U.N.C.L.E. script: The Never-Never Affair

Solo and Illya during the theater gunfight in The Never-Never Affair

The Never-Never Affair was an important episode for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Supposedly, after it aired, NBC executives decided its balance of drama and humor were what they were looking for in the show.

It also launched Dean Hargrove’s tenure as an U.N.C.L.E. writer. Up until this time, Hargrove had been primarily a comedy writer. Hargrove, in a 2019 video interview said his U.N.C.L.E. work boosted his career.

A preliminary script for the episode, dated Jan. 25, 1965, indicated there was a lot of work to be done before it’d be ready for airing on March 22.

The Jan. 25 script weighs in at 68 pages. The rule of thumb is each script page roughly equals one minute of screen time. In 1965, excluding commercials, an U.N.C.L.E. episode was 50 minutes, including titles and a preview of next week’s episode.

The early script has the core of what would be broadcast — the story’s “innocent,” Many Stevenson, is an U.N.C.L.E. translator yearns for the excitement of espionage. Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) gives her a pretend mission (she’s really getting more tobacco for U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly.

But she gets a microdot (intended to be taken by courier to Europe) by mistake. She is then sought by heroes and villains as she takes a route in New York City that Solo gave her.

However, a lot of streamlining would take place.

Agent Falchek we hardly knew ye: The story begins with U.N.C.L.E. agent Falchek being hunted by a team of Thrush operatives. Falchek has a microdot with information about the villainous organization and Thrush wants it back.

The sequence plays out pretty much like the final version. Falchek would be replaced by Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum), cutting down the number of characters in the story.

In any case, Falchek brings the microdot to U.N.C.E. headquarters. Falchek later joins Solo and Illya in seeking Mandy. Falchek catches up to Mandy first but gets shot by Thrush agents for his trouble.

On page 24, the stage directions refer to “Falchek’s body” (one of the Thrush agents is searching Falchek’s pockets). But on the next page, a doctor tells Solo that Falchek is still alive despite being shot twice.

In the final version, there is no Falchek. It’s Illya who brings in the microdot. Illya also catches up to Mandy first, though he doesn’t get shot.

Theater shootout: When Hargrove pitched his Never-Never idea, one of its highlights was a shootout in a movie theater. A villain would be behind the movie screen hooting at the U.N.C.L.E. agents.

The Jan. 25 script has some differences from the broadcast version. The movie being shown is an “Italian melodrama” involving Mafia types. In the broadcast version, it’d be a war movie.

Solo and Illya, once they figure out where the Thrush assassin is empty their guns into the screen. Hargrove refers to the pistols as revolvers while the guns used in the show were P-38s. The killer falls through the screen, dead.

Hargrove’s stage directions have a touch not seen in the episode. “THE END” is being shown on the movie screen as Solo and Illya inspect the body.

Dean Hargrove

U.N.C.L.E. raid: Eventually, Mandy is captured by Thrush and taken to a field center disguised as a garage. Solo opts to go inside while Illya waits for reinforcements.

Hargrove’s script has a longer sequence of Solo dealing with a mechanic who is really a Thrush agent. The broadcast version shortened the sequence considerably.

As in the final version, Hargrove’s script has Solo captured but improbably getting the upper hand.

The Jan. 25 script, however, has an entire U.N.C.L.E. raid sequence, including Illya squaring off against Thrush henchwoman Miss Raven. In the final version, viewers could hear some shooting sound effects before Waverly and some agents show up.

The end: In Hargrove’s script, the final scene was at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. A courier named Pearson takes custody of the microdot.

Waverly remembers he still doesn’t have any new tobacco and the shop will close in a half-hour. In this script, Illya volunteers to get the tobacco because “I’m low on tobacco myself.”

In the final version, Solo gets the job of fetching Waverly his tobacco because of all the trouble he caused by playing the prank on Many in the first place. “Yes, I feel it is coming to me,” Solo says in the broadcast version.