by Jeff Bond
Long before The Jeffersons, Rhoda and Private Practice, Star Trek got an early start on the idea of spin-off series with this peculiar but very entertaining stealth pilot for a series that would have starred Robert Lansing as Gary Seven, a human being trained by aliens to keep a secret watch over Earth during one of the most dangerous periods in its history.
The last broadcast episode of Trek’s season two, “Assignment: Earth” takes the once shocking concept of time travel as depicted in “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” and “The City on the Edge of Forever” and makes it so commonplace that it’s merely another routine task for the Enterprise to slingshot around the sun and travel back to 1967. What’s not commonplace is Seven himself, a seemingly superpowered humanoid who appears on the Enterprise transporter pad with his cat, almost overpowers Spock and some security guards before succumbing to a phaser stun.
The opening scenes with Seven are well done, effectively establishing an urgent aura of mystery around the man and emphasizing Kirk’s anxiety at the potential disaster inherent in messing with history. Once Seven escapes the Enterprise and Kirk and Spock don civilian Earth clothing to pursue him, the episode shifts easily into comedy with Teri Garr’s scatterbrained and amusing secretary Roberta Lincoln trying to make sense of her strange new boss and the two oddball strangers who invade his office. Yet there’s still room for some interesting dramatic moments, as when Seven broods over the death of two fellow agents “in something as meaningless as an automobile accident.”
It’s interesting to wonder how this might have played out as a television series, a kind of earthbound companion piece to Star Trek (one fan went so far as to design a title sequence and record a piece of theme music for the show that “Assignment: Earth” might have been…see below for more). Robert Lansing was always a popular and intriguing television performer in everything from Twelve O’Clock High to his role as Control on The Equalizer. At the time of “Assignment: Earth” Terri Garr had primarily found work as a dancer in Elvis Presley pictures—her Star Trek guest shot was a breakthrough role for her and demonstrated a quirky comic presence that would later be used to great effect in films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Tootsie. And Trek staple Barbara Babcock conspires with art director Matt Jefferies, Trek special effects guru Jim Rugg and the Trek sound effects editors to create a memorably bitchy computer in the Beta 5, an obvious first cousin to Richard Daystrom’s M-5 unit.
Oddly Kirk and Spock get very little comedy to play in this episode as they spend the bulk of the story in hot pursuit of Seven, But Kirk’s anguish and tension over the mystery of Seven and what kind of havoc he might wreak in Earth’s past is well played and the missile detonation countdown finale, simply staged though it is, is a nice suspense sequence.
As for CBS-D’s contribution to this episode I have only one thing to say: AGAIN with the Earth-like planets! I’ve had it up to HERE with you people—I mean show some imagination for once! Would it kill you to show a planet that wasn’t—what? Oh, this IS Earth?
Some nice shots here, and placing the moon into several of them really helps differentiate these not only from the original shots but also from other Remastered episodes that feature Earth. There was a lot of talk on the boards about replacing the gantry shots or other stock footage of Saturn boosters intended to stand in for nuclear missile launch platforms or whatever—I suppose some of that could have been done but I don’t remember really being bothered by the stock footage use in the original episode. The quality of the original rocket footage was good enough and the episode does a rather clever job of putting Mr. Seven into the gantry environment, so the few orbital shots done here are more than sufficient for the episode.
(higher quality version at YouTube)
REMASTERED v ORIGINAL
by Matt Wright
Gary Seven and his ‘cat’ Isis
The plucky Miss Lincoln
The crew confounds yet another poor 20th century law enforcement officer
We could say they have some interesting experiences in store for them…or not.
Bonus Video: Assignment: Earth…the series
Here is a glimpse at a possible opening theme for the Trek spin-off that never was…
This was created by musician and school teacher Andy Patterson (with help from his brothers Michael and Phillip). Andy wrote the music for the theme and recorded the original music using real live musicians. There is also an alternative ‘jazzier’ version at YouTube. Visit Andy’s Gary Seven Website for more.
Seasons One and Two discounted at Amazon
The Season Two box set is now available at Amazon for pre-order, discounted to $63.99 (Amazon has a low price guarantee that if they drop the price before ship date of August 5th you will get that lower price). Amazon has also discounted the Season One DVD / HD DVD combo disk is to $96.95 (retail is $194.99).
Seasons One and Two of TOS-R ($96.95 and $63.99 respectively)
Gene L. Coon
John Meredyth Lucas
Robert Lansing as Gary Seven, Teri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, Don Keefer as Mission Control Director Cromwell, Morgan Jones as Col. Jack Nesvig, Lincoln Demyan as Sgt. Lipton, Paul Baxley as Security Chief, Ted Gehring as Second Policeman, Bruce Mars as First Policeman, Victoria Vetri as Isis in Human form (uncredited), Barbara Babcock as Beta 5 Computer Voice (uncredited)
29 March 1968
Unknown (1968) [N 1]
According to Memory Alpha's In Universe Timeline, Assignment: Earth comes between Storm Front Part 2 and The Cage.
The Remastered version of Assignment: Earth was released between the remastered versions of Mudd's Women and Court Martial.
Using a controlled gravitational slingshot maneuver around the sun, the Enterprise time travels to 1968 Earth for historical research. The ship orbits Earth using its deflector shields to avoid detection. Suddenly, the Enterprise intercepts a highly powerful transporter beam from one thousand light-years away. A man dressed in a 20th-century Earth business suit materializes, carrying a black cat named Isis and introduces himself to Captain Kirk as Gary Seven.
Seven refuses to reveal his home planet and warns Kirk that history will be changed and Earth destroyed if he is not released immediately. Kirk demands more proof, but Seven refuses. Kirk orders him taken into custody but Seven evades attempts to subdue him, even shrugging off First Officer Spock's Vulcan nerve pinch. When Seven tries to beam himself down, Kirk stuns him with a phaser. Kirk has Seven taken to the brig and asks Spock to search the history database for any critical events that will soon occur. Spock finds that the United States will launch a nuclear weapons platform from McKinley Rocket Base. The launch is scheduled in a few hours and Spock speculates that it may be the reason for Seven's visit.
Meanwhile, Seven awakens and finds himself in a holding cell. He removes an advanced "servo" weapon from his pocket, disables the force field and stuns the guard. His escape is detected, but not before Seven and Isis make their way to the transporter room, stun the technicians and beam down to New York City. Kirk and Spock, camouflaged in local attire, follow them. Seven enters an office and activates a sophisticated computer which reports that agents "201" and "347" have not been heard from in three days. With only an hour until the launch, Seven decides to complete their mission.
A young woman arrives and Seven mistakes her for agent 201, so he asks her to dictate a report to an electric typewriter with speech recognition. Seven asks the computer to identify her: she is Roberta Lincoln, a secretary employed by the missing agents. Seven, realizing his blunder, appeals to her patriotism and tells Roberta he is a secret government agent and that she should remain quiet about what she has seen. An intelligent woman, she realizes something very odd is happening. The computer then informs Seven that agents 201 and 347 have died in a car accident.
Kirk and Spock track Seven to the office. Seven has Roberta stall them while he enters a powerful transporter and dematerializes. As Kirk opens the door with a phaser, Roberta manages to call the police. The police arrive and the two officers are inadvertently beamed to the Enterprise along with Kirk and Spock. The two confused officers are quickly beamed back down.
Seven and Isis materialize at McKinley Rocket Base. With fake identification, Seven easily stuns a guard and stows away in the launch director's car as he makes a final check of the pad. Riding the elevator to the top of the gantry Seven, carrying Isis, climbs an access arm to the side of the rocket. He opens a panel and begins to rewire the circuits within.
On the Enterprise, Kirk, Spock and Chief Engineer Scott (James Doohan) try to locate Seven. Meanwhile, a curious Roberta explores the office and discovers the transporter. Scott locates Seven on the rocket gantry and tries to beam him up but Roberta, randomly operating the office transporter controls, intercepts the beam and Seven materializes instead in the office. Briefly furious at being beamed away before he was done, the computer tells him he can still take manual control of the rocket after launch. Kirk and Spock beam down to McKinley Rocket Base, are quickly captured and the missile is launched shortly thereafter.
In the office, Seven takes control of the missile, arming its warhead and targeting it to the heart of the Euro-Asian continent. McKinley Base controllers frantically try to destroy the missile without success. Every major power on the planet goes on alert, ordering retaliatory strikes as soon as the missile warhead explodes. Roberta, extremely perturbed by Seven's actions, tries to call the police. Seven severs the phone line with his servo pen. He then turns back to the computer, allowing Roberta to hit him on the head with a cigar box and seize the servo. Roberta threatens Seven with it, excitedly telling him to stop whatever he is doing. Seven replies, "You've got to let me finish what I started or in six minutes, World War III begins!"
Scotty beams Kirk and Spock away from base security and sends them to Seven's office. Roberta, now utterly confused, points the servo pen at Kirk. Seven manages to take it from her and hands it to Kirk, adding that it was "set to kill". Spock tries unsuccessfully to destroy the missile with Seven's computer. Seven pleads with Kirk to let him complete his plan to destroy the missile at a safe altitude to scare the world's leaders out of their insane arms race. Kirk decides to trust Seven. Seven retakes control of the computer and safely detonates the warhead at 104 miles altitude, only four miles above the safe minimum.
In the epilogue, Spock and Kirk explain to Seven that the Enterprise was meant to be part of the day's events. Meanwhile, Roberta sees that Isis has turned into a slinkily dressed woman. When she demands an explanation, Seven answers "That, Miss Lincoln, is simply my cat." When Roberta looks again, Isis is once again a cat. Seven decides to keep Roberta employed as his assistant for any future missions. Kirk and Spock beam back to the Enterprise, much to Roberta's continuing astonishment.
Errors and ExplamnationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- The big tension point at the end of the episode comes as Kirk tries to decide if he should let Seven operate the controls of his computer. Kirk isn't sure whether Seven will detonate the warhead or allow it to fall and begin World War Ill. If Kirk wants the warhead disposed of, why doesn't he just call the Enterprise and have them blow it out of the sky? Most likely, Scott could even fix it so it looks like the bomb actually exploded. This would increase the risk of Enterprise being discovered.
- At the end of the episode, Spock announces that everything happened just as it should have. To substantiate this claim, the Vulcan states that the library record tapes show the missile detonating at precisely the location that they just witnessed. What else would the record tapes show? The tapes come from the future. Let’s say that the record tapes at the beginning of the episode show the warhead detonating at two hundred miles above the surface of the Earth. Those tapes would have been recorded sometime after 1968 - for the sake of argument, A.D. 2200. Now, let’s say Kirk and Spock disrupt history, and the missile explodes at an elevation of 104 miles. It is now 1968. When 2200 rolls around, historians will record that the detonation occurred at 104 miles and put that fact on the record tapes. These tapes will be sent to the Enterprise. The Enterprise will travel back in time to 1968. Any change in history will instantaneously appear on the tapes, just as reality instantaneously changed when McCoy jumped into the Guardian of Forever in The City on the Edge of Forever. (However, in that case, Kirk and the others on the surface weren't affected by the revision of history, because the Guardian evidently projects a local field to isolate itself and anyone close by from temporal disturbances. At least that's what the creators would like us to think.) Perhaps the warhead was always intended to explode at 104 miles, and the Enterprise was somehow protected from changes in the timeline by the modifications for this mission.
- Kirk states that the Enterprise has traveled into the past to do historical research. Yet in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode A Matter of Time, Picard asks Rasmussen when historians will begin using time travel for their studies. Evidently Picard hasn't read the logs of previous Enterprise captains. Picard is referring to professional historians.
- Up to this point, phasers have always tired a beam of light, even on stun. When Kirk fires at Seven in the transporter room, the phaser emits no beam. Probably an experimental setting for covert work.
- After Seven beams aboard, Kirk and Spock go to a briefing room to discuss the matter. At one point Scott talks to them from Engineering. His picture begins to fade as soon as he finishes relating his information, but Kirk doesn't reach over and “officially” turn off the viewscreen until a second or two later. Scotty could have closed the channel from his end.
- Spock carries Seven‘s cat into the aforementioned briefing room. When Seven escapes the brig, the cat hurries to find him. When the cat ‘leaves the briefing room, the doors open all the way, but when it enters the transporter room, the doors open only wide enough to let the feline slip through. The cat might have the ability to control the door.
- Seven escapes from the Enterprise and uses the ship’s transporter, but when he materializes in his office, it looks like he's using his own transporter. He may have used the Enterprise transporter to remotely activate the unit in his office.
- One of the displays on Seven’s Beta 5 computer looks very similar to Dr. Richard Daystrom’s M5 computer. Was Daystrom raised by aliens as well? The aliens that Seven is working for could have provided him with copies of the hardware used to produce the M-5.
- At the end of the episode, Seven makes his final report on a typewriter that transcribes speech. Earlier in the show, Seven used the computer to record his intentions. Why then does he still work in an antiquated medium like paper? Why not just use the computer to record his final report? He most likely needs a hard copy for the records, in case of computer failure.
Continuity And Production ProblemsEdit
- The opening shot of the Enterprise shows it near India and travelling east. The following shot of the viewscreen on the main bridge shows the Enterprise travelling west. Also, according to these graphics, the Enterprise was over Asia when the transporter beam hit them. If Seven is travelling to his office in New York, why is the beam hitting Asia? The relative position of Seven's origin point could have placed the Enterprise over Aisa in a way to block the direct path to New York.
- D.K. Henderson on Thursday, November 19, 1998 - 2:10 pm - The episode opens with Kirk commenting that they have their shields up to avoid detection from Earth. When Gary Seven's transporter beam hits them, he transports THROUGH the shields. I thought that this couldn't be done. Granted, it was a very powerful beam, but Scott never commented on its ability to get through the shields, only on how far it was coming from. The aliens that trained and supported Seven presumably have technology capable of transporting through the shields, possibly via the sensor windows.
- Seven comments on the planet he's been trained at, saying that "Even in your time, it will remain unknown." How the heck does he know that? He doesn't even know what era Kirk is from, only that he's from the future. Unless he came back in time--which Scott briefly hinted was possible. He may have been briefed on the various uniform styles used by Starfleet as part of his training.
- Apparently the planet Gary trained on knew 6,000 years ago that Earth was going to wind up in trouble. How omnipotent of them. The aliens are either time travelers, or extremely good at prediction.
- Kirk seemed rather indifferent about beaming those police officers back down off the ship. I certainly wouldn't trust them to just shrug the experience off as a dual hallucination. He is counting on them not being believed if they mentioned it - assuming their memories weren't suppressed somehow, as suggested by Bob Brehm on Tuesday, March 16, 1999 - 6:37 pm.
- MattS on Thursday, May 13, 1999 - 2:15 pm - Seven's predecessors were killed in an auto accident. Why would they bother travelling by car instead of beaming around like Seven does? Will Spencer on Monday, May 29, 2000 - 10:12 am - There's no indication how far or how close the former agents were to the office when they died in a car accident, so beaming to and from everywhere would be a waste of power and resources. Would they really beam to the library or home or grocery store when it's only a couple blocks away? Sooner or later they would have to use ground transportation, which they did, unfortunately for them.
- tim gueguen on Friday, May 26, 2000 - 10:32 pm - The biggest problem with this episode is the nuclear weapons platform. The US shouldn't have been putting one up in 1968 because they would be violating international treaties. The 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty prohibited the detonation of nuclear devices in space, while the 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibited the placing of nuclear weapons in space entirely. Apparently the writers of this episode didn't know much about arms control in the 60s. Those treaties may not have been in exsistance in the reality inhabited by the characters in Star Trek.
- LUIGI NOVI on Saturday, July 14, 2001 - 7:47 pm - Kirk points out to Seven that he could be an alien masquerading as a human. Spock adds that the decision to take him at his word is a difficult one. Why even bother with his word? I guess everyone, including Spock, forgot about the Vulcan mind meld. Spock pointed out that the nerve pinch didn’t work on Seven, so the creators could’ve had him unsuccessfully attempt a meld, but never bother. They probably realised that a human who is immune to the effects of a nerve pinch would also be able to mask his thoughts from a mind meld.
- John A. Lang (Johnalang) on Thursday, August 09, 2007 - 5:06 pm - Why is Spock using a MEDICAL TRICORDER to help Kirk find Gary 7? Wouldn't a regular Tricorder be in order here? No it wouldn't - they are trying to locate Seven by tracking his vital signs and physiology.
- ↑According to the startrek.com episode list, the provisional stardate for this episode is 4739.
- ↑Assignment: Earth at Wikipedia