Mission: Impossible (1973) – The Pendulum, The Western, and Imitation

This is it, the final instalment of Mission: Impossible as I complete my exploration of The Complete Series on Blu-ray, available now from Paramount Canada.

The last three episodes of the series are much like those that went before it. They remain episodic in nature, interchangeable with anything that has gone before, and no real farewell is given to the audience.

The Pendulum first aired on 23 February, 1973 and was written by Calvin Clements Jr.

At least this time Phelps (Peter Graves) and his IMF team are back to taking on spies and terrorists as they go after Gunnar Malstrom (Dean Stockwell!!!), the leader of a terrorist cell, Pendulum, intent on overthrowing the U.S. government.

Phelps, Barney (Greg Morris), Willy (Peter Lupus) and Casey (Lynda Day George) have to put together the pieces of Pendulum’s plan, known as Project Nightfall, but will they have figured it all out before episode’s end, or will some curve balls being thrown their way?

Of course, they are going to figure things out in time, and I love the fact that they got someone like Stockwell to play the baddie, but after so many episodes of going after organized crime, this welcome return to real spycraft wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been.

The Western was the series’ penultimate episode. It debuted on 2 March, 1973 and was written by Arnold and Lois Peyser.

Watch for an appearance by the wonderful Michael Ansara and Joanna Cassidy! This time out, the IMF is after criminals again, and play the paranormal card again. This time it’s to convince a thief, Van Cleave (Ed Nelson) that he is having premonitions and visions of events that are about to happen.

In this case, the team is working to convince him that the visions of the earthquake and subsequent flood that he is seeing will kill him, and wash away the huge pre-Colombian art he’s stolen from the Aztec Museum unless he moves it and himself.

If the team can convince him, then they’ll be able to recover the art, and bust Van Cleave for their theft, as well as the murder of his partner, Royce (Barry Atwater).

This just feels a little too familiar to be fresh and enjoyable. We’ve seen variations on this story since the beginning of the story, so you know how things are going to play out even before the main body of the episode starts.

I think that ends up being one of the biggest problems with the series, they didn’t take a chance on their stories, and settled on being formulaic from week to week. Yet, it was good enough the be reborn in the late 80s, and then launch a hugely successful film series in the 90s.

Imitation brought the series to a close on 30 March, 1973. It was written by Edward J. Lasko.

Barney is given a last chance to shine as the team goes after Jena Cole (Barbara McNair) who has stolen the crown jewels of Marnsburg while they were en route to the United Nations.

Barney slips into Jena’s life posing as the former cellmate of Jena’s dead brother, while the rest of the team goes to work on attempting to convince Jena that the jewels she has are in fact, imitations.

While definitely a stronger episode than the previous pair, this still doesn’t feel like a way to end the series. After seven seasons, it’s just done. Whether the characters grew or not, we’ve travelled with them, spent time with them, and gotten to know them in some form or another.

We know the tricks of the trade, and just like that, it’s taken away. Admittedly at this point, the series does seem a little tired. They aren’t really doing anything new or making any real social commentary, but now, my time hanging with Barney (still the collect of the entire team, ever) is over.

Still thanks to Paramount Pictures, I can revisit any mission, anytime, with The Complete Series on Blu-ray, available now.

Your mission should you choose to accept it…

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