Friday, 25 September 2015

Mission Impossible - 5 People Can Save the World! #FanFridays 6

It's geek time again and for Fan Fridays 6 I have chosen another old favourite of mine: Mission Impossible, the original series. I do hope you enjoy reminiscing with me.

Mission Impossible
5 People Can Save the World!

I love Mission Impossible. It's one of those shows I remember fondly from watching reruns on TV when I was a child. Since it finished it's run in 1973, the year after I was born, I didn't get to see it the first time around.

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For those who have not seen Mission Impossible, each week members of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) go into enemy territory, be is on foreign soil or undercover within the syndicate, and stop something dastardly happening. The way they do this is usually by pure trickery using the bad guys own insecurities or ego against them. The first five seasons, at least, are very clever.

At the beginning of each episode "Mr Phelps" is given his mission via tape recorder or record or even via coin operated binocular type machines. Every message in the first five seasons ended like this:
As always, if you or any of you IM force are caught or killed the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This message will self destruct in 5 seconds.
I always thought that was terribly exciting, even though I had no idea who this "Secretary" person was :).

As a child I never realised there was a permanent cast except for Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) and I really believed he sat down and picked different people for the mission each week. How I failed to notice they were always the same I'll never know, but somehow I managed it :).

I also never realised that in the first season it wasn't Jim who led the team. It was Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) who was in charge. I didn't figure this out until Rob and I bought the first set of DVDs while were were on holiday in Canada for our 10th wedding anniversary. We had a little cabin for a week and we used to go walking and sightseeing in the mornings and curl up with hot drinks in front of the TV in the afternoons before going somewhere posh for dinner - hence the DVDs.

I think what I love most about Mission Impossible is the fact it is a fundamental illustration that the bad guys don't win. We all know that in real life sometimes they do, but not in the world of Jim, Barney, Rollin, Cinnamon and Willy.

That's the team I always used to remember from watching it as a child. I think BBC2 may have had a licence to show season 2 and 3 a lot.

The team for s2 & s3 are as follows:
  • Jim Phelps - the brains behind the ingenious plans
  • Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain) - ex-model and sometimes the honey-trap, but not always
  • Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) - magician, impersonator and all round useful man to know
  • Barney Collier (Greg Morris) - electronics engineer
  • Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus)  - strong man
One of the great things about Barney was that the fact he was a person of colour was never made an issue. He was like Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise; there for skills and ability as if this was how things simply were. Given that this was 1966-1973 for the original run - this was awesome. There were a couple of episodes that relied on the colour of his skin, mostly because the team were infiltrating the African American mob or something similar, but for the majority of episodes he was the engineering brain of the team.

Cinnamon wasn't quite so lucky in that she did get to be the honey trap on a lot of occasions, but she did get to be lots of other interesting parts of the plans as well. Dana (Lesley Ann Warren), who came in, in season 5 had something of a more dynamic storyline, which was an improvement.

For two seasons we also had the wonderful Leonard Nimoy as Paris, taking over Rollin's roll when Martin Landau left to pursue other projects.

Whether it was the dreaded Eastern block, the Syndicate, enemy assassins, defecting scientists or sons of Nazis who wanted the 4th Reich, the Mission Impossible team could bring them down. They never used brute force and they were always the little guy, hopelessly out gunned by the opposition, but their cleverness always won out in the end.

With their gadgets, their face masks that could magically make someone look exactly like someone else, their incredible, devious plans and the ingenuity of the individual members, not once did they fail and not once did the Secretary have to disavow their existence, at least, not until the 1980s remake.

I have all seven seasons on DVD, and the 1980s reboots as well, and I love them all. They are my go to, feel good TV show when I want to know that everything can be right with the world. The only thing is, if you watch too many eps, you do begin to believe that 5 people can solve any problem in the world, anywhere!

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There are so many wonderful episodes that I cannot pick just one as my favourite. Some of the ones I really like are:

  • S1 - Zubrovnik's Ghost - wife or deceased scientist, Kurt Zubrovnik, is being pressured to work for the Eastern block by a fake psychic using her husband's ghost. Using their own psychic the IMF try to convince her of the fraud.
  • S2 - The Condemned - Jim's friend, David Webster, has been framed for the murder and Jim asks the other members of the IMF to help prove his friend's innocence.
  • S3 - Live Bait - An double agent for the US, Selby is suspected by his colleague Kellerman. The IMF have to discredit Kellerman and keep Selby in position within the enemy intelligence agency.
  • S4 - Submarine - A Nazi, Kruger Schtelman, has kept silent about a hoard of Nazi gold for the whole of his imprionment. Due to be released in 3 days, the IMF must get him to give up the location of the gold before it falls into the hands of the government holding Schtelman or neo-Nazis.
  • S5 - Cat's Paw - Barney sets out to get the people who killed his journalist brother with the help of the rest of the IMF team.

One thing I will say is that the double eps are always my least favourite because the writers had the timing down perfectly for single eps and when they spread into double eps they often simply padded them :). The stories are still good, but with a little too much filler.

There are seven seasons and I would say 1-5 are excellent, 6 is okay and 7 is watchable, but a bit meh. They changed the format in the last couple of season and focused on domestic stories mostly involving organised crime, because they were cheaper to film, They are not as clever or as interesting as the earlier seasons. When watching season 7 you can tell why they were cancelled in the end.

I love this show and I highly recommend it to everyone. It has such a feel good vibe.

Have you seen the original Mission Impossible? Do you have a favourite character? What do you always remember most?

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1 comment:

  1. I'm not such a BIG fan of MI, but I do occasionally like to sit down an watch an ep - the format was never too worrying - everything goes along smoothly until one hitch in the plan looks like it will scupper everything and then actually you find out either they planned it that way in the first place, or they had contingency in place - it's a lot like Leverage in that respect - maybe we should swap DVD sets :)


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