The Australian-filmed incarnation of Mission: Impossible had a chequered history. Its roots in the 1988 Writers Strike meant that it was originally a vehicle for reworked scripts, but when the strike was resolved, the opportunity arose for more adventures for the IMF. The decision not to script the series as a direct remake (retaining the original characters’ names, as planned) meant that the show could plunder the wealth of the previous seasons for characters and situations.
The first season sees Jim Phelps come out of retirement (in a story that is a remake of a season five show), and take charge of the IMF once more. Once you get past the first couple of episodes, the show is tailored far more to the new cast and characters, with Greg Morris reprising his role as Barney Collier (working with his son Phil, one of the show’s leads), and Lynda Day George returning as Casey (her last name, we discover, contrary to the impression given in the original series) to join Peter Graves giving the show the official MI imprimatur.
There are some shocks during the first year, particularly in the way that Jane Badler’s character is introduced, and more than a few moments where you wonder if the show has jumped the shark – but compared to the way that Brian de Palma treated the franchise and its characters in the first big-screen adventure, this is “pure” Mission: Impossible. No matter how many hoops noveliser Peter Barsocchini tried to jump through when writing his adaptation of that first big-screen adventure for the IMF, the character played by Jon Voight in that film is not the Jim Phelps that we followed for over twenty years across the two series. That makes these often unseen adventures the proper ending for that version of the IMF team (although Cinnamon Carter would make one later appearance in, of all places, an episode of Diagnosis: Murder).
The second year isn’t the strongest Mission: Impossible series – there’s only 16 episodes for a start – and the show definitely wanders into fantastical James Bond territory, ironically at a time when the 007 films were becoming more down to Earth (Licence to Kill was released around this time). We’ve got missing nuclear bombs, private space flights and yet more neo-Nazis.
Peter Graves really is showing his age in a number of these stories, so the younger team members take on the physical work, and it’s always nice to see the odd reappearance by members of the original crew.
If you’ve not caught these episodes before, they’re certainly worth a watch – and it’s good to see that the recent movies have finally cottoned on to the fact that M:I was about teamwork, not a solo star!
Verdict: Fun escapist entertainment. 6/10