DVD Review: Mission: Impossible (The ’89 TV Season)

Tom Cruise turned Mission: Impossible into a major motion picture in 1996. The hype made it sound like he was relaunching a TV franchise that had been off the air for two decades. But there had been a revival at the end of the ’80s featuring Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) as the ringleader. Why the oversight? Perhaps the secretary disavowed any knowledge of the IM force’s first comeback? Luckily the series wasn’t totally forgotten since the top secret spy team’s final televised missions are declassified on Mission: Impossible: The ’89 TV Season.

The key IMF members returned from the first season of the revival. Nicholas Black (Thaao Penghlis) hid behind his disguises. Max Harte (Tony Hamilton) provided the muscle. Grant Collier (Phil Morris) created the gadgets. Casey Randall (Terry Markwell) kept it from being a boy’s club. The production stayed in Australia so it had that Down Under shimmer in the exterior scenes. This location worked great when they’re supposed to be in Southeast Asia or a jungle environment. But didn’t quite cut it when we’re supposed to believe they’re zipping around Boston. The coolest spy device presented on the show was a vision of the portable DVD player. This was how Phelps was given his top secret briefing at the start of each episode. The mini-DVD disc would self-destruct afterward so it predicted the failed DIVX system.

“The Golden Serpent” puts the IMF on the trail of an Asian druglord that’s part of the Golden Serpent triad. The straight forward mission is compromised since original IMF agent Barney Collier (Greg Morris) is exposed within the triad. The team must alter their plan so that they can rescue Barney. They can’t let the guy suffer since his son is part of the new team. This is a two parter so there’s plenty of time for them to grab Barney and take out the drug operation. “The Princess” protects a royal family member who wants her country to embrace the Western world. This angers certain people who eventually hire a hitman to take her out. IMF must expose and eliminate the assassin.

“Countdown” brings the big boom to the small screen. The IMF team must stop a nuclear explosion that a general wants to happen so he can lead a coup. “War Games” has a military exercise that’s secret objective is to invade a neighboring country. Phelps can’t allow that to happen. “The Fuehrer’s Children” brings back the classic plot about Nazis wanting to make a comeback. Although this time it’s a new generation and not old war criminals reuniting. “Banshee” covers arms dealing in Ireland. The mobsters in “Cargo Cult” trick natives into thinking they’re working for their God. “The Assassin” turns normal people into hitmen. Nicholas goes undercover at a Boston therapy clinic that uses nature films to brainwash. Who will he kill? “Church Bells in Bogata” puts the IMF team on the trail of a mysterious drug kingpin. “The Sands of Seth” revives a mummy that’s killing Egyptian dignitaries. Can IMF handle the undead? This would be the last mission that Jim Phelps accepted.

Mission: Impossible ‘89 works as a thrilling espionage series. It’s more entertaining than the overblown Mission: Impossible movies that always end up being about rogue agents. The TV series stuck to an agency that didn’t have to worry about cleaning up internal messes. They’re out to save the world no matter what the odds and time limit. Shame they retired the show mid-season. Graves might be older than his crew, but he didn’t turn into grandpa tells tales about the good old days. He’s active in the field and not merely calling the shots from a safe location. Mission: Impossible ‘89 was a fine last go around for the master spy.

The Episodes
“The Golden Serpent” (two-parter), “The Princess,” “Command Performance,” “Countdown,” “War Games,” “Target Earth,” “The Fuehrer’s Children,” “Banshee,” “For Art’s Sake,” “Deadly Harvest,” “Cargo Cult,” “The Assassin,” “The Gunslinger,” “Church Bells in Bogota” and “The Sands of Seth.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The series was shot on 35mm, but edited in standard definition video. The image lacks the resolution of the original series. But the transfers are fine enough with this limitation. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. Things are fine for a TV mix. The episodes are subtitled.

Holiday Promo (0:36) is a Christmas greeting from the cast involving Santa and the self-destructing DVD player.

Mission: Impossible: The ’89 TV Season. wraps up Jim Phelps’ tenure with the IMF. This final missions are entertaining with the crew constantly having to keep up the subterfuge. There are glitches in the missions so it’s not just watching a spy’s checklist as they go into action. It is a shame they didn’t get to complete the season.

CBS DVD presents Mission: Impossible: The ’89 TV Season.. Starring: Peter Graves, Thaao Penghilis, Tony Hamilton, Phil Morris and Terry Markwell. Boxset Contents: 16 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 28, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

Tags: , , ,