TREK-A-DAY: Assignment: Earth
EPISODE FIFTY-FOUR: Assignment: Earth
What a fascinating ending to Season Two. Frustrating, but fascinating. Beginning with the laziest (though canonically accurate) time travel plot device to date (Hey, remember how we figured out how to time travel? Yeah, so, we did that. And now we’re observing conflict resolution in 1968. So yeah, we’re in the past.) when a stern guy in a suit holding a cat beams aboard. It’s got a great, vaguely ominous feel to it and reminded me of all manner of “Mysterious Suit” guys from video games and science fiction, from the Agent in Half-Life to the Cancer Man in X-Files, in large part because of the disharmonious inclusion of a black cat. It’s just an odd detail that makes him instantly more interesting.
From there, the plot moves to this guy, Mister Seven attempting to stop an American nuclear missile platform from launching and thus moving Earth away from World War III. Kirk and Spock don’t know whether to trust him or not, but finally have to and he saves the day. As a new character, he’s very interesting. Well written, well acted, and mysterious. Also, he has that interesting cat about. He also wields a Sonic Screwdriver (no joke) and meets a wacky Earth sidekick. We find out, as the episode progresses, that an ancient alien civilization decided that rather than try and save Earth from itself by appearing as aliens, they would instead abduct humans (thousands of years in the past) and train their offspring over the generations to be secret agents. Mr. Seven is one of these agents, sent to Earth to help fix problems, a delightful inverse of the Prime Directive (to hell with not tampering…I’M GOING TO TAMPER!) It’s fun watching The Enterprise crew try and move to counter another time traveller and holder of advanced technology on Earth.
But here’s where the problems set in. I like Seven a lot, he’s a really neat character and I certainly don’t mind that he’s the central focus (with Kirk and Spock literally standing around doing nothing for most of the episode). However, we only get a taste of a greater idea at work and from this (even before confirming it on the internet) you can taste the spin-off. This episode was intended as a back-door pilot for a series about Seven and the Earth-girl sidekick (and his “human in only one scene” cat) and the result is kind of a half finished episode. While I throughly enjoyed it, I also felt like I was watching half an episode and that the Star Trek element, including the commentary on facing another time traveller and the Prime Directive, were lost to introducing the new guy. Shows now tend to run two episodes, one in the original series and one in the new to introduce a spin-off (CSI did this a lot) and I really needed that, with this one (The “Assignment: Earth” show was never picked up, though the fans and books put the character to much use AND I have wacky theory I’ll get to in a second about how relevant this guy may soon become). It felt like watching the Assignment: Earth episode of a two-parter, without the Star Trek episode to balance it out. Nevertheless, even though I wanted more depth and commentary on both sides, it was a fun, engaging episode.
Now, here’s the thought that occurred to me watching it: Mr. Seven makes a hell of an entrance; he’s a time traveler backed by a Federation-esque planet that has trained generations of humans to produce him; he’s smart, fast, and an equal match for Starfleet’s best…if he was evil and was instead tinkering with the timeline for his planet’s own nefarious purposes…could he be the villain in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek II? Abrams has mentioned that the character is of existing Star Trek lore and while obscure, he does seem an Abrams friendly character. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch would rock this role and I could see parallels between him and the actor playing Seven. Obscure, but possible. We’ll have to wait and see, but I could definitely see the potential, particularly since he is a directly Roddenberry-invented character.
So, all-in-all, a good if frustrating end to a fantastic season. And while the pilot for the new show never flew, it did give us one hell of an interesting episode…even if it didn’t quite feel like Star Trek.