Thu
Jul 15 2010 3:34pm

Star Trek Re-watch: “Assignment: Earth”

“Assignment: Earth”
Written by Art Wallace (story by Gene Roddenberry and Art Wallace)
Directed by Marc Daniels

Season 2, Episode 26
Production episode: 2x26
Original air date: March 29, 1968
Star date: 1968

Mission summary
While on a frivolous time travel mission to research Earth’s history, circa 1968, Enterprise accidentally intercepts a transporter signal from an unknown source over a thousand light years away. A well-dressed man holding a black cat beams onto their transporter pad and looks at them dramatically.

The mysterious man in the sharp suit asks why they’ve intercepted him and demands they identify themselves. Kirk calls security to the transporter room before complying. The man is astonished to find a starship in the 20th century and when he notices Spock’s pointy ears he realizes Enterprise is from the future. He calls himself Mister Seven, claiming to be a contemporary Earth man sent by a secretive alien race to protect the planet. That’s a flimsy premise, especially from a guy who has conversations with his pet cat. Seven tries to convince them to beam him down immediately.

SEVEN: Captain Kirk, I am of this time period. You are not. You interfere with me, with what I have to do there, and you’ll change history. You’ll destroy the Earth and probably yourselves, too.
SPOCK: If what he says is true, Captain, every second we delay him could be dangerous.
KIRK: And if he’s lying?
SEVEN: This is the most critical period in Earth’s history. The planet I’m from wants to help Earth survive.
KIRK: What if it turns out you’re an invading alien from the future?
SPOCK: A most difficult decision, Captain.

Kirk has a tough call to make, so he puts it off until he can gather more information about their fashionable passenger and his ominous feline companion, Isis. He orders confinement for Seven, but the man and his cat overpower the incompetent security officers. He shrugs off Spock’s patented neck pinch and works the transporter controls until Kirk stuns him with a phaser.

As Dr. McCoy examines the stylish stranger, Kirk calls a ship-wide briefing with all science, engineering, and supervisory personnel through the comm system. They don’t know much more than they did before, but Spock takes a break from cuddling Seven’s cat to highlight the historical significance of the 1960s:

SPOCK: 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.
KIRK: Weren’t orbital nuclear devices one of this era’s greatest problems?
SPOCK: Most definitely. Once the sky was full of orbiting H-bombs, the slightest mistake could have brought one down by accident, setting off a nuclear holocaust.

In the brig, Seven tests the forcefield of his cell before shorting it out with his sonic screwdriver pen then using the device to hypnotize a red shirt into a dead sleep. He escapes to the transporter room while McCoy tells Kirk and Spock what a great body he has: “Human readings, yes, but not a single physical flaw. Totally perfect body.” Clean living or proof of alien origin?

Isis darts out of the room just before security reports Seven’s escape. She joins her master in the transporter room and they beam down before Kirk can stop him...

In a New York City office, a secret wall slides open to expose a hidden safe. The dials on the steel vault spin by themselves until the massive door swings aside to reveal a swirling blue energy field. Seven and his cat emerge from the transporter effect and calmly walk into the room as the vault and wall close behind them. He strides to the window and looks at the people below, marveling at how primitive it all is.

He calls out “Computer on.” A bookcase rotates and a large computer appears, a cross between Batman’s Batcomputer and Daystrom’s ill-fated M15. The Beta 5 analytical computer requests he identify himself by exposition:

SEVEN: All right. Agents are male and female, descendants of human ancestors taken from Earth approximately six thousand years ago. They’re the product of generations of training for this mission. Problem: Earth technology and science have progressed faster than political and social knowledge. Purpose of mission: to prevent Earth’s civilization from destroying itself before it can mature into a peaceful society.

It may sound like a bad pitch for a television show, but it satisfies Beta 5 and she accepts him as Supervisor 194, Gary Seven. She reports that agents 201 and 347 have been missing for three days and begins searching news feeds and government communications to locate them in time to complete their operation: to sabotage a rocket carrying a U.S. suborbital nuclear warhead, which launches in less than ninety minutes. Seven might have to get his own hands dirty on this one.

Meanwhile, back on Star Trek: Kirk and Spock beam down in period-appropriate business suits, with a cap covering Spock’s ears. They begin tracking Seven’s position with Scotty’s guidance from Enterprise.

A blonde woman enters Seven’s outer office while Beta 5 produces false IDs and a map of McKinley Rocket Base for him. Seven, still dressed to the nines in a new suit, mistakes her for agent 201, but after the psychic typewriter freaks her out by auto-magically typing everything she says, it becomes evident that she’s hired help who knew nothing of their identities—until Seven inadvertently made her aware of their advanced technology. She quits but he uses his sonic pen to lock her in and consults Beta 5 via a green cube on the desk.

SEVEN: Scan unidentified female present.
COMPUTER: Roberta Lincoln. Human. Profession: secretary. Employed by 347 and 201. Description: age twenty, five feet seven inches, 120 pounds, hair presently tinted honey blonde. Although behavior appears erratic, possesses high IQ. Birthmarks—
ROBERTA: Hey.
COMPUTER: Small mole on left shoulder. Somewhat larger star-shaped mark on her—
ROBERTA: Hey, watch it! Okay, I’ll bite. What is it?
SEVEN: Miss Lincoln. Miss Lincoln, What kind of work did your employers say they were doing here?
ROBERTA: Research for a new encyclopedia? No? No.

He shows her his fabricated CIA papers to convince her he’s a government agent. “Very groovy,” she says, suddenly trusting him. Seven decides to keep her around, because why not, and asks not to be disturbed while he consults his cat. But Kirk and Spock are closing in on his coordinates.

They arrive at his front door just as Beta 5 reports that agents 201 and 347 were killed in an automobile accident on their way to McKinley. He sneaks out through his secret transportal as Roberta runs interference on the Starfleet officers. They struggle and she uses her defensive training to pull Spock’s cap off, which admittedly does force him to let her go so she can get a better look at his Vulcan features, with the requisite shocked reaction. Kirk shoots the locked office door with his phaser and bursts in—too late, again. Seven walks safely out of a hangar at McKinley.

Cops arrive at the apartment in response to Roberta’s panicked call for help. The captain and science officer beam out with the startled policemen then return them as soon as they’ve had an eyeful of Enterprise’s transporter room—giving Roberta another demonstration of advanced technology. So much for keeping a low profile. Seven isn’t much better at evading security personnel at the base. He’s stopped by a sergeant, who he allows to make a phone call before he zaps him asleep with his pen.

Meanwhile, on Star Trek, Scotty uses a weather satellite to get Google-like close-up images of the launch pad, performing a tedious visual scan for the stylish business man and his black cat. He misses Seven emerging from the trunk of the launch director’s car and his trip in the elevator to the top of the rocket, only thirty-five minutes before blastoff. Kirk and Spock beam down to the pad just as Seven’s sleepy sergeant wakes up to capture them. They really have the worst luck sneaking around 20th century military bases.

Kirk and Spock remain tight-lipped about their identities and the communicators and phasers the military confiscate from them. But Scotty’s finally found the needle in his haystack: he zooms in on Seven and Isis perched on the gantry crane, messing around in an open panel on the rocket. He attempts to beam them up, but Roberta inadvertently presses all the right buttons while playing with Seven’s toys and intercepts the transporter beam, bringing him back to his office before he can finish whatever he was trying to do.

Kirk’s “never felt so helpless” standing around watching the rocket take off. In Seven’s apartment, Roberta begins to get suspicious when her employer uses Beta 5 to sabotage the rocket. She tries to call for help but he cuts the phone cord with his pen. He takes the rocket off its flight path and arms the warhead, which alarms the military brass at the base, and most international governments. Seven has control of the rocket’s horizontal and vertical, and he sets it on a trajectory for Eurasia where it’s certain to ruin everyone’s day.

While the officers are distracted by their failed attempts to re-establish contact and activate the rocket’s destruct signal, Kirk and Spock nab a communicator and have Scotty transport them to Seven’s apartment. They find that Roberta has beaned Seven with a cigar box and taken his pen. He tries to convince Roberta that he’s trying to prevent World War III:

SEVEN: Roberta, you’ve got to believe me. Look, a truly advanced planet wouldn’t use force. They wouldn’t come here in strange alien forms. The best of all possible methods would be to take human beings to their world, train them for generations until they’re needed here.
ROBERTA: Mr. 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.

Okay... Kirk and Spock bust into the office and the Vulcan immediately tries to figure out Beta 5’s controls so he can detonate the warhead. Seven insists he has the same goal: to destroy the rocket before it drops below 100 miles over the Earth, “just barely in time to frighten them out of this arms race.” Roberta points the pen at Kirk threateningly, but Seven takes it from her—it was set to kill. He hands the weapon to the captain and offers his help.

Kirk is indecisive, but Spock may not be able to master the controls in time. “Without facts, the decision cannot be made logically. You must rely on your human intuition,” he advises. With the rocket thirty seconds from impact, he makes up his mind. “Go,” he tells Seven.

Seven takes over the controls and after a tense countdown, he succeeds in destroying the rocket at an altitude of 104 miles. Later, he dictates his report to his typewriter, calling the mission a success despite Enterprise’s accidental interference. The captain and Spock maintain that of course everything happened the way it was supposed to—they’ve just noticed that their historical tapes had a record that “a malfunctioning suborbital warhead was exploded exactly one hundred and four miles above the Earth” (how did Spock miss that?) and resulted in better international control of nuclear weapons. Oh, time travel.

Roberta is distressed when she sees Isis briefly turn into a Playboy Playmate, but Seven is coy about his cat’s true nature. He asks Kirk and Spock for some hints about the future, but they hold out on him.

KIRK: I’m afraid we can’t reveal everything we know, Mr. Seven.
SPOCK: Captain, we could say that Mr. Seven and Miss Lincoln have some interesting experiences in store for them.
KIRK: Yes, I think we could say that. Two to beam up, Scotty.
SPOCK: Live long and prosper, Mr. Seven.
KIRK: And the same to you, Miss Lincoln. Energize.

Analysis
Seven, 104, 347, 1968... the numbers just don’t add up on this one. Most fans are aware that “Assignment: Earth” was intended as a backdoor pilot for a show starring Gary Seven, his quirky receptionist, a sexy shapeshifting cat, and a contrary computer. As such, it makes for a peculiar episode of Star Trek, and a dissatisfying season finale, relegating the crew to following Seven around trying to figure out what he’s up to. The conceit that time travel is so simple Starfleet can lead observational missions into Earth’s past was rightfully dropped after this anomalous plot, as was the planned TV series.

I don’t know if I ever watched this episode without the knowledge that it was an odd blend of two shows, but I think it left a better impression on me when I was younger. This time around the setup comes off as too farfetched, and the story structure is a mess. Too much focus is placed on Seven to the detriment of our regular cast, and aside from the scene where he meets Roberta, the script is uninspired. Add in the fact that we’ve seen a lot of this before, including a black cat who’s really a woman, and it doesn’t deliver much excitement.

But the show isn’t without its good points. I was curious about Seven’s true identity and mission right up to the end, having forgotten his purpose (or simply confused by his motives and unreliable explanations). The NASA stock footage is breathtaking even now, seamlessly integrated into the episode and making this episode look like it had an effects budget to rival a Hollywood film. I suppose in 1968 much of the public would have been familiar with those striking images, but I hadn’t seen them often enough to be a distraction. The shots of 1968’s streets, sets, and fashions are as much a window into the past as Star Trek itself often represents that tdecade’s culture and politics.

Seven calls that decade the “most critical period in Earth’s history,” and I’m not sure I would necessarily dispute the claim, even now. The episode tackles contemporary issues of the sixties more directly than usual, commenting and warning against the raging nuclear arms race with all the subtlety of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and about the same level of success. (Hint: none at all.) It’s interesting to see a 1960s interpretation of the 1960s, including Roberta’s explanation of her generation’s hippy culture. Most of all, I was intrigued that both Seven and Kirk are the good guys—they want the same thing, but they find it difficult to trust each other and the stakes are too high to risk making the wrong call, as good an analogy for the Cold War as any.

The biggest surprise in this episode: Kirk’s ship-wide briefing, which is unusual in any Star Trek series. I also noticed Scotty’s comment, “It’s impossible to hide a whole planet,” because in the TNG episode “When the Bough Breaks,” the planet Aldea manages it just fine with a cloaking device. Maybe the engineer hasn’t heard the legends about it.

Hey, do you think anyone went back for the communicator and phasers they left at McKinley Base?

Eugene’s Rating:Warp 3 (on a scale of 1-6)

Torie Atkinson: Did we get our wires crossed with some other re-watch?

The best that can be said about “Assignment: Earth” is that it was barely a Star Trek episode. The worst that can be said is that I probably should have painted my apartment before popping the disc in so I could’ve had something more interesting to watch. Its greatest sin wasn’t the hopeless plot, the uninspired dialogue, the heavy-handed moral messages, or even the lack of screentime for our heroes: it’s that it was about as exciting as watching someone’s vacation photo slideshow. If they had gone on vacation to the Get Smart studio set. That they made in their living room. To act out their spy thriller fan fiction. (Hints of Bashir’s holodeck program, anyone?)

First of all, the “we were just on the usual Tuesday time travel route” set-up was pathetic and lame, even compared to some of the handwaving we’ve put up with before. I never though I’d look back at “A Piece of the Action” and think it was clever, but there you have it. Can they not even try to come up with something plausible? It can be half-hearted! I’ll take it! Worse was the excruciating overuse of stock footage. Now I’m a space geek through and through and I yawned audibly at least three times during each of the ponderously long rocket check-me-out sequences. Rockets are cool! I get it! You know what’s not cool after watching this episode? Rockets! They made rockets boring. True fact.

Okay, so the computer was kind of cool when she gave Seven lip, and Spock with a kitty is SO CUTE (and random...) and I am surprised I haven’t seen that in the various clipshow YouTube videos that people always send me. But oh Teri Garr, what are you wearing and why would you agree to be so annoying? There’s one line I really liked, though, that I felt was quintessentially Star Trek. Kirk says that it’s impossible to hide a whole planet, and Seven responds: “Impossible for you. Not for them.” It seemed to imply both that technology can do more than we think it can, and that limitations (perceived or real) are ours alone, not necessarily universal. A nice touch.

I guess I should talk about the science-fictional “idea” behind this episode, such as it is. Aliens interfering with Earth history: could be interesting, is not here. Spy thrillers involved with this: also could be interesting I guess but probably not combined with camp. The idea of technology moving more quickly than social progress: plausible! Ding! But those ideas aren’t really worthy of this episode. The real question I was left with at the end wasn’t “Oh what will become of humanity?” but “Why do 1960s aliens have an orgasm raygun?”

But maybe I am just not evolved enough to understand.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 2

Best Line: ROBERTA: “Research for a new encyclopedia? No? No.”

Syndication Edits: Kirk tells McCoy to hurry with his report and bring it to the briefing room; Kirk and Spock approach Seven’s building; Seven’s reaction to the news that his agents are dead; after Roberta calls the cops, Seven opens his vault, Spock holds Roberta, and Kirk blasts open the door; Kirk sees the plans for McKinley Rocket Base; Seven prepares to hide in the director’s car; three segments of Scotty scanning the viewscreen; Seven’s line, “Meow? You are nervous, aren’t you, doll?”

Trivia: The first draft of a half-hour pilot script for a series titled “Assignment: Earth” was dated November 14, 1966, which pitted Gary Seven against a race of alien time travelers trying to sabotage Earth’s development. He was assisted by Roberta Hornblower against two Omegan operatives named Harth and Isis and a time-altering computer. The pilot didn’t sell and it was reworked as a Star Trek episode, with that first draft dated December 20, 1967, in which the Enterprise crew watches Bonanza on the Bridge viewscreen. Seven appeals to McCoy to “think like a doctor, not a mechanic” while imprisoned, and his female aide was now called Roberta London. Roddenberry revisited the concept in another failed television movie/series, The Questor Tapes in 1974.

The episode uses NASA stock footage of launched from Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral) , cropped from the anamorphic 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio.

Roddenberry was credited as “Producer” instead of “Executive Producer” for this episode, the first he was listed as such since the first season.

The character Gary Seven returned only in a number of novels and comics, including John Byrne’s comic mini-series sequel to the episode, Star Trek: Assignment: Earth, which featured a story that also ties back to the episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday.”

Other notes: Coincidentally, there were two important assassinations in 1968: Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4 (six days after the episode was broadcast) and Robert F. Kennedy on June 6. The Apollo 6 rocket was also launched on April 4.

Robert Lansing (Gary Seven) received a unique guest star credit for this episode, which included his character’s name. Fans might recognize him from films The 4-D Man and Empire of the Ants, as well as starring and guest roles on television, including Twilight Zone (“The Long Morrow”).

Teri Garr (Roberta Lincoln) was reportedly upset over Roddenberry’s shortening of her skirt and has refused to talk about Star Trek. Genre fans would remember her from Young Frankenstein and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

James Doohan voices a radio voice at the rocket base.


Like for Season 1, we will be doing a Season 2 wrap-up post, followed by a brief hiatus to recharge. (Don’t worry, it won’t be as long as the last one.)

Also: thank you so much to those of you who mentioned us as highlights in the “How’s our driving?” thread. We are so glad that people enjoy these posts and we hope to continue doing them for as long as that is the case!

Next episode: Season 3, Episode 1 - “Spock’s Brain.” (Oh, boy.) US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.

Check the Star Trek Re-Watch Index for a complete list of posts in this series.


Eugene Myers thinks that Assignment: Earth might have worked as a series if it had been given a chance. Mork & Mindy spun-off successfully from Happy Days, so anything is possible.

Torie Atkinson might be a teeny bit excited for “Spock’s Brain.”

39 comments
Torie Atkinson
1. Torie
HA! I had no idea it was a backdoor pilot. That makes so much more sense now!
Kurt Lorey
2. Shimrod
I'll admit to the guilty pleasure of enjoying this episode (more for its parts, than its sum).

This was the first time I knew who Teri Garr was (and sorry Teri, but the short skirt was hot) and I had seen Robert Lansing around some other TV shows a few years previously, and always thought he was really cool.

Yeah, the plot. But, the smart-alecky computer and Isis as a multi-form creature were cool (and hot). Can anyone tell that I had only recently discovered that girls were good for something besides picking on? lol

Spock with Isis was really funny, once viewers knew she could be a human female too.
David Levinson
3. DemetriosX
I'll be honest and admit that the only reason I've ever watched this episode more than once is that Teri Garr was seriously hot. She still looks pretty good for a woman in her mid-60s, but back then, wow.

I did like the little defense of the more mainstream aspects of hippy culture. There was a lot of disdain for "those wild kids" and concern about where the youth culture was going. It would get a lot worse in the coming months, but even at this point a positive portrayal of a slightly left young person was unusual.

I did not know that Rodenberry revived the concept for The Questor Tapes. I have only the vaguest memories of his failed pilots (usually featuring John Saxon, for some reason). I remembered the title, but nothing else.
Stefan Jones
4. Stefan Jones
In The Questor Tapes, the do-gooding alien was an android, the latest in a very long line who were sent to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. The last scene had a nice dramatic matte painting of a line of morge-like slabs trailing off down a tunnel, each bearing a defunct android.

I forget the name of the two Dylan Hunt Unfrozen in Post-Holocaust Future pilots. What I recall most vividly was the continent-spanning subway system which would have zipped the characters to their adventures.

I remember being totally thrilled and hopeful when these appeared. It was so damn rare to have new SF stuff on TV in the early 70s.
Mike Conley
5. NomadUK
I do like this episode, really. Now, part of that is because I liked it as a kid (I thought Gary Seven's name, sonic pen, computer, and suit — and that glowing green cube — were cool — plus a catwoman!), so I have fond memories of it. But also because I learned, later, that it was a pilot for a new series, and so the elements that don't work so well as Star Trek are forgivable.

It's clearly a melange of various ideas Roddenberry had been kicking around for some time, and continued to work with: the catwoman concept from 'Catspaw', the time travel (using the same gravity-assist slingshot mechanism) into the '60's from 'Tomorrow is Yesterday', the secret assist to Earth's civilisation to keep it from wiping itself out that he used in The Questor Tapes and, in a slightly different guise, in Genesis II.

(I liked the ideas of both The Questor Tapes and Genesis II, and thought they would have made good series, too. Guess that's why I'm not in network television.)

Even the beaming up of the cops was swiped right out of 'Tomorrow is Yesterday', though they handled it — and most things — better in that episode.

It's poignant, really. Roddenberry was like so many artists and scientists: he had one great hit, and then spent the rest of his life trying to do it again, and failing.

But, hey, it's a fun episode. I love the secret agent aspect of the whole thing: the supercomputer, the cool blue-fog transporter in the vault, all the gadgets. I always wondered what some of the episodes of this new series would have been like. Done right, it could have had some great political commentary — but it probably would have run afoul of the networks in that case. Star Trek got away with it, as most science fiction does, by transporting lessons about modern problems into a future setting; having Gary Seven mess around with current issues that threaten civilisation on the planet, well, that would probably hit too close to home.

Robert Lansing plays the role quite well: impatient with mid-20th-century Earth and its problems, and a bit annoyed at having to deal with them. I don't know what more to say about him. It's too bad he didn't get a chance to hold down a series of his own.

And Teri Garr. Yes, her character's a bit of a pillock, but, really, I'd watch Garr do almost anything, and she's just plain cute. I didn't realise she had a fight over the skirt length; not surprising, really. Star Trek seemed to like short skirts. I'm afraid I'm not going to complain much.

As noted, Kirk's dilemma is an unusual one, and, I think, handled well by Shatner. I also enjoy watching him and Spock walking around in coats and ties. I especially enjoy watching Kirk blow the lock off the door with his phaser. Don't know why.

So, one thing I've been meaning to mention for quite some time: Anyone else notice Marc Daniels's signature when directing episodes is to have the title and guest star credits play as actors are moving about and things are actually going on? It's unusual for Star Trek, in which the openings for most episodes are just Enterprise flybys. But if you see credits and acting going on simultaneously, you can almost guarantee it's a Marc Daniels episode.

As for flaws, well, the one thing I always hated was Scotty searching for Seven by trying to image the rockets by bouncing signals off satellites or some such nonsense. Once again, the people writing these things had virtually no knowledge of technology or science. Had they never heard of reconnaissance aircraft or satellites? Surely Enterprise would be able to image surface features with a resolution unmatched by anything available today, much less 1968. So that whole sequence was simply shoddy.

And even if they'd needed a Saturn to launch something like that into orbit, I'm fairly sure the images shown alternated between Saturn Vs and Saturn IBs.
James Goetsch
6. Jedikalos
I actually thought you two would give this one a higher rating! (It's funny: I always scroll down to see what rating you two give before reading the review!)I really really like this episode(though as NomadUK posted above, it might have something to do with the age I watched it and how much I loved it then! Let's see, I would have been eleven years old).
I remember the perspective that Gary Seven had on our current culture really struck me then--the idea of technology running amok and the need for our political and social knowledge to catch up with it. And seeing Kirk and Spock in our own time was fun.

And the cat! Loved the cat.
Eugene Myers
7. ecmyers
@4 Stefan Jones

I'm familiar with Roddenberry's Andromeda, but I had no idea the Dylan Hunt character had been used previously, and so often. I need to track down some of these older pilots. I've always been curious about The Questor Tapes.

@5 NomadUK

No doubt about it, Seven had some awesome toys and a nice office, and was basically surrounded by smart and sexy ladies (secretary, cat, and computer). I liked the concept a lot more as a kid before I got into Get Smart and The Avengers and even Doctor Who. The Seven concept reminded me a bit of Jon Pertwee's Doctor, fighting alien invasions on Earth with UNIT.

Interesting observations about the Daniels episodes. I'll pay more attention.

@6 Jedikalos

I thought I'd give it a higher rating too! I do think the core concept is great and it had some potential. Have you seen Fringe? It has some of the same ideas for a modern audience, where science is creating lots of problems, often in the form of a monster of the week, but with some very interesting things going on in the background mythology.
Stefan Jones
8. Stefan Jones
@ecmyers: The only thing that the Dylan Hunt characters had in common was the name. As I recall the Genesis II (thanks, NomadUK!) character was a scientist who volunteered for a suspended animation experiment. Andromeda Dylan Hunt was a cop.

(Aside: Why would anyone in their right mind volunteer for a suspended animation experiment? Those things always, always go wrong. It's like splitting up in a haunted house, or picking up a hitchhiking clown on a country road at night.)

The second Genesis II pilot was obviously, to even the tweener me, a low-budget cheapie.
j p
9. sps49
I liked this one just fine. I felt the Roberta Lincoln character acted much as a normal person would act in the situation (i.e., not totally stupid; this is still TV), and it is a nice capsule of the actual 60s.

I feel guilty that Ms. Garr didn't like the skirt length; Nichelle Nichols found the uniform skort length empowering, and the late 60s had a lot of 'em. Too bad she doesn't look back on this fondly, but at least she hasn't gone the Joan Collins route.

I don't like the idea that we need extraterrestrial nannies. Too many UFO believers really really want UFOs to be such, and I don't like that idea at all, and this episode reminds me of that. It's my only real complaint, otherwise I mostly agree with our reviewers and commenters (Especially NomadUK today).

I barely remember Genesis II. I was excited before it premiered, but the show deflated that.

Nice implicit parallel of Roddenberry to Daystrom, Eugene!
Stefan Jones
10. FDRLincoln
Like many episodes that Roddenberry was closely involved in writing, this one has lots of plot problems...but also has many neat touches, some good dialog, and good character interplay.

It's not a great episode. But it isn't horrible...those are coming up shortly.
john mullen
11. johntheirishmongol
I liked some elements of this episode, and some I just detested. I liked the cat, and the girl but Teri Garr annoyed me to no end. Robert Lansing was always good and starred in a tv version 12 o clock high, a ww2 series about pilots I remember very fondly.

The plot itself was annoying. It's one of those silly, we are going to eliminate nukes plots that I thought was simplistic and I was 16 at the time. I didn't know it was a pilot.

I do remember both Genesis II movies pretty fondly. John Saxon was in the first and it wasnt bad. Alec Cord was in the 2nd, who was horrible but Mariette Hartley was in it and so was Majel Barett. I would watch Mariette Hartley in anything.
Church Tucker
12. Church
Warp 2. (It disturbs me when I'm in line with Torie, but it happens too much to ignore.)

It's not a Trek episode. It's a GARY SEVEN (or whatever it was going to be called) episode and our crew are guest stars.

The Garr/skirt thing is new to me (also odd that I hadn't heard about it 'til now, but then I'm no Bjo Trimble.) Still, I can see Bill Theiss in all his glory looking at a manakin and proclaiming it the most magnificent thing EVAH!

I think The GF would look cute in it.
Torie Atkinson
13. Torie
@ 2 Shimrod

You shouldn't need to feel guilty--it's not an embarrassing episode, just a boring one!

@ 2 DemetriosX

I liked that defense of hippy culture, too. Funny how the intense concern for America's youth culture continues, regardless of what that culture happens to be...

@ 5 NomadUK

You say it's fun, but did you actually get a chance to re-watch it? I swear it really is dead boring. I feel like if someone described this to me I could get excited about it, but the episode itself was so poorly paced.

Re: Marc Daniels, he had a fantastic eye for tableaus and was usually great at creating dynamism in otherwise static scenes (like long-winded staff meetings). But this one... boy, I just don't know. Maybe he fell asleep, too.

@ 6 Jedikalos

I thought I would like it more, too!

@ 9 sps49

My issue with Lincoln was that she's flustered and confused and generally incompetent. It's a personal peeve, but I can't stand shows about incompetent or otherwise useless people. I love that in Trek everyone has a role to play (even if it's just repeating the computer...) and each man and woman is confident in his or her abilities. Juxtaposing that with a hapless secretary who, gee golly, doesn't know what's going on--not interested. The only exception to this preference is Futurama, where the general incompetence is half the humor.

Oh man, Extraterrestrial Nannies! A new ST Nanofictionary card.
David Levinson
14. DemetriosX
Torie @13:
Funny how the intense concern for America's youth culture continues, regardless of what that culture happens to be...

Not that odd really. There are papyri from ancient Egypt bemoaning the way kids dress, their weird music, and their bad attitudes. It's universal.

(And we've got a different take on hippies coming up. We can compare and contrast when we get there. Yeah, brother.)
Stefan Jones
15. tom nackid
I'm not sure I would say Roberta was incompetent. Flighty and in over her head, but she did take down an alien with advanced technology with nothing but a desk accessory! She risked her life to potentially save the planet. Remember, she was just a kid in what was probably her first real job.
Eugene Myers
16. ecmyers
@13 TorieA

I didn't mind Roberta so much, possibly because there's a long tradition of the bumbling or less-competent sidekick, most notably Dr. Watson. She was like a companion from Doctor Who. (I don't know why I keep mentioning DW in relation to this episode!) As tom nackid pointed out, she comes through in the end and her character had room to grow (as did her skirt).

I love that you guys can discuss the different styles of the directors. Back then I think it really meant something. Many shows feel so generic these days, regardless of who's directing, with some exceptions. I wish I noticed it more, considering how the auteur theory of film is so ingrained in my mind. It would make an interesting study over the course of a director's work on a TV show. The sitcom How I Met Your Mother has one director for every episode, which I think is fairly unusual but is a great way to maintain a consistent style.

@14 DemetriosX

And we've got a different take on hippies coming up.

Why did you have to remind me of that? (As if I could forget.) I have the day of that post marked off on my calendar as Doomsday, or I will as soon as we schedule it...
David Levinson
17. DemetriosX
@16Eugene:

I know, I know. It's a terrible (in every sense of the word) earworm. But I wouldn't go so far as to cry doomsday. Now, the first episode for season 3 is another matter.
Stefan Jones
18. FDRLincoln
Roberta doesn't bug me too much...she's somewhat flighty, but she's bright too, and in an actual series her character would have had some potential.
Mike Conley
19. NomadUK
DemetriosX@17: Herbert!

FDRLincoln@18, et al.: I agree. Roberta is a bit on the ditzy side, but, as the Beta-5 says, she's got a high IQ, and is clearly clever. No doubt during the course of a series, she would have her share of misadventures and mishaps (and have to be rescued by the male lead, as was required of all women in 1960s television shows -- and, really, the situation has only improved fairly recently), but I think she would have become much more sure-footed overall.

And, besides: Teri Garr!

Torie@13: I did rewatch it a couple of years ago, and I guess maybe I just have more patience for it than you do! I mean, sure, the outcome is largely preordained, but aren't they all?
David Levinson
20. DemetriosX
NomadUK@19: Hey, now. I seem to remember you complaining about me sticking you with that the last time I brought it up. But " I shall try to be less rigid in my thinking".
Marcus W
21. toryx
Even though I've been a total fan of Trek for an embarrassingly long time and I usually know the trivia that gets posted, I had no idea this was a backdoor pilot. That does explain a lot.

I admit that there were a lot of things about this episode that amused me as a kid but there were things about it that always bothered me too. At the time I couldn't quite put my finger on it but a lot of the previous posts have outlined them pretty well.

Anyway, I'm not a fan of Teri Garr, then or now but I do agree with the Best Line about the encyclopedias. That cracked me up. And I'm shocked that she's now in her mid 60's, though it totally makes sense. Seriously, where does the time go?

Oh man, Extraterrestrial Nannies! A new ST Nanofictionary card.

Perfect!
Mike Conley
22. NomadUK
DemetriosX@20: I know; really, it does suck massively. But, in a good way. Even better after a couple of gins & tonic.

ecmyers@16, et al.: Marc Daniels was, I think probably the best director Star Trek had. His credits include 'The Doomsday Machine' and 'The Changeling', two episodes with some of the most innovative camera angles and lighting work in the series. I mean, look how he plays with the shadows in 'The Doomsday Machine', especially at various times over Kirk's face aboard Constellation, and really especially during Spock's confrontations with Decker. Absolutely brilliant. And the camera work with Nomad was equally great.

Okay, so he also did 'Spock's Brain'. Which we haven't done yet. But, still...
j p
23. sps49
"Spock's Brain" wasn't completely bad.

I mean, there are worse. One, at least. Well, a couple.

Aww, we'll get there when we get there.

@13 Torie-

The girl was surprised with alien tech, a human changeling, and Visitors From The FUTURE!! I'd expect a little fluster.
Michael Burke
24. Ludon
@5 NomadUK
I agree with most of what you said - especially the bouncing off an old weather satellite bit - but I tend to be a bit more forgiving of the use of the stock footage. At least they stayed within the same family of rockets and I'll bet that at least 3/4 of the viewers didn't know the difference. Unmatched use of stock footage was quite common then and has continued to be so over the years - look at the "F-14" crashing on the carrier deck in Hunt For Red October. Probably the worst (but maybe intentionally so) at mismatching stock footage was I Dream of Jeannie. How many different aircraft did Major Nelson use for a single flight from The Cape to Houston?

And, I think you're right about the premise of the (lets call it) Assignment Earth series eventually hitting too close to home. I tend to give pilots the benefit of the doubt - except for Cop Rock - and figure that any problems with dynamics could be worked out as they work up toward production. Had they found their pace and focused on driving issues of the day they could have alienated the sponsors and the network powers then suffered the same fate as the Smothers Brothers' Show. On the other hand. If they tried to avoid that, they might have focused on foreign or underworld problems but then they'd have risked becoming another Mission Impossible.


@ ecmyers
When I first saw this one as a kid then again over the years I had assumed that it would have been a simple thing for them to scan for the phasers and communicator then beam them up, but now after the rewatch of A Piece Of The Action I'm not so sure.

Overall, I'd give this one a 3. It's just one for turning off the brain and sitting back to watch the pretty things.
Stefan Jones
25. FDRLincoln
I agree with the comments about Marc Daniels and his skills as a director. Joseph Pevney and Vince McEveety, who directed many first and second season episodes along with Daniels, were also very skilled.
They understood the series well and got the most out of the actors and scripts.

In the third season, new directors were brought in who didn't understand the background as well. That, combined with budget cuts, changes in the writing staff, a new more hackish producer, and Roddenberry's increasing disinterest in the series combined to....well, you know.
Mike Conley
26. NomadUK
Ludon@24: they might have focused on foreign or underworld problems but then they'd have risked becoming another Mission Impossible.

I get the distinct feeling it would have been more like the trailing end of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

FDRLincoln@25: well, you know.

God, yes.
Torie Atkinson
27. Torie
@ 16 ecmyers

You know how I feel about what they did to Watson.

It's not that recent television hasn't had great directors. Kim Manners, who helmed so many X-Files episodes, was absolutely phenomenal.

@ 22 NomadUK

The director isn't always to blame...
Mike Conley
28. NomadUK
Torie@27: I wasn't necessarily placing blame on the directors (though, certainly, some were abysmal) with my comment, merely agreeing with the general awfulness of Season Three (with nods of gratitude to the few bright sparks therein).

If blame must be apportioned, I place it on (a) NBC and (b) Fred Freiberger — though, I suppose, he can't be blamed any more than the scorpion can be blamed for stinging the frog: terrible sci-fi was simply in his nature, as was later shown again in Space:1999 (though, granted, he didn't have a lot to work with).
Eugene Myers
29. ecmyers
@ 28

I've always heard Freiberger used as the scapegoat for the third season, but of course there were a number of factors in place and plenty of people to share the blame. For all its flaws, if we hadn't had that third season, we probably wouldn't be doing this re-watch right now because it never would have been syndicated. So that's something.
Stefan Jones
30. FDRLincoln
The third season...I hated most of those episodes as a kid.

As an adult, I actually like the third season more now than I did when younger. It's not GOOD, and Lord knows there are some serious stinkers in there. There is a big deterioration in dialog and characterization (likely because Roddenberry stopped re-writing everything), and the lack of budget was a big limit.

But looking back on it with the eyes of an adult, there are still some very intriguing ideas explored in the third season, and many of the bad episodes actually had a kernel of a good idea in them. They just weren't fleshed out with the same success as the first and second seasons.

You young ones, and I'm thinking specifically of Torie since most of these episodes are fresh to her, will see what I mean.
j p
31. sps49
The third season contained some of the worst episodes, sure; but there are some very good ones, too.

See y'all there!
Marcus W
32. toryx
I know you guys are taking a well deserved brief hiatus but I just wanted to mention that I really missed my Star Trek rewatch post last week. It left this odd little hole in my life. It took me a couple of days to figure it out and then I suddenly realized today that hey! There was no Trek rewatch! :(

Looking forward to you guys coming back, even if it IS for the third season.
Torie Atkinson
33. Torie
@ 32 toryx

You are way too sweet! Thank you. Don't worry, we have surprises in store for Season 3, to help ease the pain.

Though given that I am STILL SEWING TRIBBLES OMFG maybe I should scale those surprises back...
Eugene Myers
35. ecmyers
Hey folks! We know you've been anticipating our re-watch of season 3 for a while. Sorry to keep you waiting for so long, but we just posted our review and commentary on "Spock's Brain" at the new home of the Star Trek Re-Watch: TheViewscreen.com. And Torie and I are still working on that special something we promised in celebration of the third and final season, so please stay tuned to the new site!
Stefan Jones
37. GarySeven
Aw, I thought it was fun. Had fantastic possiblities as a weekly series. Too bad it never saw fruition.
Stefan Jones
38. Solid Muldoon
Teri Garr is the center of the show biz universe. She was in an Elvis movie. She was in a Mel Brooks movie. She was in a Steven Spielberg movie. She was in a Martin Scorsese movie. She was in a Robert Altman movie. And a Coppola movie. She was on Shindig! She was on SNL. She was on Star Trek. She was on Batman. And MASH. And Friends. And Frasier. And Law and Order. She was David Letterman's favorite guest. She's everywhere!
Stefan Jones
40. CrackingAce.com
You guys are crazy!

A James Bond crossed with Doctor Who secret agent who goes around with a talking cat companion up against TOS Enterprise crew in a bid to save the world from nuclear destruction. Throw in a sassy computer and a hot hippie chick.

What's not to love!!??!
Stefan Jones
41. Supervisor194
I loved it. But then I'm biased.

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