Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"Assignment: Earth"

**1/2

Air date: 3/29/1968
Teleplay by Art Wallace
Story by Gene Roddenberry and Art Wallace
Directed by Marc Daniels

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise travels back in time to Earth, 1968, to witness a historic nuclear crisis unfold. But once there, they encounter the mysterious Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) beaming in from another planet, and Kirk must decide whether his presence is a proper aspect of history or an alien threat. Meanwhile, Mr. Seven escapes his holding cell and begins conducting his undercover operation on Earth, centering on the scheduled launch of a nuclear device into orbit.

The time-travel motivation is dubious (why in the world would Starfleet risk timeline contamination to research history?), but the story has some good ideas. Unfortunately, the execution is off-kilter, with so much cross-cutting and off-pacing that the show turns choppy. Also, the episode comes across like the spin-off pilot show that it was intended as; at times it's more interested in providing a backdrop to a series that would never come to be than it is in making its story the priority.

Robert Lansing is on target as Mr. Seven, but Teri Garr is too annoying and unfunny as his secretary. The plot is reasonably good, but the bottom line is that I felt more like I was watching a good marketing ploy than I was watching good science fiction.

Previous episode: Bread and Circuses
Next episode: Spock's Brain

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12 comments on this review

Dave - Thu, May 28, 2009 - 7:34pm (USA Central)
Yours is the first source that I have ever read (seen) that speaks of Assignment: Earth as being a Pilot for a spin-off. Where in Trekdom is this substantiated? I actually liked the episode - and Ms. Garr's quirky playing of her out-of-sorts character I thought proved effective in showing her total confusion with all the high-tech stuff that was flashing in front of her. PLUS - shes was supposedly just filling in for a friend at that job - wasn't she?
Jammer - Thu, May 28, 2009 - 7:54pm (USA Central)
^ Re: "Assignment: Earth" as a pilot:

http://en.wikipedia.or g/wiki/Assignment_Earth
dlabtot - Mon, Jun 28, 2010 - 10:16pm (USA Central)
I remember watching Assignment:Earth when it first aired; I was 7 years old. It was all anyone could talk about in school the next day. Gary Seven seemed like the coolest guy ever. So maybe my love of the episode is tinted by some boyish nostalgia.
Stubb - Thu, Apr 14, 2011 - 1:45pm (USA Central)
1. Assignment: Earth is listed as a potential pilot in David Gerrold's "The World Of Star Trek", from 1973. I'm pretty sure it's received wisdom.
2. Since we're listing 'favorite middle-tier episodes', I want to put my two cents in for "Metamorphosis". While justly not considered among the series' very best, I have always been deeply moved by 1) the Companion's indelible passion for Cochrane, 2) the analysis of love provided by Kirk/Spock/McCoy, and 3) Cochrane's surprisingly parochial response to the Companion's affection for him. Is it because he's centuries old? Regardless of the reason, it adds the perfect left-field touch to what I consider the most achingly romantic episode TOS ever did.
Jhoh - Thu, Sep 20, 2012 - 6:19am (USA Central)
Personally, I thought this episode was godawful.

The Enterprise just intentionally flies back in time to 1968 just to observe stuff? Seriously? They're serious with that? And best of all, it all happens off camera, before the episode even starts. Not even Voyager at its worst would do this. Stargate might.

But the worst is that Kirk and Spock stand around a room waiting for permission to grab a communicator to beam over to Seven's secret base, so they can stop him, but in the end just let him do what he wants, because "it's for a good reason." Yeah I'm sure detonating a nuclear weapon over another country can only have POSITIVE consequences for history, and sure enough the episode insults the viewer enough to pretend that's indeed what happens as a result, and they all smile and wink at the camera as they drop this incredibly morally questionable act and end the second season (and almost the entire show) with it.
Simon Hawkin - Sun, Mar 17, 2013 - 11:23am (USA Central)
I have just watched the episode for the first time. And the last time. What utter BS on all levels, from the awful acting to the pompous idiotism of the script. If the second season ended with this I am not surprised the original series was cancelled prematurely -- I am just glad it did not do the whole Star Trek in.
Paul - Sun, Mar 17, 2013 - 1:34pm (USA Central)
Oh, this episode isn't that bad. Clearly, the creators were trying to set up "Assignment: Earth" as its own show, but if you get past that conceit, this episode works OK, not great.

There are FAR worse episodes of TOS. This middle-of-the=pack fair.
Brundledan - Sat, May 18, 2013 - 1:32am (USA Central)
Absolute bottom-of-the-barrel, the nadir of TOS. It's the worst episode of the original Star Trek because it ISN'T an episode of Star Trek at all; Gary Seven is the prime mover of events from beginning to end, while Kirk and Spock are reduced to standing around like idiots who can do little more than hope everything works out. As for the real stars of this ep, Seven's a smug prick and Roberta's an insufferable airhead.

And all of this happens under the "Star Trek" title because "oh hey, by the way, we time-traveled back to 1968." From this, through the idea that there were orbital nuke platforms in '68 (which would have been a surprise to everyone in the viewing audience) and that Seven's purposefully detonating one in the lower atmosphere would save the Earth rather than trigger World War III, right up to the Enterprise's history tapes spoiling the entire spin-off series before it can even get started with the revelation that everything that just happened was supposed to happen all along and Seven and Roberta are destined to succeed in all of their missions, the episode treats its audience like complete morons.

The worst the third season had to offer still beats "Assignment: Earth", and the third season featured a whinny-ing Kirk being ridden around the room by a midget.
Tom E. - Fri, Jun 14, 2013 - 9:03pm (USA Central)
Actually, orbiting nuclear platforms were indeed a concern of the mid-1960s. Check out the beginning of the space sequence of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (released Summer 1968) - it looks like everyone has militarized space!
Adam - Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - 4:16am (USA Central)
The episode was intended as a pilot for a spin off series (Assignment:Earth).

The most interesting thing for me is that Gary Seven is like an American Doctor Who! He travels in time, has a companion, and even a sonic screwdriver! Maybe Gene Roddenberry was inspired by the famous British sci fi series. Who knows?
DutchStudent82 - Fri, May 2, 2014 - 7:59am (USA Central)
While in general an enjoyable episode,

I HAVE to point out :
-There WAS no time travel possible in kirk's era.. time travel was only possible in the 27th century, and only became mainstream in the 29th.

-the technolony kirk supposingly uses to time travel, is not even remotely fitting technobabble, even in 1970's fysics had improved way beyong this kind of unfitting crap.

So I may be a critic looking back on a show that was aired over a decade before I was born.. but still I am glad they became more professional (though not enough) in later star trek series.
dgalvan - Wed, May 14, 2014 - 3:14pm (USA Central)
-I THOUGHT this episode seemed like an attempt at a spinoff. Jammer mentioning it in his review made it all makes sense. Would have been a silly but probably entertaining show if it had actually gotten picked up by the network.

-Roberta came to work like she'd done it many times. . . so why is she surprised to meet her boss? They didn't explain that at all. . . was she just . . . like. . .a temp showing up to work somewhere she'd never been before? Weird.

-The cat clearly had a human making the "meow" sounds for it the entire episode. This made me laugh more times than it probably was meant to. When the cat attacked a red shirt in the transporter room I started cracking up. "RREEEEEEOOOOWWWWW!" Those poor redshirts always get the short end of the stick.

-The time travel: It was indeed silly to have the enterprise travel back in time for historical research.
That said, I must disagree with DutchStudent here: Time travel in the 23rd century was "nearly routine.The Enterprise had traveled in time before using a "slingshot around the sun" technique, back in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (season 1). And they did the same thing again in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I'd say two TOS episodes and a movie make it canon: Starfleet personnel could travel in time if they wanted to. There was some "temporal prime directive" background on this in later episodes of Deep Space 9 and Voyager.

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