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st_crispins in ship_manifesto

Romancing the Spider: Solo/Angelique (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.)

Title: Romancing the Spider (Solo/Angelique)
Author: st_crispins
Email: ciwalker at att dot net.
Personal Website: St. Crispins Day Society
Fandom: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Spoilers: Episode: The Deadly Games Affair
Acknowledgements: Thanks to all the cousins who responded to my requests, and sent me titles, lists of stories, and suggested links.

"Angelique, you're marvelous. With a dozen more like you, Thrush could rule the world...
Darling, another dozen like me and there would be no need for Thrush." ---The Deadly Games Affair

Angelique appeared in only one episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., "The Deadly Games Affair" written by Dick Nelson. (Nelson also wrote another key episode, "The Mad Mad Tea Party Affair"). This was the fifth episode aired during First Season. Despite Angelique's importance to the story, we never learn very much about her personally, not even her last name. Yet, on the basis of a half dozen scenes, she has become one of the more developed, interesting and familiar figures in MFU fandom.

By my count, in 105 episodes of the series, there were some 40 villainesses and/or women consciously allied with the opposition (this excludes the so-called "Innocents" who might not have realized they were working for the bad guys). Napoleon Solo was romantically involved with at least 10 of them. Of that group, only a few of them have made frequent appearances in the almost 40 years of MFU fiction (yes, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. even pre-dates Star Trek) and none of them come close to Angelique. Indeed, arguably, only Victor Marton, the Thrush villain played by Vincent Price in Second Season, is as popular.

For the Uninitiated: U.N.C.L.E. vs Thrush
"We're showing people things to come and we're doing it with a sense of humor. So rather than make a comment on life as it is today, we are commenting on life as it will be in the future." ---Norman Felton, creator.

For those unfamiliar with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement is a mythical top-secret, multi-national security organization with headquarters in five major cities around the world, including New York. Its mission is to protect and defend all nations, without regard to size, importance, or political system.

In each episode, U.N.C.L.E.'s craggy spymaster, Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll), sends out his two top agents, a suave American named Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) teamed with an enigmatic Russian named Illya Kuryakin (played by David McCallum), to do battle against exotic, larger-than-life international villains. In the course of each week's "affair," at least one civilian or "innocent" is inevitably caught up in the action

Although at the time it premiered, MFU was often described as television's answer to James Bond, it was much more than that. It not only redefined the spy genre, but it anticipated the politics of the post-Cold War world we know today. It was a pop culture phenomenon and still is. In 1965, TV Guide called it "the mystic cult of millions."

Thrush (or, THRUSH in apocryphal canon, ie: The Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity) is U.N.C.L.E.'s main antagonist. In publicity materials for the series, Thrush is described as a "supra-nation" without geographical boundaries whose main goal is to rule the world. It is organized into self-contained cells or satrapies, headed by a Council of rogue scientists, industrialists, and intellectuals and advised by a highly advanced thinking machine called the Ultimate Computer. Thrush is about money, power, terrorism and domination. In the pilot episode, Solo describes it as an organization that kills people "the way people kill flies. A careless flick of the wrist...a reflex action."

"She is smiling. Who is dead?" --- The Deadly Games Affair

Like the organization she works for, Angelique is Eee-vil. With her platinum blonde hair, Marilyn Monroe voluptuousness, and a definite taste for furs and snazzy sports cars, she's the epitome of the classic femme fatale. Angelique doesn't walk; she slinks. Her expression is seductive and knowing, her eyes are catlike and have a slight cast to them, and her smile is off-kilter and not quite right, as if she's constantly contemplating wicked thoughts. I searched through the actual original script to see how the writer described her, but the only word Nelson used was "ravishing."

Angelique is played by Janine Gray, a British character actress who guest starred in episodes of The Avengers, Rat Patrol and Danger Man (Secret Agent), and had small roles in The Americanization of Emily and The Pumpkin Eater. Perhaps because Gray is not widely known, there are no other signature roles to dilute or confuse her impact as Angelique. Originally, the producers hoped to have recurring characters in the series, but for a variety of reasons, only Emory Partridge and Dr. Egret were in more than one episode. However, if there had been more returning villains, certainly Angelique would have been one of them.

Napoleon Solo
"Our Achilles has a great experience in that field. His heel seems to be women." ---The Nowhere Affair.

Actually, more properly, it's sex, but they couldn't say that straight out on network television in the mid-60s.

Solo is the chief of U.N.C.L.E. New York's Section Two - Operations and Enforcement. He's handsome, suave, and sophisticated in a Cary Grant way, as well as shrewd, determined, dedicated, and loyal to a fault. On the other hand, he also has a substantial ego. He's vain and manipulative, takes enormous risks, and likes to push his legendary luck. Robert Vaughn who played him has commented in interviews that he thought Solo was a little nuts.

With a libido to match his ego, Solo seduces (usually in a gentlemanly way) pretty much everyone around him --- friend, and enemy alike, and even, in some sense (depending upon whether your perspective is gen or slash), his cranky stubborn partner as well.

In the series, he romances and/or flirts with a number of female Thrush agents, including the gorgeous Serena, the devious Angela, and the self-absorbed Narcissus. Although the sex occurs off-screen (this is '60s network TV, remember, when even married couples slept in twin beds) there is every indication that Solo is great in the sack. In "The Nowhere Affair," Mara, a Thrush scientist sent in to jog his memory after he takes the U.N.C.L.E. amnesia drug, Capsule B, falls deeply in love with him. After spending the night with him in "Come With Me to the Casbah Affair," Ayesha, a professional belly dancer, smiles radiantly while she describes how he read poetry to her (she also leaves behind her girdle in his bed). A lot of the secretaries at U.N.C.L.E. HQ are vulnerable to him, too (there's apparently a lot of action going on in the map room), although they're not too pleased when they hear him whispering sweet nothings to the Thrush agent Margo while he uses an open communicator to help HQ triangulate his position in "The Sort of Do-It Yourself Dreadful Affair."

Solo and Angelique Together
"Darling, business first. If we don't do our jobs, they won't let us play together, n'est-ce pas?" --- The Deadly Games Affair

Needless to say, these two are a potentially volatile combination. In "The Deadly Games Affair," they share the screen for several scenes and three of those scenes pretty much sums up the relationship.

The plot of "Deadly Games" concerns a Nazi biochemist named Wolfgang Volp who is working on a rejuvenation process, with the ultimate goal of bringing Hitler back to life. To finance his research, he is selling off his rare stamp collection. When one of those stamps surfaces at a New York auction, both U.N.C.L.E. and Thrush show up to bid for it.

At the auction, we watch as Solo and Angelique maneuver around each other. They compete, plan and try to seduce each other, and when they talk together, they sound as if they're ready to jump into bed. On the other hand, there's an edginess to their exchanges that hints that they're just as likely to shoot as screw each other. Neither one trusts the other, and yet, there's obviously a kind of friendship between them as well.

Later, after they call a truce and win the bid, they visit a philately expert who examines the stamp. Because it's part of a broken set, the stamp is worthless and the mission hits a dead end. Before she leaves, however, Angelique pins a boutonniere to Solo's label, which also happens to contain a deadly poisonous spider. Thanks to Kuryakin's sharp eye and quick reflexes, Solo manages to avoid getting bitten.

"One of Angelique's relatives?" Kuryakin quips. The stamp expert is appalled. "You mean to tell me that beautiful young woman tried to kill you?" he asks. But Solo is philosophical. "You know Shakespeare, my friend? 'What a goodly outside falsehood hath?' Well, there went the goodliest outside in the whole falsehood game."

The last scene of consequence for this discussion occurs at the end, when the affair is over. Kuryakin tells Solo he has a visitor out by the security entrance and that he'd better go attend to it before "the place gets a bad name."

Predictably, it's Angelique, perched ladylike on the hood of her Corvette, looking winsome and waiting to corral Solo for a date.

"Truce time," she declares.
"No spiders?" Solo asks, suspicious.
"Just me darling."

And with that, he agrees. (But note the I-can't-believe-I'm-doing-this expression on his face). She hands Solo the keys to her car and they drive off together.

They could almost be Romeo and Juliet, caught in the feud between the Montagues (U.N.C.L.E.) and the Capulets (Thrush) except, Romeo is promiscuous and Juliet is lethal.

Oh, and Mercutio really, really, doesn't approve.

...and Illya
"How's the punch?... It just went flat. Someone recognize you?...Not just recognized me, treated me like a long lost brother. ---The Deadly Games Affair"

In addition to her distinct appearance, mannerisms and speech (all those "daarlings"), perhaps one of the reasons that Angelique is utilized so often in fan fiction is that she also has a kind of relationship with Illya Kuryakin as well. It's clear from the first opening moments of the auction scene that Kuryakin does not approve of Angelique, nor is he particularly happy to see Solo with her. "Sometime, you must tell me what it's like romancing a woman who would kill you without a qualm if Thrush ordered it." Solo's wistful smile speaks volumes when he replies, "It adds spice, and I flatter myself that she might have a few qualms." In the original script, Solo's line continues with "just the slightest, fleeting regret."

It's interesting to note that while they meet many other female Thrush agents and one of Solo's other dalliances, Serena, actively tries to murder Illya, we only witness Kuryakin's antipathy toward Angelique.

A few minutes later, we see that Angelique is also aware of Kuryakin's disapproval and equally amused by it. "Really Napoleon, your friend is much too grim," she complains, to which Solo replies, "The truth is, he's jealous."

Gen/het writers focus on Solo's "qualms" observation and Illya's concern that Solo is putting himself at grave and unnecessary risk, while the indication of "jealousy" fascinates those who write slash. If Kuryakin is jealous, of whom? Certainly, he doesn't wish to romance Angelique herself. It's perfectly clear he'd rather have his eyes gouged out than give her so much as a kiss.

The qualms and the jealousy remarks, as well as Solo and Angelique's playful, sexually drenched gamesmanship in the midst of deadly, serious business, has fueled many a fan fiction story since. What's the attraction? What exactly do they do together, anyway? Is Solo right in thinking that Angelique may have some affection for him? What does he feel for her in return? Does Waverly know what's going on? Does he approve or disapprove? (After all, Angelique is bold enough to show up outside U.N.C.L.E. headquarters). Is it possible that Solo is as dangerous to her as she is to him? Is it worth the risk? And what would happen if Illya and Angelique ever had to cooperate with one another or --- perish the thought!--- end up in bed together.

Within the Fandom.

As I noted earlier, Angelique has continued to develop as a character through fan fiction. A few years ago, Linda Cornett gave her a last name, "LeChien" (you can do the translation) and it's become part of the fanon. Although Angelique and Victor Marton appeared in different episodes in different seasons, writers have sometimes connected the two with good results.

Not surprisingly, Angelique put in a number of appearances in the NC-17 gen zine series, Eyes Only (available here ) but she is just as ubiquitous, perhaps even more so, in slash. MFU as a fandom is about half print and half online, and a quick search turned up more than 50 stories in which she rates at least an important mention. Authors who have written Angelique at some length include Linda Cornett, (particularly in her zine, Through Innocent Eyes, read review here) F.Y. Driver, Hephaestion, Brenda Atrim, Bill Koenig, Linda White, Jane Terry, Kelly Matthews, Shay Sheridan, Yum Yum, Summer, and myself.

I must admit, I volunteered to do this essay because Angelique runs through a great deal of my St. Crispin's Day Society universe. I've written her young and deadly in Uncertainty Principle, lost and bitter in Adieu, mature and devious in Legacy, tormenting poor Illya in Romancing the Spider and testing out the submissive role with Solo in its companion piece, Taming the Spider. I've also had a lot of fun with her in Small Sacrifices, which I wrote with N.L. Hayes. In that novel, Solo tests a new, improved version of Capsule B, and mistakes Angelique for an ally and Illya for an enemy. At one point, Solo agrees to make Illya "apologize" for comparing her to insects, vermin and serpents.

"You'd do that for me, Napoleon? You'd bring me his head on a platter?"
"Of course," Solo said with a dark, malevolent smile. He held her with his arms and his eyes. "Or his balls, whichever you prefer."
Angelique returned the smile, radiant. And as she kissed him again, almost tenderly, she thought that, perhaps, for the first time in her life, she was truly in love.

Angelique's function in MFU stories falls into several categories. Of course, she can play the villain, and a pretty wicked one at that, as she does in Tears of Heaven Affair by Summer and To Rent A Spy by Marie Louise Yately.

Other times, while her schemes cause trouble, as in Brenda Atrim's The Plausible Deniability Affair, she's more mischievous than murderous. Occasionally, Angelique can be an ally, as she is in Shay Sheridan's Phoenix and in Yum Yum's Blood Brothers .

Most interesting is when Angelique serves as a mirror for the agents, acting as the intuitive observer or the catalyst for self-reflection. In Bill Koenig's Land of the Living, she urges Solo to get past his malaise over the death of Clara. In Jane Terry's Needs Solo's inability to respond to her flirtations tips him off that he's been affected by a brutal incarceration more than he realized.

In a number of slash stories, such as Angelique Said What? by Yum Yum, Angelique is the one who notices the attraction between Solo and Kuryakin, often before they are aware of it themselves.

In fact, elsewhere on ship_manifesto, you can read Angelique's thoughts on Solo/Kuryakin right here.

Probably the wittiest, most clever take on this concept I've ever read is Linda Cornett's "While You Were Sleeping" in the zine, Clandestine Affairs 2. In it, Angelique slyly plants the idea in Solo's head of having sex with his partner, fueling hot fantasies that run through his mind for the rest of the story.

In other slash stories, she's the yardstick by which Solo compares his attraction to Illya, clarifies his own feelings, and explores his motivations. For example, from The Sacrifice Affair by Sarah Lindsay:

He had to admit that his most thrilling sexual liaisons had been with Thrush vixens like Angelique, the danger only adding to his excitement. Now he had embarked upon an even more taboo sexual relationship with his male partner, and Illya Kuryakin was far and away the most dangerous lover he had ever taken to his bed.

And from Safe Harbor by Kellie Matthews:

The only women who'd really moved him in ages were women who had something in common with his partner, either his intelligence-- like Kate, or his deadliness- like Angelique. Even then, none of them had made him feel this way. ...That made sense. After all, they'd gone at it like minks out in San Francisco and not once had Illya offered this before. Clearly he preferred to lead. Napoleon understood the feeling. But variety was the proverbial spice of life. That had been part of Angelique's appeal.

And in But Not for Me by Jane Fairfax:

"You." Solo tousled his hair fondly. "You're a little like Angelique to me."
Kuryakin made a face. "Thanks a lot."
"I mean you're dangerous and forbidden. And a little bit irresistible."
"Only a little bit?" Kuryakin turned, offended.
"Just a little bit," Solo teased.

For those who have never seen "The Deadly Games Affair" there are screen caps of the episode here and pictures of Angelique at Solovision here. And for more discussion on Angelique and the episode, go here for a general overview, and to the Partner Mine site here for a slash analysis.

And finally, for more info on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the fandom, go to The Fans from U.N.C.L.E.


Wonderful! Though you know I'm an unrepentant slasher, I do confess an affection for Angelique (as you noted above). If Napoleon has to have a female in his bed, I'm just as happy to have it be your Spider Woman. Great job.
Great job, Cindy.

blue by darkhavens

January 2018



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