Mission Impossible

Jim Phelps

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Name Jim Phelps
Image JimPhelps
Actor Peter Graves
Jon Voight (feature film only)
Description IMF Leader
Family Claire Phelps (wife) (feature film only)

James "Jim" Phelps (died 1996, according to the feature film) was the leader of the IMF team for several years. As the IMF leader, it was his job to plan out the missions that his team would go on, thinking about all the angles. If anything failed to go to plan during the mission, Phelps was quick enough to improvise so that the objective could still be obtained. ("The Controllers"). He was the main antagonist in Mission: Impossible.

Early careerEdit

Phelps fought in the Korean War and worked for Pan American Airlines before entering government service.

This background information was developed by actor Peter Graves and revealed in Patrick White's The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier.

As a former government operative, Phelps formed the Impossible Missions Force from a former elite Special Forces squad led by Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Daniel David Briggs, Ph.D., late of Army Intelligence(G-2). (Mission: Impossible)

Colonel Briggs' military status and the IMF's military origin was devised from early material for Mission: Impossible.

Eventually, Phelps took over from Briggs as the field leader for the core IMF squad. ("The Widow")

As Steven Hill had been dismissed from the series cast because his Orthodox Judaism conflicted with the shooting schedule too frequently, the reason for Daniel Briggs's departure remains unknown.

Original IMF CareerEdit

Sections regarding his specific missions from 1966-1973 are incomplete.

While Phelps could have a pick of many different agents for his missions, he usually picked a specific group. Originally, his top squad included Rollin Hand, Cinnamon Carter, Barney Collier, and William "Willy" Armitage, the same four members of Daniel Briggs's most reliable mission team. In the years afterwards, he replaced Hand (with The Great Paris), Carter (with Dana Lambert and later Lisa Casey), and added other talents for occasional missions, such as Dr. Douglas Robert Lang, Melany "Mimi" Davis, and Tracey. (Mission: Impossible--The 1960s And 1970s Missions)


The content of this section cannot be trusted.

In 1974, with the eruption of the Watergate Scandal, the IMF was revealed as a public entity and Phelps was put on trial for its activities. For refusing to testify before Congress on a number of charges, Phelps was sentenced to six years in a federal penitentiary. (unproduced Mission: Impossible 1980)

After his release from prison, he briefly formed a small squad with Hand, Carter, and Collier in order to take down rogue IMF agent John Victor. (Mission: Impossible 1980) This squad was soon replaced with another covert IMF formed by Phelps and Collier. Sometime after stopping a massive terrorist attack and rescuing a kidnapped scientist, Phelps retired from IMF service. (unproduced Mission: Impossible 1981, unproduced film Good Morning, Mr. Phelps)

This information is directly contradicted by dialogue in the Mission Impossible 1988 episode "Reprisal" Wherein Phelps and former IMF Agent Lisa Casey mention last seeing each other after a mission "nine years ago" , thus about 1979 or 1980. The arrest of rogue IMF scientist Russel Acker occurred some time between a car accident Acker was involved in sometime in 1974 and the previously mentioned mission, probably 1975.

Return to IMF Service and Apparent BetrayalEdit

Sections regarding his specific missions from 1988-1990 are incomplete, and those from the film starring Tom Cruise cannot be trusted.

After the death of IMF leader Tom Copperfield, Phelps left retirement to lead his squad, which included Nicholas Black, former ANZAC sergeant Maxwell Hart, Grant Collier, Casey Randall, and later Shannon Reed. (Mission: Impossible--The 1988 Missions)
This squad may have later evolved to include Ethan Hunt, Claire Phelps, Sarah Davies, Hannah Williams, and Jack Harmen. (Mission: Impossible)

The following content assumes that James Phelps was alive in 1991; unfortunately, however, this content cannot be trusted as the Mission Impossible films do not necessarily follow up the tv series.

Between 1990 and 1996, the IMF was placed under the direct leadership of the CIA and headed by IMF director Eugene Kittridge, and Phelps' squad completely changed. He took on agents Ethan Hunt, Sarah Davies, Hannah Williams, and Jack Harmen. He later added a former Interpol agent named Claire, whom he would form a romantic relationship with and marry. (Mission: Impossible)

After the Cold War ended, Phelps had a change of heart and snapped, regarding his services to the US government. He became bitter and disillusioned with his work and eventually have been driven homicidally insane because of it, turning him from the patriotic agent he once was into a treacherous and psychotic sociopath. During a mission in Prague, he caused the deaths of three of his agents and then faked his own death. Later, after Ethan Hunt discovered that Phelps was a mole within the US government, he was killed, but not before he killed his own wife, Claire.

Actor Peter Graves had been hoping to restore honor to James Phelps's reputation before his own death, especially since actor Jonathan Wesley "Jon" Voight bore no resemblance to him and approached the role as he would have any villainous role. Some fans have done this for him by claiming that the "James Phelps" who was a character in the film starring Tom Cruise was NOT the real James Phelps.


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