With so many cast changes, it didn’t really come as too much of a surprise to fans that the series was winding down. Only one more season would follow, and this year never clicked in quite the same way previous seasons had. By now the team was so significantly different that there was little of the cast chemistry that made this one such a winner. With its glory years behind and only one more struggling year to come, we reach the end of our journey with the IM Force.
Jim Phelps (Graves) led his team in a sixth season of Mission Impossible starting in 1971. 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 sixth season. Gone were Leonard Nimoy, Leslie Ann Warren, and Sam Elliott in his signature role of Dr. Robert. 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. 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.
They say that justice is blind. I don’t know about that, but in the first of 22 episodes in this collection, Phelps willingly loses his own sight to take the place of an operative deep undercover in the mob. The episode, Blind, is actually one of the better episodes of the series; however, it begins a rather nonexceptional season of missions. The season deals a lot more with mob guys and less with dictators and moguls. In fact, the first 7 episodes all deal with syndicate figures. In The Visitors, the team takes advantage of a syndicate boss who believes in UFO’s. They drug him and pose as aliens with a “cure” to get the information they need. All but a mere handful of episodes take this turn for the worse on Mission Impossible. I generally like mob stories, but I was too enthralled by the international espionage angles that this seems like a demotion for the team.
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.
The new faces make this one of the more interesting seasons to watch. No matter what, you’re just not going to want to stop your collection here. Paramount knows this. Honestly, there are likely fans that liked the new angles and consider it a fresh take on the concept. Even here, the episodes are still compelling and tightly written. Your mission is simply to continue your collection for these final two years, “if you decide to accept it”.