THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. “The Project Strigas Affair.” NBC; 24 November 1964 (Season 1, Episode 9). Robert Vaughn (Napoleon Solo), David McCallum (Illya Kuryakin), Leo G. Carroll (Alexander Waverly). Guest Cast: William Shatner, Peggy Ann Garner, Werner Klemperer, Leonard Nimoy. Director: Joseph Sargent.

   Directed by Joseph Sargent (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three), “The Project Strigas Affair” surely deserves a special place in the annals of television history and popular culture. A lighthearted first season The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode filmed in black and white, it features both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as guest stars. This would be the first and only time they appeared together in a scripted series prior to helming the Starship Enterprise.

   It also co-stars Werner Klemperer, who would go on to portray Colonel Klink on Hogan’s Heroes. Seeing all of these faces, along with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum (who is still going strong on CBS as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on NCIS), is a real treat for those of us who grew up watching reruns of not only this quirky spy show, but also Star Trek and aforementioned Hogan’s Heroes.

   In this episode, U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin concoct a devious plan in order to neutralize a non-Soviet Bloc Eastern European ambassador, Lalso Kurasov (Klemperer) intent on foisting the United States and the Soviet Union into an unwinnable global conflict.

   They enlist the assistance of chemist-turned-pest-exterminator, Michael Donfield (Shatner) and his wife. Solo and Kuryakin hope to employ Donfield to lure Kurasov with the promise of a chemical compound that would be highly useful to Kurasov’s country. It’s the “false secret” routine, but it works exceedingly well as a plot device.

   But things aren’t going to be so simple. First of all, Kurasov is foolish, but not quite as big a fool as Solo and Kuryakin would have hoped. More significantly, Kurasov’s deputy, Vladeck (Nimoy) has his eye on Kurasov’s job and is no pushover when it comes to dirty dealing and high stakes espionage.

   Although there are a few plot holes, “The Project Strigas Affair” is overall a successful episode and one that skillfully includes enough humor and suspense to keep you watching. Sure, it’s silly at times, but who cares. For his part, Shatner comes less like the Captain Kirk character he’d soon play on Star Trek and more like the post-Trek Shatner, the one who was more than comfortable in mocking his celebrity persona.

   It makes you wonder: how many people, upon watching the first episode of Gene Roddenberry’s legendary science fiction series, said to themselves, “wait, weren’t those two guys just on a The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode?”

NOTE:   The episode can currently be seen online here.