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Friday, 22 February 2008 07:57

Mission: Impossible

A format hazardous for film adaptation ...


US - 1966-73 - 171 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Sanctioned by the US Government to undertake hazardous covert operations that could not be officially recognised, Mission: Impossible featured the Impossible Missions Force, IMF, facing an enemy, foreign at first but later in the series’ run growing more domestic, clever enough that only an intricate plan could defeat them.

Like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before it, Mission: Impossible stuck to a rigid narrative format. Briefed on the mission, the IMF leader assembles his team and plots an elaborate deception to counter an enemy’s plan. Once put into practise, with the IMF members taking their assigned roles, unforeseen circumstances jeopardise the operation and, with no back-up plan, disaster is averted through the team’s initiative and quick thinking.

Created by Bruce Geller to be built around team work and ingenuity, the IMF team was assembled every week from a roster of potential operatives, depending on the skills needed to carry out the given assignment. Although Dan Briggs was replaced in the second year by Jim Phelps as IMF leader, for the first three seasons, Mission: Impossible roughly kept to the same team of Rollin Hand’s master of disguise, muscleman Willie Armitage, model Cinnamon Carter acting as the femme fatale, and technical expert Barney Collier.

In fact technical sophistication was a key element to the series, exemplified by the synonymous self-destructing tape-recorder that delivered the IMF briefing. Famous too for its montage title sequence that begins with a lit fuse, accompanied by Lalo Schifrin’s theme music, these were the only elements recognisable in the 1996 film adaptation, although "MI:III" did see a slight return to the format's roots.

Steven Hill as Dan Briggs
Peter Graves as Jim Phelps
Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter
Martin Landau as Rollin Hand
Peter Lupus as Willie Armitage
Greg Morris as Barney Collier
Leonard Nimoy as Paris
Lesley Ann Warren as Dana Lambert
Barbara Anderson as Mimi Davis
Lynda Day George as Lisa Casey

Posted in Series Formats
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