The success and longevity of Star Trek was built on the foundation of a friendship between two very different beings; Captain Kirk and Spock, and by extension – William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. But Shatner and Nimoy did not first meet each other on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, they had actually previously worked together in another iconic 1960s TV series.
Two years before the original Star Trek series began in 1966, Shatner and Nimoy both appeared in the spy series The Man from UNCLE. The series starred Robert Vaughn as an American, Napoleon Solo, and David McCallum as the Russian Ilya Kuryakin. In a similar vein to other 60s TV shows like The Saint, The Avengers, and The Prisoner, as well as obviously the first James Bond movies – The Man from UNCLE featured stylish and sexy secret agents during the ongoing Cold War.
Shatner and Nimoy both appeared in season 1, episode 9, ‘The Project Strigas Affair’ (1964). Their characters were from opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, with Nimoy playing the villain, and Shatner playing a reluctant UNCLE recruit.
The Man from UNCLE was adapted into a brilliant, but unfortunately overlooked, 2015 Guy Ritchie movie, with Henry Cavill playing Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer playing Ilya Kuryakin.
Shatner and Nimoy started as rivals, became close friends, but then were torn asunder once more just a few years before Nimoy died. Shatner wrote a book called Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man, published in 2016, but claimed he didn’t know why they stopped talking in 2011. Despite this, both actors (and their iconic characters) are an endless source of fascination – and it’s very fun to seeing them sharing a screen before Star Trek.