Friday, June 4, 2010

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. -"The Project Strigas Affair" - a toupological analysis.

"The Project Strigas Affair" is a 1964 first-season episode from the well-known TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The episode is perhaps best remembered for the pre-Star Trek guest-star pairing of actors William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

"Seriously, it's gonna be called Star Trek...Me and him are gonna become pals and..." "Bill, I think you've had a little too much to drink."

The plot revolves around a Balkan diplomat called Kurasov who is trying to sabotage East-West relations. Leonard Nimoy plays an assistant to Kurasov.

The U.N.C.L.E. team recruits Bill Shatner, who plays a pest exterminator, into a Cold War game of deception and subterfuge. The complicated scheme revolves around an invented chemical called "Strigas" which Kurasov will no-doubt want, and which will really be used to undermine the diplomat's credibility.

This really is Cold War "fun and games" at their height. Lots and lots of very gentlemanly intelligence-oriented machinations and endless smoking of cigarettes - how times have changed since those days.

The plot may be just a little too complicated, but it is an entertaining enough piece of hokum.

Bill Shatner has a lot of fun with the role, goofing around like it was a second-season Star Trek episode.

Interestingly, U.N.C.L.E. stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum would soon end up with a similar problem to that which Shatner and Nimoy experienced on Star Trek. Namely, the "unusual" co-star becoming more popular than the "ordinary" lead. Rumors abound that the two stars did not get on. Yet, whereas Kirk and Spock had a great on-screen chemistry, the dynamic between Napoleon Solo (Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (McCallum) is a little less easy to define. Nonetheless, the series remained popular and ran for four seasons.

Now, to the hair...

Bill Shatner wears his usual-for-this-era "Jim Kirk lace" - yet, this is a rare occasion in which the hair is styled a little more wavy; the usually rounded shape of the toupee, a little more angled.

There is a particularly unique toupological moment in this episode, and one that doesn't directly concern Bill Shatner. David McCallum's character disguises himself in the episode in order to infiltrate the Balkan embassy.

In a later scene, and right in front of Bill Shatner's character, Kuryakin removes his disguise, including his thick hairpiece (considerably heavier than the specially-designed toupee that Bill Shatner wore).

This must have been a shocking thing for Bill Shatner to have to watch.

A toupee removed before his very eyes.

Here's his reaction - make of it what you will:

Love at first sight? A kleptomaniac impulse? Truth is, unless this scene was shot with multiple cameras, Bill Shatner wasn't actually seeing the toupee removed when the camera was on him.

There are a couple of other interesting moments, including a toupee sharing a kiss with a wig (was this the first ever inter-toupular kiss aired on network television?):

And two toupees in the same shot:

Perhaps this episode was a metaphorical toupee love story of sorts, with the director and/or writer once again gaining inspiration from Bill Shatner's toupee. "The Project Strigas Affair" is available to buy as part of the The Man From U.N.C.L.E. first season DVD box-set. Presently, it can also been watched on YouTube.


  1. Bill's reaction to the toupee removal - priceless.

  2. This is one of U.N.C.L.E.'s great episodes, and would be even if it didn't have the triple trivia-buff threat of Shatner/Nimoy/Klemperer. Yes, Bill's performance at the party is a bit over the top -- but it's *supposed* to be; his character, Michael Donfield, is a chemical engineer, not a professional agent, or even an actor. Certainly the rest of his performance is top-notch. See here:

    BTW, Robert Vaughn's character name is spelled "Solo," not "Solow." Keep up the good work.

  3. Thanks, Benzadmiral - we've corrected the name. -ST

  4. I noticed in that scene that the hair piece is removed such that you don't see any lace lines or flaps of 'skin'.

    It would've been cool if there was a scene where it was shown being applied.

  5. Werner Klemperer (aka Col Klink) is on it? He was with Shats on Judgement at Nuremberg. Here's a guy that was never ashamed of showing the bald head!

  6. The waviness of this particular toup styling works well, I think;
    that is to say:

    This was a good episode, albeit hard to follow.
    And it's nigh impossible NOT to find yourself thinking that Kirk and Spock have simply beamed down to 20th century earth . . . . again.

  7. Vaughn and McCallum had a terrific on-screen chemistry. McCallum even said in an interview that the show's producers liked them to do interviews together because of it. McCallum was more popular with the teens, whereas Vaughn's fans were the more mature, less demonstrative.

  8. KH Shat Toup Sleuth since 1984June 6, 2010 at 8:38 AM

    OK, so this is a "(bleep) My Dad Says" potential toupee sighting, but I didn't know where to post it.

    As this blog has discussed, Mr. Shatner almost certainly wears a hairpiece of some sort for his on-camera work. In the video here ( at about 1:35, Shat's hair pulls away from his neck in an unnatural fashion.

    The area to which I'm referring is roughly the same place as the "weight line" in the screen grab of Shatner in the water in Star Trek IV (see the right-hand column of this blog).

  9. This video is alarming! Bill needs to lose some weight!

  10. I think its more accurate to say this toup is in the "Jim Kirk lace family" I doubt is THE Jim Kirk lace we have all grown to love on TOS. Imagine for a moment if it was. I can see a producer yelling to a courier on a bike "Hey Jimmy take this toup over to the paramount film lot, Mr Shatner is going to start another project soon" Only in our dreams!

  11. Yeah, and this toup shows a high hairline, unlike the JK rug

  12. Brilliant post! I watched this episode a few days ago with the idea of blogging about it for the Shatnerthon, but I couldn't have managed such a hilarious toupological analysis.

    Vaughn and McCallum's onscreen chemistry is one of the great joys of UNCLE. Much more adversarial than Shat and Nimoy, sometimes a little like two boys playing at being spies.

  13. How many actors, male or female have a successful career spanning more than five decades? Shatner has, and he's respected for his surviving in a field where few survive the ravages of time. Why must we always focus on things so negative and degrading? Anyone who has watched Shatner act in the many venues in which he's appear must appreciate his talent and skill in the suspension of disbelief. How many actors could so convincingly portray the captain of a military ship over the course of decades and make it feel real? Shatner has. Why not celebrate his talent as opposed to the loss of is hair. Are not we all better than that?

  14. Anonymous - please, you are misunderstanding the writings of this blog. Try to read a little deeper, so you can see where people are coming from rather than merely deliver empty platitudes. Though it must be said you've got the Capt. Kirk style pontificating lecture down pat.