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.
Some of the season’s highlights include Break, where the team is trying to recover the body of a dead agent because his watch contains some valuable information that can’t be allowed to fall into the proverbial “wrong hands”. Robert Conrad appears in that episode. In Two Thousand, Vic Morrow stars as a scientist trying to sell plutonium. In one of the better returns to the best kinds of Mission Impossible stories they must trick him into believing it’s the year 2000. Look at what the IM team thinks 9 years ago would look like. It’s a truly standout episode. Jim gets kidnapped, and Barney knows how to get what the kidnappers want, that is until they lose it. That’s what you get in the episode Kidnap. Jim has to pretend to be the hit man in order to try and convince a woman she is in danger. It’s love and death in the episode Boomerang. The IM team must stop a terrorist cell is after an important General in The Pendulum. And before you know it, it’s all gone.
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.
And so the original Impossible Mission came to an end. The final season was very much like the one before. Crime syndicates were more common than international dictators. It also looked like the budgets were going down. All signs that it was time to quit. The show made somewhat of a return in 1988, but it was not fated to last very long. The film franchise is now headed into a fourth film. In whatever form it might take, the original series might have been finished long ago, but it will live on “for a very long time”.