Director: Marc Daniels
Writer: Art Wallace
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Robert Lansing, Terri Garr, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Don Keefer, Morgan Jones, Bruce Mars, Ted Gehring, and Paul Baxley
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 3/29/1968
Production #: 60355
After traveling to the year 1968 in order to monitor Earth’s communications during a most turbulent era in history, the Enterprise crew encounters an agent known as Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) who explains that he was sent by an alien organization to prevent a nuclear crisis from occurring. Skeptical of Gary Seven and his stated motives, Kirk confines his new acquaintance to the brig; however, along with his “pet cat” Isis, Gary escapes from the Enterprise and transports himself to Earth, where he soon befriends a goofy but helpful young woman named Roberta Lincoln (Terri Garr).
A backdoor pilot, this episode offers an intriguing glimpse at how a Star Trek spin-off series may have looked had Gene Roddenberry chosen to highlight present-day conflicts over spacefaring science fiction. While an uneven tone detracts from the central theme, any inconsistencies can be excused when considering that “Assignment: Earth” was actually intended as the basis for an entirely new television program.
The importance of Gary Seven’s assignment is made credible for the audience with a dignified and often intense performance from Robert Lansing. This poised approach to the main character is complemented by Terri Garr’s eccentric portrayal of Roberta Lincoln, whose concern for the future of mankind is viewed through a more comical lens than that of Gary Seven (that being said, Lincoln’s ditsy blonde routine may irritate Star Trek fans of a serious inclination). Additionally relevant to this potential doomsday scenario is the role of Captain Kirk, who must rely on his superior intuition when deciding whether the intentions of Gary Seven are as altruistic as he claims.
There are times when “Assignment: Earth” plays more like a comedy than a serious science fiction piece, thus undermining the somber nature of a potential nuclear holocaust.
Operating on a similar theme to “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” “Assignment: Earth” forgoes a satirical approach to 1960s society in favor of a more solemn commentary on the uncertainty that permeated the cultural and political landscape of the time period. Especially worth noting are the Cold War undertones in Art Wallace’s narrative, which draw attention to the fact that technology was advancing at a faster rate than social awareness; an imbalance that could have resulted in disastrous outcomes for humanity as the protagonist so perceptively indicates.
Though occasionally slow moving, “Assignment: Earth” should be commended for its unique place among Star Trek’s lineup of episodes. Any pacing issues can likewise be overlooked in light of a suspenseful and riveting finale, which places Kirk in a position of ultimate authority over the fate of mankind.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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