Jim Phelps (Graves) led his team in a fourth season of Mission Impossible starting in 1969. The show continued its trademark traditions. Jim would receive a mission from the “self destructing” tape and would gather his IMF (Impossible Mission Force) team. The team was necessarily eclectic in nature, and it changed significantly in the fourth season. Gone were Martin Landau in his signature role of Rollin Hand and Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter, model and the team’s chief seductress Still in the team we had Barney Collier, the gadget man, played by Greg Morris. The muscle was still supplied by Willy Armitage, played by brute Peter Lupus. Leonard Nimoy joined the team in season four as Paris, who also had a skill for disguise. He was a magician, so his sleight of hand skills came in … well, handy. Together they took on missions that the government could not be officially a part of. They were always admonished that should they be caught “the secretary would disavow any knowledge” of them. Usually they were sent somewhere to put some evil mastermind out of business. Their tactics ranged from scams to outright theft. Sometimes they were a rescue team, while other times they would infiltrate a group of bad guys. There were certainly cold war elements to the whole thing. Each week the team concocted some convoluted con to play on their mark, walking away at the end of each episode often without getting any credit or congratulations.
Nimoy certainly added some fresh air to the show and was an immediate boost to the ratings. He stepped into the role when Star Trek ended its abbreviated five year mission. Mr. Spock was already an iconic character, and Nimoy was eager to step out of the pointed ears and tackle a new role in the hope of avoiding being typecast. Now how illogical was that? The fourth season did provide us with some great stories, to be sure. The Controllers was a rare Mission Impossible double episode about mind control drugs and the usual plan to control the world. Graves gets more work than usual in this one, and it’s a superior Phelps outing. The team must fake a Nazi submarine in order to get a victim to spill some beans in Submarine. Nimoy pretends to be, of all things, a robot in Robot. You get to see a little Mr. Spock here in what I’m sure was intended as a nod to the fans. In The Brothers, the team acts as a medical team after faking uremia disease and making their victim believe he needs a kidney transplant. How do you stop a madman who is terminal and has access to nuclear weapons? That’s the dilemma facing the IMF team in Time Bomb. An amazing 3 part episode, The Falcon, has the team working as Paris’s magic act to infiltrate a palace loaded with succession intrigue. As so often happens on television, the team can’t even take a vacation without getting involved in a murder case. Barney gets locked up and scheduled for execution when Phelps and the team come to the rescue in Death Squad. The season has a great list of guest stars that include: Harold Gould, Lee Meriwether, Torin Thatcher, Vic Perrin, Anne Francis, Bert Freed, Anthony Zerbe, Barry Atwater, Booth Colman, Pernell Roberts, Cicely Tyson, and John Schuck.
Each Mission Impossible episode is presented in its original television full frame format. We’re talking about a 40 year old television show, and your expectations should be adjusted accordingly. Overall the transfers are remarkably solid. While colors are a bit soft, the picture itself is rather clean. Print defects are minimal when you consider the age. Black levels are noticeably stronger than in other shows I’ve seen from this era.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track does what it needs to do, nothing less, nothing more. You get to hear the dialog and the famous theme perfectly even if not in a more modern dynamic presentation. Explosions are often muffled. The music even distorts at times, but for the most part this 40 year old soundtrack delivers enough to keep you in the mission.
Unfortunately nothing at all.
Since I began getting this series to review I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Nimoy as The Amazing Paris. Mission Impossible might be one of the earliest television shows to demonstrate that a series can lose not one but two important cast members and continue on strongly. The revolving door, started here, would continue for the remaining years of the show. While I often suggest you begin at the first season of a series, Mission Impossible doesn’t require that kind of recommendation. You can easily begin here and enjoy the episodes without any problem. This stuff’s better than the Tom Cruise films. “Look, after all we’ve been through together, you know you can trust me.”