Mission: Impossible (1970) – The Choice, and The Martyr

This week we close out the fourth season of Mission: Impossible. The penultimate episode of the season is definitely the stronger of the two, and lets Leonard Nimoy do a little character work as he plays both IMF agent Paris, and the episode’s nemesis, Emile Vautrain (which you should probably read as Rasputin).

In a script by Ken Pettus from a story by Henry Sharp, Phelps (Peter Graves) and his team take on The Choice, which first aired on 22 March, 1970. The team, once again, heads to eastern Europe to help maintain democracy.

It seems Vautrain is using his powers of persuasion, his mystical preaching, and more to keep the Grand Duchess Teresa (Nan Martin) under his sway. He also plans to have her announce him as her replacement on the thrown when she abdicates it.

The team rolls into town with a plan to replace Vautrain with a done up Paris, who is working with Phelps in an illusionist/snuff show – they pretend to kill a man on stage with an electric chair. Vautrain and his right hand man Benet (Alan Bergman), with Sid Haig as his henchman, decide to have Phelps’ illusionist wire another electrical device which will appear to kill Vautrain, but then resurrect himself, proving himself to be immortal.

But the team has accounted for all of Vautrain’s moves, even if they seem to be caught unawares.

This was a fun episode, though there was a moment that truly beggared belief. There is a lot of suspension of disbelief associated with the series, but there was a bit when Barney (Greg Morris) has slipped in side the Duchess’ residence to set up events for the climax, and a trio of people come into the room. He hides behind a large chair, and isn’t spotted once, I say large chair, and it is if you’re sitting in it, but not hiding behind it.

Still I liked this one, and Nimoy got to shift his performance a number of times as he took on multiple roles.

The Martyr closes out the season, and sees the team still on assignment in Europe (which, as always, looks a lot like California). Written by Pettus, this episode first debuted on 29 March, 1970. This time out, the team is working to stop an anti-Western, repressive regime from seizing power, and controlling the young people, who have clung to the stories of President Eduard Malik, who believed in a democratic country, and progress and hope for the future.

His widow, Maria (Anna Lee), has been held in a mental hospital for years, to keep her from talking to the people, but she apparently still has access to code books, which she uses to decipher a message Barney fires through her ward’s window. He tells her to go along with whatever happens.

And what happens is Paris poses as her son, presumed dead, but now returned to the country, and meets with the new leader, Anton Rojek (John Larch). Rokek is intrigued when it appears that young Malilk doesn’t share his father’s views and may speak out against them, and in favor of Rojek’s regime.

Through in a folk singer, Roxy (Lynn Kellogg) who renders a version of The Times They Are A Changin’, you get a fairly familiar feeling episode, but it’s worth it to hear Barney talking jive and fighting ‘the man.’ He’s still the coolest agent on Phelps’ team.

Of course, the whole plan is to denounce Rojek, and get Maria safely out of the country, which they do easily. And save the day for democracy yet again.

Thus closes the fourth season, but there are three more to come as I continue my exploration of Paramount Pictures’ release of Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray!!

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