Mission: Impossible (1971) – Cat’s Paw, and The Missile

Things get personal for Barney (Greg Morris) this week as I dig into some more assignments from Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray. Cat’s Paw was written by Howard Browne, and first aired on 9 January, 1971.

Barney’s older brother is murdered for getting too close to a high tech criminal organization, which has some twisted roots in the local police department, and Barney is determined to bring them all down, striking a blow for justice and revenge in one move.

Phelps (Peter Graves), Paris (Leonard Nimoy), Dana (Lesley Ann Warren) and Willy (Peter Lupus) sign on without asking any questions, and come up with a way to take down those involved, including a bit of a spiritualist act, while Barney slips into the folds of the criminal organization by romancing Millie Webster (Abbey Lincoln).

The team has everything plotted out, and, of course, it goes off without any hitches, because the team has done this sort of thing before. The only thing that really makes it different is that there’s a personal angle due to the the death of Barney’s brother. So while it’s fairly run of the mill, the stuff given to Morris to do lets him deliver some great moments, and the final scene between him and and Millie is bang-on.

And it’s Morris’ performance which raises the story above the standard M:I fare. In a series that is becoming increasingly stagnant in its repetition, it’s good to see some of the characters getting strong character moments, even if they are overdue.

Arthur Weiss pens The Missile, which first debuted on 16 January, 1971, and puts Dana in some serious trouble, when she runs afoul of a psychotic killer, John Hecker (John Beck).

The team draws a mission to confuse a group of foreign agents by having them investigate a bogus missile system, Dana has been keeping track of them, posing as an assistant in the munitions laboratory, but when she needs her car repaired, she draws the eye of Hecker who kidnaps her before she can pass on the information she has learned to Phelps and the rest.

The IMF team is unsure of how to proceed, and work to stay one step ahead of the agents, while Dana tries to figure out how to handle and finally escape Hecker. Again, I know it’s there for dramatic effect, but come on, doesn’t she get the same training as the rest of the IMF agents? She should be able to put this guy down without a problem and then make her escape with the information.

Barney and Paris hunt for clues to her location while Phelps spearheads the missile intrigue, and somehow it will all balance out, and Dana will rejoin her teammates before the forty-eight minute mark.

I like that there are moments when Dana can outsmart Hecker, but I don’t think she’s given enough of them, she should have been able to handle most of it without a problem, or worry about rescue, though it’s nice to know her team is hunting for her.

There are more assignments coming as I continue exploring the fifth season of Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray, now available from Paramount Canada!

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