The head of the "Impossible Missions Force", a top-secret government group of operatives, starts a tape recorder and finds out about his latest assignment. Throughout most of the series, they would have to stop some petty dictator or powerful bad guy from whatever evil plot they had against the U.S. or Democracy in general. The elaborate use of electronic gadgetry, masters of disguise and detailed plans that require split-second timing made this tv show an "on the edge of your seater"!
Season 3, should you decide to accept it (and you definitely should), was Mission's most accomplished. It garnered six Emmy nominations, and an Emmy for Barbara Bain, her third consecutive win, probably for "The Exchange," one of her finest hours, in which, breaking series format, her character is captured and psychologically tortured to discover for whom she works. As always, the first five minutes of any Mission: Impossible episode are the coolest: the lit fuse signaling Lalo Schifrin's indelible theme song, the opening-credits montage teasing the action in the upcoming episode, and Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), in some nondescript location, receiving his covert mission (usually to some nonexistent, but real-sounding country as Povia or Costa Mateo), on that self-destructing tape. It always seemed a waste of time for Phelps to go through the dossiers of possible Impossible Missions Force agents for each mission (and he does that less this season) as he invariably chose the same ones: model beauty Cinnamon (Bain), master of disguise Rollin Hand (Martin Landau), electricians expert Barney Collier (Greg Morris), and strongman Willie Armitage (Peter Lupus).
Mission: Impossible didn't delve into the team members' private lives: it was all about the mission, and together, the IMF foils any number of domestic and international villains. Some missions (foil a coup, rescue a dissident) have more at stake than others (restore boxing's good name), but there's that great moment in almost every episode when the team's target discovers that he or she has been royally IMF'd. "Don't you see?" the warden of a so-called escape-proof automated prison protests in "The Glass Cage," "they thought of everything!" He's not kidding. Not even "Q" on his best day would have come up with that faux briefcase that secretly dispenses exact replicas of the prison's towels. Mission: Impossible today does seem a little low-tech, especially when compared to the special effects-laden feature films. And for anyone who has seen Airplane, it may be difficult initially to keep a straight face whenever Peter "Do you like gladiator movies?" Graves is onscreen. But with its clever and complex stories, impeccable ensemble, and fun-to-spot guest stars (that's John "Dean Wormer" Vernon torturing Cinnamon in "The Exchange"), Mission is impossible to resist. --Donald Liebenson