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Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible (often referred to as Mission: Impossible: The Original Series) is an American television series that chronicles the missions of a team of secret American government agents known as the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). For most of the show's run, Peter Graves played Jim Phelps, the IMF leader.

The series aired on the CBS network from September 1966 to March 1973. It returned to television, as a revival, for two seasons on ABC, from 1988 to 1990 and later inspired a popular trio of theatrical motion pictures starring Tom Cruise in the 1990s and 2000s.

The theme music, composed by Lalo Schifrin, is widely considered to be one of the most iconic television themes.

Series overview

The series, which was created and initially produced by Bruce Geller, follows the missions of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), a team of secret agents employed by the United States government. The team is sent on covert missions to combat dictators, evil organizations, and (primarily in later episodes) crime lords. On occasion, the IMF is also shown conducting unsanctioned, private missions on behalf of its members. The exact branch of the government overseeing the IMF is never identified, and in the 1980s revival it was suggested the IMF is an independent agency (as the FBI is legally bound to operate only within the U.S.A. and the CIA is likewise bound to only conduct its business outside the U.S.A.) until the first film which was made at the Langley, VA headquarters of the CIA. The IMF Director answered to "the Secretary," who the mission voice said "would disavow any knowledge of your actions" in the event "you or any of your IM Force" were to get "caught or killed," but exactly which secretary was never indicated.

IMF leaders

The leader of the IMF, presumably with the official title of Director, was initially Dan Briggs (played by Steven Hill); he was replaced (for reasons never explained on the show) after the first season by Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), who remained as the leader for the remainder of the original series and again in the 1988-90 revival.

Hill, an Orthodox Jew, had to leave on Fridays at 4:00 to be home before sundown. He was not available until sundown the next day. Although his contract allowed for taping interruption due to religious observances, the clause proved difficult to work around due to the taping schedule. By the end of the first year, both parties agreed to release him from his contract. He was replaced by Peter Graves at the beginning of the second season.

Briggs and Phelps were the only "full-time" members of the IMF, and they were charged with forming mission teams made up of "part-time" agents who came from a variety of professions and walks of life. Briggs/Phelps chose his operatives based upon whether they had a particular skill to contribute to the mission. There was a core group of three or four agents who were regularly chosen, but the episodes do not always feature the same regulars, and many episodes feature one-time "guest star" agents who are assigned based upon a unique skill.

For an example, the regular agent line-up during the first season consists of: Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), a fashion model and actress; Barney Collier, (Greg Morris) a mechanical and electronics genius and owner of Collier Electronics; Willy Armitage, (Peter Lupus) a world record-holding weight lifter; and Rollin Hand, (Martin Landau) a noted actor, make-up artist, escape artist, and magician. As actors left the series over time, other agents became regulars; Barney and Willy were the only agents to remain throughout the full run of the original series. Collier also appeared in two episodes of the revival series, in which the character's son, Grant Collier (Greg Morris's real-life son Phil Morris), is an IMF agent. Replacements often incorporated the skills of their predecessors. For example, "The Great Paris", (Leonard Nimoy) Hand's replacement in the fourth and fifth seasons, was also an actor, make-up artist and magician. In seasons six and seven, Paris was replaced by a female master of disguise, Lisa Casey (Lynda Day George), who also incorporated elements of Cinnamon Carter.

Cold War subtext

Although a Cold War subtext is present throughout the series, the actual "Cold War" between the United States and the Soviet Union is rarely mentioned over the course of the series. (See, for example, the mission objectives for "The Trial" and "The Confession" in Season 1.) However, in the early years many of the targets appear to be the leaders of Slavic or anonymous Baltic countries; major named enemy countries include the "European People's Republic" and the "Eastern European Republic". Additionally, fictitious, Slavic-seeming languages were used, or even real Russian (in the Season 1 episode "The Carriers," one of the bad guys reads a book whose title is written in Russian and says "Na Voina", which means "about war"); police vehicles are often labelled as such with words such as "polǐiçia", and "pőĮįia", and a gas line would be labelled "Gaz." (This "language," referred to by the production team as "Gellerese," was invented specifically to be readable by non-speakers of Slavic languages; their generous use of it was actually intended as a source of comic relief.) Uniforms of the target regime frequently include peaked caps, jackboots, and Sam Browne belts, hinting at connections with Nazi Germany or the Warsaw Pact.

Adversaries unrelated to the Cold War

The IMF is also assigned to bring down corrupt politicians and dictators of Third World countries unrelated to the Cold War, such as a particularly brutal practitioner of apartheid or corrupt Central or South American nations, as well as organized crime figures, corrupt businessmen and politicians in the U.S. As noted in the reference work The Complete "Mission: Impossible" Dossier by Patrick White, many IMF missions were essentially assassinations in disguise; in the first-season episode "Memory" it is established that the unspecified government agency behind the IMF has forbidden it to commit outright assassinations "as a matter of policy," and many missions therefore involve the IMF creating circumstances such as distrust and discreditation that often resulted (a la COINTELPRO) in villains being killed by their own people or other enemies. A notable example is the second season two-part story "The Council," later released to European movie houses under the title Mission Impossible vs. the Mob, in which the IMF, with premeditation, creates a circumstance in which the villain will inevitably be killed by his own men. There is some inconsistency in this policy and, as an example, the sadistic camp commander in "Snowball in Hell" is killed directly by the team. Gunplay is relatively rare on the part of the IMF since its methods for accomplishing its various missions tend to be those used by con men to fleece the gullible, although several episodes in the early seasons (for example, the second season episode, "The Spy", as well as in the pilot episode) do show the agents shooting people in the course of their missions, when necessary (usually underlings or enemy soldiers).

Fifth season

During the fifth season, White notes, the producers began to phase out the international missions, deciding instead to task the IMF with battling organized crime figures (though there was still the occasional international mission). These gangland bosses are usually associated with the "Syndicate," a generic organization, or its franchises. Generally when describing such assignments the tape message noted that the target was outside the reach of "conventional law enforcement." The objective of such missions was usually simply to obtain evidence admissible in court or to trick the mobsters into making a confession while being recorded.

Format

Mission: Impossible is noted for its format which rarely changes throughout the series. Indeed the opening scenes acquired a ritualistic feel, befitting the "quasi-official" aura the program sought for the clandestine operations it showcases.

Tape scene

Most episodes of the series begin with the team leader arriving at some public place -- a park, a penny arcade, a store, etc. where, invariably after sharing a few words with a clerk or attendant (using a code sentence to signal to them that he is after the recording), he will find a hidden recording. The most familiar format of this recording was reel to reel tape played on a small recorder, but in the first few seasons of the series, Briggs/Phelps would receive the briefing using any manner of playback device such as phonograph records and slide-tape projection machines, and in one early episode ("Memory"), Briggs receives his instructions on a business card. An envelope of photographs of the primary "targets" of the assignment usually accompanied the recording, and the team leader would be shown flipping through these while listening to the recorded message. These recordings were always placed in an inconspicuous place. Aside from giving Briggs/Phelps the basics of the mission, the recording always indicated that the IMF leader had the option of refusing the mission ("Your mission, should you decide to accept it..."), and that should any team member be "caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions" (in the history of the series, this happened only once when an IMF agent died during the 1988 revival season). At this point the message needed to be destroyed in order to maintain secrecy; the most famous rendition of this is the recorded voice's advisory, "This tape will self-destruct in five seconds," at which time the tape would disintegrate in a cloud of smoke. Until this became standard, Briggs/Phelps would also often be requested to destroy the tape manually ("Please dispose of this...in the usual manner,") by tossing it into a nearby furnace, nearby vat of acid; or even disposing of it in a large container of water, which because it was coated with special chemicals, would cause the tape to instantly decompose. In the first season episode "Action!," due to the absence of actor Steven Hill, the taped message was received by agent Cinnamon Carter. This was the only time someone other than Briggs/Phelps received the briefing. In the 1980s revival, the message arrived on miniature DVD-like discs, played on a disposable miniature video player with a built-in screen, which as usual would self-destruct after being played. These briefings were read by voice actor Bob Johnson in the original series and the 1988 revival (the aforementioned episode "Memory" is the only regular-format episode in which Johnson was not heard), but the identity of the character was never revealed, nor was his face ever shown. (It is presumed that this is not the Secretary himself; whoever it is they evidence a familiarity with Briggs/Phelps, enough so to be on a first name basis with them, as the recordings usually end with "Good luck, Dan" or "Good luck, Jim"). The film Mission: Impossible revealed the name of the person behind the messages in the film as Eugene Kittridge, played by Henry Czerny. In the second film, the voice behind the messages was given the name Swanbeck and was played by Anthony Hopkins. The voice in the third film is that of IMF agent Ethan Hunt's superior, played by Billy Crudup. It is not known if any of the film characters correspond to the TV version. There were a handful of exceptions to the "message from the Secretary". In the fifth season the producers experimented with the format by eliminating the taped briefing, starting the episode with the mission already underway. In a few other cases, a personal matter involving Briggs, Phelps or an IMF operative would result in an "off-book" mission being undertaken. Peter Graves, who played the role of Jim Phelps, once said the entire season's worth of "tape scenes" were usually filmed all at once prior to production of the rest of the episodes, and that he never knew which tape scene would appear with which episode until broadcast. During the original run of the series, the "tape scene" was twice parodied on The Tonight Show by Johnny Carson, showing him as the "Improbable Missions Force" leader trapped with the self-exploding tape in a telephone booth and a men's room, both times staggering out afterward dazed and with his clothing scorched and tattered, and in the latter with the toilet seat hanging on his shoulder.

Dossier scene

Next would follow what White refers to as the "Dossier Scene". Briggs or Phelps would be shown in a high-class apartment (presumably his own or an IMF-sponsored safe house), retrieving an oversized, leather-bound dossier folder from a locked drawer. Inside this folder were plastic-wrapped dossiers (usually featuring standard 8x10 "glossies" of the respective actors) of the available IMF agents. Briggs/Phelps would be shown contemplating the various agents, putting some aside, and tossing the selected agents' dossiers onto a table (according to White, one of the never-chosen dossiers was a photograph of Bruce Geller himself). (A contemporary article in TV Guide claimed that many of the photos put aside in the "Dossier scene" were of studio and network executives, and that it was considered a measure of one's status in the studio and network hierarchies to appear there.) In early seasons the agents selected often included guest stars playing agents with skills not present among the usual team. A doctor, particularly a specialist in a condition known to afflict the target, was a common sort of "guest agent". In numerous early episodes the IMF leader would choose only one or two team members, though at least one of the main credited cast members was always involved. In later seasons the team was much more stable, consisting of the leader and the regular cast of the season, and the use of guest agents became markedly less frequent. In the pilot episode, it is stated the team leaders have unlimited resources and wide discretion in choosing their team. Presumably the actual plan is settled on based in part on the agents available, an evaluation of the goal, etc. Whether the leader arrives at the plan independently or has assistance in developing it is never made clear. These preparations and the logistics are never shown though are generally implied by the scenes that depict various steps of the process by which the team undertakes its mission. IMF protocol seems to be rapid deployment as it is implied only a short period of time lapses from the initial assignment until the team is in the field.

Apartment scene

In the third segment of the opening act, called the "Apartment Scene" by White, the team would next be shown convening for their final briefing in the leader's apartment. Although the series was in color, the set and the costumes in this scene—everything in frame—was always black, white, or shades of gray. It was sometimes referred to off-camera as the black and white room. An exception was the briefing in the aforementioned first-season episode "Action!", which took place in a beauty salon and the briefings were picked up by Cinnamon Carter.

The "Apartment Scene" acted as a teaser; in discussing the plan to achieve the objective of the mission and their role in executing it the team members would make vague references to preparations necessary for its successful execution while leaving most details undisclosed. This scene also demonstrated—and thereby established credibility for—various gadgets or ploys that were key to the plan, such as a TV camera hidden in a brooch, a miniature radio-controlled hovercraft, a chess-playing computer, a "mentalist" or sleight-of-hand act, or even a trained animal. This scene in addition would establish, or at least hint at, the specialties and role in the plan of any "guest star" agents. Team members posing questions about aspects of the plan or why an alternative wasn't considered provided the writers an opportunity to offer explanations for what otherwise might have seemed plot holes. And often Phelps in summing up would stress the difficulties in the action they were about to undertake or some key element of the plan vital to its success, such as a deadline by which the mission was to be completed.

During the fifth season the producers decided to phase out the tape scene, dossier scene and the apartment scenes. By the end of the season, however, it had been decided to keep the tape and apartment scenes, but the dossier-choosing scene was eliminated for the rest of the series run. The 1980s revival reinstated the "dossier scene" in the first episode when Phelps selected his new team, but since he kept the same team in subsequent episodes no subsequent dossier scenes were made.

Plan

The episode then depicted the plan being put into action. This almost always involved very elaborate deceptions, usually several at one time. Facilitating this, certain team members had among their skills being masters of disguise able to enact a role to insert themselves onto the target's staff, impersonate/replace a member of the staff or sometimes even taking the place of the target themselves. This was accomplished by the donning of elaborate latex masks and makeup. Some impersonations were done with the explicit cooperation of the one being impersonated. Also bona fides would be arranged ("the letter from Chicago was sent Monday") to aid infiltrating the target organization. In some cases, the impersonation was facilitated for filming purposes by having the actor playing the IMF agent also cast as the person to be impersonated (this most frequently occurred during Martin Landau's tenure on the series) or dubbing the voice of the person being impersonated throughout the episode; in other cases, a guest-starring actor would provide the physical performance to make Hand's, Paris' or Casey's impersonations perfect.

A few early episodes of the first season included a scene depicting the painstaking creation and application of these masks, usually by disguise and makeup expert Rollin Hand. This was later omitted as the series progressed and the audience presumably became familiar with the mechanics of the team's methods. In the 1980s revival, the mask-making process involved a digital camera and computer and was mostly automatic. Most episodes included a dramatic "reveal" (also referred to as the "peel-off") near the end of the episode in which the team member would remove the mask.

Various technological methods were commonly used as well. The team would often re-route telephone or radio calls so these could be answered by their own members. Faked radio or television broadcasts were common, as were elevators placed under the team's control. In some missions a very extensive simulated setting was created, such as a faked train journey, submarine voyage, aftermath of a major disaster, or even the taking over of the United States by a foreign government. A particularly elaborate ploy, used on more than one occasion, saw the IMF work to convince their target that several years had passed while the target was in a coma or similar condition. In one episode the IMF even convinced their target (an aging mobster played by William Shatner) that he had somehow traveled back in time.

The team would usually arrange for some situation to arise with which the target would have to deal in a predictable way, and the team would then arrange the circumstances to guide the outcome to the desired end. Often the plans turned on elaborate psychology, such as exploiting rivalries or an interest in the supernatural. Many plans simply caused the target to become confused or erratic or irrational, lose self-assurance, lose trust in subordinates or partners, etc., so that either the target would do what the team wanted (by falling back on predictable acts of desperation), or else the target's subordinates would replace the target and then act according to the team's predictions.

These various ploys would usually result in either information being revealed to the team, or the target's disgrace and discreditation, or both.

In many early episodes the mission was to "neutralize" the target and it was made clear that the target was ultimately shot by his superiors, staff, or rivals, though this was usually not shown on screen. In later seasons where the targets were usually organized crime figures or similar, the goal of the mission was often simply to collect incriminating evidence not obtainable by "conventional law-enforcement agencies." The team wasn't above falsifying evidence if authentic evidence couldn't be obtained.

Dramatic tension was provided by situations in which team members appeared in danger of being discovered (especially before commercial breaks). Sometimes unexpected events occurred that forced the team to improvise. On occasion an outside party or one of the targets realized what was happening and put the success of the plan at risk.

According to White, William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, who served as story consultants for the first two seasons and became producers of the third season, relied heavily on The Big Con, written by David W. Maurer, for their inspiration. Hence Briggs/Phelps became the "grifter-in-charge;" Rollin Hand and Cinnamon Carter were highly effective "ropers," and Barney Collier and Willy Armitage were experts at building and/or equipping "big stores."

Episode Locations

The original series was filmed almost excusively around Hollywood and around the Los Angeles Basin as were many other series during that period. Pasadena and the Caltech campus were common locations. Another noted location was the Bradbury Building used in other films and series. Two pilot made-for-TV films both titled "Call to Danger" noted in the Dossier were also produced with Graves in the LA area.

The later revival was shot primarily in Australia.

Variations

Several times the series deviated from the standard format. In one episode of the original series, a gangster kidnapped the daughter of a friend of Dan Briggs and forced him to kidnap a witness against him. In another, one mistake caused Cinnamon Carter to be exposed and captured by the villains, and Jim Phelps prepared a plan to rescue her. Another episode had Willy caught by the bad guys at the beginning and the episode revolved around his rescue. Other episodes featured Phelps on personal missions when he returned to his home for a visit; on one occasion he was captured and the team had to rescue him, on another he involved the team in an attempt to solve a series of murders among his childhood acquaintances. In the 1980s series, former IMF agent Barney Collier was framed for a crime he didn't commit and the IMF team had to rescue him, leading to a reuniting of Barney with his son and IMF agent Grant Collier (in real life played by father-and-son Greg and Phil Morris).

Conclusion

The last element of the M:I format was the conclusion of each episode. Very rarely did any sort of epilogue occur; in most cases, the action lasted right up to the final seconds, with the episode often ending in a freeze frame as the IMF team made their escape, another successful mission concluded. Most often they left in a nondescript panel truck, although at least once they left in a station wagon, once in a Mercedes Benz sedan and another time in a red Aston Martin. In the 1980s revival, this format was altered with the addition of a tag scene showing the IMF team regrouping (often still in disguise) and walking away from the site of their concluded mission, often accompanied by a quip uttered by Jim Phelps.

Music

Aside from the now iconic main theme, the background music would incorporate minimalist innovations of percussion such as simply a snare drum and cymbals to build tension during the more "sneaky" moments of the episodes. Sometimes accompanied by a low level flute. These quieter passages would greatly contrast the more bombastic fanfares when a mission member is at risk of getting caught just prior to a commercial break.

Awards

Inspirations and innovations

A key inspiration for Geller in creating the series was the 1964 Jules Dassin film Topkapi, innovative for its coolly existential depiction of an elaborate heist. Geller switched the story away from the criminals of Topkapi to the good guys of the IMF, but kept Dassin's style of minimal dialogue, prominent music scoring and clockwork-precision plots executed by a team of diverse specialists. Several episodes in fact show close-up shots of an agent's wristwatch to convey the suspense of working on a deadline.

One of the more controversial points of Geller's was his insistence on minimizing character development. This was done intentionally both because he felt that seeing the characters as tabula rasas would make them more convincing in undercover work, and because he wanted to keep the focus on the caper and off the characters themselves. Geller would even veto the writers' attempts to develop the characters in the episodes. This is why, at least until Geller's departure from the show (and actually afterwards as well), the IMF agents would only have one scene at Jim's apartment where they interacted, and they were rarely if ever seen in their "real" lives.

As a side effect of this, cast turnover was never once explained on the show. None of the main characters ever died or were disavowed in the original series, but a character could disappear in an interval of one episode without mention or acknowledgment. The 1980s revival, however, did kill off a main character on screen; Bruce Geller died on 27 May, 1978 in a plane crash in Santa Barbara, CA, so was unable to potentially veto the decision. The Mimi Davis character is the only one shown on screen being recruited as an IMF agent.

The producers of Mission: Impossible were sued for plagiarism by the creators of a show called 21 Beacon Street. The suit was settled out of court. Geller claimed never to have seen the earlier show. (Beacon Street's story editor, Laurence Heath, would later write several episodes of M:I.)

Writer William Read Woodfield was a fan of David Maurer's nonfiction book about con artists, The Big Con (also an unofficial inspiration for The Sting), and many episodes are strikingly similar to cons described in the book.

Part of each episode's title sequence was unique, as it was composed of a number of very short clips of key scenes from the subject episode. This was, and remains, very rare for series television. (However, a few years later, the British science fiction TV series Space: 1999—also starring M:I expatriates Martin Landau and Barbara Bain—would take the same approach with its title sequence. The reimagined Battlestar Galactica TV series also uses this device.) This created some production difficulties as the title sequence for an episode could not be completed until after most of the principal photography and editing was done. Most series' title sequences are composed once per season at most.

Mission: Impossible is still recognized for its innovative use of music. Composer Lalo Schifrin wrote several distinctive pieces for the series. The visual cuts in the main title sequence were timed to the beats and measures of the theme tune—written in (unusual) 5/4 time—while an animated burning fuse moved across the screen. Most episodes included fairly long dialogue-free sequences showing the team members—particularly electronics expert Barney Collier—making technical preparations for the mission, usually to the accompaniment of another easily–recognizable tune called "The Plot." Lalo Schifrin also wrote a theme piece for each main character and the sound track for each episode incorporated variations of these throughout. The series had great impact on film and TV music. Before Mission: Impossible, a common compliment for film and TV music was along the lines of "it worked very well but never got in the way or called attention to itself." By contrast, Mission: Impossible was praised for the prominence of its music.

At 171 episodes, the original version of Mission: Impossible currently holds the record for having the most episodes of any English-language espionage television series (about 10 more episodes than its nearest rival, the UK-produced The Avengers).

Reruns of Mission: Impossible are still shown daily on some TV stations and the cable service AmericanLife TV.

Revivals

In 1980, media reports indicated that a reunion of the original cast was in the planning stages, for a project to be called Mission: Impossible '81. Ultimately this project was delayed into 1982 and 1983 (with the working title suitably updated) before being cancelled altogether.

In 1988, the American fall television season was hampered by a writers' strike that prevented the commissioning of new scripts. Producers, anxious to provide new product for viewers but with the prospect of a lengthy strike, went into the vaults for previously written material. Star Trek: The Next Generation, for example, used scripts written for an aborted Star Trek series proposed for the 1970s. The ABC network decided to launch a new Mission: Impossible series, with a mostly new cast (except for Peter Graves, who would return as Phelps), but using scripts from the original series, suitably updated. To save even more on production costs, the series was filmed in Australia; the first series in Queensland, and the second series in Melbourne. Costs were, at that time, some 20 percent lower in Australia than in Hollywood. The new Mission: Impossible was one of the first American commercial network programs to be filmed in Australia.

According to Patrick White's book, the original plan was for the series to be an actual remake/reimaginging of the original series, with the new cast playing the same characters from the original series: Rollin Hand, Cinnamon Carter, et al. Just before filming began, White writes, the decision was made to rework the characters so that they were now original creations, albeit still patterned after the originals, with only Jim Phelps remaining unchanged.

The new series was not a hit, but it was produced cheaply enough to keep it on the ABC schedule. The new M:I ultimately lasted for two years; the writers' strike was resolved quickly enough that only a few episodes were actual remakes, which, along with the decision to change the character names and backgrounds, resulted in the series being considered a continuation of the original series, rather than simply a remake.

The original series formula described above was largely repeated in the second Mission: Impossible series of the 1980s, though the writers took some liberties and tried to stretch the rules somewhat. Most notably, by the time of the revival series, the Impossible Mission Force was no longer a small, clandestine operation, but larger in scale, with references now made to IMF divisions and additional teams similar to the one run by Phelps. One episode of the later series featured the only occasion in which a regular IMF agent was killed on a mission and subsequently disavowed. The 1980s series also had IMF agents using technology that nearly pushed the series into the realm of science fiction, such as one gadget that could record dreams.

The revived series included special appearances by several 1960s–1970s IMF veterans, including appearances by Lynda Day George and by Greg Morris as Barney; Morris's son, Phil Morris, played Barney's son in the new series.

In 1997, Barbara Bain reprised the role of Cinnamon Carter for an episode of Diagnosis Murder entitled "Discards". She appeared in the episode alongside Phil Morris, as well as 1960s spy series veterans Robert Culp (I Spy), Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and Patrick Macnee (The Avengers), and was the only member of this ensemble to play her original character.

Series cast

In order of appearance in the series:

Note: The cast changed considerably throughout the program's seven-year run, so not all of the characters listed above appeared at the same time, and even regular cast members did not always appear in every episode, depending upon the mission. The most enduring cast members were Morris and Lupus who appeared in all seasons, while Graves appeared in all but the first season. Season 4 did not feature a regular female role and instead used a number of different actresses (most notably Lee Meriwether who appeared in six episodes as "Tracey"). The character of Casey was not given a first name on screen until her appearance in an episode of the 1980s revival series, that name being Lisa.

Guest stars

Revival cast

Episodes

Original novels

A number of original novels based upon the series were published in the late 1960s.

Popular Library published the following between 1967 and 1969:

  1. Mission: Impossible by John Tiger (1967)
  2. Code Name: Judas by Max Walker (1968)
  3. Code Name: Rapier by Walker (1968)
  4. Code Name: Little Ivan by Tiger (1969)

In addition, two hardback novels for young readers were published by Whitman Books, both by Talmage Powell:

  1. The Priceless Particle (1969)
  2. The Money Explosion (1970)

Of the above, only the 1967 John Tiger novel featured the team as led by Dan Briggs; the rest all featured the Jim Phelps-era IMF.

Related items

Dell Comics published a comic book on a sporadic schedule that lasted from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, although only 5 issues were actually published. (There were actually only four original publications, as the fifth issue was a reprint of the first).

In 1979, Scott Adams released Mission Impossible, a text adventure game that placed the player in the role of a secret agent trying to save the world. Evidently Adams did not have the rights to the name as the game was quickly reissued under the modified name Impossible Mission and later Secret Mission. Beyond the title and the name of "Mr. Phelps" which is mentioned on the tape recording at the very beginning of the game, it had no overt connection to the TV series.

In 1991, video game designer Konami created a Nintendo Entertainment System game called Mission: Impossible, based on the revived series. The game is considered quite well-crafted and challenging. After the 1996 movie, several other games bearing the series name have also appeared, but the general consensus is that their quality is somewhat low, as if the games were made to quickly capitalize on the renewed franchise without delving into scenario possibilities presented by the series. For all the games, see Mission: Impossible (video game).

Home video

In North America, Mission: Impossible received limited VHS format release in the mid-1990s through Columbia House, and 12 episodes were also released on Laserdisc. DVD release was rumored several times to tie in with the release of the first two Tom Cruise films, but this never occurred. Finally, Paramount Pictures announced in 2004 that it planned to release the TV series on DVD in North America in conjunction with the release of the third feature film, but this was ultimately delayed. Paramount later announced that the first season would be released on September 12, 2006 but this was pushed back. The first season was finally released on Region 1 DVD on December 5, 2006 by CBS Home Entertainment (which has the rights to the Paramount TV library), with distribution by Paramount.

CBS Home Entertainment has subsequently released seasons 2-5 on DVD in Region 1. The final two seasons are expected to be released soon.

It has also not yet been announced whether the 1980s revival will also see a DVD release.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete 1st Season 28 December 5, 2006
The Complete 2nd Season 25 June 5, 2007
The Complete 3rd Season 25 October 29, 2007
The Complete 4th Season 26 May 13, 2008
The Complete 5th Season 23 October 7, 2008
The Complete 6th Season 22 TBA
The Complete 7th Season 22 TBA

Feature films

Plans for a feature film based upon the TV series was first announced in the 1980s, but no production eventuated. Finally, in the 1990s and 2000s, three feature films, starring Tom Cruise, were produced, with a fourth one in pre-production.

In popular culture

  • The cartoon series Freakazoid in Episode {2/#3} has a spoof of Mission: Impossible entitled "Mission:Freakazoid".
  • Both Mad Magazine and Cracked magazine had spoof episodes of "Mission Impossible". MAD's was entitled Mission: Ridiculous! and was consistent with the show in terms of characters, situations and typical storyline.
  • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Future's End" includes a reference to Mission: Impossible, a series that once shared studios and producers with the original Star Trek.
  • The Get Smart episode, "The Impossible Mission" was a spoof of the series, opening with a "tape scene" ("should you decide not to accept this mission, you're fired!"), and a dossier scene (in which Maxwell Smart tears up one of the photographs).
  • In the movie versions, the phrase "This mission, should you choose to accept it..." was used instead of the TV series' "Your mission, should you decide to accept it...".
  • The hand that holds the match that lights the fuse in the title sequence of the first five and half seasons of the original series is Bruce Geller's hand. Another hand was used from mid-season six to the end of the original series. In the 1980s revival, Peter Graves' face is shown, and it's his hand.
  • In Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2, both versions of the Mission: Impossible theme was used in both movies. In Wayne's World, the 1988 MI theme was used in a scene where Garth and his buddies head to the TV studio to get their TV equipment to put the show back on the air. And in Wayne's World 2, the old theme was used in a scene where Wayne, Garth and the others were spying on Cassandra and her producer "friend", Bobby.
  • The Carol Burnett Show did a parody off of this TV series entitled "Mission:Improbable." Carol Burnett played blonde acting the role of "Cinnamon."
  • Inside O.U.T. was a 1971 unsold comedy television pilot about an elite government team that performed secret missions using specially trained agents and high-tech gadgetry in a manner reminiscent of Mission: Impossible. The show starred Bill Daily, Farrah Fawcett (pre-Charlie’s Angels) and Alan Oppenheimer.
  • In every episode of Inspector Gadget, Gadget meets Chief Quimby in the most obscure location (in a flock of sheep, in a trash bin, in a tree, etc.) and the instructions to Gadget's mission always finish with "this message will self-destruct" (in homage to the exploding messages in Mission: Impossible), after which Gadget lets the message blow up in Quimby's face.
  • At the beginning of the Muppet Babies episode "Pigerella," after Scooter and Skeeter get the idea to sneak some snacks to the gang one hour before lunch (through the use of an impossible mission), Scooter types "Muppet: Impossible" on his computer and goes over to the chest of drawers, where Gonzo is hiding. Gonzo then gives instructions to Scooter, while imitating the instructions of the recorded messages from Mission: Impossible, and finishes it with "This nose will self-destruct in two seconds" followed by a sneeze. After Scooter mentions "impossible mission," music from the show is heard from the moment Scooter types on his computer to the point where Scooter and Skeeter sneak past Nanny on the way to the kitchen.

Notes

Bibliography

  • Patrick J. White, The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. New York: Avon Books, 1991.

External links

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