C.L.E. car.  A stubby little thing, wasn't it?  Two things occur to me:  If Sparrow Dynamics is located close to Louisiana (as it probably was, since Solo and Corinne drive from there to the Louisiana mansion in what seems to be a few hours), where did Solo pick the car up -- the New Orleans office?  And since he rode with Corinne, the car is still back at Sparrow Dynamics.  Somebody better go retrieve it.

Good points:  The initial creepiness as what may be an alien spacecraft approaches the Earth; Solo uses the intelligence gathering of the Command (and doesn't cheapen the scene by flirting with Sharon); having henchman Kalmus be well-spoken, instead of a mere thug; Illya's neat deduction about the presence of a camera; and Waverly refusing to believe Dr. Cool's cover story about his daughter's disappearance, showing that he, Waverly, is no mug.

The No Money symptoms show up in several places.  In the teaser, we first see Solo and Illya driving up to the observatory in what is clearly a shot spliced in from "Concrete Overcoat."  Solo's suit there is dark; yet his suit is gray when they arrive.  Late in the story, in a scene in the Command communications center, we get the same scene from "Bat Cave," redubbed.  And Simon Sparrow's "space vehicle" looks like it was built in someone's backyard for a Mardi Gras float.

Casting Nancy Sinatra must have seemed like a brilliant move to attract younger viewers.  She's decorative.  But she's not very good.  Better if they had cast, say, Susan Oliver from "Bow-Wow" and done away with the singing and guitar-playing entirely.  Like most of us, I watched Whitney Blake on "Hazel" in the early Sixties . . . but I was too young to realize how lovely (and sexy!) she was.  There's an attempt at giving her Corinne a motivation to help Solo and destroy Sparrow, the business about Sparrow having destroyed her former lover, but it's not followed up and seems flat.

Simon Sparrow = Howard Hughes?  He's the best thing in the story, projecting that "sneer of cold command" right up to his death.  If his craft had, say, a beam weapon that he could use to deflect anymilitary attacks that the combined nations threw at it, his plan might have had a chance.  The silly idea that the Council of Nations, led by Mr. Mandu (an Asian, suggesting our world's U Thant of the UN), would simply roll over at the appearance of an "alien" spacecraft and whimper, "What are your terms?", spoils the whole thing.

Illya is amazing. Just how does one take the elastic out of one's underpants, without a knife and without removing one's pants first?

Woodrow Parfrey's Dr. Cool is quite unlike his earlier characters in "Project Strigas" and "Moonglow."  He's not a weasel or a mad scientist, and seems more in control of his surroundings, despite having his daughter kidnapped. 

Verdict: Another script with the germ of a good idea, spoiled by the attempt to be trendy rather than dangerous and exciting.

Memorable Lines:
Dr. Cool: "How much do you gentlemen know about radio astronomy?"
Solo: "Very little."
Illya: "A good deal."
(The look on Solo's face: priceless)

Coco: "You are clever, aren't you?"
Illya (impassively): "I'm trained for these things. . . . Why don't you put on those clothes? It's very
disturbing being locked in a room with you in that bikini, when I'm on duty."
Coco (pleased): "I didn't even think you noticed."
Illya (smiling): "I'm trained for these things."

Coco: "Do you want to be a nothing all your life?"
Illya: "I'm sorry, but you can't win me by flattery."

Sparrow (to the listening Earth): "We have considered your systems of government, and found them totally deficient and inoperable -- a fact borne out by your own inability to get along with each other."
(An echo of the moral lesson from "Day the Earth Stood Still"?)

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