“Your mission, should you decide to accept it…”
Those words have certainly been a part of the American pop culture for almost 50 years. It all started with the Desilu television series that hit the airwaves in 1966. That first year is probably unfamiliar to most of us. It was in black & white and starred Steven Hill as the leader of the Impossible Mission Force. A year later the show jumped to color and Peter Graves took over the team as the indomitable Jim Phelps. The show lasted a good 7 seasons. The Impossible Mission Force was a black-ops team that worked under the “secretary” who would disavow their mission should any of the team be caught or killed. The show had a pretty good run before ending in 1973. Gone, but never forgotten.
The most popular reincarnation of the franchise began with the Tom Cruise feature film in 1996, 30 years after the original series began. The film took the franchise into a new high-tech world and added a good dose of modern action to the formula. The result was a series of sequels, including the forthcoming Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. What many of you might not be aware of is the revival television series that lasted for two seasons starting in 1988. For the first time, those episodes are now becoming available on DVD.
The new show acknowledges the time since the first series ended. In the pilot a retired Jim Phelps (Graves) is called back into action when the current head of the Impossible Mission Force is killed. He assembles a brand new team and stays on after the case to lead them. The new team consisted of the same kind of talents that fans will remember from the original teams. To help make that transition even more powerful we get Grant Collier, the technology expert on the team. Grant is played by Phil Morris, who happens to be the son of Greg Morris. Fans recall that Greg Morris played Barney Collier, who served the same function on that show. Grant is the son of that character. Thaao Penghlis played Nicholas Black. Black was the master of disguise and masks. That role, of course, had a few characters during the original run including one played by Leonard Nimoy. The most famous of those characters was played by Martin Landau. Anthony Hamilton plays Max Harte. Harte is the tactics and weapons expert on the team. Each IMF team had a young woman who added some glam to the team, and that role fell first to Terry Markwell who played Casey Randall and after 11 episodes V’s Jane Badler who played Shannon Reed. Markwell left the show quickly over disputes on her character’s screentime. Her ego was fans’ gain as Badler was a much better actress and character. In another nod to the original series Bob Johnson returned as the voice on the mission discs, which replaced tapes, that would still self-destruct after 5 seconds.
The missions were very much the same kinds of things. In fact, the show began during the writers’ strike of 1988. That meant that many of these episodes were recycled stories from the original show. Many were exact copies. That ability might have been a big help in getting the series on the air that year. The stories were alike, but sadly the cast never did have the chemistry and dynamic of the earlier series. Penghlis and Hamilton are particularly weak in the acting department and have about as much charisma as a stale tuna sandwich. Actually, that’s not quite fair. I’ve seen some impressive stale tuna sandwiches in my time.
The show lasted two years and is a nice way to round out your collection.
Each episode is presented in its original full-frame broadcast aspect ratio. These images look really bad. There is a lot of shimmer, and compression artifact dominates the video presentation. To make it worse, it appears these might even be dubs from tape versions. The quality suffers in every way imaginable.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track doesn’t do anything more than serve the dialog. Music gets distorted in places.
With a new film on the way, I’d say this is as good a time as any to bring out the series. It’s obvious that Paramount does not have high hopes for the release, as they put little effort into the presentation. The old show actually has a cleaner image. This show relied too heavily on green screen for locations and in 1988 that means image shifts and halo effects. It’s a dated piece of television that is strictly for the fans and proves the adage quite nicely: “Time does march on…”