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U.N.C.L.E. article

by C. W. Walker

A number of U.N.C.L.E. fan writers (myself included) have tried to reconstruct a timeline for the series and for the lives of the primary agents. As anyone who's tried has already discovered, it can be fairly frustrating. What do we know --- what can we know --- about Napoleon, Illya, and the organization anyway?

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. belongs to that pre-Hill Street Blues era of television before continuity in series was considered important. Individual episodes of series were shot and run in no particular order. Characters had no memories of events in past episodes and remained essentially untouched emotionally and physically by them. Indeed, the only "continuity" in series were stylistic conventions (like U.N.C.L.E.'s swish-pan) and the presence of the same characters each week.

Most of the episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. make no mention of dates. In most cases, we can't even tell the season by the weather outside Del Floria's. Since the show was shot in California, it almost always seems to be spring/ summer/ fall. Nevertheless, there are hints sprinkled throughout the episodes that can be exploited by the creative writer.

The Obvious Ones:

* The Jingle Bells Affair begins on Thanksgiving and runs about a week, with an epilogue at Christmas.

* The Adriatic Express Affair takes place on New Year's Eve.

* The Double Affair (Spy with My Face) states very specifically that it begins July 23 and runs into the first weeks of August (Serena questions Solo on "The August Affair").

* The Green Opal Affair begins specifically on September 7.

You will note that there is no mention in any of these episodes of a year. We might assume that the action of the episodes occurs in the year that they are aired but there is evidence that this is not always so.

For example, The Double Affair was originally aired in November of 1964, but there is a definite reference to August. Which August then? August 1964? Or perhaps even earlier? More on this point later.

Those With Dates That Can Be Extrapolated:

* The Neptune Affair mentions an "18th-20th" of some month. Depending on whether it's spring or winter wheat, the Russian harvest is either early summer or fall. So, it's either June or September. Interestingly enough, Russia did have a poor harvest before October of 1963 and was forced to buy $250 million of wheat from the US. Could the Neptune Affair have actually occurred in 1963?

* The Girls of Nazarone Affair places Solo and Illya in Cannes for a Grand Prix race (see hotel sign). Now, a series of mini Grand Prixes takes lace on the French Riveria in January, in preparation for the big one in Monte Carlo that is held in May. So, this affair must be in January, despite the fact that it aired in April, 1965.

* The Cherry Blossom Affair takes place during the World Series. That makes it early October, 1965.

* The Hula Doll Affair occurs in summer, either July or August.

* Both The Quadripartite Affair and The Giuoco Piano Affair concern Gervaise Ravel. The episodes were aired in October, 1964 and November, 1964 respectively. Yet, in the second one, Marion Raven tells Illya that the thought of Gervaise gave her nightmares for a long time. When Illya shows up at Marion's apartment, it's clear that a significant amount of time has gone by. Also, Gervaise has had time to regroup her forces. So the question is: in what year did they occur? Did Quadripartite occur much earlier, say in 1963?

* The Cap and Gown Affair concerns a college graduation. Therefore, it must be set in mid-to-late May. However, the episode aired in April, 1967.

* The Thor Affair features a grade school teacher on vacation. Shortly afterward, she returns to tell her students about her summer vacation. So, this affair probably occurs in late August / early September, even though it was aired in October.

* The case of The Candidate's Wife Affair is the most interesting. It aired November, l966. Now, November is appropriate enough (considering election day) but even in U.N.C.L.E.'s artificial universe, there could be no U.S. presidential election in 1966. The last presidential election year was 1964. And, interestingly enough, the Republicans held their convention in San Francisco, the very site of The Candidate's Wife! Obviously then, the fictional Senator Bryant is one of the Republican challengers to Barry Goldwater. (Bryant, incidentally, despite U.N.C.L.E.'s help, did not become president.)

Pure Speculation:

To my mind, The Vulcan Affair and several other early episodes have an older "feel" to them. Solo and Illya use older equipment, like the Mauser rather than the P-38 and the older communicator that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. I think it's fair to say that some of the episodes did not occur in the year we saw them. In fact, in some cases, there may have been as much as a two-year lag time between the event in the mythical universe and the airdate.

One might also take a cue from the characters themselves. For example, Napoleon Solo in To Trap A Spy looks singularly ill-at-ease in his authority position and he doesn't seem to treat Illya Kuryakin as a regular partner. I believe it would not be unreasonable to date The Vulcan Affair back to 1963 or even 1962.

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