The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 3 Review

  • Series: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 30
  • Discs: 11
  • Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: DVD, Technicolor, Standard
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 05/05/2008, now hosted on Dreamwidth

Note: This is an older review, previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

Finally finished off Season 3! (Hey, my life has been busy lately!) Okay, Season 3 of UNCLE, it’s no surprise is not a favorite of fans because of the campiness/silliness. It’s time to re-evaluate Season 3 because it’s not all bad (mind you, at times it’s not all good, but anyway). Yes, Season 3, gets into more fantastic episodes, especially the first couple (“The Sort-of-Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair”, “The Super-Colossal Affair”) are incredibly fantastical. Tho’ “..Do It Yourself Dreadful” is a Harlan Ellison script so it has a snarky fun-ness to it (Ellison was a writer-for-hire at the time and also wrote Classic Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever” which is often listed as the best Classic Trek ep.) Ellison also wrote the UNCLE Third Season episode “Pieces of Fate Afr” which is great fun. But, there are plenty of Third Season episodes, which are no more fantastical than season 2 (One of which is “Pieces of Fate” – in which a Midwestern School Teacher writes a b*mbshell book about a secret spy organization — which just happens to resemble quote “real” unquote UNCLE and Thrush operations. Napoleon and Illya are assigned to find out where she got her information for the book, but when they reach her at a publicity event someone tries to shoot her – and although she’s physically fine she’s conveniently lost her memory. So the episode involves the two trying to piece together the woman’s life to figure out her past to find out how her fictional book could resemble “real” events. It’s a great episode, which I won’t spoil, but it’s also full of Ellison’s typical twists and turns and snarky writing.)

Another episode I really liked was the 2-part “The Concrete Overcoat Affair”. The ep. has everything — Napoleon barely avoiding a shotgun wedding to a young Italian girl (he’s caught in her bedroom, though he’s actually completely innocent for once). The girl’s mother and mafioso’s Uncles (yes, I said uncles!) chase after Solo to get him to marry the girl. Meanwhile, Illya and Napoleon are on an assignment to stop Thrush from changing the gulf stream and thus (a) warming Greenland turning it into Thrushland (b) melting the polar caps and flooding coastal cities, and (c) freezing northern Europe, esp. England, Ireland, parts of France, etc. Which, incidentally, is now all stuff that any scientific journal will tell you will be a result of Global Warming, but, I digress. So there’s the typical running around, finding clues, getting captured, escaping, etc. But what makes it fun is that while Solo and Kuryakin are doing all that typical stuff, you have these three older character actors playing old-time mobsters chasing them in order to get Solo to “marry the girl” as the saying goes – and all of them were in any number of old Warner Brothers gangster films. The other aspect of the episode, and a reason I’m sure most UNCLE fans consider it a favorite is that wonderful scene between Napoleon and Waverly. Napoleon and Illya get separated, and Napoleon ends-up back at UNCLE HQ, and he’s talking to Waverly and asking to go after Illya who’s been captured by Thrush. Waverly tells him flat out, no. Waverly explains UNCLE’s going to b*mb Thrush’s island back to the stone age. Napoleon then makes a really good, grand speech, saying first, “OK, fine, Illya’s expendable, so are the rest of us. But what about the girl, she’s innocent, are you going to let her die too?” Which cracks Waverly’s tough exterior and Napoleon is allowed to go rescue Illya and the girl, provided he do it and get out before UNCLE planes get to the island. The whole sequence on the Island is fantastic, I mean, in a good sense. It’s really well done. “Concrete Overcoat Afr” is the only two-parter I’ve seen so far that I really liked; the other ones are incredibly slow moving.

However, there are some negatives to Season 3 as well. First, although there are some good episodes (“Concrete Overcoat Afr”, “Pieces of Fate Afr”, “The Suburban Afr”, “Hot Number Afr”, “Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Rum Afr”, etc), there are also some really, really bad episodes (“The Abominable Snowman Affair”, “The My Friend the Gorilla Afr”, “The Jingle Bells Afr”, “The Apple a Day Afr”). Another problem was that even in the mediocre or average episodes (which most of the Third Season is), had a tendency to make Illya and Napoleon at times look almost incompetent – all the captures, missing clues right under their noses, etc., just really works against the characters. After all, Illya and Napoleon are supposed to be UNCLE’s crack enforcement agents.

Finally, special features. There is a special treat for fans on the S 3 special features disk. The modern-day interview with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. There’s so much warmth to it! And, you can just see the two are still friends. It is one of those cut & paste interviews, with the questions on a place card, then the filmed interview of the two of them – but it’s fun to watch anyway. The interview is also quite long, it is over an hour in length. There’s a few basic, probably been asked a hundred times questions at the front of the interview, but there are some very insightful questions as well. Definitely watch it!

Read my The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 1 Review.

Read my The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 2 Review.

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