Star Trek Reviews

Return to season list

Star Trek TOS - Season 2 - Episode 26

Star Trek TOS - 2x26 - Assignment: Earth

Originally Aired: 1968-3-29

Synopsis:
The Enterprise goes back in time and discovers a mysterious stranger trying to interfere with 20th-century events. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 1

Fan Rating Average - 4.41

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 44 10 12 11 47 9 13 14 24 8 19

Filler Quotient: 3, bad filler, totally skippable.
- Pretty lame episode with no significant long term continuity.

Problems
- Scotty mentions that he was able to use a 1960s-era weather satellite to get those ariel views of the rocket. However, the footage is quite obviously helicopter footage. The camera even wobbles.

Factoids
- This episode was intended as the pilot for a Star Trek spin-off series named "Assignment: Earth," but it never got off the ground.
- This episode establishes that Star Trek's history splits off from the real world's history in at least the year 1968, as major historical events which never occurred in the real world such as the launch of orbital nuclear weapons platforms were cited as having occurred in Star Trek's timeline during that year. Interestingly, one of the important events cited was an important assassination. Coincidentally, six days after this episode aired, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Robert F. Kennedy was also assassinated not long after this episode first aired. It has been said that this episode accidentally predicted these events.
- This episode establishes that the planet Omicron 4 was almost destroyed by a conflict similar to Earth's Cold War.

Remarkable Scenes
- Gary Seven's declaration of his mission.
- Gary Seven's escape from the Enterprise.
- Roberta's reaction to the automatic typewriter which typed everything she said.
- Kirk barging into Gary Seven's office.
- Gary Seven getting past the security guard and breaking into the launch site.

My Review
Unlike the similarly punctuated season 1 finale entitled Operation: Annihilate!, the season 2 finale entitled Assignment: Earth sheds the exclamation point in an appropriately symbolic move. Because unlike its season 1 finale counterpart, this episode lacks any kind of excitement whatsoever and is in fact quite dull.

Even worse, this episode's premise even further aggravates the logical problems introduced by Spock's magical time travel formula, first featured in The Naked Time and further abused in Tomorrow is Yesterday. Unlike the previous episodes where Spock's magical time travel formula was used as an emergency tactic, albeit an overwrought one, this episode opens with the crew having casually engaged in time travel in a mission of historical research openly sanctioned by the Federation, as if traveling back in time has since become routine.

As if that weren't bad enough, pretty much the entire plot is a mixture of stiltedness and incoherence. The episode wastes no time making itself so awkwardly annoying, as the very first scene rattles off all that silly time travel exposition, then immediately proceeds to have Gary Seven simply appear in the transporter room. It's not explained how his long range transporter could make such a remarkable error as dropping him in the Enterprise's transporter room rather than his desired destination on Earth, but who needs coherent technical explanations? That's not what this episode is about.

No, what this episode was supposed to be about instead was the danger posed by time travel and interfering with historical events. But the story isn't very good at that part either, because Kirk pretty much does all the wrong things right from the beginning. Rather than merely assume that Gary's unlikely arrival on the Enterprise was the result of an unlikely accident, just as Gary claimed, Kirk assumes instead the even more unlikely idea that Gary could be an alien invader of Earth or some kind of hostile time traveler trying to screw up Earth's history.

Not a single thing warrants Kirk's rather remarkable paranoia, but Kirk acts on it anyway, profoundly interfering with Gary's historically undocumented, yet nevertheless historically canonical mission in the process, thereby directly violating the stated purpose of their mission into the past: to observe but not to interfere with history.

The episode tries to cover up this blatant mistake at the end with Spock rattling off some nonsense about how historical record implies that the Enterprise must have been predestined to interfere with these events, but the irony of that already bad rationalization is that had anyone on the Enterprise familiarized themselves with historical events in the first place, then they could have easily validated Gary Seven's place in history, despite its strangeness, and allowed him to complete his mission as planned.

Given all that, I think it's fair to say this episode is largely an exercise in incompetence for all parties involved. The Federation for authorizing this ill conceived mission in the first place, Kirk for choosing to consider Gary guilty until proven innocent, Kirk's crew for not fact checking Gary's story, and even Gary himself, who repeatedly showed his tendencies toward buffoonery throughout the episode, especially with regards to his mishandling of Roberta's less than elegant distractions.

The result is an incredibly boring episode filled with countless clips of stock Apollo footage dragging on at The Corbomite Maneuver's pace where none of the characters can quite figure out whose side they're on until it's nearly too late. All this peppered with endless humor scenes which nearly all fall flat, way too many monotone computer scenes, and a strikingly irrelevant female sidekick for Gary Seven who adds nothing to the plot and for some reason is disguised as a cat.

I've read that this episode was supposed to be a sort of backdoor pilot for a spinoff series entitled Assignment: Earth, which was to presumably feature Gary Seven, Roberta, the mysterious cat girl, and that terrifyingly obnoxious computer engaging in a litany of similar adventures. I don't know about you, but based on the material seen here, I think the world can do without a crappy James Bond inspired Star Trek spinoff taking place in a contemporary science fiction setting.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Tony on 2008-09-06 at 9:56pm:
    A bad James Bond movie maybe, but when does James bond have to deal with a well intending starship crew that keeps messing up his plans? Although the episode does has it's fair share of faults involving the time travel aspect, it is generally fun to watch, with odd situations and a small element of mystery as to what Gary's intentions are. On the other hand the Enterprises presence was crucial to the story, a spin off series just wouldn't work (though I am curious as to how it would turn out). It's a fun episode, just don't take it too seriously or the fun is lost.
  • From Orion Pimpdaddy on 2010-08-26 at 10:46pm:
    I just watched the Blu-Ray upgrade of this episode, and I have to say it's the worst of the "upgrades" I have seen so far. The picture quality looks the same, like they didn't even bother to clean it up. I also thought they would ifnd better stock footage of the rocket, but I guess there's not that much to choose from.

    The plot is decent. It has many whimsical moments thrown in even though it's about nuclear war. That's okay though. Overall, I'm never too thrilled when I have to watch this episode again (I watch them in order every few years), but afterward I always think, "that wasn't so bad."
  • From Strider on 2012-06-21 at 10:35am:
    I thought it was a boring episode, too--and what was the point of arming the rocket with a nuclear warhead just so he could disarm it 104 feet from the surface of the planet? Anyway, it was fun to see a young Terri Garr, and Robert Lansing reminded me a lot of Steve McQueen.
  • From Mosh on 2012-07-14 at 11:14pm:
    There were some weird similarities with Doctor Who in this episode. Gary Seven as a time traveler from another planet, with a very sonic screwdriver-type weapon and a human companion. The cat-lady would set it apart, though. Also, the quality.
  • From Alan Feldman on 2012-11-19 at 2:07am:
    Assignment: Earth

    I agree with Kethinov completely about how the time travel bit made no sense.

    At the end when Kirk has to decide whether to let Mr. Seven use the computer, his reasoning makes no sense. He says to Mr. Seven, "I don't know what your job _is_. You may set those controls so we can't detonate that warhead." It's clear that Spock almost certainly can't detonate it anyway! The only logical course of action is to let Mr. Seven at the computer.

    And why are Kirk and Spock suddenly in uniform after Gary saves the day?

    Check out the cat girl's top. It's just kind of hanging from her neck. Well, take a careful look. You'll see what I mean.

    To Strider: The point of setting the warhead was to scare the major powers to into stopping the orbiting nuclear warhead platform madness. Recall that those running the launch learned the rocket had somehow armed itself. That's the first scare. And you need the explosion to truly scare people. Yeah, it's too risky to be a good idea, but I didn't write the episode.

    AEF
  • From Francis McMenamin on 2013-01-07 at 1:29pm:
    I think most of the Assignment Earth detractors miss the point. The episode is about paranoia- the crew of the Enterprise go back in time on a research mission to find out why Earth was almost consumed in nuclear conflagration in 1968! The Federation must have had incomplete records and wanting to know more dispatched Kirk & co to clear up the mystery- a need to know more based on paranoia of a sort if you will- further fuelled by Kirk's seriousness about the mission and his discomfort with what the interloper GARY SEVEN was up to and the potential consequences for the timeline. Earth was at a delicate stage in its development and indeed if you follow the Star Trek timeline there was indeed a Third World War sometime in the 21st century according to Spock in another episode. Paranoia abounds in Assignment Earth with a lack of trust between the main protagonists; Kirk and Spock vis-a-vis SEVEN and Roberta Lincoln and SEVEN, Roberta and ISIS. It's a cold war space action adventure/espionage intrigue where conflicting agendas take centre stage. In my opinion it works on that level, is a rattling good adventure with plenty of twists and turns containing great classic Star Trek moments. The fact you are still arguing about it 45 odd years later speaks for itself! JJ Abrams take note!
  • From ALAN E FELDMAN on 2017-07-14 at 9:54pm:
    ASSIGNMENT: EARTH Post #2.

    I think the best part of this episode is the Apollo 4 launch. That's a Saturn V. That gets you to the moon. You don't need such a big rocket to put something in earth orbit. Ridiculous. But we get some excellent clear shots of the launch! Can't find anything better on YouTube.

    Again with a big age difference: Terri Garr was about 20 at the time, while Robert Lansing was about 40. Kind of a big spread for a couple. (Their becoming a couple was strongly hinted at at the end.)

    The catgirl was wearing what appears to me to be a bib. And what was the point of that temporary transformation of the cat, anyway? Just some random eye candy and filler, I guess.

Prove to me that you are a real person and not a spam robot by typing in the text of this image:

Return to season list