Friday, August 20, 2010

Assignment: Earth

From Wikipedia:

"Assignment: Earth" is a second season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It was first broadcast on March 29, 1968, as the last original episode in the second season. It was repeated on August 9, 1968. It is episode #55, production #55, written by Art Wallace, based on a story by Wallace and Gene Roddenberry, and directed by Marc Daniels.

There is no stardate given in this episode.

Overview: Time traveling to 1968 Earth, the Enterprise encounters an interstellar agent who intervenes in 20th Century events.


This episode served double duty, not only as an episode of Star Trek, but as a pilot for a proposed spin-off television series, that would have been produced by Roddenberry, under the same name, Assignment: Earth. The show would have featured actor Robert Lansing as Gary Seven, a futuristic "James Bond", as the lead character. The episode stars Teri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, who would have been a co-star in the series, had it continued on its own.


It is very important to keep that last paragraph in mind when watching the episode because, well, that's how it comes off, as a failed television pilot.

go watch.

Notes and pics:

* Gary Seven is almost immediately in control of the episode, offering a much more rational argument than Kirk.

* Cats on Star Trek are always very cool, and Seven's cat Isis is no exception, essentially serving as his assistant, even successfully taking down a red-shirt at one point.

* The ship-wide conference call is quite cool, and I wonder if Star Trek actually invented the concept, which is commonplace today.

* Nice shot of Manhattan. Is this a matte painting or is it real? Hard to tell.

* Groovy office Mr. Seven has!

* And yeah, Seven really is James Bond.

* No, really, some of this shit could have come directly from You Only Live Twice, which was released only a year earlier.

* I've had a crush on Miss Lincoln, played by the always excellent
Teri Garr, since I was a kid. She's still extraordinarily cute to me, and I just fucking looove that groovy dress!

* As usual, when Spock is trying to blend in with humans, he covers his ears with some kind of hat. This is a cool one.

* This one's good, too.

* We've got some funny cops.

* We've got some cool stock footage of 1960s NASA stuff.

* But ho hum. Really, in the end, all that Assignment: Earth's got going for it is a bunch of individual interesting things, cops, the space program, the 60s. That is, it's boring, and you kind of don't really care about the story, so you start to amuse yourself with the sets and costumes. Indeed, at one point in the episode, there is a voice over of Kirk's log while he and Spock are held prisoner by NASA security and Seven works his scheme on his own: "I have never felt so helpless." Right. Kirk is helpless because this isn't really his show today. It's Gary Seven's show with Star Trek sort of pasted on. I mean, I actually kind of like this character played by
Robert Lansing. He really is the James Bond type and all. But this just doesn't have the oomph of James Bond; it's weak stuff.

In other words Assignment: Earth comes off as a failed pilot because that's exactly what it is. It does pick up a bit during the climax, when Kirk and Spock are more involved, but too little, too late.

Two stars.

* What is it with the Star Trek cats that are also hot babes? I wish my cats could turn into former Playboy Playmates. No really, Isis' human alter ego is played by
Victoria Vetri, who, using the name Angela Dorian, was Playboy's 1968 Playmate of the Year.

Actually, that's very James Bond.

* Really, Isis, even if she wasn't a hot babe, is a pretty cool cat, one of the more interesting aspects of the episode--guess that says a lot when one of the best things going for you is the cat.