Mission: Impossible (1970) – The Killer, and Flip Side

Season Five of Paramount’s Mission: Impossible gets underway on the blog this week, and there are a few changes to the series right from the start. We now get a teaser opening showing us both the villain of the piece, and Phelps (Peter Graves) receiving his assignment.

We also have a new female lead, after a whole season of rotating guest appearances, the producers added Lesley Ann Warren to the series as Dana, and they throw her, and the rest of the team right into it with The Killer.

Written by Arthur Weiss, The Killer first debuted on 19 September, 1970.

Phelps, Dana, Paris (Leonard Nimoy), Barney (Greg Morris) and Willy (Peter Lupus) gear up to go after a contract killer, Lorca (Robert Conrad) in the hopes of stopping him, and tying him to his main employer, simply known as Scorpio.

The problem comes from the randomness that Lorca lets rule his life. He never does the same thing twice, he lets a pair of dice help him decide his actions, thus keeping his moves and actions random, and harder to track.

The team is going to have to find a way to beat him at his own game, and set things up to have Lorca lead them right to Scorpio.

There’s a tone shift with the start of the season. While the above may read as tightly paced, the story itself feels loose, and not quite as constrained as previous episodes. Is there a change in production, direction? I’m not quite sure, but there is the sensation of looseness about the episode.

It doesn’t mean it isn’t good (it must have been as it was repurposed for the revival series in the late 80s), it’s just different.

Not sure how I feel about it – or the addition of Warren to the cast, she’s lovely, but sticks out amongst the older men around her.

Flip Side was written by Jackson Gillis and was first broadcast on 29 September, 1970. It’s a ‘drugs are bad’ episode, and sees the IMF going after a drug pipeline that starts with a pharma bro in the States, C.W. (Dana Elcar), goes south of the border to Max (Robert Alda), where it’s packaged and shipped to Los Angeles to be distributed by Mel (Sal Mineo) who is using a music producer cover to deliver his product.

While Phelps poses as a buyer, Barney gets to prove he’s a man of action with some fisticuffs, and climbing all over a moving transport truck. While that’s going on, Dana and Paris pose as a musical duo who beguile not only C.W., setting him up for the denouement, but Max as well, who promises to put them in touch with Mel.

Barney tracks the drug shipment through its journey, Dana works on seducing a married C.W. while also pretending to indulge a drinking and drug habit, and Phelps is insistent on getting his drugs.

Again, the plot and narrative don’t feel as tight as in previous seasons, and while it’s great to see Barney getting to do more, especially action-related, there is still a breezy looseness to this episode as well, and one wonders if it is going to run the length of the season, or longer.

I guess we’ll find out next week, when I dive into more of Paramount Canada’s Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray!

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