Every Saturday, The Savvy Screener’s Boomer Box is counting down “The 50 Greatest Television Episodes of the 1960s,” in reverse chronological order, as researched and written by Todd M. Pence. (This series ran originally in the Classic 1960’s TV Facebook group.)
Fall 1966 saw the debut of one of the decade’s most original and innovative series, one remembered today mostly because of its iconic introductory theme:
CBS’ Mission: Impossible detailed the adventures of a special, top-secret espionage team which officially operates outside the U.S. Government.
In its initial season, the principal cast consisted of Steven Hill as Daniel Briggs, the team’s leader and liaison with their mysterious superiors; Martin Landau as master of disguise and sleight-of-hand expert Rollin Hand; Greg Morris as electrical and mechanical expert Barney Collier; Peter Lupus as strongman Willy Armitage; and Barbara Bain (Landau’s wife) as glamorous fashion model Cinnamon Carter, whose main function in the group—at least in the earliest episodes — appeared to be utilizing her feminine charms to seduce and distract the numerous villains the team went up against every week.
Those adversaries were invariably foreign dictators or international criminals on the verge of executing some nefarious scheme against the world, or in possession of some item or intelligence that the U.S. desperately needed.
The modus operandi of the Impossible Mission Team was, in effect, to run elaborate con games on the bad guys involving such techniques as deception, impersonation, misdirection and fakery. It was The Rogues updated for the spy age.
One of the most audacious schemes the group embarked upon came in the early episode “Operation Rogosh” (October 1, 1966) at the expense of one of the series’ most memorable villains.
Fritz Weaver guest starred as international terrorist Imre Rogosh, who has been responsible for numerous overseas attacks which have claimed the lives of thousands. Now it’s believed that Rogosh is plotting another atrocity – this time in Los Angeles. The team must discover the details of what he has planned before it gets carried out.
Our heroes proceed to set the groundwork for an elaborate hoax in order to trick Rogosh into spilling the vital information.
First, they kidnap him after staging a fake auto accident and render him unconscious. When he awakes, he finds himself apparently in a prison cell and is duped into believing that two years have passed and that he is suffering from retroactive amnesia.
With the various team members and other actors engaged for the purpose, Rogosh comes to think that he is a prisoner back in his own country, being tried for being a traitor. It is hoped that he will reveal the details of his plan (which to him is an incident of the past) in an attempt to offer up proof of his loyalty.
The team’s ambitious scheme is complicated by the fact that Rogosh’s associates have discovered where he is and are attempting to free him. During a phony courtroom trial, the plan finally seems to be succeeding as Rogosh, believing he is facing a firing squad, gives the location of three bioweapons he has placed in strategic locations. However, before he reveals the fourth, he learns the truth about what is being done to him. With the game up, Briggs must resort to more drastic measures to get the unbreakable Rogosh to reveal the location of the fourth device.
Compelling, intricate, suspenseful, and clever, “Operation Rogosh” represents Mission: Impossible firing on all cylinders. The basic plot would be re-used several more times in the series, but seldom as effectively as here.
(Top image source: YouTube video)
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