Mission: Impossible (1970) – The Crane, and Death Squad

The IMF swings back into action again this week, with yet another mission to save an Eastern Bloc country from itself, and restore it to its prior democratic state but working to turn the current leaders against one another, and reinstate a pro-democracy guerilla leader who is sentenced to be executed.

Written by Ken Pettus, this one is fairly paint by numbers for anyone who knows the series, though seeing them sneak the guerilla leader out using a big crane is pretty cool.

First airing on 8 March, 1970, Phelps (Peter Graves) gives us our last dossier selection sequence of the series as the team is pulled together to pull of yet another seemingly impossible mission. Paris (Leonard Nimoy) gets to pull on some costumes, practice his mimicry, and Willy (Peter Lupus), Barney (Greg Morris) and Clay (Ralph Ventura) – who? – join them to use the construction site right under the baddies nose to pull off their mission.

Maybe not so impossible then.

I’m not sure if I’m tiring of the series or not at this point, a lot of it can be repetitive, and a lot of my enjoyment hinges on performances, guest cast, and what new tricks the team employs, and there wasn’t a lot of that in this one for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having Nimoy aboard, and it’s such a joy to see him in a role so unlike Spock, and Greg Morris’ Barney is still the best agent I’ve come across, but I knew what was gonna happen, I knew how things were going to play out, and there were no real surprises this time out for me.

But then along came Death Squad. Written by Lauence Heath and having an original air date of 15 march, 1970, this one gives Barney a little more to do than usual, and shows that he’s not one to sit around and wait if he can avoid it (which in the end, for the sake of the story, he can’t, but he was close to not needing anyone else but himself, which was AWESOME!).

Barney and Jim are taking a well-deserved vacation in a Central American country, and over the past couple of weeks, Barney has developed a romantic relationship with a local artist, Alma Ross (Cicely Tyson).

When a jealous man attempts to attack the pair in Alma’s apartment, he meets a violent end, tumbling from a window, and impaling himself on his own knife.

Open and shut case? The local police chief, Corba (Pernell Roberts) doesn’t agree, and he, and his aide, Jocaro (John Schuck) arrest Barney for murder, and stow him away in the nefarious section 10 of the jail house – Barney learns that it means he’s been judged and found guilty without a trial, and is due to be executed.

Without waiting for anyone else on the team, he goes right to work on an escape plan, which would have worked brilliantly but for one mistimed arrival by Jocaro.

Phelps, meanwhile, has summoned Paris and Willy to help him out, and they concoct a plan to make it appear that Barney was involved in a jewelry theft, and only he knows where the goods are. Now if Corba can just get that info from Barney, or Phelps, while Paris joins the local corrupt police force…

I love that Barney had more to do this time around, and that he was all about escaping from the moment he was put in the cell, checking exits, and material. Love it! I still stand by the belief that of Phelps’ entire time, Barney is the best, and most under-used, agent.

There are more missions next week, impossible and otherwise, as I come to the conclusion of season four, in my exploration of Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray, available now from Paramount Canada.

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