Star Trek: The Original Series

“Assignment: Earth”

2.5 stars.

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

Review Text

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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73 comments on this post

    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?

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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!

    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?

    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.

    -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.

    It's that time again. Ratings for the season, where my ratings are distinct from Jammer's (with the difference in parentheses).

    Amok Time: 4 (+1)
    The Apple: 1 (-1)
    Catspaw: 1.5 (-1)
    I, Mudd: 2.5 (-.5) (a little distance made this drop a little)
    Journey to Babel: 3.5 (+.5)
    Friday's Child: 1.5 (-.5)
    Wolf in the Fold: 2.5 (-.5)
    The Gamesters of Triskelion: 1.5 (+.5)
    Return to Tomorrow: 3 (+.5)
    Patterns of Force: 2 (-.5)
    The Omega Glory: 0.5 (-.5)
    Bread and Circuses: 2 (-.5)
    Assignment: Earth: 2 (-.5)

    Season overall:

    Season two is definitely a step down from season one; the first season was bursting with invention, running in many directions at once, occasionally stumbling but almost always in an interesting way. There is a shagginess to this season, especially as it gets closer to the end. It's nothing compared to what season three will bring, and season two, unlike season three, has a number of remarkable highlights, breaking new ground: Amok Time, Mirror Mirror, The Doomsday Machine, Journey to Babel, and The Trouble with Tribbles are very obviously *essential* TOS, in terms of both quality and in terms of what people think of when they think of the show and in terms of laying the groundwork for these characters' histories (and the movies and spinoffs), with Obsession, A Piece of the Action, and The Ultimate Computer not far behind. There are other fine episodes, as well as some episodes with some successful elements in an overall story that doesn't gel.

    There is also a real sense of repetition. I actually liked both Return to Tomorrow and By Any Other Name -- but they are very similar to each other, and I feel as if combining the best episodes of each into one could have led to one classic rather than two good episodes with a lot of Venn overlaps. There was no reason to have A Piece of the Action, Patterns of Force, The Omega Glory, and Bread and Circuses so close to each other -- especially when only one of them (A Piece of the Action) was actually successful, and there successful as a lighthearted romp with serious subtext. The Deadly Years' moving moments about the nature of aging and obsolescence ultimately fail to buoy the episode from its various significant problems -- so I feel as if a little more time spent on that fear of obsolescence in The Ultimate Computer could have "covered" those themes admirably. Obsession and The Immunity Syndrome are both very good episodes, but they suffer a bit from being so close to The Doomsday Machine (for different reasons). The Ultimate Computer is a somewhat new take on the evil computer regular theme of TOS, but it's still a little familiar, and The Changeling and I, Mudd feel redundant in the wake of season one's various man vs. machine plots.

    There are only so many stories to tell, and I don't begrudge a certain amount of repetition of themes -- that is to be expected, and even encouraged to a degree, if the series is going to establish and reestablish a firm POV. In the case of something like Obsession, I think it's worth being glad the series returned to familiar themes and plot elements from The Doomsday Machine, since the result was so successful. But the problem comes when so many of the episodes feel halfhearted and lazily or incompetently put together, and I get the impression that the reason for this is a lack of anything new to say in these episodes.

    And this is to say nothing of the cynicism of "Assignment: Earth" as the season finale. I don't think it's a bad episode exactly, and as just a random episode of TOS it's...well, below average, I think, but okay. As a season finale and possible *series* finale, it's really disappointing. Roddenberry didn't particularly think that Trek would be renewed, so he used the last chance to spend with these characters to do a backdoor pilot? Classy! I wouldn't really have minded this earlier in the season, or even as second-last episode, but really. It adds to the feeling that even in season two, the creative forces were losing things to say.

    Which, again, makes it weird that there are so many absolute gems this season! This season seems to me like a good argument for the cable channel model of shorter seasons. It's possible that if they were given 13 eps instead of 26, they would have just produced a season of The Apple, Catspaw, Friday's Child, The Gamesters of Triskelion, The Omega Glory etc. But I prefer to think that they would have given a season of Amok Time, Mirror Mirror, The Doomsday Machine, Journey to Babel, The Trouble with Tribbles, etc. Combining the ideas from Return to Tomorrow and By Any Other Name into one mega-classic instead of two decent episodes. That type of thing.

    All that said, I'm very glad to have season two of TOS. It's rough and rocky, and especially toward the end there is a pervasive sameness, but its highs are very high and essential, and its middling episodes still have a lot to offer.

    Along those lines, my ideal lineup for a shorter, tighter season two:

    1. Amok Time
    2. Mirror, Mirror
    3. The Doomsday Machine
    4. Metamorphosis
    5. Journey to Babel
    6. Obsession
    7. The Trouble with Tribbles
    8. A Piece of the Action
    9. The Immunity Syndrome
    10. A Private Little War - with heavy rewrites
    11. Return to Tomorrow with some ideas from By Any Other Name
    12. one other "parallel Earth society" episode -- maybe mostly based on Patterns of Force but with some heavy rewrites. The Spock/McCoy material from Bread and Circuses can go here.
    13. The Ultimate Computer

    Obviously any season of standalone episodes can be improved by just chucking out the worst episodes, but I think the big gap between the best and the worst of season two makes it an ideal candidate for some rejiggering.

    As it happens, William B, I've been pondering a similar experiment for all of ST:Voyager. Throwing out all the episodes that don't advance the overall plot, theme, or characters, the entire series can be boiled down to approx. 26 episodes of essential material (though some are two-parters), plus an equal number of runners-up. The "essential episodes" experiment could also be done for DS9, though it had a lot more ongoing threads. However, I never contemplated the "cable channel model" for TOS because of its minimal continuity. It was always an anthology, not a novel.

    @Grumpy, agreed on the anthology format of TOS. With an anthology, then, the big qualities you're looking for are consistency of quality and novelty over the course of the different episodes, making sure the "important themes" the series returns to (which form the bedrock of the...I'm going to say "thematic continuity" between episodes) as well as the character development that does occur, to the extent that TOS does explore characters, particularly with the Big Three. A cable channel model for an anthology brings the advantage that the anthology can just be less meandering and more forceful in the episodes that remain. I think a similar case can be made for trimming down, say, The Twilight Zone, which I watched all the way through a few years ago whose hit to miss ratio is probably around that of TOS -- it's a true anthology series.

    All that said, it's hard for writers, producers, actors etc. to know which episodes are going to be hits and which misses while making them. So, it's not as if reducing the number of episodes will mean that the episodes that get tossed are going to be the bad ones.

    With DS9 and Voyager (and TNG), there's actually a similar problem, if you want to emphasize continuity and character/plot development: it is not obvious, on a first pass, which elements of a story are going to be important and which are going to be dropped. To take TNG as an example, if you want to be a strict adherent to continuity as the guideline, then "Lonely Among Us" can't be discarded because it's the start of Data's Sherlock Holmes fascination; this could easily have been a recurring subplot that was binned, but instead it became a pretty essential facet of Data's character.

    I'm not sure what point I'm making, except that it's much easier to do this type of thing with the benefit of hindsight and the whole series before us than it would have been for the writers at the time.

    To elaborate on my choices, I do enjoy "The Changeling," "I, Mudd," and "Wolf in the Fold" enough that I probably would keep them on if I were really limiting myself just to "episodes I think are worth rewatching," rather than picking a (somewhat arbitrary) 13, which is chosen as half of 26 (and is a standard, though by no means the only, choice for cable shows, i.e. Mad Men mostly did 13-episode seasons before the split final season).

    I'd be curious which episodes you peg as essential and runner-up for Voyager. Maybe on one of the Voyager pages (Endgame?).

    Whatever point you're making, William B, I get it. Even anthologies can center on a theme, though obviously in the case of TOS (and Twilight Zone, which I've recently watched, as well) the theme emerged without conscious design. Roddenberry didn't set out, as far as I know, to make a show that consistently illustrated how, for instance, humans are not ready for paradise (or, in Rod Serling's case, how you can't go home again). But toss out stories that don't service that through-line, you've got a coherent package of episodes.

    With Voyager, though, the premise was clear from the get-go (though Elliott might still disagree about what constitutes a "premise"). Therefore, it's immediately obvious which episodes are germane and which are time-fillers, put into production because there were no other ideas for scripts that week. It's not a matter of retroactively recognizing quality or serendipity of execution, or capitalizing on unforeseen potential. Voyager (more so than DS9) had a story from the beginning, which becomes more evident when 5/7 of its episodes are stripped away.

    I'm tempted to post my list, but I don't know where. It would be lengthy and deserves much debate (as I am not uniquely qualified as curator). I considered "Eye of the Needle," since that's what inspired the list, but I dunno.

    This episode was just awful, a preposterous and silly plot from beginning to end. The cavalier attitude towards time travel to do historical research was beyond ridiculous.

    I enjoyed season two, but one thing that hurt it was that they had to many parallel earth. Not only that, but these parallel earth episodes were aired to close together. Ironically this is what Gene Roddenberry wanted to do with Trek is time parallel earth stories that mirrored problem of the present or past.

    I love that fact that Scotty and Uhura got a lot more to do this season. Chekov was a great addition to the cast and I'm glad he didn't turn into boy wonder the wiz kid. I feel bad for George Takei who lost out on a lot of great moment for his Sulu character due to filming the Green Beret. It's pretty obvious a lot of great moments that he could have had went to Scotty and Chekov. Takei likes to blame Shatner for his shortcoming on Trek, but he obviously lost out on a chunk of good material because of Green Beret.

    Top 5 episodes.

    Amok Time
    Doomsday Machine
    Mirror, Mirror,
    The Trouble With Tribbles.
    Journey to Babel
    Honorable mention goes out to Obsession.

    Not sure there's much sense in criticising this episode for breaking Time Travel continuity rules, when they weren't established yet...

    It's not the best episode of TOS but still fun in its way, I thought.

    Good episode, although Gary Seven telling his office computer in the first act that he's on a mission to prevent earth's nuclear holocaust lets the cat out of the bag (pun intended) a bit too early, robbing the episode of some tension. To give us more investment in the Enterprise crew's pursuit, it might have been better to let us keep guessing up to the end whether he was friend or foe. Nevertheless, this show is still a tightly-paced time travel yarn with contemporary overtones in classic Trek fashion, setting the tone for this type of episode on future Trek series -- I would give it 3 out of 4 stars.

    The young Teri Garr, a delightful actress with great comic timing, adds a sassy and fresh voice to the male-dominated cast that makes the show a bit more fun to follow than usual. Her body language even in simple scenes, as when she tries to get around a pedestrian on the sidewalk, is pretty amusing. And although she's not always integral to the main plot, her charismatic screen presence allows us a sympathetic then-contemporary viewpoint on the proceedings which makes them a bit more accessible.

    Robert Lansing's Gary Seven oozes 1960s cool, adding to the Cold War espionage vibe of the story, and I liked his gadgets. The cat Isis (phrasing?) is pretty cool too. Overall, lots of interesting stuff here, including the orbiting nuclear weapons plot point that still feels somewhat relevant today.

    Unfortunately, once Mr. Seven starts crawling around the nuclear warhead and our heroes follow him, the pace of the episode stalls out. Considering that Gary Seven might have explained his mission to Roberta (Garr) and our heroes sooner, all the double-crosses between the lot of them in the last act felt a bit frustrating, as one had the impression it might have been avoided.

    Having said that, the pro-disarmament plot of Mister Seven traveling back in time to destroy US warheads in the interest of preventing earth's self-destruction is a nice idea, fitting with Star Trek's idealism. The time paradox dialogue at the end doesn't really make sense, but I do appreciate the humanitarian optimism of this one. Not really sure why some people here dislike it so much; "Assignment: Earth" is not great or perfect by any means, but it's an entertaining hour with some nice ideas, and that's pretty much all I ask from an episode of Trek.

    Now it makes sense to me that "Assignment: Earth" was some kind of pilot for another show - Kirk/Spock aren't close to being the main character(s) and as a TOS episode it comes across as kind of odd.
    I was getting a bit bored with all the footage of the rocket launch/control center. Have to also say that the plot is a bit ridiculous - like the Enterprise can just go back in time to whenever no problem. And then the final resolution, Kirk/Spock just have to trust Gary Seven that he intends to detonate the nuclear warhead at the right altitude - since they cannot in time. Not much to it.
    It is noteworthy for a young Teri Garr (Tootsie) - her character was sort of ok but makes sense that it's part of a pilot.
    I want to know: was the black cat the same as the one in "Catspaw"?
    Not a really strong episode but not awful as some other commenters have said. I'd give it 2 stars out of 4.

    @Stubb,

    Wholeheartedly agree with you re. "Metamorphosis" - nobody will consider this episode one of the TOS classics or among its very best, but it is one of my favorites. It is the best sci-fi love story I've ever seen. George Duning's terrific soundtrack is perfect for making it a very moving story.

    Hello Everyone!

    @Rahul

    Yep, it was a pilot for another show. And what you wrote got me to thinking...

    I read recently that the original series never broke the top 50 in ratings, and of course we know NBC tried to cancel it after each of its first two years. Now, taking all of that into consideration, why in the world were they using it as step-stone for a new show? If they did not believe many people were watching, how was this going to help the new one get off the ground?

    That just seems weird to me...

    Have a Great Day Everyone... RT

    Anyone have an idea why the lady was disguised as a cat?

    When Roddenberry has big input, the result is usually a terrible script. Here he realizes that Star Trek is about to be cancelled and so turns an episode into a secret (and awful) pilot for another show. Real classy Gene.

    I think we can basically pretend that this is not really a Star Trek episode.

    Good idea for a series. Poor storytelling. If AE had been on the air and lasted into the early 70s it could have been really good. Oh well.

    Am going to watch this episode in the coming days but must point something out: this is now the fourth episode in which the crew visit 20th Century earth (or recreation thereof), and the fifth of which the crew visit Earth's history if you count the Adonias episode, THIS SEASON. And these are the pre-Braga days! My overriding impression of TOS from my youth was the lack of creativity in the setting. They were on the edge of the Final Frontier and yet it seems like even the crew of DS9 did more exploring!

    The precedent for repetition was set by TOS. Brannon Braga is a one-trick pony (I heard there is no explanation of "one-trick pony" in the dictionary, it simply says "See Braga, Brannon"). But to be honest, the more I revisit TOS, the more I realise the man revered by generations, Gene Roddenberry, was like a 60s version of Braga. It's all redshirts dying, a single female character introduced who happens to be a major babe, close-ups on Shatner's face with light across his eyes and trips to old Earth.

    It's ironic that the ones which avoid these cliches happen to be the absolute shining stars of the series. For example, the mind-f*** episode with Scotty being possessed. Fair enough, this also borrowed straight from Earth's past, but it took the Ripper idea and brought it forward to other worlds and other species. TOS created a living, breathing universe that we rarely see in TNG, VOY or ENT, which all focus on one ship and one crew with no consequences for 99% of their actions.

    It's easy to see why TOS was so popular/influential. But it's also easy to see why it was canned after the shortest run of any live action Trek. If it had shown more creativity in its storylines and explored that optimistic future more, it might have run for longer.

    I remember watching the rerun of this episode as a kid and I felt at the time that it was the most memorable episode of Star Trek. I watch it today and still think it is a really cool episode just from the idea of a person that they don't know is a human or an alien, the tech he uses, his cat, etc etc. Also the time travel is great. I don't see why this is not one of the best episodes of Star Trek (though I'm just throwing that out there... I'm not exactly that well versed as you guys about all the episodes).

    Even if Kirk and Spock play second-fiddle to some new characters, chasing after them and generally watching what's going on, I think this episode manages some suspense, originality and fun. It's a wonky, entertaining ride. I mean, c'mon, Seven (Seven?) can speak cat and his cat is actually a very attractive woman (alien?) and some people don't find that at all fun? I revisited this one to prepare a bit for reading Assignment: Eternity.

    Aside from the pilot for a spinoff series stuff, it seems pretty obvious to me that the goal of this episode was to use Apollo launch footage to profit. This was 1968. That was a big deal. I'm surprised nobody mentioned that.

    Love this episode and as usual am surprised at the bad reviews, I grew up with star trek so I guess my opinion is biased by the sweet memories I have.Gary seven was so cool and Im guessing the cat was some type of bond reference.Of course there is plenty of goofs, ,seven can fight of a whole group of people and is even immune to spocks neck pinch but is knocked out by a metal cigarette case that roberta clunks him with, but then again they got somethings right, spock said there will be an important assassination and there were two, MLK and RFK.My only real complaint is the going back in time to witness something, I guess they didnt have any books or video on past events, a much better idea IMHO is that the enterprise is near earth and when they accidentally intercept gary sevens beam it drags the enterprise back in time with him.

    Good episode.

    The story held my interest and I liked both our guest stars - their characters and performances. The cat was intriguing.

    One of my favorites for the series.

    Didn't really care for the fact that the Enterprise is shown as easily traveling through time, at will and for no compelling purpose, but it's won't be the first, and definitely not the last, time we'll see the franchise play fast and loose with this sort of thing.

    I especially liked that our "alien of the week" was refreshingly honest and non-hostile.

    Goodness, I had no idea what I was getting into when I watched this. So, I agree with all the criticisms (shoehorned pilot for other show, etc., etc.) but it wasn't all bad. I think the one thing they got right was the dramatic tension for the episode. The show framed Gary Seven as the villain of the episode with an obviously nefarious agenda, although it mentioned the possibility he could be doing his assignment for the greater good. I think the direction worked in a way that made us forget he was possibly doing "the right thing" - which, in turn, made for an interesting reversal in the end. I suppose the problem with all this is, it's hard to relate to Gary Seven when you're being told by all the scripting, visual, and music cues that he's a bad guy. it would be like if they were using DS9 as a pilot for Edington and a Maquis show (who's rooting for that guy?).

    Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out what that cat that turns into a woman was all about. It looks like a template for a Sailor Moon character. :3

    Great guest appearances, nice props and an interesting intrigue; but as many have mentioned, it drops the ball half way in and has a hard time recovering from what turns into a boring mess.

    On another note: from what I can remember NSA's existence wasn't officially admitted until the 80s (?), thus making this episode (one of) the first soft disclosure of the organisation?

    And yeah, what was that woman/cat all about? Her name being Isis certainly is interesting.

    I'm a sucker for anything in the orbit of TOS. I would have been all in for a season 4 even if it was twice as bad as season 3. So it pains me to speak ill of an episode of which there are only 79. But try as I might, I can't bring myself to say anything positive about Assignment: Earth.

    In my mind, this should not even be viewed as a ST episode, but rather a pilot for another show that guest-starred the crew of the Enterprise. That's exactly the vibe I get whenever I watch it, which is why I can't even bring myself to review it. (Even though I kinda just did.) Shame on Gene for unofficially concluding season 2 at episode 25.

    There's a website dedicated to the stillborn series:
    https://www.assignmentearth.ca

    Execrable pisspoor backdoor pilot. Christ, imagine if the show had gotten cancelled on that wretched note... Thank fuck that utterly charmless twat Gary seven and that pathetic dizzy bint were mercifully left stillborn in the miserable graveyard of failed pilot shows. Dangleberry should've been ashamed of himself for trying to chance it with that wet fart of a concept.... Oh, and I ain't a cat person which made matters worse...0 stars.

    Assignment: Earth is the culmination of the central theme of Season 2, the exploration of late-1960’s society. Star Trek finally shows its hand, what it has been building up to all year, starting with Mirror, Mirror, and through all the alternate Earth episodes, and now this: an examination of the central pressing issue for real life 1960’s Earth.

    https://youtu.be/-DhkY6d9uqQ

    Season 1 had a more personal touch because the theme of the season was Man. Or rather man with increasing powers, up to and including the power of the gods. Whether we had gods as teenagers (Charlie X) or men and women as gods (Where no Man has Gone Before) or man & paradise (This Side of Paradise) or enhanced man (Space Seed), the point of Season 1 was to explore man, especially how man would react to being placed at all levels of power and pleasure up to and including ultimate power and total bliss.

    Season 2 was more impersonal by design. So many episodes were thought-experiments that put a slight spin on society - an alternate Earth almost like our own planet, but just different enough to accentuate a particular aspect of society - some aspect the show wanted to explore or highlight for the audience (like public manipulation through television in Bread and Circuses, or the cruelty of a purely intellectual elite in Triskelion).

    Assignment: Earth also gives us vivid insight into the mindframe of the 1960’s audience. In that way, it is a model for Star Trek: Voyager episodes like "11:59" and "Future’s End," both of which did a good job exploring the mindset of the 1990’s.

    Assignment: Earth's 1960’s audience was obviously a nervous lot - neurotic about all sorts of events transpiring around them. If we have Climate Change today, they had nuclear holocaust to worry about back then. And in all that upheaval, who was there to protect them? Not God. Maybe it gave the audience comfort to think that Kirk and Spock - or Gary Seven - was up there looking down at us - looking out for them, like an Angel.


    ROBERTA: Mister Seven, I want to believe you. I do. I know this world needs help. That's why some of my generation are kind of crazy and rebels, you know. We wonder if we're going to be alive when we're thirty.


    What were they so worried about?


    SPOCK: Current Earth crises would fill a tape bank, Captain. There will be an important assassination today…


    5 days after this episode aired, Martin Luther King was killed. He was 39. I wonder what the theme of Season 3 will be?

    https://youtu.be/8A_3jqiix0Q

    A very uneven episode that is redeemed by Teri Garr’s portrayal of Roberta Lincoln, a refreshingly different female role in TOS. I agree with Jammer - not only is it questionable WHY Starfleet would be interfering with history, it’s barely explained HOW they were able to time travel.

    There were many good moments, most of them supplied by Miss Garr’s ability to convey naivety, kooky disbelief, and resourceful intelligence, all at the same time. The cat was also an interesting addition, especially when briefly adopting human form at the end.

    But the geopolitical angle of the 60s was heavy handed and obvious, and not something that escapist sci-fi should have been involved with except in a ‘parallel’ type of story, e.g. a similar scenario set on a different world, as a metaphorical parable. But I recognise that setting it on Earth was a budget-saving exercise.

    Not a bad way to end Series 2, entertaining to watch. But “could have done better “. I’d give it 3 stars... just about. I just wish they’d found a role for Roberta Lincoln on the Enterprise.

    It's on TV right now... and it's pretty damn awful.

    The regular cast are reduced to guests in their own show! I suppose the story involving Gary 7 could be interesting except for the crucial fact that I DON'T CARE.

    Alhough I reemember seeing it I had completely forgotten the plot. Not fantastic but thanks to the reference in Picard I gota reason.

    The slightly outdated potrait of a secretary was amusing and entertaining.

    A couple of commentators seem to think Seven was also a time traveller but he made it very clear at the beginning of the episode when he argues that he is a Twentieth Century man and the Enterprise crew have no right to interfere with his mission. He and others, such as the couple who were supposed to have got on with destroying the rocket but died in a car crash, were descendants of human beings taken from Earth six thousand years before and specially bred and trained to carry out missions on Earth to help ensure its survival. That is all in Seven's dialogue with Roberta.

    To answer the point about why didn't the secretary know Seven, her employers were the couple who died. She'd never met him before.

    This is one of my least favourite episodes. The ditsy secretary is just irritating to me. The normal cast are reduced to hanging around, at a loss what to do or prisoners in the case of Kirk and Spock. It is fairly boring. I did wonder when I rewatched it recently if the same cat was used for Catspaw. I imagine the cat/woman mystery would have continued in the projected series and that Isis was one of the aliens despite having the name of an Ancient Egyptian goddess. Anyway for me, this really is a pilot for a show that wasn't picked up that the ST crew were unfortunate enough to be forced to appear in.

    Something I forgot to mention is I think the woman provided the voice for the computer also did the Companion's voice in Metamorphosis

    This particular episode was a little far out for me. Below average rating. Barbara Babcock did the voice work of the computer. She had an active role in a couple of the other shows. And, April Tatro was the cat girl at the end of the show.

    This is indeed a pilot to potentially introduce another series that never blasted off (a small pun there..very small...I digress)

    However, it s also the most insidious idea for a Star Trek episode ever in the history of all mankind! (besides Spock's Brain)...but still the idea aside - it is still very watchable and likable. Any time travel episode is a good one when it comes to Trek. I dig it!

    Besides, I like the kitty... by that I mean Teri Garr, of course.

    Assignment: Earth is, well, adequate. It’s inoffensive and fairly well executed, has some ok moments and some good tension. It’s also a cynical exercise in television marketing, made brutally ironic given that it follows right on the heels of Bread and Circuses, a show that lambasts such cynicism in TV. The fact that this back-door pilot also doubles as the season 2 finale really calls into question Gene Roddenberry’s creative ethics.

    Other than this not *really* being a Star Trek episode, its main failure is the initial setup. Time travel is already problematic enough without it being treated like a lark, engaged in for seemingly low stakes research. That premise feels so half baked that it compounds the sense that this whole outing is just a callous failure of integrity.

    2/4 inexplicable, shapeshifting catwomen.

    As far as season 2 goes, overall it’s a pretty good grouping of episodes, although I’d say season 1 had a steadier hand. Season 2 has some dizzying highs such as Amok Time, Doomsday Machine, or Journey to Babel, but also had some ‘yikes’ moments such as The Apple, Catspaw, or The Omega Glory. It’s a bit more of a rollercoaster than season 1 in my opinion.
    My top 5:
    1- Doomsday Machine
    2- Amok Time
    3- Mirror, Mirror
    4- Journey to Babel
    5- Obsession

    Bottom 5:
    5- Gamesters of Treskelion
    4- The Apple
    3- Wolf in the Fold
    2- Catspaw
    1- The Omega Glory

    Note: in this situation Assignment: Earth is not measured as it’s not really a Star Trek episode and thus is both the worst and best episode of the unpicked up show:
    Assignment: Whatever.
    Or whatever.

    Fun and edge of your seat thrilling episode, but the plot was very weird and could have been better.

    1st of all, what is this casual crap that the enterprise used "Light speed break away factor" to move back in time? Did they do another cold anti-matter implosion engine start from the Naked Time or something, or one of those stupid slingshot around the sun?? The 1st one was barely tested and the 2nd made no sense as if you are already going at warp speed how does the tiny bit of extra speed from whipping around a star going to slingshot you anywhere? That's not how general relativity works anyway even if the concept was remotely valid, and it isn't.

    2nd, what was the purpose of the cat-woman alien? She served no purpose in the entire episode, other than attacking and distracting security guards by acting like a mean cat LOL.

    3rd, The 1000 light year transport thing. Since when can transporter beams travel faster than light. If it's energy of some kind how does it exceed the speed of light? I know you're gonna say that the aliens were way more advanced, but even in normal star trek episodes they sometimes make it seem like transporters can beam people faster than light, such as a few million kilometers being in "transporter range", to keep it somewhat in normal physics range they should have kept it to 100,000 miles or half a million miles to be more believable, even if transports had to take a few more seconds to be realistic. It isn't through subspace obviously as subspace transporting was addressed and rejected in TNG.

    4th, the ridiculous advanced alien technology 1920s style controls! Like why is there a steering wheel on the secret transporter room that opens automatically anyway? How the fuck is that operated by a grand total of 8 BUTTONS??? You're seriously telling me the secretary who had no clue what any of this was, just happened to exactly lock on to the guy's position and beam him back by randomly fiddling with a few dials, yeah...RIGHT. So a 9 year old could have disrupted his mission. Or the "survo" that could perform dozens of random functions by hitting 3 buttons. How does it lock a purely mechanical door btw?

    5. The secretary herself. Was she an agent as well or just a random earthling hired by one of the agents? They kept bouncing back and forth on this. First it seemed like they knew each other, then she seemed clueless, then she knows how to operate the transporter but is shocked seeing people beamed in and out, which is it?? Huge plot question that was never resolved.

    6. The whole thing with the guy crawling on the rocket gantry. How was he planning to get out of there in time if he wasn't accidentally beamed out? By jumping off? The launch was seconds later and he would have been incinerated or knocked clear off the thing.

    7. I don't know much about nuclear physics, but wouldn't the detonation ultimately release lethal radiation over the countries it blew up over? Does the atmosphere need to transmit it, or would that not matter anyway as 104 miles is above the space line, serious question.

    I don't hate this episode at all, even though it's insultingly not the show we've been watching all this time (I always thought the backdoor pilot thing was obvious, as the device was used in a lot of shows back then). The premise was interesting. Gary Seven is cool, Isis is cool, Teri Garr was appealing. The whole thing felt more like Irwin Allen than Roddenberry. Had it gone to series, I would have watched it. It probably would have been kind of Austin Powers-ish.

    The most annoying thing about this episode is the ridiculous (if understandable given the era) use of a Saturn V with the full Apollo lunar payload to represent fairly modest nuclear delivery system. Even as a kid ten years later I always thought that was weird as Walter Cronkite etc had explained the whole thing to everyone by then. Use of stock footage was a poor excuse.

    1968 turned out to be such an eventful and important year that there’s a whole book written about it (by Mark Kurlansky -- you should read it). We were neck-deep into the Cold War. The Space Program was in full operation. There were two different assassinations on American soil. It was one of the most significant presidential election years in history for the United States. And television, while still technically in relative infancy, was quickly becoming the loudest soapbox commentator on our cultural life (and also the opiate of the masses, but that’s another discussion). Obviously, we’re all here on this discussion board because one of those key shows was Star Trek.

    In “Assignment: Earth,” Spock delivers the key line, “There will be an important assassination today, an equally dangerous government coup in Asia, and, this could be highly critical, the launching of an orbital nuclear warhead platform by the United States countering a similar launch by other powers.” (That describes Star Trek’s times pretty accurately, I’d say.) Now, they know the year is 1968. But the episode conveniently (and smartly) leaves the exact date unrevealed. But here’s the thing. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, and Bobby Kennedy on June 6. The “dangerous government coup in Asia” that Spock mentions could be interpreted as the Iraqi coup on July 17.

    “Assignment: Earth” was broadcast on--get this--March 29. Yikes.

    Star Trek may have been a hammy science fiction show, but it had its finger on the zeitgeist pulse so presciently that its episode “Assignment: Earth” predicted a horrible assassination, a government overthrow, and international nuclear tensions in the very year it was written (as a matter of fact, Jesus H. God, they were off by less than a week in terms of the King assassination). I concede that if that’s not relevant television, I don’t know what is.

    So I’ll say this for Star Trek:

    It may only show us paper moons sailing over cardboard seas, and mere canvas skies hanging over muslin trees… but it created legions of fans who subscribe to that refrain, “It wouldn’t be make-believe if you believed in me.” This particular episode “Assignment: Earth,” a fitting close-out to a very eclectic and interesting season of television, captures the essence of what has made this allegorical space opera endure for so long.

    “Assignment: Earth” as an episode of Star Trek deals heavily with time travel. That’s a smart move, because such stories are tricky. We’re invested in seeing Kirk and Seven succeed in stopping an existential crisis on Earth, but there’s the added concern about just how much they’re able to do, or even supposed to, in terms of interfering in the first place. Yes, Seven could be telling the truth about being a benevolent time traveler looking out for history, but he could also be a lying charlatan. For those complaining about Kirk and Spock being “powerless” and watching things happen, I’d advise that you go back and rewatch the episode, paying attention this time. Kirk is simply *unsure* about whether or not he really should be committing any actions at all, because that’s the caveat about time travel. For a while there’s really nothing he *can* do except to watch things unfold and then step in if it turns out Seven is an interloper.

    I liked Robert Lansing’s portrayal as Seven very much, but Teri Garr (!) was no slouch here either. She gave Lincoln a winning sense of humor, and I fell right in love with her klutzy but patriotic foundation. Garr would have nicely matched Lansing in her own right. And plus, yeah, she looked great. Lansing and Garr can absolutely carry an episode.

    Speaking of which, some of you above don’t like that the Enterprise crew is “barely in” this episode. I didn’t think that at all. The balance here is actually fine. Seven appears on the Enterprise in the teaser. The stakes of what we’re about to see are explained pretty effectively in the first act. So rather than The Seven Show, it’s more of a back-and-forth between Seven’s efforts and the efforts of Our Usual Heroes. The two threads have to have an equal value of importance in this case because this episode is a backdoor pilot, granted, but since the story is so engaging and the performances are pitch-perfect, so what?!

    Isis the Cat was such a hoot. I too cracked up at the obviously voice-overed “meows” emanating from her (one of the meows is even designed to sound like “uh-oh!”) Sambo delivered a fine performance. But really, Star Trek--as @Rahul points out, there are other cat colors besides black (but I kid). And as a cat dad myself, I can appreciate how Seven dotes on Isis.

    About that “backdoor pilot” thing… One of the best such pilots was the All in the Family episode “Maude,” which Norman Lear created so that Bea Arthur could get her own series. Archie Bunker is only seen in the very beginning and then at the very end, but it’s still one of the best episodes they did because *it’s so entertaining.* Backdoor pilots can be damn engaging and turn out to be absolute gems. The Simpsons, after all, started as a backdoor pilot--so there you go.

    Not for nothing, but I’d watch “Assignment: Earth,” the series. It’s too bad that it wasn’t picked up, as it seems to me that they would have had a pretty engaging, versatile hit on their hands. Maybe the U.S. government stepped in and refused to let it be picked up as a series, for they feared that it hit too close to home and would end up almost revealing a lot of true dirty secrets about this country and what its leaders actually know (but I kid).

    "Assignment: Earth" may have been a bit of a different spin on Star Trek, but I'd say it captured the spirit of it pretty well.


    Speak Freely:

    Lincoln -- “Not even the CIA could do all this.”


    My Grade: A

    SEASON 2 TOP FIVE:

    5th Place -- The Doomsday Machine
    4th Place --. The Ultimate Computer
    3rd Place -- Assignment: Earth
    2nd Place -- Mirror, Mirror
    1st Place -- The Immunity Syndrome


    SEASON 2 BOTTOM FIVE:

    22. Return to Tomorrow
    23. The Apple
    24. Friday’s Child
    25. The Gamesters of Triskelion
    26. The Omega Glory

    I don't think anything could keep Journey to Babel from being on my top 5 list of S2, but I kinda like that you had to guts to put Assignment: Earth on yours.

    @Peter G.

    A LOT of folks seem to hate this one, yes. But I loved it. I'm clamoring for "Assignment: Earth," The Series. Hell, it can easily be updated / rebooted for modern television.

    A guy from the distant future getting into all kinds of international shenanigans while trying to make sure that he both succeeds in saving the planet and protects his cover -- maybe fighting a shadowy cabal that wants to create a new timeline for their own nefarious ends (with plants in each of Earth's most powerful governments), and accompanied by a hot sidekick and shapeshifting cat?

    I'd watch that!


    "Journey to Babel" was a competent outing, but it didn't impress me. The best part of that episode, for sure, was the Spock-Sarek struggle and the corresponding Kirk-Spock friendship showcase. It also had some good dialogue. High marks for that. But Jane Wyatt's performance got in the way, the murder mystery was woefully half-baked, and too much emphasis was placed on the Convening of Funny Foreheads. It got a B- from me.

    The fact that this episode's premise was appropriated for Picard Season 2 forever taints its memory. To quote Martok in similar circumstances, "it is a grave dishonor" (to the episode)

    @ PCP,

    "A guy from the distant future getting into all kinds of international shenanigans while trying to make sure that he both succeeds in saving the planet and protects his cover"

    Yes, if only we had been treated to a Star Trek series involving time travel agents from the future working with people from the past, and maybe even a temporal cold war. That would have been GREAT.

    @Jason R

    Maybe I misinterpreted a line or two? He seemed to have foreknowledge that the imminent rocket launch would have apocalyptic repercussions for Earth unless he stopped it. I inferred from this that he's a time traveler.

    @Peter G - "Yes, if only we had been treated to a Star Trek series involving time travel agents from the future working with people from the past, and maybe even a temporal cold war."

    You sure have a way with words, my friend. "Temporal Cold War." Love it! What are the chances that something like that is going on *right now*? (We, of course, wouldn't know about it).

    @ PCP,

    At the risk of committing the sacrilege of explaining a joke, you have seen ST:ENT, right?

    "Maybe I misinterpreted a line or two? He seemed to have foreknowledge that the imminent rocket launch would have apocalyptic repercussions for Earth unless he stopped it. I inferred from this that he's a time traveler."

    It's unclear as I recall but my impression was Gary 7 and other humans were removed from Earth by some group (maybe the cat woman's people?) and trained from childhood as "agents" to effect changes on their home planet. It may be the aliens have foreknowledge of the future (which is heavily implied I guess) but I don't think Gary 7 or the other agents are actual time travellers.

    @Jason R

    I thought about it some more and read the episode transcript, and yes, your take is correct. It's the foreknowledge Seven has that's most beguiling about this. But for alien influences, all possibilities apply! Thanks. Still a great concept.



    @Peter G

    I am working my way through all of Star Trek by airdate order, so no, I have not seen anything past Assingment: Earth except for the flowing exceptions, which I will address more fully when each comes up in my list:

    STAR TREK II -- Saw bits of it as a kid, but not the complete movie.

    STAR TREK IV -- Same as II

    STAR TREK GENERATIONS -- Saw on opening night with the Trekkie girl I was dating at the time.

    STAR TREK FIRST CONTACT -- Saw in the theater because "lets destroy some cyborg AI zombies" spoke to my inner spirit lord.

    STAR TREK the 2009 reboot
    STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
    STAR TREK BEYOND
    Saw in all the theater with my family

    1-2 sporadic Next Generation episodes, which I will review when they come up in my list


    Saw a scene or two of STAR TREK DISCOVERY and/or PRODIGY when my sons were watching but left the room so as not to be spoiled.


    So no... I wouldn't get a STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE joke, hahaha. (If indeed that's what you mean by ST:ENT).

    Always good to hear from you!

    @Peter G.

    Thanks! So far I'm enjoying the journey. I wouldn't call myself a fan yet but I'm open to all possibilities, and @Jammer, I'm *already* a fan of this site and thank you so much for it!

    This weekend I'll be pulling the family together to watch "Spock's Brain." My sons can't wait. Apparently, it's so bad that it's a hilarious hoot. But I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

    "This weekend I'll be pulling the family together to watch "Spock's Brain." My sons can't wait. Apparently, it's so bad that it's a hilarious hoot. But I'll give it the benefit of the doubt."

    Seriously, try to forget its reputation when you watch it. I don't think it's justified.

    Just watching this episode and Gary 7 confirms he is a human from the 20th century, so he is not a time traveller. But he recognizes Spock and clearly knows something about the 23rd century so as to state that his alien benefactors are unknown even in the future.

    So his alien benefactors are clearly time travellers or have some kind of awareness outside of time similar to the Organians who seemed to know the future or possibly the Traveller who also claimed to be from another time (sort of).

    Yesterday, Feb. 16, 2024, the New York Times reported that Russia is developing an orbital nuclear warhead that , when deployed, will be able to destroy weather and communication satellites that are currently in orbit around the Earth. It will be the first nuclear weapon in space. Talk about life imitating art! I hope there is a Gary Seven on the way to save us from ourselves.

    Yeah, not that I would ever question the New York Times but

    https://www.reuters.com/technology/space/russia-seen-highly-unlikely-put-nuclear-warhead-space-2024-02-15/

    It is somewhat self explanatory. Putting an actual nuclear warhead outside of the borders of Russian Federation is a bad idea. Putting a nuclear warhead into space would be so extremely risky because of radiation alone. How would one even hit more than a very low number of strategically important satellites? I would assume that for example the US spreads out it's vital communication satellites as to make hitting enough to limit their counterstrike capabilities near impossible. They also certainly have backup systems. Most importantly, if you want to use a nuclear weapon to destroy satellites, then Russia could just use a ballistic missile, or a regular missile.

    Oh and then there is this.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prlIhY3e04k

    @Booming: Appreciate the information you provided about space and current weapons - thank you. I was more just pointing out how amazing it is that a science fiction series in the late 1960’s could envision equipment and issues that actually materialize (no pun intended) over 50 years later. Kind of like “The Ultimate Computer” and our current AI debates. I will turn age 70 later this year. Star Trek, in all its many adaptations, has accompanied me on my life journey since I was 13 and I still enjoy its relevance.

    @Lorene
    That sounds nice. I'm happy that it inspired you in a joyful way for so many years. :)

    Views very much like Roddenberry smoked a few cones and watched a bit of James Bond and Dr Who for inspiration to do a back-door pilot.

    As Jammer says the premise is beyond stupid, the script risible, the pacing choppy, the stock footage lazy and boring etc and yet despite all its obvious flaws this is the most cold war/disaster movie and eerily prescient attempt at addressing the issues of militarization of space & mutually assured destruction/nuclear armageddon, computerization and even some counter-culture and hippie themes thrown in. Some of the early stuff in the episode was pretty good and entertaining once I had picked myself up off the floor about the utterly stupid premise but as Jammer says - once Seven was on the gantry the entire episode derailed itself so much that all it needed was the Fonz to literally jump the shark and it would have been perfect....

    Did anyone else get a giggle out of Colonel Seven's exposition dump recalcitrant and snippy computer?

    The line about having the planet around for us to live on was a highlight for me.

    Its difficult to believe that this came out the same year as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddessey, that film immediately made Roddenberry and his crew of whacky juvenile writers pretty much demoralized, dated, stale and redundant overnight and looking like Gunsmoke with a couple of lizard suits/model spaceships and mini-skirts, they must have been so close to giving up even starting Season 3.....

    This had so much potential, and failed so spectacularly in logic/execution and a too convenient poorly signaled resolution, that its almost impossible to judge, I don't even know if it is an episode of Star Trek or not, but I can see why the episode has so many varied opinions.

    I bet this is a regular feature in many screenwriting courses as an example on what not to do.

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