Most people remember Martin Landau for two TV shows he was in, “Mission Impossible” and “Space: 1999.” While he co-starred with his then wife Barbara Bain in both series, they could not be more different from one another. Landau was also famous for some film roles.

‘Mission Impossible’

Mission Impossible” was one of the many spy shows that ran on television in the mid-1960s, thanks to the popularity of the James Bond franchise. Unlike Bond, which relied on gadgets, sex, and action to move things along, “Mission Impossible” had a more cerebral approach to spy craft.

The Impossible Mission Force would use misdirection, costuming, and special effects to lead a target through a scenario in which he would be allowed to destroy himself.

Landau played a character named Rollin Hand, who was a master of disguise, a magician, and an actor. Hand was well suited to the confidence game approach to spy craft that “Mission Impossible” engendered. Landau left the show after season 3 and was replaced by Leonard Nimoy, who played the same role as the Great Paris.

In ‘Space: 1999’ the moon becomes a starship

The premise of ‘Space: 1999’ was that accumulated nuclear waste stored on the far side of the moon suddenly reaches critical mass, blowing Earth’s nearest neighbor out of orbit and into interstellar space.

The 311 people living on Moonbase Alpha have to survive while searching for a new home. The show did violence to the laws of physics and common sense with wild abandon. The series was the last production of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and was, at the time, the most expensive science fiction show to be produced on British television.

Landau’s character was John Koenig, the commander of Moon Base Alpha. Having been trained in astrophysics and engineering at MIT, Koenig was a tough, no nonsense leader who had no family ties. His stern personality was softened to some extent in the second season of the series with dashes of humor.

Landau’s other roles

Martin Landau performed some other roles on the big and small screen.

He played a villain who menaces Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.” He appeared as Rufio, a Roman general in the big budget epic “Cleopatra.” Landau’s most famous role, for which he won an Academy Award, was that of Bela Lugosi, the iconic actor who played Dracula but was reduced, at the end of his life, to working with Ed Wood, possibly the worst film director in history.

Landau died of complications of a heart attack at the age of 89 after briefly being hospitalized.