Mission: Impossible (1969) – Live Bait, and The Bunker: Part 1

James D.Buchanan, Ronald Austin, and Meyer Dolinsky pen this week’s first episode, Live Bait, from a story developed by Dolinsky. This story first aired on 23 February, 1969, and features too recognisable guest stars, Anthony Zerbe, and the wonderful Martin Sheen!

Phelps (Peter Graves) and his team head behind the Iron Curtain again to free an undercover agent while protecting a deep cover mole, whose identity could be revealed if the agent is broken. Everything will rest on using and exploiting a naive security officer, Brocke (Sheen, looking so young here).

Meanwhile, Colonel Kellerman (Zerbe) is determined to break the agent, and learn who the mole in his organisation is. There are disguises, tech, and gas used throughout the episode, so that eventually, Brocke is led to believe that Kellerman is the mole, and is working to help the agent escape.

Which, of course, the IMF team does right under the noses of the enemy government.

I really liked this episode, there’s some interesting camera work, the gun range sequence stands out nicely, and some great guest appearances. I was delighted to see Sheen pop up in this series. Everyone seems to get a moment in this episode, except for Willy (Peter Lupus), who is noticeably absent.

Rollin (Martin Landau) impersonates an officer, while Cinnamon (Barbara Bain) and Phelps weave a net around Brocke, and Barney (Greg Morris) puts his tech knowledge to use by splicing some film together to create a believable image that will help cement Kellerman’s fate.

The Bunker: Part 1 feels very much like a template for the film series that took up the series’ mantle. There is mask work, tech that seems on the cutting edge (for the time), and a huge plan to pull off. So big they had to break it up over two episodes.

Paul Playdon penned this story, which saw Part 1 first airing on 2 Mar, 1969.

Dr. Erich Rojak (Milton Selzer) is a brilliant scientist, but is being held in an underground bunker to help perfect a country’s missile system. They are holding his wife, Anna (Lee Merriwether), in prison to keep him working.

Phelps and the team are sent in to foil the missile work, and rescue the Rojaks. Unfortunately, an opposite number, an enemy agent, has been assigned to infiltrate the bunker and assassinate Rojak.

Cinnamon, using a number of masks, gets arrested, and helps Willy get Anna out, while she replaces her, and Phelps gets himself into position inside the bunker as a new security aide.

Do Phelps and his team know the assassin is already on site? How will they get Cinnamon out? And will Willy and Anna be trapped in the furnace as the flames rise higher? Throw in some voice print access, some flying drones, and lots of mask work, and you have what is quickly coming one of my all time favourite episodes of the series (despite the fact that Eastern Europe looks like Southern California).

I love the time the episode takes with develping Rojak’s character, his interactions, and getting everyone in position to help resolve the cliffhanger. Something that I will see play out next week, as I continue to explore Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray, now available from Paramount Canada!

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