When the series was repeated on the GRANADA PLUS satellite channel in the late 90's/ early 2000's, they only got upto the first few episodes of Season Five of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE before they stopped and went back to the beginning of Season One (why they did this?? Who knows?) . The majority of episodes I saw at the time from Five were not the strongest and it seemed that the show had already reached its peak. Well, seeing the entire series now has changed my opinions a bit for the better. Going into the seventies, the show had, by the end of season Four, lost most of its best writers due to script burnout (the show having been so hard to write for) and had suffered the loss of its leading lady Barbara Bain with a succession of replacement actresses who weren't quite right. Producer Bruce Lansbury tries to rectify this by reinvigorating the series with a fresher younger, typical hippy'ish early 70's look and eliminating some previous regular trademarks from the series. Gone is the regular mission team selections and in comes a pre-titles teaser, a new theme re-arrangement and two new younger actors in lead roles-I had been a bit negative about Lesley Warren in the early episodes I'd seen but by the end of the show she was pretty good and looked very, very cute. Sam Elliott is okay as Doug but pretty miscast overall. The older regulars are fine as ever, though and special mention for Leonard Nimoy who does a very good job with limited material in taking over from Martin Landau as the show's man of many faces. The scripts, a few from writers of the early seasons, are on the whole not as well plotted, and there are some similarities to past shows, too, but there are a lot of good to very good episodes to enjoy, like THE KILLER (IMF create a fake hotel to ensnare an assassin), THE INNOCENT (Barney is captured in a mission gone wrong), BUTTERFLY (Willie gets to fight a sumo wrestler!!), MY FRIEND, MY ENEMY (Paris is brainwashed to kill JIm), SQUEEZE PLAY (Paris joins the Mob!!), KITARA (the IMF turn a white supremacist black in order to depose him-this has to be seen to be believed!!) and THE MERCHANT (formulaic but with a good turn from the late George Saunders). Bad episodes are the ones that try to play too much with the series format, like HOMECOMING (Jim goes back home and discovers a killer on the loose) and THE MISSILE (Dana stalked by a killer during a mission). Best to avoid those or watch them knowing that they won't be great and accept it.
All in all, this was a much better season than expected, and I'm looking forward to seeing Seasons Six and Seven. For fans of good espionage drama made in the seventies, with good casts and mostly solid scripts, this is a very good to essential purchase.
BE AWARE, though, that one episode on disc six of the package, THE PARTY, has not been transferred properly by PARAMOUNT and the dialogue is out of synch with the picture-I checked this episode on two individual DVD players and the fault is on the disc. Sloppy work, PARAMOUNT!!