Mission: Impossible

Season 1 Episode 1

Pilot

1
Aired Saturday 9:00 PM Sep 17, 1966 on CBS
8.4
out of 10
User Rating
65 votes
3

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

EDIT

IMF team leader Dan Briggs assembles his team for the first time. The mission: to recover two nuclear warheads belonging to General Rio Dominguez from a hotel vault in Santa Costa. Dan and Willy sneak safecracker Terry Targo into the vault, who figures out how to get out. The team then captures Dominguez but Targo's fingers are broken in the attempt. Dan now has to come up with an alternative to get at the codes and remove the warheads.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • The ground-breaking pilot for Mission: Impossible stands as one of the series' best and after 7 seasons is the episode against which all others should be compared to.

    10
    Mission: Impossible really hit the ground running with this pilot, which is probably my favourite episode of the entire series. Yeah, it's that good. It doesn't mean everything after the pilot is sub-par, but rather few of them manage to pack the mixture of story and raw intensity on display here.



    From the get-go this episode is packed with little details, a must given that again, this is the pilot from which all the series conventions will be established. The dossier selection scene shows how team leader Dan Briggs picks his agents from all walks of life, featuring magazine covers, newspaper clippings, and in the case of guest star Wally Cox, a police record. The latter especially implies so much about a character that will never again appear on the series, and makes you wonder what he did to end up on the IMF roster. We also see the first of Rollin's many disguise jobs throughout the series, and in a scene we'll never see again, he brings along a film reel of the target so he can practice his mannerisms while the others are setting things in motion. Yeah it would get seriously redundant to see this every episode, but for the pilot it does wonders to establish his skills and credibility.



    And why does the impersonation work so well? Because Martin Landau also plays the target. Yeah, call me dense but I seriously did not catch this the first time around, because I wasn't looking for it. Having watched other M:I episodes first where they usually get the guest actor to play Rollin impersonating the guest, I was caught off guard by the fact it was actually Landau in a dual role. And again it's so necessary for the pilot, because to see Rollin actually tear off the latex onscreen sells the concept to us for future moments when the series will have to depend on camera tricks and suspension of disbelief (like the end, when Rollin impersonates Dan Briggs to get into the vault). Something else the pilot does well? The plot actually twists and turns. You may laugh, but by the middle of seasons 3 and 4, the series had fallen into a rut where the IMF were duping the bad guys left and right, and any cliffhangers were momentary annoyances that seldom put any real disruption in the plan. Season 5 shook things up again, but here the pilot show the team making decisions on the fly, as Terry's hands are broken and Dan must go into the vault himself. Which provides an absolutely tension-filled scene in which he must crack the code on the case holding the nuclear warheads.



    And really, that cinematic sense and grittiness is what puts the final polish on the pilot episode. You just won't ever see the series play out like this again, from Barbara Bain's femme fatale attitude and slinking around in a towel to the team blasting their way through a blockade and escaping via plane under a hail of gunfire. This is a spy story straight off the big screen adapted for 1960's television with little lost in translation. It's quite a feat.



    If you can convince someone to watch only one Mission: Impossible episode, make it this one.moreless
  • A great way to start the series

    10
    I cannot say enough good things about the premiere episode of Mission: Impossible. It set the stage for all the great elements of the series.



    In particular, it really set the stage for the first season episodes that had a lot more raw violence and a lot more serious threats, e.g. WMD attacks on American soil.



    You can find the opening montage for this episode on YouTube. There's so many very good episodes that it's hard to say if this one is the best. However, I do believe that this first episode had the best opening montage of all of the episodes. In particular, watch the last two clips in the montage, and how they are perfectly timed with the music. OUTSTANDING editing work.



    Wally Cox was great even though he was cast against type. Fun fact...watch the episode frame-by-frame, and when Wally Cox's character gets his fingers crushed in the door, you can see Wally Cox holding a fake set of hands in the doorway.moreless
  • And now it begins....

    10
    A wonderful trip down memory lane. Just LOOK at the sets, the clothing, the hair styles! I gave this show a "10" for the nostalgia factor and the fact that, for the time, it was very imaginative and - well, AHEAD of its time, actually. I find the music SO uplifting that I can easily overlook some of the awkwardness of the old fashioned sets then as compared to the modern sets of today.



    This show sets the scene for the adventures that are to follow. And young Steven Hill! His character, Dan Briggs, speaks in a monotone that makes one giggle. But who cares! It's MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, after all. Not for the new viewer, perhaps, but a wonderful reminisce for forever fans of the show.moreless
Martin Landau

Martin Landau

Rollin Hand

Barbara Bain

Barbara Bain

Cinnamon Carter

Greg Morris

Greg Morris

Barney Collier

Peter Lupus

Peter Lupus

Willy Armitage

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson

IMF Voice on Tape (uncredited)

Steven Hill

Steven Hill

Daniel Briggs

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Trivia: The IMF voice notes at the end of the briefing "I hope it's welcome back, Dan. It's been a while." implying that Briggs has been away. This comment, and any other background on Briggs, is never explained.

    • Dominguez hooking up the warheads to the lock on their case and set to detonate seems like overkill. The presence of the warheads is supposed to be a secret, so any prospective thieves wouldn't be deterred by the threat of a nuclear explosion. So if someone tries to open the case and fails... they'd destroy a good part of Santa Costa. Why Dominguez would risk his death and the destruction of his country isn't clear.

    • There was something that Dan apparently did not take into account when he laid his plans. In the original scenario, the 120-pound Terry Targo was expected to heave two two-hundred pound warheads from their cases to the suitcases. Dan had a hard enough time shifting them himself, and Terry gave no indication of being exceptionally strong.

    • When Terry Targo gets his fingers slammed into the door and thus breaking them, if you pause the DVD and play the sequence frame by frame you can see the actor, Wally Cox, actually holding the fake hands by their "wrists" when the door opens slightly after the door hits his "fingers."

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Recorded Voice: Good morning, Mr. Briggs. General Rio Dominguez, the dictator of Santa Costa, makes his headquarters in the Hotel Nacionale. We've learned that two nuclear warheads furnished to Santa Costa by an enemy power are contained in the hotel vault. Their use is imminent. Mr. Briggs, your mission, should you decide to accept it, would be to remove both nuclear devices from Santa Costa. As always, you have carte blanche as to method and personnel, but of course should you or any member of your IM Force be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. As usual, this recording will decompose one minute after the breaking of the seal. I hope it's "welcome back," Dan. It's been a while.

    • Cinnamon: My job's only doing what comes naturally.

    • Rollin: You know, uh, Dominguez has quite a reputation as a ladies' man, and, uh, as long as you're spending an hour here... why not help me develop my characterization?
      Cinnamon: We'll spend the hour rehearsing. I found Dominguez's speech. You may have to deliver it if Barney drops a transistor or something.

    • Rollin: How am I doing?
      Cinnamon: Terrible. Fine. Say, do you do Jimmy Cagney?
      Rollin: Ho ho. Not funny.

    • (Cinnamon has provided a distraction by wearing only a towel)
      Rollin: Cinnamon... a gorgeous performance.
      Cinnamon: You think so? (indicating the hostage guards in the bedroom) You should have seen it from those seats.

    • General Dominguez: What use is all this? I will never give you any information. But if you forget your plan... I will give you amnesty. And my personal guarantee that the warheads will not be used against your country.
      Briggs: Oh, I'll give you the same guarantee, General. You read my meaning? Those things might go off, but it won't be in my country.

    • (Dan threatens to randomly open the color-coded explosive lock)
      General Dominguez: Are you insane?
      Briggs: You leave me no choice, General.
      General Dominguez: Your chances are one in a thousand.
      Briggs: Our chances are by random choice. But I won't just guess. I think the code is your national colors--green, white and blue. Right, General? (When the General fails to indicate one way or the other, Dan starts to turn the first color wheel)
      General Dominguez: No! Not green.
      Briggs: Red, white and blue? General, you not only have sense, you have a sense of the ironic.

    • (Terry is forced to take Rollin's place of the old man in the wheelchair)
      Terry: Now this will never work!
      Cinnamon: Yes it will. Remember what Dan said. People don't look at a crippled old man. They look away.
      Terry: Yeah, but, no one looks less like Rollin than I do.
      Cinnamon: Terry, I'll be wheeling you out. If anyone looks at you, I'll quit the sisterhood of women!

  • NOTES (4)

    • Martin Landau is listed here as a Guest Star. He will go on to be listed as Special Guest Star and Special Appearance by throughout the first season. This was due to Martin Landau's unwillingness to contractually commit to a starring role in the series in the first year, although for all practical purposes he was a show star and in fact appeared in more episodes than Steven Hill.

    • Fittingly, the first photo Briggs takes out of the IMF portfolio is of series creator Bruce Geller.

    • In the original pilot script the character of Rollin Hand (played by Martin Landau) was named Martin Land.

    • Filming location: Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, CA

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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