The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was another fandom into which I seduced myself, and it happened via a fairly odd route. Now I’ve never been an actor person, even as a teenager I was into the characters, not the actors. However, David McCallum has always been an exception and I have several of his films. Even so, it wasn’t until I purchased, earlier this year, the Sapphire & Steel DVDs that I remembered just how much I liked him. Having some time on my hands, I had to take medical retirement last November, and being in-between my own writing projects, I did some browsing and dug out a handful of Sapphire & Steel stories. One in particular led me to a writer who had some MFU stories.
Now I had never seen even a trailer for MFU, let alone an episode. I was too young to watch it when the show was first shown in the UK, and apart from a brief period we have never had cable or satellite TV. Thus although I knew the names ‘Napoleon Solo’ and ‘Illya Kuryakin’ and ‘U.N.C.L.E.’, I knew nothing else. I have never been one to get into fandom via fanfic, or even enjoy fanfic without knowing the show, in fact I’ve always kind of frowned on people who do it that way and have never understood it
I can’t at this point say ‘the rest is history’, because that wouldn’t be true. Although from the first film I watched - The Spy With My Face - I saw within seconds that Illya was deeply in love with Napoleon, and I had already picked up a slashy comment made by one of their enemies who commented that Mr. Kuryakin was a very (his emphasis, not mine) close friend of Mr. Solo’s, I wasn’t convinced that Napoleon considered Illya as anything more than a close friend and partner. Yes, I saw that Napoleon loved Illya, but not necessarily that he was in love with him, or that the love was anything more than fraternal or the love of close friends. This view continued throughout the other four films. I also wasn’t convinced that I liked or could like Napoleon Solo as a character, and as for me to like a slash pairing I have to love them both equally or almost equally, this was going to be an insurmountable problem.
However, being so hooked on the fanfic by this time, not to mention my obsession with David McCallum still being strong, together with the fact that I’d heard how slashy the show was (one of my S&H and Pros friends is also into MFU, I decided to invest in some videos of the episodes. Within two episodes, I saw the overt and covert slash about which people talked, and saw that Napoleon was just as in love with and loving of Illya as Illya was of him. And also Napoleon began to appeal to me and I saw him in a new light, and pretty soon I found that I cared for him almost as much as I cared for Illya. Illya Kuryakin is my favourite of the pairing because he, like Ray Doyle and Ray Vecchio, is to me more complex, dichotomous and hard to read. If I had to sum him, and the two Rays, up in one word it would be: enigma.
And now the rest is history. I now have all the episodes in varying formats, some zines (and plans to purchase more in the new year), stories, books, information, pictures, memorabilia, and have written various stories myself, and seem to be getting more and more hooked each day as ideas for stories tumble over one another demanding to be written down. I, like most other fans, have my fingers crossed that the series will be released on commercial DVD in the not too distant future, as I’d love to see all the episodes uncut.
Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin make a wonderful couple and are, for me, U.N.C.L.E. I also really like Mr. Waverly and his role, and like the way that he centres his agents, even if he does try to prevent them from rushing off to rescue one another on several occasions - much to their obvious displeasure.
Having only seen most of the episodes once, I’m not sure that I have any great slashy favourites yet - there are too many slashy moments in all of them to leap on one and say ‘that’s the most slashy’. However, a couple of ones that I really enjoy and see slash moments in are The Suburbia Affair, The Batcave Affair , The Secret Sceptre Affair and The Adriatic Express Affair .