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
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)
first? hmm- always wondered what the show would be like if they had done it?
A lot of the screen stills make great desktop pics you know
i have one spanned across both my monitors at work! they are all lovely. :)
that policeman should have gotten his own show!
Justman tells a great story about Roddenberry making Teri Garr’s skirt shorter and shorter. It’s why it looks so peculiar in the episode
Star Trek started it’s run in germany with “Tomorrow is yesterday”, all three seasons were shown totally mixed up over the years. So I was quite surprised that it was no problem no more to go back in time, should star fleet command ask for it. But the funniest part about this ep was that the dubmeisters of german TV called Gary “Seven Rock”…
One of my favorite episodes.
“That, Ms. Lincoln, is only my cat.”
I could’ve use that line once or twice.
oh and re: earth type planets & cbs-d ……LMFAO.
I would have enjoyed CBS-D’s work on “Assignment: Earth” much more if they just didn’t have the Earth rotating in the WRONG DIRECTION throughout the whole episode.
The original had it right… why make that dumb change?
If the had to change something, I would have liked the Big E heading toward the sun at the fade-out.
Yip,,Good old 20th century Earth,,,
It must of been a good place,, their always going there
( I love that poster )
Holy Cow! You’re right! The Earth is spinning in the wrong direction in those clips. I can’t believe it.
Actually, yes I can. In the original FX (as well as many of the remastered ones) the Enterprise always seemed to be orbiting against the rotation of the planet below it. This despite the fact that the ship was supposedly in geosynchronous orbit over some significant point on the planet’s surface.
The folks at CBS-D probably disn’t even consider the planet’s rotation when they rendered the new FX. Whoopsie!
It’s spinning in the wrong direction… because.. they, uh, went BACKWARD in time! Yeah! That’s it!
I always liked ‘Assignment Earth’, it’s groovy. Shame they didn’t find a way to fix that dreadful shot of Gary lying across a gantry near the rocket by compositing in a new background or whatever.
‘Assignment: Earth’ would make a good series today.
This was a nice episode. It gave us a break of the “starship Enterprise discovers strange new worlds in the future” routine. Also we got a powerful guest star in Gary Seven. Some of Kirk and Spock’s troubles on 20th century Earth prefaces Star Trek IV.
Actually, it was a really bad day that day.
That just happened to also the day when arch villain Lex Luthor attempted to devastate the United States, and dramatically improve the value of his otherwise worthless real estate purchases, by launching two re-programmed missiles to induce a major earthquake.
What you couldn’t see in those orbital shots was Superman speeding around in orbit, reversing the flow of time.
It was a two-fer cross-over episode. Two aliens: one Kryptonian, one of ancient human ancestry reliant on technology, working to save Earth.
1. …BE the day…
2. LL didn’t launch the missiles, but, just re-programmed them
(shakes head) time to get some coffee for myself…
13. RTC – May 6, 2008
‘Assignment: Earth’ would make a good series today.
Yes it would.
You know,…knowing this episode as well as I do,….being very aware of the rhythms and pace of this show, makes me very aware of the seconds they shave off to make it fit in today’s commercial. Kind of jarring.
Did anybody notice the sound effects still left in from I Mudd and transplaned at the beginning of this episode?
Thanks for the mention Jeff. If Darren is out there,…any chance my theme two will ever be shown at the conventions you speak at? I’d really like to get the fan reaction to it. I’m starting to like it more and more after all this time.
#13 RTC –
I always thought that the 1997 show “The Visitor” with John Corbett must have been an attempt to realize “Assignment: Earth” as a series.
The main problem I had with “Assignment: Earth” was the contrived uselessness of Spock, to make Kirk’s choice more dramatic. Spock could not destroy the platform in time, so the only logical choice was to let Gary Seven try. Spock’s lack of logical thinking was very out of character.
Otherwise, I wish they would have made a series out of this. Very similar to Doctor Who in many ways. Had Roddenberry recently travelled to England and happened to watch some of their science fiction tv? Hmmm, I wonder…
Re Terri Garr and comedy, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a better example than CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.
Also, notice that Roddenberry gets the ‘producer’ credit at the end. Did John Meredyth Lucas quit by then?
Gary Seven… always made me wonder about Gary One, Two, Three… etc.
Perhaps it’s not too late to have a series about Gary Eight, Nine or Ten…. I mean, c’mon if Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict can be scraped off the bottom of the frying pan, certainly a series “Assignment: Earth” starring Jamie Bamber as Gary Nine, Nicki Clyne as his flighty secretary Jane Henderson, and Kim Kardashian in a non-speaking role as Isis the… “cat”… could be filmed in Vancouver starting next week for the Sci Fi channel…. It could even play in the Star Trek universe as we sort of know it, and reference all sorts of things. They could be busy revising history to eliminate all incidences of Khan, the Bell Riots, WW III, you name it. The Ultimate Trek Retcon, yep.
Good call by everyone on Earth rotating the wrong way. It’s simply stupid, inexcusable, and impossible. Yes, you could make a perspective argument, but only IF the darkened limb was moving westward. It’s not… you can see the shadow creeping eastward.
Furthermore, the ending flyby should have been on a heading for the Sun. After all, the return to the 23rd century should have been hinted at, following Tomorrow is Yesterday’s effects.
This is one of my favourite TOS eps. Great acting, story, suspense, and humour.
The only problem is that it was a huge mistake to make time travel so easy (further compounded in ST:IV). It’s a hard enough leap of faith to accept warp drive, transporters, cloaking devices, etc. But at least once you accept their existence, ST does a pretty good job of using these gimmcks in logical and consistent manners.
Time travel is another story – ST is all over the map (and usually completely ILLOGICAL) in explaining the paradoxes inherent in the concept. They covered the whole spectrum from saying that there was only one “real” timeline (City on the Edge of Forever, Yesterday’s Enterprise, etc) all the way to saying that there were an infinite number of coexisting timelines (Parallels) so in fact it doesnt matter whether someone messes with the past, because all possible realities exist anyway!
They should never have opened the time travel can of worms in the first place.
Roddenberry revisited the Gary Seven idea when he did “The Questor Tapes.” Which he revisited again when he created Data.
He sure did a lot of “revisiting” of earlier ideas…
I loved this show as a kid…Gary Seven and all his gadgets, going back in time, etc. I still like it today.
I liked that they didn’t change much in this episode (the new shots of Earth were a nice touch, though).
Further to this idea – the only time travel explanation that really makes some sense is the coexisting timelines idea. This one does the best job of avoiding the embarassing paradoxes. It means that when someone goes back in time and “changes” the past, all they are really doing is jumping to a different alternate timeline. The “original” unchanged timeline still exists somewhere in the multiverse – it’s just that our heroes are now existing in a different reality.
Well, how do you expect me to type, with my nose?
Hey, wait a minute – the typewriter is typing everything I….
Again, very disappointing. CBS-D didn’t even both removing the very noticeable dirt from the (twice-shown) still close-up of the rocket. No exploding rocket shot. The earth rotating in the wrong direction?! A stock footage snore-fest.
This was supposed to be spin off , I wish this one had happened.
it’s a hopeful spin-off, that’s why ole Gene was credited as the producer… so as to beam away from unemployement if ST were to walk tha’ plank after season two…
arrrr… isn’t Terri Garrrrr so darn adorable here that ye just wanna hug tha’ stuffin’ outta her? I do… awwwww…
Gary Sieben be interesting character, James Bond meets Spock meets Doctor Doolittle meets Mr. Bic… arrrrr
CBS-D could have made Spock more able ta’ control a secretary rather than push her down inna huff and run away… playground flashback?
Kirk: There’s a man on the rocket girder… and there’s a monkey on the plane’s wing… Spock, if you didn’t like the tribbles, why are you petting the kitty cat? Get those coppers outta here!
ahhhhh, but I kid… actually better than I remembered it ta’ be…
As 20 cd points out, The Gary Seven / Doctor Who parallels are utterly uncanny, right down to his attractive young female companion and sonic screwdriver. Very intriguing, and more than a little suspicious! (Come to think of it, I wonder if that had anything to do with it not becoming a series.)
I’ve always been very fond of this episode, though, just because Lansing’s so cool and Garr is so fun (and young and cute!), and it’s a delightful, unexpected departure from the Trek norm — though, yes, the overly casual use of time travel is cringe-inducing, as it begs the question… if time travel is that easy, why aren’t all warp-capable starships in Trek (Federation, Klingon, Romulan, you name it) time-traveling all the, er, time, and frakking things up? A huge can of worms.
Anyway, I hadn’t seen this episode in years — not since discovering the joy of Doctor Who, in fact — so it was a treat, as well as a completely new experience given the Who-ian lens I now view it through.
Damn shame about the Earth rotating in the wrong direction, though. They’re never gonna live that one down. ;-)
It always weirded me out that in the original version Earth was having a completely cloudless day. Now THAT’S a problem for an advanced space ship to work on.
Those of you interested in what this would’ve been like as a series, might I recommend the Eugenics Wars books? Gary Seven and company are pretty key players, and it’s weird hearing them refer to the supposed adventures they’ve had on Earth in the last few decades… like they’re some sort of Star Trek Torchwood.
Backwards rotating Earth? They must have rushed out the last episodes to save money after Toshiba backed out.
I own Gene Roddenberry’s original treatment for “Assignment Earth” courtesy of the Profiles in History Auctions a few years back. It’s quite a thing to have from the production of the original show.
It’s interesting that Bob Justman really doesn’t consider this episode as a good pilot or even just an entertaining episode. I’ve always liked this one and I wish that the Saturn V could have been replaced with something else, but that’s really wishful thinking considering the limits of this project.
Gary’s office and the Cape… Why- those are the most detailed sets that TOS ever had! Wonder why?
And Terri Garr was so darn cute with her gestures and expressions that she made Mary Tyler Moore look like a pile of puke….
Oops… mixing sentiment…
And Robert Lansing- hey, they hired actors for guest stars! Wow.
Overall- highly enjoyable and fun… starnge it’s an attempt at a pilot rather than a TOS-like ep… I mean who the hell was that Kirk guy who sort of just stood around? the villain?
arrrrr… Terri Garrrrrr be so cute…
oops I did say that alreday…
I mean better than an Orion whose juzt lookin’ fur condoms and a switchblade…
I’m sorry but the Earth spinning backwards is a major problem that undermines this entire remaster project.
I’ve always dug the idea of cat being. Cool concept. Dig the gantry scene. Lansing is add-libbing dialogue with the cat that makes the whole scene.
Also….I think they cut out, to make time, the reaction shot of McCoy in the sickbay when Kirk asks for his analysis of Seven. It seems DeForest Kelly wasn’t even told what line he was reacting to. “It’s like they said “just look perturbed De”. Which he does. It’s also interesting to see so many shots of actors reacting to things that are’nt there. It’s clear that Shatner and Nimoy are’nt even in the room with Lansing and Garr in the final scene. Both sides are reacting a little off.
And do people notice Barton Larue (Guardian of Forever) and Doohan’s voices on the Mission Control floor?
The earth was spinning in the wrong direction because this episode was supposed to be a “spinn-off”.
33. Thomas Jensen — Dare I ask if you’d consider scanning and posting that “Assignment: Earth” treatment to share with the rest of the class? ;-) I’d dearly love to see/read it.
Nice write-up, Anthony. Thanks!
I also enjoyed reading everyone’s commentary, as always.
38 – LOL
AAARGH! Yet another ‘Earth-like’ planet… ;)
And spinning the wrong way at that. Doesn’t surprise me at this point, as it’s been a bit of a backwards project from the start where certain factors have been concerned.
#28 Izbot – And yeah, they could at least enhanced any obvious artifacts on the stills you mentioned…
Another sub-standard effort guys, but those that are not bothered, enjoy!
I liked this episode. However, was it just my broadcast or did some of the scenes look washed out and overexposed. I noticed several scenes where the quality was pretty poor. Not the FX fault as it was likely the original film. Just wondering if anyone else noticed anything like that?
One of my favorite scene was the launch of the Saturn V. Such a beautiful rocket!
Would also love to learn more about the Aliens that took the humans 5000 years ago. That would be some cool stuff to see in a movie…
Were any scripts written for the spin-off series? If so, are any in existence today?
There is a Star Trek novel, Assignment: Eternity, that brings Gary Seven and Roberta into the TOS time for an important mission. I read it a while back, and as I recall, there are mentions of Gary & Roberta getting involved with The Prisoner/The Village and The Avengers. And one of the Strange New Worlds books has a story about them rescuing Capt. Christopher from an obsessed Men-In-Black agent who has photos of the Enterprise from its visit to 1968 and who was present when Quark & company visited Roswell back in 1947.
I would like to ask what people have against “Earth-like” planets. DOn’t they make sense to be there with what they look like on the surface. If It has life on it, doesn’t it stand to reason that it would be earth-like?
I agree with #43 – the transfer on this ep was all over the place, with contrast and saturation changing from cut to cut in alot of the scenes. Kind of disappointing given how great many of the remastered transfers have looked.
Oh, and if I could go back in time, I’d go back twenty years and make sure TNG did a Gary Seven episode with Robert Lansing…
I t’ond kniht eht htraE gninnips sdrawkcab sah dah yna tceffe no su……
Loved this episode and loved Teri Garr as Roberta though she does not love us Trek fans!
But I won’t be harsh on her nowadays, dear lady is living with MS and I wish her the best.
Assignment: Earth series you will not find a bigger proponent than I!
Forget Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda, they should have dusted off A:E and revived it as a series instead!
I always hated this episode, it is so cheesy and probably has the worse staying power of any TOS episode.