Lalo Schifrin’s Mission: Impossible theme and the self-destructing tape-recorded messages transcended the series and became icons. Some people first became aware of them through parodies before ever seeing the show. That would explain how people have fond memories because the show really should be called Mission: Ridiculous, considering how bad the stories are.
The series tracks the adventures of the Impossible Mission Force, a U.S. spy agency whose exploits find them traveling abroad, behind the Iron Curtain and to fictitious Latin America countries, and taking care of business at home against foreign agents and mobsters.
Every show opens with Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) getting his team’s assignment before the message disintegrates. He is told by the voice, “Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it,” which is upon consideration odd because he always accepts the mission. What would happen if he passed on a top-secret mission? Is there another team to do it? Would his memory have to be erased?
Jim then meets with his IMF team to work out a plan. They are technical expert Barney Collier (Greg Morris), the muscle Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus), master of disguise Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) and Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain) whose only expertise was that she was a good-looking woman and they needed one in many scenarios. On occasion, they would be thrown curves in their plans, but they always quickly recovered and came out on top. That would be bad enough, but the writers stretched believability beyond the breaking point when the IMF would know the type of file folders or prison towels used in other countries.
Hollywood fans will enjoy seeing celebrities and future stars appear. Some of the guest stars included Joan Collins, Lee Grant, Larry Linville, Sugar Ray Robinson, Pernell Roberts, John Vernon, and Anthony Zerbe. Lee Meriwether would later appear in season four as IMF agent Tracey in three episodes. The third season was the last for Landau and Bain. Leonard Nimoy came in the following year and took over as the master of disguise.
The Emmys honored the series this season, especially the cast. Bain won for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series. Nominations went to Graves and Landau for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series and Morris for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series. The show was nominated for Outstanding Dramatic Series and a category that is no longer honored Outstanding Dramatic Program for episode “The Execution.”
The DVD case states, “some episodes may be edited from their original network versions,” which is sure to disappoint some M:I fans. CBS/Paramount is apparently not sure themselves from their ambiguous language. There was no clean up work done on the prints. A hair appears in the bottom of a scene during “The Glass Cage.” The audio is available in English 5.1 Surround, English Mono, and Spanish Mono. There are no extras.
Mission: Impossible – The Third TV Season might be tolerable for spy junkies, baby boomers who grew up with the series, and those who want to see where shows like 24 came from, but it certainly won’t hold up for today’s sophisticated television viewer. If assigned to watch it, don’t accept that mission.