One of the main influences for Alias creator J.J. Abrams was the original Mission: Impossible TV series. It seems somehow fitting, then, that the DVD release of the final season his series should come at virtually the same time as the release of the first season of that classic espionage series.
Alias: The Complete Fifth Season
As most fans know, the roots of Alias lie in the question, what would happen if Felicity [Abrams' college girl from the teen soap of the same name] had been recruited for an updated version of the Impossible Missions Force. Over five seasons, the series chronicled the adventures of Sydney Bristow [Jennifer Garner] as she and a team of covert CIA agents sought to root out and destroy criminal espionage organizations like SD-6, The Alliance and, in season five, Prophet Five – all the while trying to figure out what role the prophecies and inventions of a fifth century prophet/inventor named Rambaldi played.
Season Five opened with the introduction of Gordon Dean [Tyrees Allen], a special investigations agent who seems to think that Michael Vaughn [Michael Vartan] is a double agent. It soon becomes apparent that Dean is actually a mole for an organization called Prophet Five – and is up to no good. In the season premiere, which began seconds after the cliffhanging season four finale, Vaughn had been spirited away while Sydney was left to fight for her life.
Over the course of the season, Sydney had Vaughn's baby; Sloane's [Ron Rifkin] daughter, Nadia [Mia Maestro] came out of her coma; and we met two new A.P.O. operatives, veteran Thomas Grace [Balthazar Getty], and Rachel Gibson [Rachel Nichols] – who had been to Prophet Five what Sydney had been to SD-6 in the series pilot [an innocent dupe, who thought she was serving her country].
With Vaughn gone, Tom Grace replaced the missing testosterone, while Rachel Gibson's function was to echo the manner in which Sydney had gone from typical college girl to super agent. There were definite flashes of chemistry between the two, but the writers smartly avoided the Vaughn/Syd kind of relationship, provided a sort of brother/sister thing that provided a certain amount of humor – as well more than a little melodrama.
The familial themes that made Alias unique also played a major role in the show's final season. The balance between worried-poppa Sloane and Rambaldi-obsessed Sloane made for an interesting father/daughter dynamic. Jack Bristow's [Victor Garber] protectiveness of his pregnant daughter added yet another layer to everyone's favorite SpyDaddy. Marshall's [Kevin Weisman] efforts to cope with work-based emergencies and still be a good husband and father made his character even more relatable.
The team, as always, remained its usual dynamic, surrogate-family self, with Sydney not trusting Sloane; new brother and sister Tom and Rachel trying to fit in; Jack running A.P.O. [much to Sloane's unhappiness]; and so on. The further addition of Elodie Boucher, as Renee Rienne, a thief and efficient killer – and former colleague of Vaughn's – to the mix added a hint of exotica and mystery.
Though the season echoed the show's first year, the new characters gave it a fresh feel and the show regained its momentum following the uneven fourth season. True, the season wasn't a complete success [some character turns were a bit forced, while others were left hanging], but Alias was definitely fun again – as shown in the way much loved/despised villains like Anna Espinosa [Gina Torres] and Julian Sark [David Anders] stopped by. The return of Will Tippin [Bradley Cooper] was also terrific [the poor guy learns to take care of himself and still winds up with a bomb in his head!]…
Features include: Celebrating 100 – cast and crew talk about making it to 100 eps, and we get a look behind the scenes at the 100-ep party; The Legend of Rambaldi – begins like a Biography episode before it shifts to looking at the reason for Rambaldi, and his role in the series]; Heightening The Drama – a look at the contributions of series composer Michael Giacchino [note an homage to Lalo Schifrin's Mission: Impossible theme at one point]; The New Recruit: On Set With Rachel Nichols – Nichols invites us to tag alone on one day's shooting on the episode, Bob; The Bloopers of Alias.
There are four commentaries, as well: Prophet Five – Executive producers Jeff Pinkner and Ken Olin [who also directed], and Victor Garber [recorded the day after the series wrapped, the commentary is useless as regards the ep, but a lot of fun for the banter]; Bob – writers Monica Breen and Alison Schapker, Rachel Nichols [not as off-topic as the first commentary, we get a fair bit of insight into Nichols' performance and the construction of the ep]; The Horizon – director tucker Gates, writers Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec [best of the commentaries – totally dedicated to the ep], and There's Only One Sydney Bristow – The Alias Production Assistants, starring: Spanky Hawes, Brian Studler, Cliff Olin and Chris Hollier [a bit of info about the ep, but mostly banter].
Alias: The Complete Fifth Season – Grade: B-
Features – Grade: B+
Final Grade: B
Mission: Impossible – The Complete First TV Season
When Mission: Impossible debuted on September 17, 1966, it made a huge impact. Nothing like it had ever been aired: a team of specialists is formed to do the impossible! The first episode found Team Leader, Daniel Briggs [Stephen Hill, Peter Graves didn't come aboard until Season Two] faced with the task of recovering two nuclear devices from a tin pot dictator in Central America. He put together a team consisting of: The Master of Disguise, Rollin Hand [Martin Landau], The Tech Expert, Barnard Collier, [Greg Morris], The Femme Fatale, Cinnamon Carter [for Barbara Bain won an Emmy], The Muscle, Willy Armitage [stoically played by Peter Lupus] and Demolitions, Safe & Vault Man, Terry Targo [the wonderful Wally Cox]. Setting the pattern for the series, time constraints forced the team to plan and execute their operation in a matter of days. Naturally, some X-factor would crop up to exert extra pressure.
Over the course of the first season, a series of different specialists were required to make the team more flexible – after all, one never knows when one might just need an acrobat – but the core of Briggs, Hand, Collier, Carter and Armitage appeared in most episodes.
The first season found the Impossible Missions Force [IMF] dealing with more than just nuclear devices. Mass murderers, arms dealers [and buyers], kidnappers [of Brigg's daughter, no less], drug lords, hit men, a potential Fourth Reich, and more – these were the missions of the IMF, and they were enthralling.
The show may be dated now [technical advances make this stuff look like The Stone Age by comparison] and the then frenetic pace may seem a bit slow, but this is the first series of its kind. The ingenuity of the writers combines with the talented cast to give the show a special feel – even now. Perhaps it&#
39;s because the writing is timeless [next to no slang; never less than solid construction] that allows Mission: Impossible to hold up so well. Perhaps it's the superb acting. Whatever the case, the show is still magic.