Mission: Impossible is an American television series, created and initially produced by Bruce Geller, chronicling the exploits of a team of secret government agents known as the Impossible Missions Force (IMF).
In the first season the team is led by Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill; Jim Phelps, played by Peter Graves, takes charge for the remaining seasons. A hallmark of the series is each episode’s opening scene, in which Briggs or Phelps receives his instructions from a faceless voice, delivered on a recording which then self-destructs; this is immediately followed by the series’ innovative theme music composed by Lalo Schifrin.
The series was filmed and financed by Desilu Productions, and aired on the CBS network from September 1966 to March 1973. It was revived in 1988 for two seasons on ABC, retaining only Graves in the cast. It also inspired a series of theatrical motion pictures starring Tom Cruise, beginning in 1996.
The series follows the exploits of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), a small team of secret agents used for covert missions against dictators, evil organizations and (primarily in later episodes) crime lords. On occasion, the IMF also mounts unsanctioned, private missions on behalf of its members.
The identities of the higher echelons of the organization that oversees the IMF are never revealed. Only rare cryptic bits of information are ever provided during the life of the series, such as in the third season mission “Nicole”, where the IMF leader states that his instructions come from “Division Seven”.
In the 1980s revival, it is suggested the IMF is an independent agency of the United States government. This is implied by the fact that towards the end of the taped instructed messages, the narrator includes the passage:- “As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions”, or words to that effect.
The leader of the IMF is initially Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill. As an Orthodox Jew, Hill had to leave on Fridays at 4 p.m. to be home before sundown and was not available until after dark the next day.
Although his contract allowed for filming interruptions due to religious observances, the clause proved difficult to work around due to the production schedule and as the season progressed, an increasing number of episodes featured little of Briggs.
Hill had other problems as well.
After cooperatively crawling through dirt tunnels and repeatedly climbing a rope ladder in the episode “Snowball in Hell,” in the following episode , he balked at climbing a stairway with railings and locked himself in his dressing room.
Unable to come to terms with Hill, the producers re-shot the episode without him (another character, Cinnamon Carter, listened to the taped message, the selected operatives’ photos were displayed in “limbo”, and the team meeting was held in Rollin Hand’s apartment), and reduced Briggs’ presence in the five episodes left to be filmed to a minimum.
As far as Hill’s religious requirements were concerned, line producer Joseph Gantman simply had not understood what had been agreed to. He told author Patrick J. White, “‘If someone understands your problems and says he understands them, you feel better about it.
But if he doesn’t care about your problems, then you begin to really resent him. Steven Hill may have felt exactly the same way.”
Hill was replaced without explanation to the audience after the first season by Peter Graves playing the role of Jim Phelps, who remained the leader for the remainder of the original series and in the 1988–1990 revival.
In theory, Briggs and Phelps are the only full-time members of the IMF. As the series was originally conceived, they would form teams made up of part-time agents who came from a variety of professions, choosing their operatives based on the particular skills necessary for the mission.
In practice, however (especially after the first season), Briggs and especially Phelps would choose the same core group of three or four agents for every single mission, leading these regulars to be considered de facto full-time IMF agents. Still, many episodes also feature guest stars playing one-time additional agents who have special skills.
The regular agent line-up during the first season consisted of:
Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), a top fashion model and actress
Barnard “Barney” Collier (Greg Morris), a mechanical and electronics genius and owner of Collier Electronics
William “Willy” Armitage (Peter Lupus), a world record-holding weight lifter
Rollin Hand (Martin Landau), a noted actor, makeup artist, escape artist, magician and “man of a million faces.”
Landau was billed as a “special guest star” during the first season; he had been cast as a guest star for the pilot with the understanding that he would be one of four or five rotating guest star agents. His contract gave producers an option to have him “render services for (three or four) additional episodes”.
To fill the void left by Hill’s Sabbath absences, producers wound up using Landau for more episodes, always as a “guest star”.
He eventually struck a deal to appear in all the first season’s remaining episodes, but always billed as a “guest star” so that he could have the option to give notice to work on a feature film. Landau contractually became a series regular in season two.
As actors left the series over time, others became regulars. Replacements often possessed the same skills as their predecessors.
For example, “The Great Paris” (Leonard Nimoy), Hand’s replacement in the fourth and fifth seasons, is also an actor, makeup artist, magician and “master of disguise.
” Also seen in seasons five and six is Dr. Doug Robert, played by Sam Elliott (according to White, the character was introduced as a replacement for Willy, but the idea was dropped once the producers realized how popular Willy was with viewers).
Cinnamon’s “replacement” in season four was a series of guest stars, only one making more than one appearance: Lee Meriwether as Tracey.
Season five saw the addition of Dana Lambert, played by stage and movie actress Lesley Ann Warren (billed as “Lesley Warren”). In seasons six and seven, the female member of the team was cosmetologist and mistress-of-disguise Lisa Casey (Lynda Day George), whose first name was only established in the 1988–1989 revival.
She was replaced in a third of the total season seven episodes, during her maternity leave, by Mimi Davis, played by Barbara Anderson, who had just come from the show Ironside.
Morris and Lupus were the only actors to last through the full run of the original series. Morris also appeared in two episodes of the revival series, in which the character’s son, Grant Collier (played by Morris’s real-life son, Phil Morris), is also an IMF agent.
The original series was filmed almost exclusively around Hollywood and the Los Angeles Basin. The pilot episode was filmed at Mount St. Mary’s College (Brentwood Campus) with special guest star Wally Cox.
Other first season locations included the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (“Old Man Out”) and the Los Angeles Union Pacific rail yard (“The Train”).
Pasadena and the Caltech campus were common locations. Another noted location was the Bradbury Building, used in other films and series (from The Outer Limits to Blade Runner). One episode (“Trial by Fury”) was filmed at the Stalag 13 set of Hogan’s Heroes.
Leonard Nimoy (also Mr Spock in Star Trek)
Barbara Anderson (Played Also in Ironside )
Sources : Divers / Youtube / Pinterest / Wikipedia / Google / Zimbio