Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Genre Character of the Week: Mandy Stevenson

Last year my friend Ron leant me The Avengers (The '60s UK series) on DVD and introduced me to a sub-genre of the espionage story - Spy-Fi (Wherein Spy stories included Science Fiction Elements). The series was pretty amazing and got me interested in more '60s television. Next up for me was The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and after 24 pretty great episodes in season one, I got to see this week's genre character, Portuguese translator Mandy Stevenson (pictured at left) in episode 25.

Here's the key concept behind The Man From U.N.C.L.E., each episode follows the exploits of two key agents, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuriyakin who work for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, in their struggles against THRUSH (no acronym given by the point I'm at in season one). Each episode follows their exploits from the point of view of an innocent, someone entirely unfamiliar to the dangers of Spy vs. Spy.

In my personal favourite episode of the first season, The Never-Never Affair, the innocent is a Portuguese translator for U.N.C.L.E. named Mandy Stevenson. Mandy is pretty bored with the hum-drum life of office work, and craves to do some actual fieldwork. Humouring her, Napoleon Solo sends her on a fake mission, leading her to believe that the risks are deadly (he's actually sending her to get a special brand of tobacco for the boss) and due to a misunderstanding at the office, sends her out with a real document of importance, which ensures the men after her will take extreme measures to get it back.

Played by Barbara Feldon (made famous as Agent 99 in Get Smart), Mandy come across as someone who is tired of the daily grind and really wants to get into something dangerous, and the epoisode does not disappoint: from a gunfight in a movie theatre (playing a war film) to one of the more exciting fight scenes of the season (in a mechanics garage and involving flying blades as well as fire), the episode is packed with misunderstandings and the simple bravery and initiative of this young woman.

Although the episode is number 25 in the season, The Never-Never Affair would be a great place for anyone interested in the series to get a taste for what the series can offer.

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