Is there a well-defined canon for The Man from U.N.C.L.E.? If so, are the novels considered canonical?

The main reason I'm asking is, I was wondering how canonical David McDaniel's explanation of the acronym THRUSH is.

closed as off-topic by Often Right, Andres F., Wad Cheber, Shevliaskovic, alexwlchan Aug 20 '15 at 7:44

  • This question does not appear to be about science fiction or fantasy within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.


The original "Man from UNCLE" TV series doesn't specifically explain what the acronym T.H.R.U.S.H. stands for, nor is there any in-universe explanation why it's referred to as W.A.S.P. in the pilot episode and then as THRUSH in later episodes.

enter image description here

The accepted acronym (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity) was the invention of a single writer; David McDaniel in his MGM authorised novel "The DAGGER Affair" published by ACE Books.

This was later confirmed in an 2002 interview with J.M. Stine which is transcribed in full on the manfromuncle.org website;

"Dave [McDaniel] was considered a master essayist and personal raconteur. And he wrote much about the writing of the UNCLE books and various excursions in the name of UNCLE.

I know he and Owen Hanifen, immortalized in the Vampire affair as a major character, I think, and others dressed up as Thrush members, complete with badges and showed up at some early Felton [Norman Felton, Co-Creator of 'The Man From UNCLE] press conference during the first season and totally freaked Felton and his co-producer out.

Once Dave had worked out what THRUSH must stand for (he came up with it, not Felton, I assume you know), he called up a call-in show Felton was on and kidded him that THRUSH was real and existed. Felton laughed of course, denied it.

Said he made THRUSH up. Then Dave played his ace. He said, if so, then what does THRUSH stand for? Felton said nothing. Dave said, you're wrong, it's the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of .... etc. Felton was stunned to silence. Then wanted to write it down."

You can also see proof of this in an article for TV Week (7/8/67) in which Normal Felton is quoted as saying

"Thrush sounded sinister and unusual so we used it. Unlike U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law Enforcement), the letters in Thrush don't stand for anything at all"

enter image description here

One of the major issues you'll find relating to Man from Uncle canon is that TV series, the follow-on film and spinoff series ("the Girl from UNCLE") and the ACE novels written by Michael Avallone, Harry Whittington, David McDaniel, Peter Leslie and John T. Phillifent can all be considered fully canon on the grounds that they were MGM-Licensed.

While that sounds like a goldmine of information to refer to, the problem is that the show actually predates the concept of canonicity. There was no single series creator, nor is there a canon bible that fans can refer to. On top of that, several of the authors supposedly wrote their novels without having even seen the original series and the events contained within both the series' and the films are often directly contradictory to what was presented in the television series.

As an example, Illya in several of the novels is particularly referred to as an ex-Soviet and naturalized American citizen rather than simply being a Russian national. In the TV episode "the Jingle Bells Affair", Illya somehow forgets how to speak Russian and is referred to as an American agent and in several of the novels main characters have their names misspelled.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.