Rewind: ‘Mission: Impossible’ (1988) revisited

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Although it now languishes in the wilderness of television history, this intelligent, hi-tech and resolutely of-its-time reboot of Mission: Impossible provides a glossy missing link between the original TV show and the more recent movie franchise starring Tom Cruise.


What was it about?

Initially intended to be a straight remake of the 1960s series, featuring old plots and new actors, plans changed when Peter Graves – Jim Phelps in the first incarnation of M:I – signed up to recreate his old character and a string of brand new storylines were commissioned instead.

Set fifteen years on from the last instalment of the first run, the relaunched Mission: Impossible begins with Phelps’ successor as leader of the Impossible Missions Force being killed by a Bill Murray-haired John de Lancie (Star Trek, Torchwood: Miracle Day, Breaking Bad) using an updated take on the hallucinogenic poison darts from Young Sherlock Holmes. Phelps is called out of retirement to avenge the death of his protégé and assemble a new team of agents.


Who was in it?

Graves was the only member of the original cast to appear regularly in the rebooted series, although voice actor Bob Johnson returned to provide the disembodied voice giving Phelps his impractical tasks on self-destructing recordings. (In keeping with the determinedly modern approach, these were on mini-CDs rather than tape.)

New IMF agent Grant Collier, played by Phil Morris, was the son of Barney Collier from the 1960s series – who was played by Morris’s father Greg. Other team members included Thaao Penghlis as Nick Black, Anthony Hamilton as Max Harte and Jane Badler as Shannon Reed, while there were occasional guest appearances from Morris senior and his co-star from M:I Mark I, Lynda Day George.



Best moments?

Highlights of the first season included ‘The Condemned’ – in which former IMF agent Barney Collier reappeared, falsely accused of murder and facing a death sentence in Turkey – and ‘The Fortune’, Jane Badler’s debut story, which also featured the death of her predecessor Casey Randall (Terry Markwell).

It was comparatively rare for a drama series of this nature to kill off a character midway through a season and unheard of in the M:I franchise. Collier senior also returned the following year for the two-part story, ‘The Golden Serpent’.

Fans of unrealistic US TV depictions of the UK will be horrified by pilot episode, ‘The Killer’, actually featuring scenes shot in London rather than on an unrealistic American studio lot, although they’ll be more reassured by some of the horrendous English accents on display – most notably the one barely attempted by Thaao Penghlis when Nick Black pretends to be a taxi driver.


Last seen?

The show was brought to a close after two seasons, with the 35th and final episode, ‘The Sands of Seth’, airing in February 1990.

Six years later, a certain Ethan Hunt was recruited to IMF in a blockbuster movie directed by Brian De Palma and the television series that bridged the gap between the more famous versions of Mission: Impossible was quietly forgotten.


The future?

With Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol becoming the fifth highest-grossing film of 2011 and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation likely to do similar business this year, Tom Cruise will reportedly be back filming a sixth mission for Ethan Hunt as soon as next summer.


> Buy the ’88 season on DVD on Amazon.

Which Mission: Impossible era is your favourite? Let us know below…