Mission Impossible

Jim Phelps

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Jim Phelps
Peter graves Jim Phelps
Status: Deceased
Affiliation: IMF
Profession: Agency Director, Mission-Team Leader
Played by: Peter Graves

Jon Voight

First appearance: Mission: Impossible (1966)
Last appearance: Mission: Impossible (1996)

James "Jim" Phelps was the Director of the Impossible Missions Force and the "captain" of its most reliable "mission team" for several years. As the IMF leader, it was his job to plan out the missions that his team would accomplish, considering all known, suspected, or possible angles. If anything failed to go according to plan during the mission, Phelps was quick enough to improvise so that the objective could still be obtained. ("The Controllers").

Early Career Edit

Phelps fought in the Korean War (at an unknown rank in an unknown branch of the United States armed forces) and worked (in an unknown job) 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's 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

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 a female operative known simply as Tracey. (Mission: Impossible--The 1960s And 1970s Missions)


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 Russell 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

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)


Jim Phelps in 1966 (left) and 1996 (right)

Between 1990 and 1996, the IMF was placed under the direct leadership of the CIA and headed by IMF director Eugene Kittridge, and Phelps's squad completely changed. He took on agents Ethan Hunt, Sarah Davies, Hannah Williams, and Jack Harmon. 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, regarding his services to the US government. He became bitter and disillusioned with his work. 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.

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