It’s probably blasphemy for a science fiction writer to admit this, but I’ve never been a Star Trek fan. While many of my SF writer friends were immersed in that universe, I was busy watching (and re-watching, and re-re-watching) the original Mission: Impossible, thereby ensuring that, somehow, I was out of step even with my own tribe.
That said, I have to say I was impressed by Jordan Hoffman’s article at Playboy ranking every Star Trek episode ever made. Not enough to actually read the reviews, mind you; that, I think, is an exercise for the converted. But the very audacity of tackling such a project spoke to the obsessive completist in me. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if my favorite television show had a similar list?
So, of course, I made one.
The original Mission: Impossible ran from 1966-1973 on CBS, and in light of all the amazing television that’s been produced since then, one would be hard pressed to call it one of the best shows of all time. But I do think, in its own clandestine way, it’s one of TV’s most influential series, and not just on the spy shows that followed in its wake. (Television history’s mission-of-the-week landscape is littered with popular shows that owe a debt to Mission, everything from cagey, comedic imitators like The A-Team and Leverage to sprawling, serialized spy dramas like 24 and Alias.) It’s influential TV in general; it changed the way television was made, bringing cinematic techniques to the small screen. Especially compared to the stagy, talky fare of its era, Mission was a mini-movie every week, full of rapid cuts, insert shots, dialogue-free visual storytelling, complex, dovetailing storylines, and innovative sound editing, all backed by the iconic music of the legendary Lalo Schifrin, among others. Nothing else looked, sounded, or felt like it.
I still recall staying up until midnight to watch the reruns every night as a teenager, and the theme song used to raise the hackles on the back of my neck. Watching it was ritualistic, and for good or ill, its influence is stamped indelibly on me. Yes, it’s dated. Yes, many of its episodes are flawed, unrealistic, even flat-out terrible. But Mission: Impossible matters to me, and I’ve loved it ever since I first saw the lighting of the match.
In keeping with Hoffman’s piece, I’ve established my own set of rules. 1 – The movies don’t count. 2 – The 1980s revival series doesn’t count. 3 – Two- or three-part episodes count as one episode. That’s it. In short, I’ve limited myself to the real deal, the original series only. Perhaps not as impressive as Hoffman’s enterprise – pun intended – but hey, the Mission: Impossible franchise has a smaller cultural footprint than Star Trek. (Which, if you ask me, is just how “the Secretary” would have wanted it.)
So without further ado…visit Every Episode of Mission: Impossible, Ranked!