Peter Graves, best known as Jim Phelps on the television program Mission: Impossible, was found dead Sunday. It is believed as of press time that Graves died of natural causes.
The 83-year-old actor started working regularly in the 1950s, mostly in character roles. The natural gravitas of his voice and his sharp features made Graves a natural replacement for Steven Hill starting with the second season of the iconic TV program. The adventures of the Impossible Missions Force skirted the edges of science fiction—artificial viruses, brainwashing drugs and unreasonably cheap nuclear isotopes were themes—while being grounded in the suspense/thriller genre.
Graves also appeared in a number of science fiction films, though, truth be told, the movies would have been utterly forgettable except for Graves' own work in them. Graves faced down giant grasshoppers in Beginning of the End, helped save the planet from a Venusian invasion in Roger Corman's It Conquered the World (well, It almost conquered the world!) and played the president-elect in Parts: The Clonus Horror. Parts, of course, may have inspired an even worse sci-fi flick: The Island.
These films and others were lovingly torn apart by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew, and Graves' voice-over work for the A&E documentary program Biography was a frequent theme of the show's humor. All in all, Graves appeared in more than 70 films and TV shows. His voice also graced the 2010 video game Darkstar—an FMV science fiction mystery also featuring the voices of MST3K alums Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu.
The Mission: Impossible theme
Peter Graves in Parts: The Clonus Horror (with extra MSTK3K!)
Peter Graves mixes it up with a cop in the trailer for It Conquered the World
Peter Graves crashes a car, wakes up in a hospital bed and interviews an alien in the very chatty trailer to Killers From Space: