U.N.C.L.E. script: The end (though they didn’t know it)

Solo and Illya have just gotten word they’ve been canceled by NBC.

The Seven Wonders of the World Affair was the two-part adventure that ended The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s 1964-68 run. But, as originally written, it was a standard single-part episode.

Writer Norman Hudis’s original script was dated June 23, 1967. The basic plot matches the final product that would be broadcast by NBC on Jan. 8 and 15, 1968. However, the June 23 script is simpler.

In the original version, the villain was Kingsley, same as the broadcast version. In the first script, we’re not told much about Kingsley. He’s an independent operator and not part of Thrush, the villainous organization used for much of the series.

Kingsley has assembled experts in various fields. They will help him rule the world once he has used a gas that will make make the globe’s population peaceful.

Kingsley’s Eyes

Kingsley is “50-ish, superbly-preserved and well groomed.” At one point, the stage directions call for the camera to zoom into “VERY CLOSE SHOT KINGSLEY EYES: cold, penetrating, unblinking – windows to an insane mind.”

As story opens, Kingsley has assembled all but one of his experts. A scientist, David Garrow, is kidnapped while Solo and Illya simply watch. Kingsley receives word from one of his men the kidnapping has succeeded.

“Good,” Kingsley replies. “Just as I planned.”

Separately, Solo informs his superior, Alexander Waverly, that Garrow has “been taken.” Waverly is with his assistant, Lisa.

WAVERLY
Good. Just as I planned.

He does not say it with the elation just heard in Kingsley’s voice. He looks up with heavy anxiety at Lisa.

WAVERLY
And I pray I planned right —

Solo and Illya split up. Solo boards an U.N.C.L.E. plane to follow Garrow (who has a tracking device). Illya meets with Garrow’s wife and grown son to tell them how Garrow volunteered to help U.N.C.L.E. find the missing experts.

Similar to the final version, Solo’s plane is shot down in the Himalayas as it nears Kingsley’s installation. Unlike the broadcast version, the script actually calls for Solo to struggle with snow after he escapes the aircraft. As broadcast, the area around the base was “unusual” in that there was no snow.

Professor Who?

In this script, one of Kingsley’s experts is named Professor Dent (!). Yes, same as the character from the film Dr. No who (unsuccessfully) tried to kill James Bond.

Maybe Norman Hudis wasn’t aware of the legal wrangling between Eon Productions and U.N.C.L.E. over the Solo name when that intended as the title of the TV series. (Eon’s attorneys sent a cease and desist letter; the title got changed to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) Maybe it was a bit of a practical joke by Hudis. If so, I doubt executive producer Norman Felton would have found it funny. Regardless, the character would be renamed Erikson in the final version.

As in the broadcast version, Illya flies in another U.N.C.L.E. aircraft to the Himalayas with Steve Garrow as a stowaway. Solo’s communicator initially couldn’t broadcast after he was shot down. Eventually, Illya is able to reach Solo via their U.N.C.L.E. communicators. Waverly also is patched in. In the course of the conversation, Solo and Illya have this exchange:

SOLO
Steve Garrow? What’s he doing — ?

ILLYA (on Solo’s communicator)
Stowed away. Didn’t trust us to rescue the Professor.

SOLO
Can’t say I blame him: we’re not being particularly brilliant so far.

Waverly informs the agents that Solo had been shot down “inside an electronic anti-communication belt, some twenty miles in circumference.” The agents are told to infiltrate that area and find the kidnap victims.

Meanwhile, U.N.C.L.E. attempts to use “radio-particle long-distance bombardment” to penetrate the zone. This is deployed using an “IMPRESSIVE AND COMPLICATED ANTENNA” at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. However, the device is unsuccessful.

Solo Meets Kingsley

The agents (Solo by himself, Illya, accompanied by the younger Garrow), eventually succeed in reaching Kingsley’s base. Solo, though is captured. Afterward, he meets Kingsley.

The latter comes to the point. “My name is Kingsley. I am going to rule the world. And you wonder why you are still alive.”

“I’ve met several would-be world rulers: you all have one thing in common: you have to talk about it,” Solo says. “You won’t kill me, Mr. Kingsley, until I’m duly impressed by your plans.”

That doesn’t stop Kingsley. He tells Solo about his plan how the roles the various experts will have in its implementation.

KINGSLEY (unboastful)
I have overlooked nothing. There may be rebels. They will have to be dealt with.
(a beat)
Are you – ‘duly impressed —‘?

SOLO
By a world of soulless obedience – mindless conformity? No. It’s insane.

The agent gets a nasty surprise. He’s being escorted to his living quarters by Gen. Harmon, Kingsley’s security chief. Solo makes a pitch for how the various kidnapped experts could escape. However, Harmon tells Solo that he volunteered. Harmon then has Solo seized by guards to be shot.

Much of the rest of the script has Solo, Illya and Steve Garrow get in and out of peril. There’s a lot of description of all this, one reason why the script goes up to 74 pages. The general rule of thumb is that one page of script averages out to one minute of screen time. In the last 1960s, a one-hour television show’s running time would be about 50 minutes or so minus commercials.

U.N.C.L.E. Roughhouse

At one point, Hudis takes a short cut for a sequence that surely would have taken at least a minute or two screen time, if not longer. It’s an action sequence after Solo and Illya are back together and fighting Kingsley’s guards.

FIGHT
Typical “U.N.C.L.E.” roughhouse, during which Solo and Illya, outnumbered, are in danger of defeat and death several times. They eventually worst the Guards however and dive out the window together.

Despite the odds, the agents prevail. (They get their hands on some weapons, which is a big help.) They wreck much of the facility, including the area from which the gas will be launched.

Of the main characters, only General Harmon is killed. Kingsley, Professor Garrow and Steve Garrow all survive. Kingsley gets the last word with one undamaged portion of his base.

KINGSLEY
Nothing can save you now —

He is looking at and addressing:

KINGSLEY’S POV – THE WORLD MAP

By some freak of explosion blast, it has survived intact – like the minds of the millions who inhabit its continents.

We PULL BACK to show the ENTIRE SCENE: The map – Kingsley before it, gazing up at at his lost realm – Solo some distance behind him – Illya joining Solo, also to look at Kingsley – Garrow, Steve and Dent slowly re-entering.

In the fall of 1967, NBC canceled the series, meaning it would only last half of the 1967-68 season. The production team opted to expand this script into a two-parter and make it a feature film (How to Steal the World) for international markets.

Major Changes

Poster for How To Steal the World, movie version of The Seven Wonders of the World Affair

In doing so, things got more complicated. Kingsley was now an U.N.C.L.E. official based in Hong Kong who goes rogue. Having fought “the seemingly endless battle” against evil, Kingsley decides to use what’s called “docility gas” to make the world peaceful.

More characters were introduced as was Thrush. There was now a Mrs. Kingsley who, unknown to her husband, is having an affair with Webb, a Thrush operative. Kingsley also doesn’t know that Thrush is financing his plans so it can take over. There’s also a severe conflict within Thrush how to proceed.

Ironically, with all the changes, Gen. Harmon ends up surviving, although he he is subjected to the gas. In the Hudis original, the audience was told two guards were used as guinea pigs to test the gas. In the new version, the audience sees the general being gassed by accident and how he’s almost childlike as a result. Solo and Kurykin were to have been the test subjects, but some of Hudis’s “U.N.C.L.E. roughhouse” broke out.

Ultimately, Kingsley, Mrs. Kingsley, Webb and Professor Garrow all parish. What’s more, Solo’s meeting with Kingsley was expanded so the agent confronts all of the “seven wonders.” One line from the original script attributed to Garrow, where he calls Kingsley’s plan “a blasphemy” is voiced by Solo.

Mixed Reactions

Many original U.N.C.L.E. fans are critical of the final version because it’s padded out. For example, the recap at the start of Part II extends into the middle of Act I. I’ve argued previously that Solo’s confrontation with the “seven wonders” in Part II is one of Robert Vaughn’s best scenes of the series.

Still, there’s no denying the final version is uneven. One of the oddities is how Thrush has a “secret headquarters” at a meat packing plant.

In any case, there was sadness among original U.N.C.L.E. fans when The Seven Wonders of the World Affair Part II concluded. It was also the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

One Response

  1. From Jon Heitman’s book, it was so noted that the final broadcast shot, ending the episode and the series, focused on the faces of Solo, Kuryakin and Waverly, as a white coffin was being loaded onto an airplane. Some would say a symbolic gesture of departure. As the series’ stars hadn’t been given much more notice of the cancellation, than the (planning and) filming of the final episode.

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