Home > Reviews > MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Season 6 Overview


Season 5 was a new beginning for Mission: Impossible, raising the bar of its storytelling to a new level of quality and innovation.  But that was beginning to slack off toward the end of the season in favor of a higher percentage of more conventional and formulaic, but still well-written, episodes.  And season 6 had a couple of strikes against it going in: the reduction of the regular cast to four members and the abandonment of international intrigue in favor of stateside crimebusting.  I’m not sure, though, that those changes can explain the degree to which the show lost its way this season.  The year started out rather weakly, and though it eventually settled at a decent enough level and had the occasional gem, it only infrequently approached the level of season 5 and mostly settled for a return to formula.

The top episodes this season were “Encounter,” “Nerves,” “Bag Woman,” and “Double Dead” — the first for its strong character focus and the performance of guest actress Elizabeth Ashley, the others for their effective sense of danger and suspense.  “Invasion” was almost as good, a refreshing return to the global stakes of past seasons.  “The Tram,” “Mindbend,” “The Visitors,” and “Stone Pillow” were strong as well.  “Blues,” “The Bride,” and “Casino” were reasonably good, while “The Connection,” “Committed,” and “Trapped” were decent yet flawed.  “Blind,” “Shape-Up,” “The Miracle,” and “Underwater” were mediocre, “Encore” and “Run for the Money” were awkward and problematical, and “Image” was downright ridiculous.  All in all, the average quality of the season is moderately good, though less than season 5.  But it’s wildly inconsistent.

While it’s unfortunate that they dropped Lesley Ann Warren from the cast (allegedly because she was too inexperienced), Lynda Day George is a worthy replacement.  She’s easily the most beautiful M:I female lead, though maybe a bit too Barbie-doll perfect for some of the characters she’s called on to play — but excellent for romantic interests, ingenues, and women with some eerie or unstable quality, and good at playing a fairly broad range of character types.  If anything, her beauty worked against credibility a bit, since it led the writers to contrive too many situations where the person she replaced happened to resemble her or was someone the mark had never met or hadn’t seen in a long time, so that they didn’t have to hide her pretty face.  Despite being the team’s makeup expert, she only wore a mask in, I believe, two episodes.  Conversely, the lack of a regular male mask performer worked in favor of credibility, since it made a lot more sense to recruit impersonators as needed based on their facial or vocal resemblance to the targets.

On the other hand, the loss of a regular character to take the place of Rollin and Paris meant that the remaining men on the team, particularly Barney and Willy, were sometimes called upon to perform tasks that would formerly have been outside their skill sets — like Barney suddenly acquiring perfect voice mimicry in “Underwater” or Willy turning out to be a card sharp in “Casino.”  On the plus side, though, it let both Greg Morris and Peter Lupus stretch themselves more as actors.

The diminished regular cast, and the shift to law-enforcement missions with cooperation from the authorities, meant that the core team had more assistance than ever before.  The only episode that doesn’t involve cooperation from someone outside the core team is “The Tram.”  Otherwise it’s a pretty hefty list of additional team members and cooperating parties:

01 Blind: Henry Matula (Tom Bosley) & Dr. Warren (Robert Patten) assist; agent Warren Hays (Glenn R. Wilder) cooperates
02 Encore: Dr. Doug Robert (Sam Elliott); Bill Fisher (Paul Mantee), actor/impersonator; unnamed repertory co. incl. Drunk (Sam Edwards)
04 Mindbend: Barney double Teague Williams (uncredited); police cooperate
05 Shape-Up: Lt. Bill Orcott (Lonny Chapman); Actors’ Workshop (audiotape); cooperation from insurance & shipping companies, warehouse owners
06 The Miracle: Steve Johnson (Lawrence Montaigne), actor; Manny (Ollie O’Toole), pickpocket; Nurse (Francine Henderson) and hospital staff cooperate
07 Encounter: Encounter group performers including Joe (Renny Roker), Evie (Arline Anderson), 2 others; hospital staff incl. Dr. Adams (Lauren Gilbert) and Smitty (Virginia Gregg)
08 Underwater: Police cooperate
09 Invasion: Large team of soldiers and actors incl. Wounded Man (David Bond), TV Newsman (Roy Rowan), Soldier (James Essex), and Second Soldier (Conrad Bachmann)
10 Blues: Police Lt. Don Eckhart (Vince Howard), police sergeant playing Pusher (Bob Bralver), vocal impersonator Art Warner (John Crawford)
11 The Visitors: Marty Dix & Helen Prescott (offscreen) allow selves to be impersonated; police cooperate
12 Nerves: Bill Williams (Peter Kilman), impersonator; assistance from police and prison staff incl. Warden (Russell Thorson) & Doctor (Shep Menken)
13 Run for the Money: Trainer Nick Pressy (William Harmatz) & jockey (uncredited); Lucky Lady, racehorse; cooperation from racing officials
14 The Connection: Simone (Francoise Ruggieri), telephone operator; Bill (uncredited), guard; cooperation from Dogana customs official (uncredited) and police in Georgia, NY, Istanbul
15 The Bride: Bob Roberts (Gwil Richards), impersonator
16 Stone Pillow: Cooperation from governor, Department of Corrections, police
17 Image: Dave Scott (Paul Marin), impersonator; Tom Hawkins (George McCallister Jr.), muscle; Dr. Charles Berk (David M. Frank); unnamed workman (extra); cooperation from restaurant owner Alfredo (uncredited) & police; psychic Revalier lets Barney use identity
18 Committed: Assistant DA Wilson (James B. Sikking)
19 Bag Woman: Dr. Bob Miller (Lew Brown), vet; impromptu assist from Dr. Walter Manning (Russ Conway)
20 Double Dead: Steve Wells (Hank Brandt)
21 Casino: Unnamed/unseen voice impersonator; cooperation from state attorney general Peter Wiley (Walker Edmiston)
22 Trapped: Actor’s Studio (off-camera voice impersonation); undercover police at airport

Indeed, given the abundant cooperation with law enforcement and other institutions, the whole practice of the secret message drops and self-destructing tapes ceased to serve any purpose beyond being a trademark of the show.  Even though the tape scenes should probably have been dropped altogether, the only change that was made (beyond the continued absence of the “Secretary will disavow” line which was dropped from stateside missions in season 5) was the addition of a new stock phrase, the assertion that “conventional law enforcement agencies” were unable to achieve the objectives in question, thus justifying the IMF’s involvement.  This was used in every episode except “Invasion,” the only espionage mission of the season.  As far as I could tell, all the tape scenes were new except the one in  “The Visitors.”  All used reel-to-reel tapes except “The Connection,” which used a phonograph record.  Quite a few, seven in all, were filmed at locations on the ocean front.  Several were at playgrounds or recreation areas, while a couple were at what appeared to be high-school or college sports venues.  As far as I recall, all the tapes self-destructed rather than needing to be disposed of by Jim.

The new main title theme arrangement from season 5 is gone; all 22 episodes use the original main-title arrangement.  Nine episodes have composer credits: two episodes each are credited to Lalo Schifrin, Benny Golson, and Robert Drasnin, one each to Robert Prince, George Romanis, and Richard Hazard.   However, the last two of those episodes (one credited to Drasnin, the other to Hazard) had no new music that I noticed, and one of the Schifrin episodes, “The Miracle,” had only a small amount of new music.  “Double Dead” did feature some new Hawaiian-styled source music and slightly altered arrangements of stock cues, but no composer was credited; music supervisor Kenyon Hopkins may have been responsible.  Also, “Blues” featured Greg Morris performing “The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding and an original song by Golson (along with guest actress Gwenn Mitchell performing a song that might have been original or not, I couldn’t tell), and “Trapped” featured Lynda Day George performing the song “The Gentle Rain,” composed by Luiz Bonfa, with English lyrics by Matt Dubey.  All told, this season features less new music than any season to date, and little that really stands out.

There’s little point in doing one of my overviews of locations, since virtually the entire season took place within the United States, albeit in various different regions.  The only episode that featured the team travelling outside the US was “The Connection,” in which some of the team travelled to Rome (or at least its airport) for a portion of the mission.  Their only other overseas venture was to “the Islands” (implicitly Hawaii) in “Double Dead.”  A few other episodes depicted non-IMF characters at overseas locations: Paris in “Invasion,” Istanbul in “The Connection,” and Southeast Asia in “Trapped.”

So what more is there to say?  Season 6 was a letdown after the exceptional season 5, but there were still several episodes that held onto the quality of season 5 and a number of others that managed to be solid, if routine, capers.  However, there was also a significant number of duds and absurd premises.  There’s no telling where the show will go from here.  Season 7 will have no radical changes in cast or format from season 6, aside from the temporary substitution of Barbara Anderson’s Mimi in place of Casey during Lynda Day George’s maternity leave.  So will it be about the same in quality as well?  That remains to be seen.

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