Mission Impossible: The Killer (1988)

Director: Cliff Bole
Starring: Peter Graves, Thaao Penghlis, Antony Hamilton, Phil Morris, Terry Markwell, Bob Johnson, John de Lancie, Virginia Hey, Vince Martin
Mission Impossible Theme: Lalo Schifrin

The Killer is the first episode in the revived Mission: Impossible series. Revived? In 1988 there was a writer’s strike and no new product came out of Hollywood. ABC’s answer was to recycle old scripts and they decided to remake the Mission: Impossible series. To confuse matters even further they decided to make the series in Australia. The first year was filmed in and around Melbourne, whilst the next two seasons were filmed on the Gold Coast in Queensland. One of the shows biggest assets is that they were able to acquire the services of Peter Graves to reprise his role as Jim Phelps. Graves is so indelibly linked to this show that his participation indicated that the new series intended to continue in the spirit of it’s predecessor. This episode details how Phelps is called back into action.

The show opens at an ultra-swank cocktail party behind held in an upper level of a multi-storey apartment complex. Amongst the guests is IMF operative, Tom Copperfield (Vince Martin). Copperfield is investigating a shady terrorist, known only as ‘Scorpio’. Scorpio knows that the IMF are on his trail and he wants Copperfield dead. To carry out his dirty work he has enlisted the services of a professional hitman, Michael Drake (John De Lancie). Drake is also at the party with his sights firmly set on Copperfield. What makes Drake such an effective and unpredictable assassin, is that he performs each hit in a completely different fashion. At the party, Drake chooses to use a hallucinogenic dart to bring about Copperfield’s demise. He fires the dart at Copperfield who then begins to believe he is on fire. Fearing that he is going to be burnt alive, Copperfield runs out onto the balcony and then hurls himself off into the void.

Copperfield happened to be Jim Phelps protegé and friend. His death prompts Phelps to be re-instated as an IMF team leader. His mission, if he chooses to accept it, is to continue Copperfield’s investigation into the mysterious and deadly Scorpio. The only lead that Phelps has is Drake, and he sets up an operation based around the hitman. But first he has to assemble his new IMF team to carry out the mission.

The first member is Nicolas Black (Thaao Penghlis). Black moonlights as a drama teacher and naturally he is a master of disguise. Next is the beautiful Casey Randall (Terry Markwell). She is a fashion designer and the group’s femme fatale. The we have the muscle, Max Harte (Antony Hamilton), who is an ex-soldier. And rounding out the team is Grant Collier (Phil Morris). Collier is a technical whiz, and just so happens to be the son of Barney Collier (Greg Morris), who was a part of Phelps’ IMF team in the 1960’s and 70’s. Once Phelps has his four man mission team, he is ready to engage in the mission.

Sometimes the 80’s seem like the decade that taste and style forgot, and as such, many of the television shows from that era can be hard to watch today. Thankfully, stylistically, Mission: Impossible didn’t deviate too far from the classic template set in the 60’s and 70’s. Sure, there’s the odd poncey hairdo, and dated musical cues, but this show holds up quite a bit better than many of it’s contemporaries – and to be honest, it’s a lot better than I thought it would be.

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