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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Weakest Season Four Episode Showed the Direction "Mission" Would Go, Unfortunately, 12 June 2008
Author: Aldanoli from Ukiah, California
The final episode from Season 4 of "Mission: Impossible" presages the
most unfortunate aspects of Season 5 (i.e., the upcoming arrival of new
agent Lesley Ann Warren). But this episode suffers from a number of
problems, beginning with Leonard Nimoy, nearly 40 at the time, trying
to play a character whom everyone else was supposed to believe was
about 25 -- the son (or was that the faux son?) of the deceased Eduard
Malik -- and it just didn't work.
"The Martyr" was typical of some of the "softer" plots that they were slipping into the mix in "Mission's" later years, something that producer Bruce Geller -- who was rapidly losing influence and would soon be banned from the studio lot -- likely never would have tolerated if he still had the independence he'd been given during the years the show was created by Desilu. The "assignment" that the IMF is given is almost unintelligible -- something along the lines of "don't allow the phony student congress to be made a tool of Premier Rojek's plans." With a goal that's that vague, almost anything the IMF would have done would have satisfied it. It was a far cry from the show's earlier days when the assignments had clear, specific goals (get a political prisoner out of jail, destroy an enemy nation's secret formula, steal an enemy nation's dangerous weapon, depose the evil dictator/mercenary gunrunner/enemy spy, etc.)
The element of this episode that most foreshadows the series' "lost year" -- the fifth season with Ms. Warren as a completely unbelievable member of the IMF -- is the appearance of folk singer Lynn Kellogg as, um, a folk singer. As author Patrick White points out in "The Mission: Impossible Dossier," she was a completely extraneous character here. She did get to sing "The Times They are A-Changin,'" though, to scenes of students running through the streets, while in cutaways, actor John Larch, as the IMF's opponent, Premier Rojek, looks befuddled -- but the reasons for this, or exactly what the IMF accomplished, were never made very clear. But then, when the mission is "whatever," anything could be pointed to as its "success." The problems with this episode are emblematic of the problems during much of the following season. Warren, who unlike Nimoy in this episode really did look about 25 -- was contrasted against four men each of whom looked old enough to have been her father. In her miniskirts and bell bottom jeans, surrounded by a bunch of guys in suits, she always looked like she had wandered in from the wrong set.
In one or two appearances, such a character might have been used without too much harm -- as were Kellogg and Alexandra Hay during Season 4's rotating bevy of female agents -- but as a regular, Warren completely destroyed the credibility of the show whenever she was in the shot. Hence, "The Martyr," with its "youth" theme and meaningless assignment for the team, was not only a poor show in itself, but a bad omen of things to come.
Still, the episode did have one redeeming scene -- Jim Phelps plans to be captured, and knows that he will be interrogated with drugs, and so has been given a post-hypnotic suggestion only to respond to prompts from Barney via a receiver hidden in Phelps' ear. Then Barney has himself arrested (as another "student" agitator, looking like he's about 35), and is put in a jail cell that's close enough to where Phelps is being held to give Phelps instructions, using a transmitter hidden in a book. The guard, however, takes pity on Barney and serves him a good meal, which Barney ignores because he's there for other reasons, of course. When the guard returns, Barney quickly has to cut off his transmissions to Phelps. The guard berates him for not having eaten -- "That's good food. Prisoners don't usually get such good food" -- and Barney (who of course is itching to get rid of the guy so he can go back to transmitting) must rebuff his attempts at kindness -- "Look, I've still got two days left on a hunger strike I started six months ago." It's an amusing scene that plays up the "generation gap" angle better than anything that was actually pertinent to the main plot -- the one memorable moment in an otherwise less-than-compelling story.
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