Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Television: 'The Man From UNCLE: The Never-Never Affair' (1965) (Aired 1x25, Produced 1x26)

This could easily qualify for my favourite episode of 'The Man From UNCLE'. Not only do we have a very adorable Barbara Feldon, just prior to 'Get Smart' kicking off, but we also have Cesar Romero putting in a wonderfully charming performance and Napoleon being... nice! Oh, and Ilya almost gets burned alive.

In 'The Never-Never Affair', we get yet another inventive Innocent Of The Week, an UNCLE translator (Feldon) hungry for for some field work, whom Napoleon tries to calm down with a secretly harmless courier job for Mr Waverley. However, Mandy the translator crosses paths with a THRUSH squad out to obtain a vital microdot, led by the rogueish Victor Gervais (Romero). It all works very organically and very elegantly, partly due to the sheer accumulated charm of Robert Vaughn and Romero, and the utter coincidence that finally sees her trapped.

It's very nice to see the support staff at UNCLE be featured once again, and of course it helps to build the universe up a bit more. We may not have spent this much time with minor UNCLE staff since 'The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair', which is another favourite. 'The Never-Never Affair' is also extremely pretty in its black and white photography, in a return to the crisp cinematic quality so evident in other great episodes, and is subtly reminiscent of 'Alice In Wonderland' as Mandy falls down a figurative rabbit hole. Does that make Napoleon or Victor the White Rabbit, though? Or do they both function that way? There is some great fire work too, some nice physical stuff for David McCallum to work through, and impressive physical acting from Vaughn. He was woefully underrated, wasn't he?

Where do they find these ridiculously beautiful UNCLE ladies, though, and how did they go extinct? Why does Napoleon's kindness so often seem to backfire? What happened in that movie cinema after they all left? Mr Waverley just loves to get out into the field in New York, doesn't he?

As with all my favourite episodes of this season, this is definitely Napoleon Solo's episode, culminating in the amazing backwards, tied up in a chair gunshot. Accidentally or not, he does save the day. Stopping a very gallant villain is always more interesting than stopping a rampant loon. Oh, and Barbara Feldon more than pulls her weight in the acting stakes.

Excellent, although the Agent 99 bias may be pulling.