Monday, July 30, 2018

Star Trek: Is Gary Seven a Hero or Villain?

Robert Lansing as Gary Seven.
While on a Federation time travel mission to conduct research about Earth in 1968, the Enterprise crew inadvertently intercepts a transporter beam. Their newest passenger appears to be human and calls himself Gary Seven (Robert Lansing). He claims that he is a human from the current time period, but was sent by the race of another planet to save Earth from destruction. Seven cautions Captain Kirk about delaying his mission and potentially altering history. Mr. Spock states the obvious when he tells Kirk that it's "a most difficult decision."

Teri Garr as Roberta.
While Kirk ponders what to do, Seven and his telepathic cat Isis escape from security and teleport to Manhattan. Seven discovers that his fellow agents on Earth have died in a car accident. Prior to that, they employed a secretary named Roberta Lincoln (Teri Garr), who thought she was working for encyclopedia researchers. Seven gradually reveals that his mission is to sabotage a rocket carrying a nuclear warhead into space. But can he accomplish the mission without his fellow agents and will Kirk and company try to stop him?

"Assignment: Earth" was the last episode of season two of the original Star Trek television series. It was a "backdoor pilot," meaning that it was intended to launch a new TV show starring Lansing and Garr. Kirk and Spock are the only two Star Trek characters with any significant screen time and their involvement in the plot is pretty limited. 

That's understandable since they played no role in the original script for the proposed half-hour Assignment: Earth series. The script reveals a slightly different premise from the Star Trek episode. In it, Seven is a man from the 24th century sent back to Earth to battle a race of shape-shifting aliens called the Omegans. Seven's cover business is a private detective agency. Roberta joins him as his assistant. Isis is one of the aliens and Seven doesn't have a cat. He does have the multi-functional pen, dubbed a "servo," that he uses in Star Trek.

Mr. Spock and Isis.
As a Star Trek episode, "Assignment: Earth" is moderately entertaining. Its biggest strength is Robert Lansing, who makes Seven into a calm, unflappable hero who still wears a suit while climbing around a rocket launch pad. As Roberta, Teri Garr plays the kind of ditzy blonde that would stereotype her in many of her films. It's hard to believe that Roberta is supposed to have a high IQ. She has little to do in the plot and it's hard to imagine her providing anything other than comic relief in a weekly series.

The integration of the original pilot into Star Trek is also a little sloppy. When Seven is thrown into the brig, no one searches his body and finds the servo. That's pretty poor security! Also, rarely has Captain Kirk been so indecisive. The only conflict in the episode is whether Gary Seven is good or bad and it takes Kirk until the final seconds--when a warhead is about to cause World War III--to make his determination.

While I can't imagine Assignment: Earth lasting long as a weekly series (especially in a half-hour format), it has become a popular Star Trek episode. It has spawned a comic book series, novels, action figures, trading cards, and even a short video on YouTube with Roberta doing office work (sort of). If you want to learn more about Assignment: Earth, then check out this website devoted to it.

Victoria Vetri as Isis.
By the way, in the closing scene of Star Trek, Isis transforms herself into a beautiful woman briefly. She is played by Playboy playmate Angela Dorian, who changed her name to Victoria Vetri and starred in Hammer's When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970). She also appeared in Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), one of Roger Ebert's favorite "B" (no pun intended) movies.

9 comments:

  1. Victoria Vetri's fresh outta prison and doing the autograph shows...

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  2. The typewriter! Is it strange that this secretary was intrigued and frightened by the automatic dictating typewriter? It's my first memory of the episode. A cat turning into an attractive woman can't even come close.

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  3. Teri Garr looked great in this, I thought she added a lot. I really didn't see her in anything again until she suddenly exploded on the screen in Young Frankenstein. A very talented comedienne. PUT ZE CANDLE BACK!

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    1. My favorite Teri Garr performances are probably YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, AFTER HOURS, and TOOTSIE.

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  4. Dig it. Wish it'd have been picked up. Could've been great!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6lmBbV3VWo&t=1s

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  5. And hey, maybe you can mention our faux credits we made for it a few years ago.

    We did two sets. One of a jazzier nature, and an espionage type theme song. Here's the jazzy one.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmynXHrR74w

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  6. I always saw this episode as STAR TREK meets DOCTOR WHO because Gary Seven struck me as being very a Doctor-like character, traveling through time, having a sonic screwdriver of sorts, and the obligatory earth-girl companion as Roberta would have become. Is he good or bad? More good, at least in his intentions, though lacking the charm and winsomeness of a Dale Carnegie graduate. I liked how you described the episode: "moderately entertaining."

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    1. Yes, there's definitely a DOCTOR WHO vibe.

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  7. I'm a huge Robert Lansing fan-girl. In this he made me swoon. Well, actually, in anything he made me swoon. :) I liked this episode even though it VERY obviously was a pilot. Too bad they never made it into a series.

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