Assignment: Earth is a very strange episode, certainly not what one would expect as a season finale, at least according to today’s television standards. The truth is that it was an attempt by Gene Roddenberry to launch another show entitled Assignment: Earth, rather than giving an appropriate conclusion to Star Trek’s second season. Maybe Roddenberry thought that Star Trek was doomed and looked for a way out? Well, it seems that this was exactly the case, it’s not a secret for anyone that, at the time, the third season was greenlit only thanks to the activism of its most avid fans!
But let’s get to the episode. Basically, the Star Trek budget was used for another series set on Earth in 1968 (contemporary with the making of Star Trek) whose protagonist is Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) going around like a James Bond villain with a black cat (who then turns out to be a ravishing girl played by April Tatro) and with a small hyper-technological tool capable of doing a thousand different things. It’s hard to understand what Gary Seven is doing and I found it curious that in the episode he’s sort of the antagonist of Kirk and Spock most of the time. Gary Seven is accompanied by the cat and by a secretary (played by Teri Garr) who I believe in the intentions of the writers was the comic relief of the series.
I admit that it’s a bit difficult to review this episode: it’s not Star Trek at all! Kirk and the others wander around and observe what’s going on but the real protagonist is the mysterious Seven: who is he? Who does he work for? What exactly is he up to? And why does he manage at first to overpower four crew members (including Spock!) and then he gets knocked out by a secretary armed with a cigar box? Then, I’m not a Doctor Who expert, but wasn’t Doctor Who an elegant guy who solves problems using a hyper-technological gadget? Because, let’s face it, even if I appreciate the anti-militarist message of the episode against the nuclear arms race of the sixties, but here I guess that I should talk about the (failed) idea of creating a new series, right? Assignment: Earth really took me by surprise…
In short, this is not the second season finale that we needed nor the one we deserved, to paraphrase The Dark Knight (2008). Furthermore, if we stop for a moment and look behind, it seems clear to me that this season is without a doubt inferior to the first one: even if there are plenty of good and even fundamental episodes for the Star Trek universe (Amok Time, The Doomsday Machine, Mirror , mirror, The Trouble with Tribbles…), most episodes simply recycle ideas seen in the first season (Who Mourns for Adonais?, Catspaw…), or are poorly executed (Friday’s Child, Wolf in the Fold…), or both (The Gamesters of Triskelion above all). If this is the trend, I don’t expect too much from the twenty-four episodes of the third season, although I’m sure there will be some nice surprises! Ciao!
PS: no expense was spared to use NASA archive images in this episode!
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