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.

Speculation: could U.N.C.L.E. and Holmes be tied together?

David McDaniel's The Dagger Affair

David McDaniel’s The Dagger Affair

A response to a recent post has a reminder there’s a sort-of Sherlock Holmes tie to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Could director Guy Ritchie, who’s helming a movie version of the 1964-68 series, seize upon that?

Background: The original show generated 23 paperback novels based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Author David McDaniel penned many of the best. His first effort, The Dagger Affair, suggested that the villainous organization Thrush was a remnant of the group started by Professor Moriarty, the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.

McDaniel also devised that Thrush was really an acronym standing for the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.

The series had its own origin for Thrush, in the second-season episode The Adriatic Express Affair, written by Robert Hill, in which Thrush chieftain Madame Nemirovitch (Jesse Royce Landis) claims she founded the organization. The McDaniel version isn’t canon but many fans of the original show perfer it to the Nemirovitch version.

Ritchie’s second Holmes film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, featured a showdown between Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes and Jared Harris’s Moriarty. So for director Ritchie and his U.N.C.L.E. producer Lionel Wigram (who worked on the Holmes movies) this is familiar territory.

The new movie, scheduled to start filming on Sept. 7, is to depict the first mission where Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are paired. Whether it also has an origin for Thrush (or THRUSH, if you prefer) remains to be seen.