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Mission: Impossible (1988 TV series)

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Mission: Impossible
Spy fiction
Created byBruce Geller
Theme music composerLalo Schifrin
ComposersRon Jones, John E. Davis
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes35
Production locationsQueensland, Australia (Season 1)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (Season 2)
Running time46–49 minutes
Production companiesJeffrey Hayes Productions
Paramount Network Television
Original release
ReleaseOctober 23, 1988 (1988-10-23) –
February 24, 1990 (1990-02-24)
Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

Mission: Impossible is an American television series that chronicles the missions of a team of secret American government agents known as the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). The show is a continuation of the 1966–1973 TV series of the same name. The only actor to return for the series as a regular cast member was Peter Graves who played Jim Phelps, although two other cast members from the original series (Greg Morris and Lynda Day George) returned as guest stars. The only other regular cast member (unseen) to return for every episode was the voice of "The Tape" (in this series, "The Disc"), Bob Johnson.


The events of the series take place 15 years after the last season of the original Mission: Impossible TV series. After his protégé and successor as leader of the top-secret Impossible Missions Force is killed, Jim Phelps is called out of retirement and asked to form a new IMF team and track down the assassin.

His team consists of:

  • Nicholas Black, a University acting professor, actor and disguise expert.
  • Max Harte, a strongman whom was also a weapon and undercover expert.
  • Casey Randall, an interior designer turned undercover agent.
  • Grant Collier, son of Barney Collier, IMF's original technology expert and a technical genius in his own right.

After finding the killer, Jim decides to stay on and keep the team together. Midway through season 1, Casey is killed during a mission (becoming the first ongoing IMF agent to be disavowed on screen), and Secret Service agent Shannon Reed succeeds her for the remainder of the series. With the exception of this cast change, Phelps's team remains constant throughout the series. Sharon expertise was with journalism and singing.


Main cast[edit]

Character Name Season(s) Episodes(s) Portrayed by Known special abilities
Jim Phelps 1–2 1–35 Peter Graves Leadership, disguise, role play, mimicry
Nicholas Black 1–2 1–35 Thaao Penghlis Actor, makeup/disguise, visual effects, voice impersonation, mimicry
Max Harte 1–2 1–35 Tony Hamilton Strength, acting, role play, marksmanship, logistics, driving, pilot
Grant Collier 1–2 1–35 Phil Morris Electronics, computers, sabotage, engineer
Casey Randall 1 1–12 Terry Markwell Designer, femme fatale, sharpshooter
Shannon Reed 1–2 12–35 Jane Badler Ex-Secret Service Agent, femme fatale, disguise, mimicry, role play
Voice on Disc 1–2 1–35 Bob Johnson voice only

Guest cast[edit]

The revived series had special appearances by several 1960s - 1970s IMF veterans, including Lynda Day George and Greg Morris as Barney Collier. (George's character's name Casey became her surname, and she was given the first name Lisa due to this series having an operative also called Casey.[1]) The character played by Morris's real-life son, Phil Morris, is Grant Collier, Barney's son.

The appearances of Barney Collier and Lisa Casey established continuity with the original series, while the episodes "Spy" and "Reprisal" established that Jim Phelps continued to work after the original series ended.



In 1988, the American fall television season was hampered by a writers' strike that prevented the commissioning of new scripts. Producers, anxious to provide new product for viewers but with the prospect of a lengthy strike, went into the vaults for previously written material. ABC decided to launch a new Mission: Impossible series, with a mostly new cast (except for Graves, who would return as Phelps), but using scripts from the original series, suitably updated. To save even more on production costs, the series was filmed in Australia; the first season in Queensland, and the second season in Melbourne. Costs in 1988 were some 20 percent lower in Australia compared with Hollywood. The new Mission: Impossible was one of the first American commercial network programs to be filmed in Australia. The show's core cast included several Australian actors, and numerous Australians (along with Australian-based American and British actors) were also cast in guest roles.

According to Patrick White's book, The Complete Mission Impossible Dossier, the original plan was for the series to be an actual remake/reimaginging of the original series, with the new cast playing the same characters from the original series: Rollin Hand, Cinnamon Carter, et al. Just before filming began, White writes, the decision was made to rework the characters so that they were now original creations, albeit still patterned after the originals, with only Jim Phelps remaining unchanged, and with the Collier character becoming the son of the original to take advantage of the fact the actor cast in the role, Phil Morris, is the son of Greg Morris, the actor who played Barney Collier. One of the reworked scripts incorporated a guest appearance by the elder Morris as Barney Collier.

The strike eventually ended and the series was able to compose original storylines. Ultimately only a few episodes ended up being outright remakes of the original series, including the show's premiere episode.


Originally, the show had aired on Sundays, filling in for A Fine Romance, then delayed by the strike,[2] and was moved to Saturday evenings starting with episode 9 of the first season. At the start of the second season, ABC moved the show to the Thursday 8:00 p.m. timeslot, which proved to be a disaster. Being forced to compete with NBC's The Cosby Show and A Different World, Mission: Impossible's ratings quickly declined. ABC responded by moving the show back to Saturday nights to replace the sitcoms Mr. Belvedere and Living Dolls, which faltered badly in their time slots. The move was not a success and the series was cancelled at the end of the second season.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
119October 23, 1988 (1988-10-23)May 6, 1989 (1989-05-06)
216September 21, 1989 (1989-09-21)February 24, 1990 (1990-02-24)

Season 1 (1988–89)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
code [1]
U.S. viewers
11"The Killer"Cliff BoleArthur WeissOctober 23, 1988 (1988-10-23)123.0[3]14.5/22[3]

When an assassin (John de Lancie) kills his protégé and replacement as IMF team leader, Jim Phelps comes out of retirement in order to stop both the assassin and the man behind him, known only as "Scorpio". His team's job is complicated when it's discovered the killer makes his decisions at random.

Remake of the first episode in season five of the original series.
22"The System"Cliff BoleRobert HamnerOctober 30, 1988 (1988-10-30)319.6[4]12.6/19[4]

In order to get him to turn state's evidence against his Syndicate boss, the IMF makes a crooked casino owner (James Sloyan) believe his boss is setting him up to be eliminated.

Remake of episode fifteen in season three of the original series.
33"Holograms"Kim MannersRobert BrennanNovember 6, 1988 (1988-11-06)417.3[5]11.0/16[5]
In order to tempt the strongman leader of a Latin American country onto a US territorial island so that he can be extradicted, the IMF uses a 15-year-old boy to pose as his long-lost son. Remake of "Fakeout" (S1 E12)
44"The Condemned"Cliff BoleS : John Truman[a]
T : Ted Roberts & Michael Fisher
November 20, 1988 (1988-11-20)518.5[6]11.8/17[6]

After Grant's father Barney Collier (Greg Morris, reprising his role from the original series) is framed for murder in Istanbul, the IMF must break him out of prison and determine why he was set up.

Remake of episode nineteen in season two of the original series.
55"The Legacy"Kim MannersMichael Lynn[b] & Allan BalterNovember 27, 1988 (1988-11-27)215.8[7]9.7/14[7]

Nicholas poses as one of the four grandsons of Nazi officers who want to use a stash of Nazi gold hidden by their grandfathers at the end of WWII in order to finance a wave of terrorist activities in Europe.

Remake of episode fifteen in season one of the original series.
66"The Wall"Colin BuddsDavid PhillipsDecember 11, 1988 (1988-12-11)620.9[8]12.7/19[8]
In order to rescue the daughter of a West German negotiator, the team manipulates a crooked East German doctor who offers to smuggle people to West Berlin for an exorbitant fee but, in reality, delivers them into the hands of the Stasi. The episode is a loose remake of the original series episode "The Bank".
77"The Cattle King"Mike VejarTed RobertsDecember 18, 1988 (1988-12-18)714.0[9]8.7/13[9]
The IMF sets out to thwart an Australian cattle rancher and arms dealer who is offering to sell Stinger missiles to terrorists by making him think he has been cursed by an Aboriginal shaman. This episode is very similar to "Doomsday".
88"The Pawn"Brian Trenchard-SmithBilly Marshall-StonekingJanuary 15, 1989 (1989-01-15)814.9[10]8.8/13[10]
When a Czechoslovakian nuclear scientist and chess grand master wishes to defect to the west with his daughter, the IMF must get him out from under the watchful eye of his escort, a suspicious Soviet colonel.
99"The Haunting"Mike VejarMichael FisherJanuary 28, 1989 (1989-01-28)914.0[11]9.2/16[11]
The IMF team uses the supernatural interests of the domineering mother (Janis Paige) of a serial killer (Parker Stevenson) in order bring him down after he kills the princess of an oil-rich sultanate.
1010"The Lions"Rob StewartS : James Crown
T : David Phillips
February 4, 1989 (1989-02-04)1014.7[12]9.6/16[12]
A royal usurper (James Shigeta) is out to kill the true heir to the throne of the Himalayan kingdom of Bajan-Du by replacing the pieces of a deadly puzzle that is part of the coronation ceremony with replicas that will ensure failure.
1111"The Greek"Colin BuddsTed RobertsFebruary 11, 1989 (1989-02-11)1115.2[13]9.8/16[13]
The IMF makes the heads of the organization of a Greek tycoon and relief medicine smuggler (Cesare Danova) believe he is double-crossing them.
1212"The Fortune"Rod HardyRobert BrennanFebruary 18, 1989 (1989-02-18)1216.6[14]10.5/18[14]
While performing advanced recon for a mission to recover the money looted from the treasury of a Caribbean nation by its ousted dictator (Michael Pate) and his Eva Perón-like wife (Barbara Luna, who guest starred on the original series in the episodes "Elena" and "Time Bomb", playing an IMF agent in the latter), Casey is captured and killed by the dictator's wife, the only time in either TV series that an IMF agent is killed and subsequently disavowed. The rest of the team, along with new team member Shannon Reed, must accomplish the mission while also obtaining proof of Casey's death. The dictator was impersonated like in the 1966 pilot, but the rest of the story is very different. This is the final episode for Terry Markwell as Casey Randall and the first episode for Jane Badler as Shannon Reed.
1313"The Fixer"Colin BuddsWalter BroughFebruary 25, 1989 (1989-02-25)1313.8[15]9.0/16[15]
A Washington journalist (Richard Romanus) has a sideline in blackmail and the team must stop him by turning his confidante and bodyguard against him.
1414"Spy"Rob StewartMichael FisherMarch 18, 1989 (1989-03-18)1414.6[16]9.6/17[16]
The IMF must go to Africa to stop a rogue former MI6 agent from selling a cache of diamonds in order to finance the sale of chemical weapons. The mission is complicated when Jim Phelps is recognized by the enemy agent and he is shot.
1515"The Devils"Arch NicholsonTed RobertsMarch 25, 1989 (1989-03-25)1512.9[17]8.7/16[17]
The team investigates a member of the English gentry (John Stanton) who involves foreign and domestic officials in Satanic rituals and human sacrifice for blackmail purposes.
1616"The Plague"Colin BuddsRick MaierApril 8, 1989 (1989-04-08)1612.3[18]8.1/15[18]
A French terrorist (Maud Adams) has stolen a deadly bacteria that causes rapid organ deterioration in those infected by it. The IMF must convince her she has been infected herself in order to re-obtain it.
1717"Reprisal"Rob StewartWalter BroughApril 15, 1989 (1989-04-15)1712.0[19]8.2/15[19]
When a psychotic ex-IMF scientist begins killing the old IMF team that Jim Phelps led which put him behind bars (and frames Jim Phelps for the murders), the new team must figure out how he is killing from his prison cell and try to save the remaining targeted agents. Lynda Day George reprises her role of Casey from the original series; the character was given the first name "Lisa" in order to avoid confusion with the character of Casey Randall.
1818"Submarine"Colin BuddsDale DuguidApril 29, 1989 (1989-04-29)1812.2[20]8.2/16[20]
The team must track down the purveyor (Mitchell Ryan) of a computer virus that destroys the systems of naval vessels and acquire the only antivirus from the creator. Written by series art director Dale Duguid. Despite the title, it is not a remake of the original series episode of the same name.
1919"Bayou"Don ChaffeyJeffrey M. HayesMay 6, 1989 (1989-05-06)1913.9[21]9.2/18[21]
The team has to take down the head of a white slavery operation in Louisiana (Frank Thring) by using the voodoo beliefs of his trusted lieutenant (Paula Kelly) to drive a wedge between them.
  1. ^ "John Truman" is a pseudonym for the original episode's writer, Laurence Heath, who had his name removed from the credits of the remake.
  2. ^ "Michael Lynn" is a pseudonym for William Read Woodfield, who had his name taken off the credits of the revived episode.

Season 2 (1989–90)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
code [1]
U.S. viewers
201"The Golden Serpent: Part 1"Don ChaffeyT : Ted Roberts & Jeffrey M. Hayes
S/T : Michael Seims
September 21, 1989 (1989-09-21)2012.8[22]8.6/14[22]
In order to bring down the ruler of a small southeast Asian principality, who is also a member of an opium cartel, the IMF makes the prince believe his long-dead twin brother is still alive and out for revenge. Greg Morris guest stars as Barney Collier.
212"The Golden Serpent: Part 2"Don ChaffeyT : Ted Roberts & Jeffrey M. Hayes
S/T : Michael Seims
September 28, 1989 (1989-09-28)2113.0[23]9.2/15[23]
Conclusion. After making the leader of the cartel believe the prince had been stealing from him, Jim Phelps and Nicholas pose as rivals trying to take over the organization.
223"The Princess"Colin BuddsTed RobertsOctober 5, 1989 (1989-10-05)2214.7[24]10.1/17[24]
In order to save a European princess targeted for assassination by a member of her inner circle from the killer known only as "Coyote", the IMF poses as a film production crew making a film about the assassin.
234"Command Performance"Arch NicholsonRobert BrennanOctober 12, 1989 (1989-10-12)2313.3[25]8.7/15[25]
The IMF team poses as circus performers to rescue a priest who can bring down a corrupt Baltic defense minister and recover a hidden relic which contains state secrets. Similar to the original series episode "Old Man Out".
245"Countdown"Brian Trenchard-SmithChip HayesOctober 26, 1989 (1989-10-26)2413.1[26]9.1/15[26]
Grant must get close to a religious zealot while the team works to convince her that her co-conspirator has betrayed her by bringing her leader, the Holy One, into the blast zone of a nuclear bomb she has placed in a secret location.
256"War Games"Rod HardyWalter BroughNovember 2, 1989 (1989-11-02)2512.9[27]8.6/13[27]
A power-hungry Eastern European general plans to turn war games on his country's border into the real thing. His objective is to conquer the bordering nation's oil fields and overthrow his own government; the team must use the general's fervent belief in astrology against him.
267"Target Earth"Colin BuddsStephen KandelNovember 9, 1989 (1989-11-09)2612.1[28]8.3/13[28]

When the first private crewed space flight is hijacked by terrorists, with Shannon on board, the IMF has to take control of both the spacecraft and mission control before a retaliatory US missile strike levels the base – with the rest of the team hostage inside.

Note: Stephen Kandel is the only writer other than Walter Brough ("The Fixer," "Reprisal" and "War Games") to contribute original scripts to both the original and revival series.
278"The Fuehrer's Children"Don ChaffeyFrank AbatemarcoNovember 16, 1989 (1989-11-16)2712.7[29]8.8/14[29]
A neo-Nazi leader (Albert Salmi) plans to unify the world's white supremacist groups and create a fourth Reich using kidnapped children that were brainwashed from an early age.
289"Banshee"Colin BuddsTed RobertsNovember 30, 1989 (1989-11-30)2814.5[30]9.9/15[30]
During The Troubles, the IMF uses the legend of the banshee to stop a small-town pub owner who blew up a bus full of old people in order to goose his side business of arms dealing.
2910"For Art's Sake"Don ChaffeyJohn WhelpleyDecember 14, 1989 (1989-12-14)2912.4[31]8.2/13[31]
An important national painting, on loan to the United States, is stolen by an art thief and placed in a hidden gallery. The IMF have to recover the painting before an international incident occurs, with a little help from a computer-forged Degas. Alex Cord, the villain from Season 7's "Crack Up" from the original series, stars as the villain in this episode.
3011"Deadly Harvest"Arch NicholsonJan SardiJanuary 6, 1990 (1990-01-06)3011.2[32]7.3/12[32]
The IMF travels to the Middle Eastern nation of Orambaq to disrupt a terrorist plot to destroy the American wheat harvest that would introduce virus-laden seeds into the US supply.
3112"Cargo Cult"Colin BuddsDale DuguidJanuary 13, 1990 (1990-01-13)3112.3[33]7.7/14[33]
The IMF must stop evil miners from using the beliefs of a Pacific cargo cult to extract gold in a manner that is killing the islanders.
3213"The Assassin"Arch NicholsonCliff GreenJanuary 20, 1990 (1990-01-20)3213.5[34]8.1/14[34]
The team investigates a series of assassinations of government officials by their subordinates, who then kill themselves. This episode is a remake of season 6's "Mindbend".
3314"The Gunslinger"Colin BuddsS : Dan Roberts
T : Ted Roberts
February 3, 1990 (1990-02-03)3311.0[35]7.0/12[35]
A wild west tourist attraction in Nevada being run by a power-broker ex-Congressman is a front for a secret operation that the IMF must uncover and put a stop to.
3415"Church Bells in Bogota"Arch NicholsonFrank AbatemarcoFebruary 10, 1990 (1990-02-10)3411.4[36]7.2/13[36]
The plan to bring a brutal Colombian drug lord to the US to stand trial is complicated when Shannon, undercover as a singer, is in a plane crash and develops amnesia.
3516"The Sands of Seth"Colin BuddsJeffrey M. HayesFebruary 24, 1990 (1990-02-24)3511.9[37]7.7/13[37]
A museum curator is killing Egyptian politicians to resurrect the ancient death cult of Seth and crown himself pharaoh.


The episode structure from the original series was largely repeated, although the writers took some liberties and tried to stretch the rules somewhat. Most notably, by the time of the revival series, the Impossible Missions Force (which was originally suggested to be an independent agency) was no longer a small, clandestine operation, but larger in scale, with references now made to IMF divisions and additional teams similar to the one run by Phelps. The 1980s series also had IMF agents using technology that nearly pushed the series into the realm of science fiction, such as one gadget that could record dreams.

The disc scene[edit]

Instead of retrieving a tape recorder and an envelope of photos, Phelps would converse briefly with an undercover contact who directed him to the location of a small optical disc player with a thumbprint scanner built into its lid. After scanning the print, the device would open to reveal a video screen and a 12-button numeric keypad, on which Phelps would type in an access code. Doing so caused a panel to slide open, exposing both the disc and a pop-up insertion slot. Upon playing the disc, Phelps would see photos and video clips related to the mission and hear a voice describing it. As in the original, the voice would greet him with "Good morning, Jim." The series premiere, "The Killer", used "Welcome back, Jim"; and the series finale, "The Sands of Seth", used "Good afternoon, Jim." As in the original, the voice followed its description of the mission and goals with "Your mission, Jim, should you choose/decide to accept it" or words to that effect; it would also warn that "As always, should you or any of your I.M. Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This disc will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim." Phelps would then close the lid and walk away as smoke began to emit from inside the case to indicate the disc's self-destruction, at which point the camera would freeze and zoom up as the show's logo was revealed and theme song played prior to the apartment scene.

These briefings were read by voice actor Bob Johnson in the original series and the 1988 revival but the identity of the character was never revealed, nor was his face ever shown. And despite being filmed in Australia, many episodes would show an establishing shot of either the San Francisco skyline or one of the city's famous landmarks before cutting to Phelps making his way to his contact to retrieve the disc player.

The first-season episode "Reprisal" includes a moment unique in Mission: Impossible in which Phelps, for the first time, is shown actually "rewinding" the message and playing back a portion of it before the disc self-destructs. This episode's disc scene—relating to Phelps being informed that an impersonator is killing former IMF agents and framing Jim for the murders—also includes a rare variant of the tape voice's admonition: "Jim, someone has tried to frame you for this murder. Your mission, which I feel you must accept, will be to find the person who is framing you and stop him."

The apartment scene[edit]

The 1980s revival reinstated the "dossier scene" in the first episode when Phelps selected his new team. In keeping with the updated theme of the series, Phelps uses a computer system (hidden inside his coffee table) rather than folders of clippings and documents to make his decision (with Bob Johnson also providing the narration for the video clips of each IMF agent), but since he kept the same team in subsequent episodes no subsequent dossier scenes were made. Instead, subsequent episodes generally showed Phelps holding mission briefings with his team at his apartment, usually using his computer system to discuss with them some of the same information he got from the disc player.

The plan[edit]

In the 1980s revival, the mask-making process involved a digital camera and computer and was mostly automatic. Most episodes included a dramatic revelation near the end in which the team member (usually Nicholas Black) would remove the mask.


In the 1980s series, former IMF agent Barney Collier was framed for a crime he didn't commit and the IMF team had to rescue him, leading to a reuniting of Barney with his son and IMF agent Grant Collier (in real life played by father-and-son Greg and Phil Morris).


In contrast to the original series, the 1980s missions often departed from the team's original plan, requiring the team to think on their feet and use their equipment in ways that had not originally been intended.


In the 1980s revival, this format was altered with the addition of a tag scene showing the IMF team regrouping (often still in disguise) and walking away from the site of their concluded mission, often accompanied by a quip uttered by Jim Phelps. Phelps is first shown uttering said quip in the episode "The Fixer", which was also the first episode featuring Shannon Reed as a full member.

Breaking the formula[edit]

Several episodes break the formula, the most notable being "The Fortune", an episode that aired midway through the first season and featured the death of Terry Markwell's character, Casey Randall. Casey became the first core IMF member to be killed off, and the discovery of her death by Phelps during a mission in progress leads to one IMF member, Max, openly questioning his ability to complete the mission, and Phelps reacting in anger when the culprit is captured (both of which were unprecedented moments for the franchise). "The Fortune" ends with a unique tag scene showing, for the first time, an IMF agent actually being disavowed. "The Fortune" is also the only episode in Mission: Impossible history to be a "changeover" episode as it introduces Casey's successor, Shannon Reed (played by Jane Badler), who helps bring Casey's killer to justice.

Broadcast history[edit]

Season Time slot (ET)
1988–89 Sunday at 8:00 pm (Episodes 1–8)
Saturday at 8:00 pm (Episodes 9–19)
1989–90 Thursday at 8:00 pm (1989)
Saturday at 8:00 pm (1990)

Home media[edit]

CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released the entire series on DVD in region 1.[38][39]

In region 2, Revelation Films released Mission: Impossible – The '88 TV Season on July 23, 2012 and The '89 TV Season on October 15, 2012.

DVD Name Ep # Release Dates
Region 1 Region 2
The '88 TV Season 19 November 29, 2011 July 23, 2012
The '89 TV Season 16 February 28, 2012 October 15, 2012


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