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.

7 Responses

  1. The movie playing in the theater is Battleground (1949). The movie advertised outside on the sandwich board is Ada (1961).

  2. One of my favorite episodes.

  3. Was that the one where the T.H.R.U.S.H. agent had an ice cream cart and they toss chocolate covered explosive ice cream bars at either Napoleon or Ilya ? I always called them the Bad Humor Men. I think Barbara Feldon was the victim of Napoleon’s somewhat mean prank. My first girlfriend as an adult was Julie. Except for being bustier she looked and sounded exactly like Barbara Feldon. And since I already had a crush on Barbara, it was beyond incredible. Sadly, Julie died at the hands of a jealous, abusive husband 2 months after I last saw her. She was trying to escape and he hunted her down and she was trying to get involved with her again so she could be safe. She died at 25 in 1977. I was devastated when I found out about it about 3 years ago. The one that got away. I loved her very, very much. A sweet, kind and loving woman.

    george

  4. @George: Never-Never had had Thrush agents disguised as ice cream vendors but they didn’t have explosive ice cream bars. The explosive ice cream bar bit was in the third season. Mandy Stevenson in Never-Never was played by Barbara Feldon.

  5. Wow. Thank you so much for profiling an UNCLE episode! It’s so interesting to read the transformation of the writer’s concept to the director’s execution of it. Running time was always the enemy. But in the end, it doesn’t appear much was lost in the streamlining of this story/episode. After all “action” speaks for itself. And can eliminate a lot of complication and superfluous dialogue. Barbara Feldon was a special type of guest star, so perfect for that role. A very successful combination of humor and suspense, which makes this episode particularly memorable. Yes, and theater scene especially! Thank you again for featuring an UNCLE profile!!!

  6. Some details I left out: The earlier script would have been more expensive to produce. Three speaking parts were eliminated (the agent, the doctor who treated the agent and Mandy’s assistant, who got a line or two). Also, Hargrove’s script had Solo taking Mandy out to lunch where he gives her the phony mission. In the final version, this happens at UNCLE HQs. That change meant one less set had to be made.

  7. Spy Commander: yes, it could’ve been a richer story. Still the marvel is how decisions needed to be made in the moment, and yet the quality of production survived. My belief is how much such strong talent covered for what could’ve otherwise been obvious deficiencies. Barbara Feldon made the most of a “meaty” role and every MFU fan remembers her fondly in it! Background stories provided here are always appreciated. So again, thank you! (Have been creating fan videos out of what limited material exists!. So am looking at the episodes intently).

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