U.N.C.L.E. the Show
Background and History
Contributors Behind the Scene
The Return Movie
Like the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek, U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters in New York is almost a character in its own right. At least a glimpse of it appears in every episode. Sometimes it's just a briefing in Waverly's office, or scene showing the agents entering Del Floria's.Occasionally, however, in episodes like The Mad, MAD Tea Party Affair, The Never Never Affair, The Discoteque Affair and The Birds and the Bees Affair, the "chrome and gunmetal madhouse" (as Kay Lorrison described it (The Mad, MAD Teaparty Affair) becomes one of the stars of the show. Indeed, HQ is so important to the U.N.C.L.E. mythos, that the entire series begins with a play-by-play detailed assault on this modern fortress (The Vulcan Affair).
Fans of the series know the ritual of entering HQ by heart: Field agents are admitted by way of Del Floria's, a small, non-descript tailor/dry-cleaning shop located one flight below street level. The agent goes to the single fitting booth and turns the coat hook on the back wall. Outside in the shop, Del Floria activates a mechanism on his pressing machine that releases the door. The wall swings inward and the agent finds him/herself in the main admissions area. There, a receptionist pins on a security badge (White or later, yellow for highest security clearance; red and green for low clearance and visitors). A chemical on the receptionist's fingers activates the badge. Anyone walking around HQ without an activated badge will set off a barrage of security alarms and will soon find themselves surrounded by lots of burly men with guns. (In The Vulcan Affair, the THRUSH invaders knocked out the receptionist and pinned on the badges themselves --- their fatal error!)
There is some disagreement over U.N.C.L.E. HQ's exact address. An early network promotional book for the series described it as near the U.N., "somewhere in the East Fifties". By the time the series was aired, this was changed in the first season's introductory voiceover to the " East Forties". The Doomsday Affair, the second Ace paperback, puts HQ at Third Avenue in the East Forties. The Howling Teenagers Affair , the first installment (February, 1966) of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. Magazine, gives the cross street as East 44th Street. The U.N.C.L.E. Technical Manual, Volume I by Glenn A. Magee (Media Books, 1986) theorizes that HQ occupies the entire block between East 45th and 46th Streets and between Second and Third Avenues. Judging by the pan westward from the U.N. in the beginning of the first season episodes, this does seem like a reasonable guess.
However, the overhaul received by the HQ set in U.N.C.L.E.'s fourth season confuses the issue further. Not only was the corridor outside Waverly's office transformed into a communications center worthy of NASA's mission control, but the view outside Waverly's office no longer showed a line of nondescript buildings but a view of the U.N. The view is gorgeous, particularly at night (see The Deadly Quest Affair), but unfortunately, it places HQ north of the U.N. and quite possibly, in the East River!
About the exterior facade of HQ there is little dispute. Early continuity material devised principally by Sam Rolfe describes a block long row of decaying brownstones (apartments in them are rented to unsuspecting tenants --- The Discoteque Affair). On one end of the block is a public parking garage (complete with machine gun bays hidden in the ceiling --- see The Deadly Decoy Affair). On the other end is a three-story whitestone (For a sketch of the exterior, see the display in Vincent Carver's office in The Discoteque Affair.
The first and second floors of the whitestone are occupied by The Mask Club, a sort of Playboy-like, members-only 'key' club in which the waitresses wear masks. On the third floor, is located the offices of U.N.C.L.E.'s propaganda front, a charity fundraising organization.
There are four known entrances to U.N.C.L.E. HQ. The most famous one is, of course, Del Floria's as described earlier. There is also reportedly an entrance through the Men's and Women's lockers at the rear of the parking garage (admissions for non-field personnel). After hours, when Del Floria's in closed, agents may also enter through the Mask Club or through the offices of the charitable organization (this latter route is described by Illya in The Deadly Games Affair).
The fifth entrance remains a secret known only to the person who occupies the Section 1, Number 1 position. Apparently a private entrance into the chief's office allows Waverly to slip in and out of HQ unseen whenever he chooses. From The Mad, MAD Tea Party Affair, we know it is a dark passageway, difficult to negotiate easily, and that it has an outlet into Hemingways', a book and curio shop located a few doors down from Del Floria's. In The Utopia Affair, the 15th Ace paperback, David McDaniels speculated that the painting over the couch in Waverly's office slid back to reveal a passage that eventually led to the subway station at 53rd and 3rd (presumably the Lexington line).
U.N.C.L.E. HQ has four levels (according to close-ups of elevator panels in the series' episodes): one ground level; two higher levels (Waverly's office is on the top floor) and one sub-level. The roof has radar, a laser beam (The Mad, MAD Tea Party Affair), and a helipad (The Summit Five Affair). Below the sublevel, there is an underground docking area and a tunnel that runs under the U.N. giving U.N.C.L.E.'s boats access to the East River. Although this was never shown in the series, David McDaniel describes the underground chamber (complete with sub pen) in some detail in The Monster Wheel Affair, the 8th Ace paperback.
Although HQ was the aspect of the series with the strongest continuity, there were occasional flubs. For example, Waverly's office is supposed to have the only window in the entire complex, yet a few times we see other rooms that have windows (presumably the set for Waverly's office was re-dressed). And although we never see anything but a sliding stainless steel doors, there is the sound of a door clicking shut offscreen when Solo leaves Kay Lorrison in The Mad, MAD Teaparty Affair!
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