Leader of the Impossible Mission Force in the '60s Mission: Impossible TV series, the revived '80s TV series, and the first M:I movie starring Tom Cruise. Jim Phelps was played by Peter Graves, who replaced Steven Hill's character, Dan Briggs, after the show's first season.

Phelps was the only M:I agent given any serious background. In the show's fifth season, there was a Christmas special, "Homecoming," where Phelps takes the team back to his home town for some vacation. They visit his favorite watering hole, where everybody knows Jim's name but not his occupation -- they're only aware that he has some vague government job that requires lots of travel. Luckily for the storyline, there's a local serial killer strangling women, and the IMF team ends up solving the case. Guest star Loretta Swit.

SPOILER ALERT! * SPOILER ALERT! * SPOILER ALERT!

-- People will tell you that the M:I movie isn't worth watching anyway, but if you don't want to know the ending, get out of this node now!
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Phelps is played by Jon Voight in the M:I movie, which was a bit disappointing but understandable. The surprise twist in the movie -- not revealed until near the end -- is that Phelps has gone rogue. Frustrated with saving the world but earning only $62,000 a year, he went to the dark side and became a mole, getting paid by the enemy to rat out his own teams' missions. He fakes his own death and frames Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as the mole, but Ethan prevails in the end, and Phelps meets a rather unpleasant death. Peter Graves tried not to give away the story in pre-premiere interviews, but he did say he was disappointed with the character and the ending, and who can blame him.

Sources:
-- The Un-Official Mission: Impossible Home Page (http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/1574/)
-- The Mission Impossible Archives (http://www.missionimpossible.fsnet.co.uk/)
-- CNN (http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9605/29/imposssibles/)
-- IMDb

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