Mission: Impossible (1973) – The Fighter, and Speed

It’s my penultimate instalment of Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series. Five episodes to go. First up this week is The Fighter. Written by Stephen Kandel and Nicholas E. Baehr from a story by Orville H. Hapmton, this episode first debuted on 9 February, 1973.

It starts out with a fun guest star, Herbert Jefferson Jr., who doesn’t survive the opening credits and sees the IMF going after, surprise, surprise, The Syndicate and organized crime again. This time they are after Jay Braddock (Joe Maross) and Paul Mitchell (another solid guest star in the form of William Windom).

Braddock and Mitchell are heavily involved in the boxing world, fixing fights and fighters, though Mitchell is less inclined than to pursue the criminal side of things. Mitchell’s daughter, Susan (Jenifer Shaw) has a developing romance with one of their fighters, Pete (Geoffrey Novick) and that is how Phelps (Peter Graves) and his team are going in.

They are going to work to drive a wedge between Braddock and Mitchell and bring this little criminal enterprise to an end (you know until the next episode when The Syndicate is back and more of a threat than ever).

Once again, Phelps, Barney (Greg Morris), Willy (Peter Lupus) and Casey (Lynda Day George) put a fairly convoluted plan into action to bring the baddies down, but they all happily get a moment or two to shine.

With all these stories about The Syndicate and organized crime, it’s really a shame that the series was only episodic in nature because serialized storytelling on this show could have been really something.

Speed puts the team after more crime, this time the drug scene as they go after Sam Hibbing (holy crap, it’s Claude Akins!) the biggest dealer on the west coast.

Written by Lou Shaw, this episode was first broadcast on 16 February, 1973.

It seems Hibbing has recently gotten his hands on some (stolen) amphetamine powder which he’s going to sell off. Phelps and his team have to bring Hibbing down by intercepting the powder before it can reach its destination.

The plan involves slipping Casey in to replace Hibbing’s daughter, Margaret (Jenny Sullivan) who is hooked on her father’s product and Phelps works to track down and recover the speed shipment. How? By getting Margaret to turn against her father, she’s already had two overdoses and is walking a fine line. Can they get through to her or has speed pushed her too far?

The best part of the episode, besides Akins turn as a baddie is Barney’s moustache.

The series isn’t tired at this point, but it has become so formulaic that it can’t surprise the viewer anymore. The guest stars are solid, but the ideas feel a little stale. It’s odd watching these knowing the stories would be done differently now.

Next week, we finish Paramount Canada’s release of Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on Blu-ray.

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