Ten Best Mission: Impossible TV Episodes

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CBS-TV's Mission: Impossible ran from 1966-73. Operation Rogosh, The Town, Two Thousand, The Legend, The Photographer, The Freeze, The Visitors and The Killer are the best TV episodes.

CBS-TV's Mission: Impossible ran on the small screen from 1966 to 1973. Created by the late Bruce Geller (1930-1978), Mission: Impossible debuted on September 17, 1966, with Steven Hill as Dan Briggs, Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter, Greg Morris as Barney Collier, Martin Landau as Rollin Hand and Peter Lupus as Willy Armitage heading the cast. In later years, Peter Graves as Jim Phelps took over the reins as the leader of the Impossible Missions Force (I.M.F.), with Leonard Nimoy, Lesley Ann Warren, Sam Elliott, Lynda Day George and Barbara Anderson also appearing as regular operatives.

During its seven-year run the I.M.F. battled hostile foreign governments, international drug cartels, renegade scientists, banana republic dictators, traitorous spies, ruthless hit men and organized crime a.k.a. "The Syndicate" in 171 hour-long segments. Here are ten Mission: Impossible episodes that no M.I. TV fan should ever miss. Good morning, Mr. Phelps...

"Operation Rogosh" - October 1, 1966

Dan Briggs and the I.M.F. must locate hidden vials of a deadly toxin planted in the Los Angeles area by Iron Curtain operative Imry Rogosh (Fritz Weaver). In order to crack the political mass murderer, the team stages a phony car accident, with Rogosh awakening "three years later" in his own country where he stands accused of being an American agent. Briggs plays Rogosh's inept defense counsel, with Cinnamon Carter posing as his girlfriend and Barney Collier as a fellow prisoner. A classic episode featuring one of the I.M.F.'s patented sting operations with a bit of a twist and improvisation, as Rogosh later spies a chair whose underside bears a marking from a Los Angeles company, tipping him off that he is being tricked into revealing the locations of his secreted vials containing biological warfare agents.

Teleplay: Jerome Ross

Director: Leonard Horn

TV Guide, February 11, 1967: Steven Hill, Barbara Bain and Martin Landau of Mission: Impossible (Triangle Publications, Inc.)

"The Town" - February 18, 1968

While on his way to meet Rollin Hand for some skiing at a mountain resort, Jim Phelps stumbles on a domestic plot to kill a Soviet defector in Los Angeles. After being hit by nerve gas at a small-town drugstore, the local doctor (Will Geer) injects Jim with the paralyzing drug curare, later telling a concerned Rollin that his friend has suffered a stroke. Jim manages to convey a desperate SOS to Rollin via the blinking of his eyes. Now on to the plot, Rollin surreptitiously summons Cinnamon, Barney and Willy, who come into the town of Woodfield under various ruses, ready to free Jim and prevent the political assassination in L.A. An interesting episode as there is no set mission, but merely an improvised one, with Rollin mobilizing the team in short order. "Mrs. Phelps?" Rollin telephones Cinnamon, knowing that the line is bugged. "Speaking," Cinnamon coolly answers, playing along like a pro.

Teleplay: Sy Salkowitz

Director: Michael O'Herlihy

"Two Thousand" - September 23, 1972

Vic Morrow plays Joseph Collins, an American physicist who plans to sell a cache of nuclear grade material to foreign interests. In order to locate the secreted plutonium, the I.M.F. have Collins arrested, later feeding him phony media stories about an impending war in the Middle East. The phony war begins, with Collins drugged and artificially aged. When he wakes up, Collins is led to believe 28 years have passed and the year is now 2000. According to a prisoner nearby – Barney Collier, playing his assigned role – all inmates are terminated at age 65, giving Collins pause as he is two days away from his 65th birthday. Collins now pleads his case that he is a vital asset, as the military needs nuclear physicists and enriched plutonium in order to continue the war. The final scene is priceless, as the bearded Collins wanders outside, realizes that he has been grandly duped, and breaks into maniacal laughter as the present day police arrive to cart him away. 

Teleplay: Harold Livingston

Director: Leslie H. Martinson  

"The Legend" - February 11, 1967

The I.M.F. head to South America where escaped Nazi war criminal Martin Boorman is rumored to be alive. Boorman, aided by his confidante Frederick Rudd (Gunnar Hellstrom), General von Cramm (Gene Roth) and other surviving Nazis, plan to resurrect the Third Reich. Dan Briggs and his team discover that there is no Martin Boorman – just a dummy in a room and a crude recording – with Rudd as the real power behind the planned Nazi resurgence. This segment is quite a stretch but entertaining nonetheless, with the I.M.F. later exposing Rudd and leaving him to the wrath of his fellow Nazis. "Is that you, Rudd?" the Martin Boorman recording repeatedly asks from a darkened room. Well, it fooled this band of less-than-bright National Socialists.

Teleplay: Mann Rubin

Director: Richard Benedict

TV Guide, May 4, 1968: Greg Morris, Peter Graves, Barbara Bain, Martin Landau of Mission: Impossible (Triangle Publications, Inc.)

"The Photographer" - December 17, 1967

Anthony Zerbe guest stars as David Redding, an embittered American traitor who holds a secret code that will launch a deadly attack of pneumonic plague on the United States. Redding is a fashion photographer, with Cinnamon reporting to his studio for modeling work. Phelps and his team trick Redding into revealing the code by staging a phony nuclear attack as seen from the periscope of his backyard bomb shelter. They also spring another surprise on the traitor, fingering his friend Alex Morley (John Randolph) as the man responsible for betraying Redding's father.

Teleplay: William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter

Director: Lee H. Katzin

"The Freeze" - December 23, 1968

Albert Jenkins a.k.a. Raymond Barret (Donnelly Rhodes) was the brain behind an armored car heist several years ago. Barret, who is about to be released from prison while doing time on a lesser charge, plans to recover the hidden loot once the statute of limitations runs out on the crime. The I.M.F. is tasked with locating the secreted cache of $10 million before the statute expires. When falsely told that he has an incurable disease before his release from prison, a desperate Barret seeks out the services of a pioneering physician (played by none other than Jim Phelps) whose specialty is cryogenics. Resorting to blackmail, Barret "forces" the good doctor to freeze him, later awakening in "the future" where he leads both the I.M.F. and his angry associates to the ten million smackers.

Teleplay: Paul Playdon

Director: Alexander Singer

"The Visitors" - November 27, 1971

Steve Forrest plays Edward Granger, a wealthy publishing magnate who is controlled by the syndicate. In return, Granger protects the mob-controlled politicians in the state. In order to expose Granger before the upcoming elections, Phelps and his team appeal to his interest in UFOs and immortality, later convincing him that Casey (Lynda Day George) and company are extraterrestrials endowed with magic healing powers. The final scene where a dying Granger tries to make his way to a phony "healing machine" is unforgettable.

Teleplay: Harold Livingston

Director: Reza Badiyi

"The Killer" - September 19, 1970

The I.M.F. must stop Eddie Lorca, a professional contract killer who has flown into Los Angeles to carry out his latest hit. Lorca operates by random choice, often throwing a pair of dice to determine his hotel room number and other incidentals. The I.M.F. manage to set up Lorca at the Bower Hotel, where Dana (Leslie Ann Warren) acts as a messenger for Lorca's mysterious employer Scorpio. Robert Conrad turns in a lethal performance as the hit man, who is duped into believing that Scorpio has double crossed him.

Teleplay: Arthur Weiss

Director: Paul Krasny

TV Guide, January 22, 1972: Greg Morris, Peter Graves, Peter Lupus, Lynda Day George of Mission: Impossible (Triangle Publications, Inc.)

"The Mercenaries" - October 27, 1968

Colonel Hans Krim (Pernell Roberts) leads his own mercenary army in Africa. Krim is sitting on a fortune in gold bars, which is used to pay his soldiers and fund his various military operations on the Dark Continent. The I.M.F. moves in, with Rollin Hand enlisting in Krim's army and Jim and Cinnamon posing as missionaries/gunrunners. Especially entertaining is the high-tech sequence where Barney and Willy literally drain Krim's hidden cache of gold bars, heating the vault to a high temperature, converting the gold into a molten state and then recasting the precious metal back into their own bars. When the gold goes missing, Major Jan Gruner (Skip Homeier) and the other mercenaries in Krim's employ turn on their boss, thus sealing his doom.

Teleplay: Laurence Heath

Director: Paul Krasny

"The Emerald" - January 21, 1968

The I.M.F. must recover a missing emerald that contains top secret information. In possession of the gem is international arms dealer Victor Tomar (William Smithers). Also in pursuit of the emerald is enemy agent Yorgi Petrosian (Michael Strong). Employing a high-tech cheating device, Jim and Rollin get into a poker game with the principals aboard the S.S. Queen of Suez, with Rollin relieving Tomar of the gem during a monster round of betting in which he secretly deals himself a straight flush. There's more than meets the eye in this winning episode that ranks as one of Mission: Impossible's greatest gambling dramas.

Teleplay: William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter

Director: Michael O'Herlihy

Ten More Mission: Impossible TV Episode Favorites

  • "Underwater" (11/6/71)
  • "Encore" (9/25/71)
  • "Submarine" (11/16/69)
  • "The Killing" (2/28/68)
  • "The Legacy" (1/7/67)
  • "The Execution" (11/10/68)
  • "The Seal" (11/5/67)
  • "Homecoming" (10/10/70)
  • "The Slave" Parts I and II (10/8/67 and 10/15/67)
  • "The Council" Parts I and II (11/19/67 and 11/26/67)

Top Image

  • Leonard Nimoy, Greg Morris, Leslie Ann Warren, Peter Lupus, Peter Graves of Mission: Impossible (CBS-TV)

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Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

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