Mention the name of the show or the exciting film series and you're sure to get the theme music stuck in your head. Mission: Impossible The Original TV Series plots and executes the exciting plan of an incredible Blu-ray release with this massive 7-season, 46-disc, 171-episode box set from Paramount/CBS. Brought to life during the height of the spy TV show craze of the late 60s and 70s, Mission: Impossible offers hours upon hours of entertainment value. Every episode looks amazing with terrific new 1080p transfers and new DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mixes for every episode. Your mission, should you decide to accept it - is to find space on your shelf for this Highly Recommended Blu-ray box set.
"Good morning Mr. Phelps. Your mission should you decide to accept it…"
There's nothing quite like a great piece of vintage television to get your blood pumping in the morning! Born in the 80s, I was too late for Mission: Impossible when it originally aired on television and I was far too young for the 1986 continuation series. Thanks to a pair of grandmothers who had a love for daytime television and the classic TV reruns that would air before and after their favorite soap operas, I was given a pretty decent recap of events. It wasn't until much later when my parents finally got satellite TV that I was able to catch up with the decent 80s relaunch. By that time I was much older and understood the various IMF team members wore masks - as a kid I thought ripping off their races was just something the characters could do! I wouldn't call myself a diehard fan, I seriously doubt I've seen every episode but Mission: Impossible is kinda like M*A*S*H for me where if I'm scrolling through the channels and an episode has just started, I'm all in. Late-night reruns got me through college and this set has been a big help with an infant going through sleep regression the last few days.
Classic television has a bit of a blessing and a curse working on it. Most shows of the Golden Age of television didn't have a structured narrative through-line. The idea that one episode will build upon the next is a pretty modern concept. As such, Mission Impossible had a prescribed routine. Mr. Briggs in Season One and then Mr. Phelps in the subsequent seasons drive to a random location, find a hidden mission briefing that self destructs, discusses the plan with the team, and then they execute the mission.
There wasn't much variation to the structure. Thankfully by season three, they got rid of the silly waste of time where Jim Phelps selects his team - because aside from the random guest the team was virtually the same from episode to episode. The thing that changed was how the team pulled off their mission. It was always a mixture of subterfuge and fancy fakery, but it was always exciting and the great team of writers, directors, and the dynamic cast always kept the audience just enough out of the loop for there to be plenty of surprises and suspense.
With that, I will say that if you're only a casual fan of Mission: Impossible - Season Two is probably the best place to pick things up. Even then, I'd argue Season Three is one of the best of the series. It's not that Season One isn't any good, but you can really feel the show working itself out. Steven Hill as original team leader Daniel Briggs is decent enough, but he's just not as interesting a performer as Peter Graves. Graves is indelible to the show to the point that for years when the series was in syndication Season One wasn't even aired because it confused people that Steven Hill was the headliner.
But it's not just who leads the team that makes the show - it's the great actors who made up the series regulars. Greg Morris as Barney Collier and Peter Lupus as Willy Armitage are always great as the tech masters and inside guys who narrowly complete their tasks with milliseconds to spare. Husband and Wife duo Martin Landau as Rollin Hand and Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter really helped cement the show through the first three seasons. There's a good reason for Bain to win three consecutive Primetime Emmy awards for her time on the show. It's a shame they left when they did - but then we wouldn't have Space: 1999!
With that, a series this popular and complex leads to salary disputes and scheduling conflicts so there was a bit of turnover. Leonard Nimoy coming into the series in the fourth season as Paris was a smart piece of casting. He was a natural fit for the show but he also carried a new fanbase to the series after Star Trek ended its run. Lesley Ann Warren and Sam Elliott were two more great cast additions but sadly their time was short-lived. While the regular cast made the show worth tuning in for - the guest stars make the show worth revisiting. Sid Haig, Lee Meriwether, Henry Silva, John Vernon, Warren Stevens, Anthony Zerbe, Mark Lenard, Arline Anderson, and Bonanza star Pernell Roberts and the king of scene-stealing performances Star Trek's own William Shatner among many other famous faces made guest spots throughout the series.
But like so many television series, not every season is perfect. Long about the middle of Season Six, you can start to feel the cracks in the foundation that made the early adventures great. Without a regular through-line villain beyond the overhead "Syndicate," the adventures start to kind of feel a bit hammy and played. This isn't to say they're not watchable - not by any means. They're still fun, but you can feel the writers struggling to come up with something fresh and new. But that often happens to any show with such a long run. 171 episodes is an achievement for any show and the fact that most of the episodes are engaging and hold up to this day is a testament to how great Mission: Impossible was when it first hit TV screens nearly sixty years ago. Now, your mission should you decide to accept it, is to figure out if you want to watch the series in order or do you jump around and rewatch the old favorites?
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Thanks to Paramount and CBS Home Video accepts the impossible mission of delivering Mission: Impossible The Original TV Series to Blu-ray in an impressive 46-disc set. Bringing together all 171, episodes, each season is spread out with 7-discs with 3-4 episodes on each BD-50 disc. Each disc in each season is housed in a stiff-paperboard gatefold case with character profiles and images unique to each individual season. Discs slide out with ease without worry of getting stuck or risk of rubbing or scratching. All seven season sets rest comfortably in a thin paper box that slides into a paper sleeve case. The paper box and sleeve are thin and a bit on the flimsy side so use caution when taking a season out. Considering the massive number of episodes and I just don't have 144 hours to dedicate to a single show review I cherry-picked an episode or two from each disc and didn't spot any issues with playback. As I pick through the series, if I spot any issues I'll report on it.
Having grown up watching reruns of this series on television, I'm simply floored by how damn good each episode of this series looks. Every episode offers a clear and film-like 1.33:1 1080p transfer that offers rich details and an appreciable natural grain structure. I wouldn't go so far as to call these newly restored, there is still some occasional mild speckling, and there are some moments of brief blink and you'll miss it staining on a couple of the early Season One episodes. There's some occasional softness here and there - usually where it's clear the best take with an actor getting their lines right was just slightly out of focus. Optical effects are a bit rough, especially any zooms, but that's par for the course for a show of this vintage. But these issues are really only small quibbles when you consider how many episodes you have on hand!
Uniformly each episode is in excellent shape offering stunning details. Facial features, the 60s/70s clothing, the set design work - all of it is on display. Heck, there are even a few times where you can spot where the male actors cut themselves shaving! With that, you're able to fully appreciate the show grow and each episode enjoys a larger production budget. Sure, the show is obviously made in Hollywood - it's impossible to miss the observatory in the background even if they're supposed to be in an Eastern European country - but you appreciate they were able to dress things up to look unique most of the time. Also, the makeup work for the disguises and the eventual pull-away masks got better and more convincing. You really have to hand it to Martin Landau in those early episodes for how much stuff was stuck to his face.
Colors are bright and bold with terrific primary pop. Flesh tones are accurate and healthy. Black levels are strong most of the time with welcome image depth, again that's contingent on the film elements, those optical effects tend to flatten the image quite a bit. Whites and contrast are well balanced without any severe blooming. As I detailed above the film elements are in overall great shape with only small issues and then nothing so serious to be distracting. All in all, I'm very happy with the results here as this show has never looked this good on home video.
To match the video transfers of the series, every episode of Mission: Impossible is given an excellent DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix compared to the old DVD Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes. I only had access to my old season three DVDs and these new DTS tracks, really are the best way to go, they feel more lively and open even though their actual "surround experience" is mostly front-loaded. When I tried streaming episodes I would only get a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that wasn't even comparable to the DVD so all-around welcome improvements for presentation. While the music for the series, the iconic theme, and some atmospheric effects fill the sides and rears, the mixes for each episode keep the bulk of the weight in the front/center channels. This is perfectly fine since it still sounds authentic to the original source without feeling overworked or any additional new sound effects added to unnecessarily pad the space out.
Whether outdoor locations or on the studio soundstage, there's a great sense of atmosphere and dimensionality. Again, most of the imaging for these audio tracks are kept to the front/center channels but there's some occasional sound movement throughout the channels - a helicopter escape scene in the desert with Peter Graves dangling at the end of a rope-ladder is a great example, but big explosions or crash sounds get those sides and rears working nicely. Free of hiss, pops, or any clarity issues, these are clean tracks with great levels so you won't need to ride the volume.
German and French Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are also available with optional English, German, and French subtitles.
You don't have to be a huge fan of the show to get a lot of entertainment value out of Mission: Impossible The Original TV Series. The first season may be a bit awkward to newcomers without the memorable presence of Peter Graves in the lead - it was for me - but it's still a great jumping-off point. The series hit its high water mark with seasons Two through Five. Seasons Six and Seven are still a lot of fun, but you can feel the show start to struggle with itself keeping things fresh and interesting. All told, for roughly 145 hours of entertainment, this is pretty damn good stuff. The action is great, the cast for each season is engaging, and the guessing game of spotting the weekly guest stars - some of who make repeat appearances as different characters - is a lot of fun. It had been a while since I watched this show and it was a blast finding some of my favorite episodes and discovering some new ones.
Paramount and CBS have done a terrific job bringing this set to Blu-ray with splendid A/V presentations that best any previous home video release. My only gripe is the flimsy box packaging holding the individual seasons and the thin paper sleeve, but if you're careful they shouldn't pick damage. Maybe down the line, this set will get a repacking effort. Regardless of that issue - I'm still calling this set Highly Recommended.