Major trials and tribulations during a tumultuous fourth sea
trebe | 07/22/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is almost impossible to discuss the fourth season of Mission Impossible, without mentioning the contract dispute that caused the husband and wife team of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, to end their three year association with the highly successful program. Paramount Studios refused to meet Landau's request to rise his salary, bringing about the last minute addition of Leonard Nimoy, who was available after winding up a three year stint as Mr. Spock on Star Trek. The show's producers did not find a true replacement for Barbara Bain, who had won three consecutive Emmy awards for her portrayal of Cinnamon Carter. Instead a number of actresses including Lee Meriwether, Anne Francis, Jessica Walter, Antoinette Bower, Julie Gregg, and Barbara Luna, filled in. In nine of the twenty six episodes, there simply was no female IMF member.
With Landau's and Bain's departure, the show had a new look. Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) was still running the operation, but having no one cast in Bain's role, created problems both for the cast, and for the audience who both never knew what to expect, week to week. As The Great Paris, Nimoy assumed the roles normally reserved for Landau. When impersonating a key figure, Paris employed conventional methods of disguise more often than the rubber masks, that the writers had overused with Landau. While having no regular female IMF member created a huge void, it did provide the opportunity to expand the roles of Barney Collier (Greg Morris), and Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus).
Deception and masterful con jobs are what Mission Impossible is all about. One of the best is "The Submarine", where in the East European Republic, Kruger Schtelman (Stephen McNally), who knows where loot stolen by the German SS in World War II is stashed away, is about to finish a 25 year prison term. The IMF's mission is to find out where the money is, and prevent the growth of a neo-Nazi organization. In classic fashion, the IMF convinces Schtelman that he is aboard a submarine, and is about to die, and soon he is screaming over and over, the secret he has kept for decades. It's deliciously absurd.
Intrigue at the highest levels of government is familiar ground for the IMF. One of their most ambitious undertakings is "The Falcon", which stretched over three episodes. The plot reads like a fairy tale, where corrupt General Sabattini (John Vernon) is holding Prince Stephan (Joseph Reale) prisoner, in order to force Stephan's fiancé Francesca (Diane Baker) to marry him, and make him first heir to the throne. The current heir, is Francesca's cousin Nicolai (Noel Harrison), an adult with the mind of a child. Fascinated by magic, Nicolai has invited the magician Zastro to perform at the palace. Paris impersonates Zastro, while Tracey (Lee Meriwether) is the psychic Madame Vinsky. In addition Barney temporarily losing his sight, Francesca is entombed alive, and the crown jewels are stolen. What is most unusual, is that the plan unravels at the end, and the IMF has to scramble wildly, in order to complete the mission.
Adventure can occur anytime or anywhere. In "The Death Squad", Barney and Jim are vacationing in the Latin American country of Cuidamo, when Barney gets involved with a local artist (Cicely Tyson). He has a scuffle with a jealous admirer, and the man is accidentally killed. Police Chief Corba (Pernell Roberts) is in the habit of executing prisoners without a trial. As the dead man happens to be Corba's brother, Barney is under a death sentence, and Paris and Willy arrive to help. Leon Askin, and John Shuck also appear in this exciting "unofficial" adventure.
At its best, Mission Impossible is like a magician's illusion, where knowing that what you are seeing isn't real, doesn't necessarily detract from the enjoyment of the performance. With outlandish plots, set in fictional locations, often with slim ties to reality, and major loose ends, it is hard to regard Mission Impossible as anything other than an outrageous fantasy.
Lalo Schifrin wrote the theme for Mission Impossible, and helped to establish the musical tone for the program, with his unique selection of tonalities and instrumentation. Composer Jerry Fielding, who wrote the theme for Hogan's Heroes, adds a distinct "Hoganesque" flavor to Mission Impossible's music in season four.
Which of the female IMF operatives did the best job is debatable, but Lee Meriwether was the only actress featured in more than one mission, and reportedly wanted the role very badly. Of the rest, Jessica Walter seemed to have both the maturity and cool to be suitable, however the matter would become moot, when Lesley Ann Warren was chosen as a regular in season five. Other radical changes would come as series creator Bruce Geller, would be kicked off from his own show. Season four was a struggle, as besides the crisis with the cast, the show also had problems finding writers who could produce the unique kind of scripts the series required. Overall the quality of the shows was good, but not great.
Image quality varies, but is generally very good, as in some closeups you can remarkable facial detail. The subtitling often helps with figuring out some of the names and fictional locations. Unfortunately there are no extras. It would have been nice to have had some contribution from Leonard Nimoy, but he may have less than warm feelings about the show."
All Good Episodes Except the Last One Titled "Martyr".
P. McCoy | Greenbelt, MD United States | 07/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This review may contain spoilers.
I borrowed Season Four from my local library. Given that I am VERY familiar with Leonard Nimoy's work as Mr. Spock of Star Trek, I was VERY impressed with his work as "Paris", the newest member of the IM Force. I also had a lot of fun spotting other Star Trek actors and remembering the episodes that I had seen them in, (i.e. who remembers T'Pring from Amok Time?). I enjoyed the fact that Leonard Nimoy, (the former Mr. Spock), was in an episode that involved his "former Vulcan wife".
I was also pleasantly surprised to spot other actors from other TV series from my childhood, i.e. Pernell Roberts, formerly of Bonanza, and Barry Williams, formerly of The Brady Bunch. Seeing their faces again brought back fond memories.
However, the final episode of Season Four, "Martyr", was NOT to my liking! To me, it felt like the script writers took the Star Trek episode, "The Way to Eden" and recycled it. The writers also seemed to have forgotten one very important ingredient....persuading the audience into having a willing suspension of disbelief. This episode expected me to believe that Paris, (Leonard Nimoy), could pass for a 25-year-old college student in 1970. By this point, Mr. Nimoy was well into his 30's, possibly approaching 40, and there was NO way I could believe he was a 25-year-old. Handsome as he is, in 1970, he did not have a 25-year-old face. He was clearly much older than the character he was pretending to be.
Because of the way this last episode of Season Four was produced, I'm giving the Fourth TV Season of Mission Impossible four stars instead of five."