Mission: Impossible (1971) – The Catafalque, and Kitara

Paul Playdon wrote Catafalque, which first aired on 6 February, 1971, and features John Vernon as Ramone Fuego, who gets manipulated by the IMF in an attempt to get sensitive information into the hands of the American government.

And while most of the story is really engaging, as Phelps (Peter Graves) and his team set Ramone up, thanks to some help from Dana (Lesley Ann Warren) and Doug (Sam Elliott), and then Paris (Leonard Nimoy) pulls out the disguises to fleece the information from him, part of the scheme rests on a body lying in state under constant supervision.

Doug and Barney (Greg Morris) are in charge of replacing the body, and because all the guards have their back to it, they raise it up from behind them. But come on, none of these guards are aware enough to sense any movement from the corner of their eye?

The way the story plays out (except for the body removal) is above average for some of the things we’ve seen this season, and it proves to be a solid tale, I just can’t get past the body swapping sequence. If this bit had a little more thought paid to it, then this one could have been a real exceptional episode.

Heck there’s even a bit of a nod to The Count of Monte Cristos by Dumas, thanks to Paris’ part in the episode.

Overall a strong season five episode, if typical, but that one sequence just doesn’t work.

Kitara was written by Mann Rubin, and debuted on 20 February, 1971. The IMF are heading to Africa to rescue Kitara (Robert DoQui) a revolutionary leader in a segregated and racist country, as well as recover some stolen gold. He’s been captured and is in the hands of Colonel Alex Kohler (Lawrence Dobkin).

Because of their color, Phelps, Dana and Doug can all pose as members of the government, with Doug sharing that he is in charge of finding black men who can pass as white… can you see this coming?

Barney has rigged some whizz bang tech that with the right combination and exposure will begin to change Kohler’s skin tone, darkening his epidermis.

Unfortunately, from a production standpoint, that means there has to be an actor in blackface.

Kohler becomes what he hates, and while that’s ironic, and features an important message, there could have been a better way to do it. And while I don’t approve of the fact that it was done, they do play it very straight, and make a pointed commentary on the subject.

But it didn’t have to be done that way.

There’s still more to come, even as we near the end of season five, as I explore more of Paramount Canada’s Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray, available now!

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