The acronym (which really isn’t) that won’t go away

Image from Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Image from Batman ’66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

On The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Thrush was never an acronym. But the notion that is is survives almost a half-century after the show ended its original run.

The comic book miniseries Batman ’66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which is wrapping up its six-issue run, spells it as “T.H.R.U.S.H.”

Separately, the book Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films, published in late 2015, has a chapter about “Bondmania” of the 1960s which references U.N.C.L.E. Authors Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury write that agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin “were usually pitted against agents of T.H.R.U.S.H. (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humankind).”

We’ve referenced this before, but the idea of Thrush as an acronym was created by writer David McDaniel, author of a 1960s licensed U.N.C.L.E. paperback, The Dagger Affair.

McDaniel envisioned Thrush as having been created by Sherlock Holmes villain Professor Moriarty. McDaniel’s acronym had “Humanity” instead of “Humankind.” Regardless, it was very clever and McDaniel is credited by many U.N.C.L.E. fans as the best writer of the paperback tie-in novels.

David McDaniel's The Dagger Affair

David McDaniel’s The Dagger Affair

However, the 1964-68 series presented its own origin for Thrush in the second-season episode The Adriatic Express Affair. In that installment, written by Robert Hill, Madame Nemirovitch (Jessie Royce Landis) reveals herself to be the founder of Thrush.

In real life, the production team had a devil of a time coming up with a name for the villainous organization. It was Thrush when the pilot was filmed in late 1963. But NBC, the network that ordered up the show, had its doubts.

At one point, the name was going to be “Wasp.” In fact, in the movie version of the pilot, To Trap a Spy, “Wasp” was dubbed when actors said “Thrush.” However, Wasp was dropped, apparently in part, because the upcoming Gerry Anderson series Stringray was going to have W.A.S.P. being the organization of the heroes.

Another U.N.C.L.E. possibility was MAGGOT. In fact, the first draft script of The Double Affair (which would be turned into the U.N.C.L.E. movie The Spy With My Face), dated May 1964, uses MAGGOT as the name.

Eventually, everybody went back to Thrush. And so it stayed for the 105 episodes of the series, as well as the 29 episodes of the spinoff show The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

Still, over the years, the McDaniel version has won out even though it wasn’t official canon. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, as the saying goes.

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5 Responses

  1. It annoys the heck out of me when Thrush is used as an acronym. I had called in to a radio talk show to answer a quiz question, which I did correctly, so the host asked me another, which happened to be, “What does U.N.C.L.E.” stand for? When I was able to answer that, the host tried a harder one, “What does T.H.R.U.S.H. stand for?” Ignoring the obvious answer, “They sure don’t stand for much!” I gave him the correct, but much longer answer than he’d been looking for, adding, at the end, McDaniel’s version, just to show I knew it.” After that I was unceremoniously cut off. I guess I was seen as a wise ass, and nobody likes a wise ass.

  2. I got this Bond book for my birthday. I thought “oh, not again,” re: Thrush as acrronym. This time the acronym wasn’t “correct.” I emailed the authors last night about that and some other points but didn’t hear back.

  3. As you say, there’s a point where the original intention gets discarded when a later idea takes hold. This is the way it is when you’re talking about a media franchise and not a series with an actual author. Many hands determined what was and wasn’t the truth in the world of U.N.C.L.E. McDaniel is one of those hands.

  4. David was a dear friend and I miss him a lot. At one point he got Sam Rolfe and Norman Felton to appoint me the head of the Las Vegas Nevada Satrap. I had a parchment with all of their signatures that sadly burned up in a fire in 1978. I’ve met actors who played Thrush agents but other than them, perhaps Lee Gold and my late friends Dean & Shirley Dickensheet, the models for Ward & Irene Baldwin, I am the only OFFICIAL Thrush agent. I lived in Vegas from 1968-1970. Our motto is :

    ” What’s happens in Vegas is usually OUR fault ! ”

    Closing channel k ,

    Thrush used channel designations in at least one episode.

    Worst wishes,

    George Senda

  5. Norman Felton unofficially approved the Technological etc. definition by referring to it in later interviews.

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