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Star Trek: Assignment: Earth

Roberta: "Very groovy."

This was actually a pretty decent try at a spinoff. It had something of a Quantum Leap feel, except they'd be fixing things before they went wrong. Preventing World War III was a good start.

Gary Seven had a bunch of cool science fiction doo-dads. He had a super transporter, a snobbish talking computer, a magic typewriter that took dictation, a Doctor Who-like screwdriver thingy that could do pretty much anything to anyone, all kinds of Supernatural-like fake ID, and a fancy office in the city to keep them in.

And of course, there was the cat. I gotta say, the cat lover in me really liked Gary Seven carrying that cat with him everywhere he went. She sat in his arms, stood on his shoulders, walked on his back. How did they find a cat who could do that? Seriously, you can't make a cat do anything it doesn't want to do, and the cat scenes were seamless. Just keeping a cat from jump-kicking out of your arms right after you pick it up is a superpower.

Robert Lansing looked and acted rather Spock-like, and I'm sure that was their intention. (Not a surprise that they didn't pick a Kirk-like character as the lead. They were very aware of who everyone's favorite character was.) Roberta Lincoln, played by Teri Garr, future star of Tootsie and Young Frankenstein, was pretty much an anti-Spock: a spunky, cute teenage patriot. I don't think Lansing and Garr had acting chemistry, though. Of course, she was awfully young. Future Teri Garr probably could have manufactured some.

There was the mystery of the aliens who took people from Earth six thousand years ago, too. Of course, the cat wasn't really a cat. I always thought she was one of the superaliens monitoring Gary's assignment. Gary acted like she was his girlfriend, too, which could have been fun. Sort of sad that we'll never know.

Ben says...

It's hard to ever know what to say about these failed back-door pilot episodes. Seeing the very young Teri Garr again was fun and the episode had a few good moments, but overall I think they probably made the right choice in not bringing the show to T.V.

This episode did inspire in me some intense nostalgia for the space age. I am writing this the week that the shuttle program ended (which of course began with the Enterprise), and I can't help feeling that the world of space exploration has receded continuously through my lifetime. The sixties were certainly a time when there was still a sense that the big things could be routinely done.

Although not always just the good things, it's during this same period that the Air force, CIA and Atomic Energy commission are littering the Nevada desert with plutonium just to see what would happen and pondering plans for a "space battleship" to claim the ultimate high ground. It was in 1965 that the NERVA program melted down a nuclear rocket engine in Jackass Flats, Nevada and created a huge radioactive accident. This wasn't even partially declassified until 2008, but Roddenberry's assumptions about what kind of stuff might be going on behind the scenes was right on target. In fact, his ideas were kind of tame. Mostly this stuff was done because it could be done, which is scary in a circumstance where people are playing with nuclear weapons and hypersonic spy planes.

Okay, I take it back, maybe we really could have used Gary Seven and his funky sidekick back then (hell, maybe we had them and they kept the show off the air).

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 1968.

— Teri Garr was listed as "Terri Garr."

— What's with the black cats on this show? Spock looks good with a cat, too. Maybe it's the ears.

— Kirk called a meeting that involved the entire ship in a sort of teleconference. That was a first.

—Star Trek always did good time travel episodes. Interestingly, the library computer confirmed that what happened in this episode had happened the first time. Maybe it's because, even though he knows the future, Gary Seven was a twentieth century human. No paradoxes.

— Roberta got the "ears" moment. I should have kept track of them in the series. I'm talking about that moment when someone who doesn't know aliens sees Spock's ears. It's sort of like in Doctor Who when someone walks into the TARDIS for the first time and says, "It's bigger on the inside."

— Loved the fishing hat Spock was wearing after he lost the stocking cap.



— Roberta's pink and tangerine striped outfit with the cube-shaped purse, white tights, and matching shoes, gloves, and cape was gagworthy. I doubt any self-respecting 20-year-old in 1968 would have been caught dead in it.

Two out of four alien black cats,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

  1. Congrats on finishing Season Two, Billie and Ben!

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  2. This one's strange due to it's status as a quasi pilot -- fun and odd. Ms. Garr was one of Dave Letterman's best guests before she was struck ill though she's still around and doing fine, and he'd tease her about Star Trek (Letterman's a bit of a ST fan despite himself). Terrific Trek reviews -- I read them .all and don't comment enough.

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  3. Probably the worst episode I've seen of TOS, even worse than Spock's Brian. Boring, unfunny waste of time. I get what they were trying to do, but it failed. Not even the adorable cat could save it. And that blonde bimbo made me cringe so hard I dislocated a shoulder. Maybe I could have accepted the Dr. Who wannabe guy, but not with her there. We all have that one character whose face we wouldn't mind seeing get smashed in with a sledgehammer, and for me that character is it.

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  4. This episode always bored me as a kid, though not enough to do violence to Teri Garr. Watching it recently as an adult, I kept thinking that it felt like they were trying to start a spin-off. Then lo and behold! - I read your review and found out that's exactly what they had in mind. You can learn a lot reading Doux Reviews!

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