- Written by Art Wallace
- Based on a story by Art Wallace and Gene Roddenberry
- Directed by Marc Daniels
- March 29, 1968
- Captain Kirk-William Shatner
- Spock-Leonard Nimoy
- Sulu-George Takei
- Scott-James Doohan
- Uhura-Nichelle Nichols
- Chekov-Walter Koenig
- Gary Seven-Robert Lansing
- Roberta Lincoln-Teri Garr
- Mission Control Director Cromwell-Don Keefer
- Col. Jack Nesvig-Morgan Jones
- Sgt. Lipton-Lincoln Demyan
- Security Chief-Paul Baxley
- First Policeman-Bruce Mars
- Second Policeman-Ted Gehring
- Isis (Human form)-April Tatro
- Beta 5 Computer (voice)/Isis’ cat vocalizations-Barbara Babcock
Using the slingshot maneuver to study Earth history, the Enterprise intercepts a transport beam carrying a mysterious stranger and now must decide whether he is friend or foe.
Star Trek: TOS could have fun stories. It was not specifically a fun or lighter series, but it could be fun. “Assignment Earth” in that spirit is a fun little time travel story that touches on nuclear proliferation. It was also a backdoor pilot for a proposed series which apparently would’ve been very spy-fi. When I found out this was a failed pilot, I was kind of disappointed. It could’ve been a fun show but sadly this is all we have of the vision Gene Roddenberry had for it.
Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) is a human being from the 20th century that was sent to Earth by an unidentified alien species capable of hiding an entire planet. Their mission on Earth is to prevent us from destroying ourselves before we can evolve into a peaceful society. Watching it now that seems like shades of the Preservers which were a species learned of in “The Paradise Syndrome” (Season 3, Ep. 3). Given that episodes were generally self-contained and almost never bled into another that is probably not the case but it would have been a cool connection.
Gary “Supervisor 194” Seven is sent to figure out what happened to a pair of agents that preceded him with his mission complicated by him intersecting with the mission of the Enterprise as well as the presence of the young secretary Roberta Lincoln (Teri Garr) hired by the agents under the pretense of researching a new encyclopedia. Why did they need a secretary that Gary seemed unaware of and how did these two humans working for aliens pay her? That has never made sense. I do not need an explanation for the paycheck aspect but one explaining Roberta just working for them would have been a good idea.
What the concept of the episode comes down to is space angels protecting us from ourselves during an age of nuclear proliferation. That feels a little Ancient Aliens-ish but that there is a whole different topic. The idea though comes squarely from ideas and attitudes born of the 1960s and weighing heavily on the public’s mind.
One thing I need to bring up-and it’s only because it touches on the reboot films-is something Scotty (James Doohan) says in this episode when the Enterprise first intercepts Gary Seven. Scotty seems astounded that anyone can beam to Earth from 1000 lightyears away. I would think that if you had been working on a transwarp beaming equation you might react differently. We could get in to so much on that but if Scotty here is enough like Scotty there that Spock knows exactly where Scotty there is in an alternate timeline then it would be reasonable to assume both worked on that same equation. Anywho…
Robert Lansing is a personal favorite of mine. He stars in one of my top five favorite monster movies called Empire of the Ants. Not always great but generally good when I saw him. Here he turns in a stoic performance as a human yet extraterrestrial (though not alien) secret agent sent to not only figure out what happened to his comrades but to prevent the launch of an orbital nuclear defense platform that will lead to WWIII. Holy crap! This is in the 1960s and they were already talking about Star “Not That One” Wars, otherwise known as SDI.
Teri Garr is an amazing performer. She has a significant amount of talent. She could do comedy and light drama and just always brought the goods no matter what. As Roberta Lincoln she is very entertaining with a touch of disbelief yet resignation at the situation she finds herself in. She goes with the flow that feels it is absurd.
I would like to say something about Nimoy’s and Shatner’s performances here but there’s very little Kirk and Spock in this episode. Their presence is more to give us a reason to watch the action than they are at being participants in the story.
There a few issues in the story connected to them. One thing I must bring up is I’m not sure why Spock didn’t use the Vulcan neck pitch on Roberta when he was trying to keep her silent. It certainly would have been the more intelligent move. He covered her mouth before they needed to duck into another room to beam away which alerted the cops once he removed his hand. The pinch would have been harmless and bought them time.
There is also an implication at the end that Kirk and Starfleet are aware on some level of Gary Seven’s mission and his general history yet everything that preceded that little reveal indicated they weren’t and what he had done was a complete unknown in the future from which they came. Why chase him around and earnestly try to stop him if you know it’s all cool?
“Assignment Earth” is a fun Star Trek time travel story that touches on fears of the nuclear arms race. It has some jokes and an intriguing premise for a series that never came to be. Its main flaw is that there is not very much Kirk and Spock or any other Star Trek character in this. However it is definitely worth a watch just because of general enjoyment.
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