Mission: Impossible – The Second Season – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Created by
Bruce Geller

Greg Morris … Barney Collier
Bob Johnson … Voice on Tape
Peter Lupus … Willy Armitage
Peter Graves … James Phelps
Barbara Bain … Cinnamon Carter
Martin Landau … Rollin Hand

The Show:

While 24 may rule the roost as the best and seemingly the only Spy series on TV today, the 1960’s were a much more difficult time to get noticed. With Mission: Impossible, the show’s first season was definitive proof that it was part of the era’s TV cream of the crop, as its mind-bending missions and incredibly tense plots kept viewers guessing every week. Surprisingly, even as amazing as Mission: Impossible‘s first season was, it is the show’s second year that proved to be the season when their formula really came together and show became the phenomenon that would turn out to be the longest running Television series of the “Spymania” era.

The biggest and most immediate change from the first season was the exit of the excellent Steven Hill as the team’s leader, Daniel Briggs. While it goes unexplained on the show, in real life the production schedule apparently conflicted with Hill’s religious practices, causing his abrupt exit. While perhaps an on-air departure would have been nice for continuity sake, the show manages to not miss a beat.

Stepping into the leadership role for the IMF team this season, and for the duration of the series was Peter Graves as Jim Phelps, a role that would go on to not only become synonymous with Mission: Impossible, but also be a bit of a cultural icon. Graves fits into this show like a glove, filling the role of the smooth Secret Agent better than any of the other cast members had done previously. A man of action, Graves’ commanding presence is an asset that the show had desperately needed, but also manages to be on par with the other members of his squad when it comes to being a chameleon.

While this is not as evident in the season opener, “The Widow,” Graves’ Phelps comes to the forefront in the episode “Trek” in which he must go undercover to find a fortune in gold and return it to its rightful owners, while trying to fool both the man who stole the gold, as well as a renegade Army commander that is holding the thief prisoner in order to get the gold for himself. Playing each man off the other, Phelps outwits them at every turn while braving a journey through a desert landscape to get to the gold.

The episode is also a terrific example of the show’s team concept, as it’s made quite evident how doomed Phelps would be without the rest of his IMF squad. Setting up elaborate ruses and traps, the team members, including Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), Barney Collier (Greg Morris), Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus), and master of disguise Rollin Hand (Martin Landau), keep their plans going with deception and quick wits. This particular episode utilizes a gigantic net, life like puppets, and Rollin convincingly pulling off his role as a peasant fortune hunter. What’s incredible about the show is just how clever these schemes seems to be each time out, surprising us just as much as their targets each time.

The most astonishing thing about the show is just how well paced it is. While many series of the era can feel dated and slow, Mission: Impossible still feels fresh and very modern despite its many Cold War themes and longer running time. Expertly crafted for maximum tension, the series thrills with its well staged mission sequences and terrific acting.

Also shocking is that despite being around 40 years, the spy gadgets don’t come off as ridiculously dated either. Even in the episode “A Game of Chess,” in which a giant computer is utilized, the device still has components that are exploited to great effect. My favorite gadget of the entire season is actually used in the season opener “The Widow.” Here, a man is made to believe an elevator he is in is falling to his doom by use of lights and sound, despite it being perfectly stationary. The incident is an exemplary moment showcasing the ingenuity of the show.

My personal favorite episode of this season is entitled “The Condemned.” Phelps must prove the innocence of a friend that has been sentenced to death for murder. Despite this being a personal mission, the team acts without questions, employing all of their talents to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. On top of being an excellently written yarn, “The Condemned” gives a rare look at the camaraderie of the team, with stakes of the mission somehow seeming higher than they usually do.

Those wondering why this series has such a devout following should definitely check out Mission: Impossible – The Second Season, in which the show builds on the momentum of its first year, and really puts its formula together expertly. Ranking with The Twilight Zone and Star Trek as one of the best series of its era, Mission: Impossible thrills with intelligent scripts and rigid tension. This is definitely a mission you should choose to accept.

The DVD:

The Video
Not bad for a 40-year-old series; the show looks terrific on DVD, with only a small amount of debris and scratches, but not enough to distract you from the minute to minute thrills. The episodes are presented in fullscreen with their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and also sounds pretty good. The action and other elements never overwhelm the dialogue, and Lalo Schifrin’s awesome theme.


None, which is very disappointing.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Mission: Impossible – The Second Season
(OUT OF 10)