U.N.C.L.E. the Show
Background and History
Contributors Behind the Scene
The Return Movie
Before there was Starfleet, there was the United Network Command for Law Enforcement. As conceived by Sam Rolfe, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. offered what was probably the most fully realized fictional universe for a regular television series of that era. Remember now, this was at a time when continuity was not considered important. Nevertheless, Rolfe fleshed out an organization that was so believable, tourists reportedly often requested a peek at it when visiting the UN. No doubt, U.N.C.L.E.'s veracity --- the constant interweaving of the fanciful with the recognizably mundane --- contributed mightily to the show's appeal. While the agents battled bizarre threats to world peace like trained killer bees, suspended animation devices, and earthquake machines, they also worried about expense accounts, insurance policies, health plans and inter-departmental gossip.
At the core of the series was the idea that heroic people had ordinary concerns and ordinary people could be heroic. When writing U.N.C.L.E. stories, it's important to keep this in mind. Unfortunately, unlike Star Trek, no official U.N.C.L.E. concordance was ever published. Nevertheless, while the series was on the air, there was a wealth of background material available (mostly in the novels and accompanying U.N.C.L.E. toys), drawn chiefly from Rolfe's development notes. Be forewarned: occasionally this material is inaccurate (i.e., the intro to Michael Avallone's Thousand Coffins Affair is based on early development material and so lists the section headings incorrectly.) Another problem is the series itself. Continuity was decent the first season, but as time progressed and new writers came in, they did not always pay attention to details. (In one episode for example, Waverly thinks he belongs to Section 2!)
This said, a consistent core of information can be constructed by triangulating Rolfe's notes [check with other fans for availability], references in the televised series, and published sources and then extrapolating the rest. A decade ago, John Peel and Glenn Magee (media writers and longtime U.N.C.L.E. fans) tried to create a kind of concordance in a series of magazines called The U.N.C.L.E. Files published by New Media Books, Studio City, CA. The essays in these magazines have been criticized by some fans as being opinionated (true) and unreliable, (only partly true), but they do contain a wealth of information gathered together in one place not available elsewhere. I would recommend finding them if you can (they are out of print by now but occasionally available on eBay.)
Herewith then, is what we know (and what we can guess) about U.N.C.L.E.:
The United Network Command for Law Enforcement is multi-national in makeup and international in scope, protecting and defending nations regardless of size or political persuasion. Rolfe's original proposal makes the point that U.N.C.L.E. operates in Communist and Third World countries the same way that it does in the Western nations. Although for legal reasons, Rolfe and Norman Felton could not identify their fictional organization officially with the actual U.N., the implied connection is clear. Most episodes, including the pilot, begin with a shot of the United Nations building. Now, I'm not going to get into the Is-Illya- a-defector-or-not issue here. Suffice it to say however, when writing about the organization, think United Nations, not NATO.
U.N.C.L.E. is subdivided into six sections:
Section I: Policy and Operations.
This is the administrative branch. It contains the five chiefs of U.N.C.L.E. (of which Waverly is one; he also outranks the other four) as well as all sector and station chiefs. There is a conference for everyone in this section yearly (see The Children's Day Affair) as well as an annual meeting of the five chiefs alone (The Summit Five Affair).
The five chiefs administer the business of U.N.C.L.E. from five regional offices that correspond loosely (but not exactly --- there is overlap) to the five major continents. The five offices are: New York, Caracas, Nairobi, New Delhi and Berlin (The Summit Five Affair).
During the run of the series, we meet three of the five: Waverly - New York; Gabhail Samoy - New Delhi (The Brain Killers Affair) and Harry Beldon - Berlin (The Summit Five Affair). An interesting sidenote: Carlo Farenti (The Children's Day Affair) appears to be on equal footing with Waverly, which hints that he, too, may be one of the five chiefs. If this is so, it is reasonable to extrapolate that U.N.C.L.E.'s European regional office was located first in Geneva until, perhaps, the killer bee attack (The Birds And Bees Affair). Farenti may have died in that Affair, to be replaced a year or so later by the Thrush mole, Harry Beldon.
Section II: Operations and Enforcement.
This is the section that contains the field agents like Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin, April Dancer and Mark Slate. It seems that each of the regional offices has a Chief of Enforcement who functions as second-in-command Solo is Waverly's Chief of Enforcement. Brian Morton (The Deep Six Affair) is Solo's counterpart in Europe [note that Morton is temporarily running things after Beldon's demise]. We don't learn the names of the other enforcement chiefs.
Section III: Enforcement and Intelligence.
These are the lower level field agents, probably junior enforcement agents, couriers and the like.
Section IV: Intelligence and Communications.
This is the beginning of the support personnel sections. Anytime you see people sitting at computer terminals or providing information for the field agents (Mandy Stephenson in The Never Never Affair, for instance) they probably belong here. George Dennel (The Waverly Ring Affair) heads this section in New York.
Section V: Communication and Security.
More support people --- all those secretaries and communication people (Heather, Wanda, Sarah, etc.)
Section VI: Security and Personnel.
Security guards and those who handle personnel matters (like hiring and medical insurance) processing belong here. Carla Drosten (who turned traitor in The Waverly Ring Affair) headed this section in New York for awhile.
In addition, later production notes and some material published during the 60's also listed two more sections:
Section VII: Public Relations and Propaganda
U.N.C.L.E. does have a public relations front.
Section VIII: Research and Development.
Known more colloquially as "The Lab." David McDaniel, the writer of the most popular novels, appointed his own lab chief, Dr. Simpson.
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