I'm rewatching every episode of the Man from UNCLE series from start to finish. This review may contain spoilers.
Word on the street is that Thrush has commissioned a super computer to help them...be evil, I guess. Obviously UNCLE hears about this development, and decides that they need to destroy the computer, because in TV shows once you destroy a prototype it can never ever be reimplemented.
The exact function of the computer isn't entirely clear. Napoleon Solo explains it like this: "A mechanical brain with a memory bank that has every tidbit of knowledge Thrush will ever need against us. So if all Thrush has to do is push a little button to have their policiies copmuted and their battle tactics perfectly planned..." Waverly finishes: "Thrush will be nearly infallible."
I detect technobabble, and the common problem of TV writers not understanding the science part of the fiction they're delivering.
Anyway, the computer's a good enough MacGuffin, so Kuryakin and Solo launch a campaign to get Ilya imprisoned. Ilya is sent to the South American compound where the computer is being built (it's not entirely clear why the computer is being developed in or near a prison, but I think it's meant to convey generic totalitarianism), and Solo finds a human rights worker to team up with.
The story of this one isn't exactly stellar. It's not terrible, it's just not amazing. But as is often the case with Man from UNCLE, the guest stars and the character writing makes up for the rote spy story.
Charlie Buggles plays the elderly and verifiably creepy rich American who's decided to appoint himself the governor of the region. He's the venture capitalist funding the computer, he owns the prison, he finances the local police, and he walks around his mansion with two "nurses" who apparently monitor his health. He's the worst, and sadly he comes across as a pretty accurate portrayal of an overly wealthy narcissist who's desperately diversifying his investments in the worst possible causes. I can't imagine this show knew that it was being prescient with this character.
Roger Carmel, who any Star Trek (TOS) fan will recognise as Harry Mudd, is the corrupt police chief. He's a proper rogue, changing allegiances and hedging bets throughout the episode.
The human rights advocate is played by Judy Carne, and she teams up with Napoleon Solo by allowing him to pose as her newly wedded husband.
Her story arc is what you might expect from an average UNCLE storyline: She starts out mostly opposed to spy work, but eventually falls for Napoleon's irritable charms. Aside from that, though, she's an interesting character who'd been working hard to fight for the rights of prisoners before she got roped into helping UNCLE, and then continues to fight a noble cause with UNCLE.
The character's name is Salty Oliver. Salty Oliver, for crying out loud, and she lives up to her name. Ms. Oliver isn't, by any means, fearless. She's in over her head, and that makes for some uncertain moments when she's confronted by the disgusting governor and the slimy police chief, each one trying to ensure or win her allegiance. But Salty's courageous, and it shows. She's easily the most interesting character of the episode, and it's fun to watch her journey from a humble bureaucrat to a brave and forthright activist.
It's profoundly satisfying to see Salty stand up to the corrupt Thrush financiers and agents at the end. She's on her own due to UNCLE being, well, really bad at their job, but she starts a stand-off with a room full of super spies.
This one isn't a great episode, but I'd watch it again for the guest cast and the characters they play. The computer is truly a MacGuffin in this one, but it's the first computer MacGuffin of two in a row. The next episode introduces the Electronic Thought Translator!
Lead image by Anthony DELANOIX under the terms of the Unsplash License. Modified by Seth in Inkscape.