Assignment: Earth - Is it Really a Star Trek Episode?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Irishman, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Clean Old Mod Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Location:
    Somewhere in Connecticut
    I found it interesting that Gary quickly surmised that Kirk and Spock were from the future...seems like the aliens behind him might have some knowledge of it.
    He did a lot of voice work for the show...maybe something in that vein that wasn't used?
     
  2. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2001
    Location:
    Per Ardua
    Probably wouldn't be too hard for him to figure out. It was a century before humans and Vulcans had even met. :techman:
     
  3. Push The Button

    Push The Button Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2013
    Location:
    Smithfield, Rhode Island USA
    Me too..forget about Isis, the cat that turns into a woman for like ten seconds, Teri Garr is the best part of Assignment Earth.

    Other great stuff about AE:
    -Spock having to hide his ears with two different 60's era hats
    -Bruce "Finnegan!" Mars, as a member of New York's Finest
    -Footage of a Saturn V, though it was standing in as the booster for the orbiting H-bomb platform
    -Gary Seven's futuristic Swiss-Army pen
    -Roberta's voice-activated typewriter
     
  4. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Location:
    T'Girl
    When did Doctor Who introduce the sonic screwdriver?

    :)
     
  5. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2009
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    I saw the episode when it was originally broadcast in March of 1968, and there was definitely no clip from Bonanza in it. That's something I would have remembered.
     
  6. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2012
    Location:
    Melakon's grave
    Memory Alpha shows that Doohan was uncredited as the voice of Mission Control.
     
  7. CrazyMatt

    CrazyMatt Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2013
    Location:
    Trying to focus....
    I think Solow and Justman described it best when they wrote it was meant to accomplish two things: be a good Star Trek episodes and a viable pilot for a new series... and it succeeded at neither one.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    It was a pretty easy deduction to make. He knew that 1968 humans hadn't met Vulcans or any other aliens, and didn't have transporter rooms either. And he was standing in a transporter room with humans and a Vulcan wearing the same uniform as each other. What other conclusion was there?

    Although the later comics and novels established that Gary's organization, which they call the Aegis, does indeed travel in time and works to preserve history from those who would disrupt it (bringing back an element of the original pilot premise).


    Voiceovers are recorded in post-production, or at least separately in a recording studio, not live on set. So no, that couldn't be it.


    In an episode that aired 13 days before "Assignment: Earth" was aired, though of course months after it was written. And the concept of Gary's servo was introduced in the original 1966 pilot concept, predating the sonic screwdriver by well over a year. Not to mention that Doctor Who wasn't seen in America until the '70s so Roddenberry could not possibly have known of the existence of the sonic screwdriver at the time anyway. And by the same token, the makers of Doctor Who in 1968 couldn't have known about "Assignment: Earth," since ST didn't begin airing in the UK until 1969. It's pure coincidence that they came up with similar gadgets around the same time -- although most of the sonic screwdriver functions that make modern fans see it as similar to Gary's servo were added years after its introduction. In 1968, it was literally just a screwdriver. It made screws turn without touching them -- that's all it did. Gary's servo was more of a spy device, a combination communicator/phaser/multipurpose tool disguised as a ballpoint pen. Nobody in 1968 would've seen the servo and the sonic screwdriver as having much in common.


    Okay, thanks. Still, the teaser cuts pretty abruptly from the log entry to the "shudder," so I'm going to stick to my suspicion that the scene was filmed but cut out before broadcast.
     
  9. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2012
    Location:
    Melakon's grave
    Perhaps he was feeding lines from off-camera. Some actors prefer getting their cues from an actor rather than a script supervisor as non-actor's delivery can sometimes be pretty flat with little to play off for the featured actor.
     
  10. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Clean Old Mod Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Location:
    Somewhere in Connecticut
    When you see something that's unusual, like humans and Vulcans working on a ship together, it doesn't immediately follow that they're from the future. He wouldn't have known that they would someday be allies, that they would someday serve on starships together, and that those ships would have transporter devices...unless he did.

    To retroactively throw some ENT continuity into consideration, Vulcans were already in space in this era. He might have more logically surmised that Vulcans had covertly taken some humans from Earth or somesuch.

    It doesn't necessarily mean that Gary's aliens had traveled in time, either. His whole mission was based around humans having advanced technologically faster than they had socially, IIRC. It's possible that these alien brains had projected likely courses of future human history. They may have even played a role in shaping that history through agents like Gary Seven.

    It's possible that Doohan was on set to read the lines for the other actors to work around.

    Regarding Gary's device and the sonic screwdriver...I think both were drawing from a common source, the Bond phenomenon. IIRC, Our Man Flint (1966) had the title character boasting of the number of covert functions that his pen could perform.
     
  11. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2004
    Location:
    Oxford, PA
    Funny. I had no idea anybody disliked this episode. Even as a kid, it was one of my favorites and I was always wanted to know what Seven and Roberta and Isis got up to afterwards. (No surprise there, eh.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Except the scenes being shot were in Gary's library and office. Doohan didn't voice the Beta 5, Barbara Babcock did. And the only scenes that had Shatner, Nimoy, Lansing, and Garr in Gary's office at the same time were the climactic scenes, and the Beta 5 didn't have any dialogue there except calling off the countdown. There was nothing for the actors to play off except "Altitude 250 miles" and "Forty seconds to impact," which wouldn't have been worth wasting Doohan's time.

    Also, I checked the call sheet again, and DeForest Kelly is also listed as H for "Hold," while the other four actors are listed as W for "Worked."

    I did some research and jogged my memory, and I've remembered what "hold" means. It means that the production isn't using the actor on that particular day of shooting, but isn't done with the actor yet, so they're still being "held" by the production. So the "hold" notation for Kelley and Doohan meant that they weren't on the set that day, but they still had scenes to be shot on a later day. Maybe they were supposed to stay available in case something delayed shooting on the intended set and they had to substitute shooting a different scene that would've used those actors.



    He wouldn't have known for certain, but that doesn't mean it's particularly difficult to hypothesize. He's a smart guy; it's not like he would've been totally unable to imagine an explanation.

    But I went over the transcript, and I must concede it is explicit in the episode that Gary does have knowledge of the future. His full line in the transporter room was, "That's impossible. In this time period, there weren't -- Humans with a Vulcan? You're from the future, Captain." His use of "weren't" makes it pretty clear he's acquainted with thinking of the 1960s in the past tense. Moments later, he says of his employers' world, "Even in your time, it will remain unknown." That's not just a conjecture or extrapolation, it's a statement of certain knowledge.

    So we can conclude that, while Gary was native to the 20th century, he and his employers did have direct knowledge of the future. Thus they undoubtedly had time travel in their repertoire.


    Again, though, the sonic screwdriver was originally just a screwdriver -- or rather, a device that could open panels, hatches, and so forth. That's all it initially was -- not a multifunction spy tool, but essentially a high-tech prybar. (Crowbar to us Yanks.) Within a few months (in "The Dominators") it was given the ability to cut through a wall like a blowtorch. Its first use as a scanning device was in 1971's "Colony in Space," and by "The Sea Devils" a year later it became a mine detector/detonator. And so on.

    So it wasn't created to be any kind of spy device; that came later, once Jon Pertwee became the Doctor and the show took on a James Bond/gadget-driven flavor. As originally conceived, the sonic screwdriver was just for opening things. Like I said, all the similarities we see to Gary's servo were added years later, rather than being part of the original concept behind the sonic.

    (We can probably safely assume that the sonic keeps gaining more functions because the Doctor keeps tinkering with it and adding new settings. Which is why it's so ridiculously overpowered by his 9th through 11th lives.)
     
  13. jpv2000

    jpv2000 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2012
    Location:
    Georgia, United States
    Thanks and kudos to you for a fantastic story. Assignment: Eternity is my absolute favorite TOS novel.

    I'm currently catching up on the Titan series, 2 more books to go, then I'll check it out.
     
  14. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2004
    Location:
    Oxford, PA
    Wow! That's high praise indeed!

    True story: That book was the result of a long process of development. The very first Trek proposal I ever submitted to Pocket, way back when Kevin Ryan was the Trek editor, was a completely different version of Assignment: Eternity that had something to with Federation scientists inventing some new weapon that would destabilize the Organian peace treaty. Kevin rejected that version, however, and that was that . . . for a time.

    Years later, after I'd finally broken into Trek writing, John Ordover and I played around for a while with the idea of me wrting a Seven/Picard crossover, but I never managed to come up with a plot that we both liked. Another dead end.

    Even later, we flirted with the idea of a Kirk/Q novel, but Paramount vetoed the idea, so I replaced Q with Gary Seven and adjusted the plot accordingly--and that's the outline that finally became Assignment: Eternity!

    So, yeah, in a way, that book was years in the making. Glad you found it worth it! :)

    Thinking some more about this: In retrospect, I think part of the challenge here, which is reflected in some of the negative comments about the original episode, is that it's hard to throw Seven up against Starfleet without one side coming off as misguided, irrationally stubborn, unnecessary, or irrelevant. Personally, I didn't mind that Kirk and Spock ended up playing second fiddle to Seven and Robert in the original ep, because it was a nice change of pace, but I can see where that might bother people who just want a straight-up STAR TREK episode.

    Certainly, I can testify that striking a nice balance between Seven and our regulars is harder than it looks! :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
  15. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2012
    Location:
    Melakon's grave
    It was always a strange experience for me in the 1960s to see Shatner and Nimoy in contemporary clothes, because I didn't really become aware of them until their Trek characters. Seeing Nimoy on a game show without the ears and penciled in "normal" eyebrows, or Shatner wearing a blazer with open collar shirt with his fancy sideburns always threw me a little bit back then. But apparently Roddenberry wanted futuristic hairstyles for the male actors as well, but they drew the line at that.
     
  16. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    Maybe they were just being held to complete some ADR work to finish the season?
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    ^Like I said, "hold" just means that the actor isn't needed that day but will still be needed later in the production. Note that the call sheet says "Scenes to Shoot -- 159," "Total to Date -- 81," and "To Be Taken -- 78." That means that they were only a little more than halfway through shooting the episode at the time of this call sheet. Thus it stands to reason that there were still some unfilmed shipboard scenes that McCoy and Scott would've been in.
     
  18. jpv2000

    jpv2000 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2012
    Location:
    Georgia, United States
    I think you found that balance perfectly in the story. And I reread it more than most. ;)

    Also thanks for all the background info and it was indeed worth it in my opinion.
     
  19. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2001
    Location:
    Mr. Adventure
    I watched this again recently after having not watched TOS for a long stretch and it's backdoor pilot nature is very apparent with fresh eyes. After thinking it was OK growing up I found it quite distracting now.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Irrelevant, yes; all that Kirk and Spock really did at the climax was decide to get out of Gary's way. But I think the episode did a decent job of justifying why they were at odds. Kirk had no proof that Gary was who he said he was, and plenty of reason to mistrust someone employing such clandestine means to infiltrate Earth. Whereas Gary presumably felt it important to minimize potential disruptions to the timeline, so he would've wanted Kirk & crew to stay out of it as much as possible; thus he escaped rather than trying to convince Kirk to work with him. (Plus he didn't have time for that.) So there was good reason for them both to be working against each other with the best of intentions. Each was acting according to his responsibilities as he defined them, and thus their conflict was believable.

    The problem is how the conflict was structured. The problem is that Roddenberry chose to structure the story in such a way that he could cut out the Trek portions and have a pure Gary/Roberta presentation film to sell his show to the network. And that means Kirk and crew only interact closely with Gary before he begins his mission and then remain on the periphery the rest of the way through. If Roddenberry and Wallace had chosen to, they could've structured the story so that the ongoing conflict between Kirk's responsibilities and Gary's was more prominent and central. Maybe have a climax with Kirk and Gary fighting on the rocket gantry, and Kirk almost falls and Gary saves him, and that convinces Kirk that he's on the level, and then they have to work together to finish the job. Or something like that.