Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 25: Target Earth

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A pilot at a private space company is murdered, and the IMF team goes undercover at the base to try and figure out what happened.  Shannon is pretending to be an astronaut in training, but the shuttle she is in during a training exercise unexpectedly goes into orbit.  The base is taken over by a group of terrorists, and the team has to gain control of the base and bring Shannon back down to earth. 

Memorable Quote:
Keep calm!  ~Grant

I mean...can it be anything other than Shannon floating away into space?  This scene is one of the few from the series that I remembered from watching as a kid.  What a moment!  Shannon is literally floating away into the abyss of space!  Hard to think of too many commercial breaks with more of a cliffhanger than that one.

Once we return from the break, we're treated to Grant's "Keep calm," which for me is the Memorable Quote of the Series (and the only one that I actually remembered before watching, although I thought it was "Stay calm"). "Keep calm! It's not like you're heading into the depths of outer space!"

As for Shannon's return to the shuttle, take MacGyver's most miraculous escape (from the pendulum in Legend of the Holy Rose) and multiply the miraculous factor by 1000 and you have the odds of Shannon using her air supply as a jet pack and propelling herself back to the shuttle. And funny how she triumphantly says "It works!" as she is floating back -- might want to wait until you're back on the shuttle, Shannon, before celebrating.   

As long as we're suspending all disbelief for this episode, it feels a little strange to nitpick.  But I have to pick something and so I can't help but mention how they gloss over Shannon's ability to reenter Earth's orbit and land the space shuttle perfectly by herself!  With no training or experience!

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • It's a Stephen Kandel episode!  You may remember him as a first-ballot MacGyver hall-of-famer, and he's also one of my favorite interviewees ever.  No wonder this was a memorable episode.
  • The theme of the team getting easy access to wherever they want continues here with all 5 of them easily becoming embedded in the private space company.
  • Given that Grant knows exactly what buttons to push all the time, maybe they should have just made him the astronaut.
  • Whoa, it's Eli Danker!  MacGyver fans know him from Cease Fire, and he also appeared on the latest installment of 24: Legacy.
  • Great moment when the space shuttle takes off to the complete surprise of everyone on the team, although it's hard to imagine a shuttle taking off just from a tech pushing a few keystrokes.  And why were they doing a simulation in a fully fueled shuttle?
  • Why does the IMF team get their own private room?
  • It would have been interesting to learn more about what is motivating Danker and his group.  All we learn is that they want the US government to turn over a satellite so that they can "protect themselves."  And if Danker could launch a space shuttle, couldn't he launch his own satellite?
  • 31:40 mark -- Shannon says, "My God, it's beautiful," but I could have used more from her along these lines like, "OMG, I can't believe I'm actually in m---f---- space!!"
  • Why can the bad astronaut not hear Grant anymore just because Shannon is untethered?

Stephen Kandel, episode writer

My God, you're indefatigable!  You're running thru the TV M's? FYI, I wrote and/or produced Marcus Welby, Medical Center, Malmsy Rose (in the UK), MacGyver, Mannix. The Magician, Mod Squad, Mike Hammer, A Man Called Sloane, Mystery Show, Murder Squad, The Magnificent Roughnecks, one independent Mumblecore Flick, Miller's War, Mousetrap (UK again)-- as I remember Mi Diablo (for Universal in Latin America) - and, of course -- Mission Impossible.  Which I'd never seen when I went in to pitch, so I grabbed an old script off somebody's desk, scanned in hastily, for the character names, went in - and pitched my story.  They were baffled -- said "That's so far from what we usually do....really interesting..." and somebody else said "You must've really been watching the show - to want to give us a new direction...I like it!"  Exited with assignment - grabbed three more old scripts to get an idea of what the show actually was -- and off we went.  It's a dancer's biz - fast on your feet or dead.

I realized later that I didn't specify that I was watching the 80's version of the show, and he actually wrote some episodes for the 60's version too, so I'm not 100% which one he was referring to in his comments.

Final Analysis:
Despite the sheer lunacy (or should I say lunar-a-cy) of this one, I gotta give my man Kandel major props for creativity, and it certainly held my attention.  In a series that so far has lacked for milestone moments, this was quite a memorable and ambitious episode.  I liked Danker and the bad astronaut as actors, and the filming of the space scenes weren't bad for an 80's network show.  Ranking it 3 out of 25.


  1. I really enjoy your commentary! Do you think that TV is generally less ambitious these days? Maybe I'm thinking of a pretty small sample size, but I wonder if reality TV has dumbed down TV writing... yet, maybe it has enhanced the writing for more niche programming (Netflix etc.)?

    1. Thanks very much, Liney! I agree that network tv in general is less ambitious and dumbed down. Series on HBO/Showtime/Netflix are pretty ambitious and popular although I'll still take 24 and Prison Break over those shows any day.

  2. The series certainly deserves props here for the "out-of-this-world" story idea. Right from the get-go, when the corrupt female space worker sets up the unconscious whistle blower to be torched underneath the jet's entrails (two years before Murdoc got the idea!), you knew you were gonna have an interesting hour of television. It all played out pretty B-movie-ish with a long list of eye-rolling plot conveniences which you touched upon, but it was nonetheless exciting and original to see Shannon in outer space, presumably exiled to "drifting" for the rest of eternity. The calmness of all parties in this crazy situation made was classic "M:I" to the point of nearly being an inside joke, with Grant matter-of-factly instructing Shannon to "Keep calm" while floating in outer space. With that said, the team's response to Shannon's arrival back on...planet Earth...was the warmest and most emotional I've seen these guys get in 26 episodes.

    Interesting exchange with Kandel as I bet you're right that he believed you were talking about the original "Mission: Impossible". I certainly recognized Eli Danker from "Cease Fire", which aired exactly one month to the day before this episode did, but I somehow missed that he was the same guy from "24: Legacy". I guess 27 years of aging can render just about anybody unfamiliar. I'll go along with you and rank this one #3 so far.

  3. Thanks for doing these reviews/commentary. You bring up things I would have never thought of, as well as interesting ties to your childhood.
    For me the opening of this episode was predictable and disappointing. The rest of the episode was a big cliffhanger for me, but sadly not the opening. I also thought that the code between Phelps and the Librarian was weaker than usual. Plus, how come no one noticed him watching the CD? It was interesting that Phelps sent Grant and Shannon ahead of the rest of the team. This is the first time, I believe, not everyone was at the briefing. I (think) that Shannon was chosen to be the rival astronaut instead of Grant because she has a knack for playing Miss Attitude. It would have made more sense if Grant had been it, and he could have pulled off the attitude, but it was fun to see her playing it and working through her lack of knowledge. I wonder where they secretly printed of the mask of Danker? I did not see any equipment for that purpose, and they could not let a guard see it either and still pull the plan off. At the end I think the ground crew landed the rocket, not Shannon. (Although, if that was the case, we still do not know how she/they reestablished control over the rocket.) Otherwise why would Phelps say "Thank you for landing her safely" to the ground crew?
    Thanks again Nick.