Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, November 10, 2014

Season 2, Episode 55 "Assignment: Earth"

"Assignment: Earth"
Production Number: 55
Air Order: 55
Stardate: Unknown
Original Air Date: March 29, 1968



You guys, guess what? Guesswhat, guesswhat, guesswhat? This is my favorite episode of season 2, and possibly of all time. Can you guess why? One of these reasons is... it features very little Kirk. Now, I'm sure that you've deduced that I'm not a fan of Kirk. I don't hate the guy, but I certainly find him to be an annoying douchebag. (An article I read about douchebags specifically named Kirk as being one, Picard as most definitely not, and Riker as trying, but not succeeding. I agree with all of these assessments.) The fact of the matter is, I cannot write this blog when I am having a bad day. I have literally had moments when I've said out loud, "I just can't deal with Kirk's bullshit today."

Anyway, this episode: it was actually created as a new show pitch by Gene Rod. But the network didn't pick it up, and woe be unto all of us, because I would have been glad to watch and review this show. It looked pretty good and the premise was interesting. Maybe they figured Gene Rod had enough to be going on with concerning his first show. (I'd like to apologize for any British-isms that slip in this week. I've been mainlining Sherlock and alternate speech patterns affect how I write. Be glad it was Sherlock and not The Color Purple - I thought in ebonics for weeks after finishing that book.)

*******




We start out this week with what is labeled as a Star Trek no-no in the writers' bible: we are orbiting Earth. (They apparently wanted to avoid Starfleet Academy, which would have been a costly set to build, and they wanted to keep things fresh and exciting by visiting other worlds instead. For bullshit concerning the partial breaking of this rule, please see The Omega Glory, Miri, A Piece of the Action,
 Bread and Circuses, Patterns of Force, ect.) It seems they are testing some new form of time travel, and it has put the Enterprise back in 20th-century Earth. Their assignment is to research how Earth survived some crises back in 1968, because apparently, historical documents didn't exist back then or something.
The ship rocks, the camera shakes, and Spock calls from the transporter room to say that they've accidentally disrupted someone's tractor beam. Why the hell he and Scotty are down there in the first place rather than on the bridge, I have no idea. But when he reveals to Kirk at later that someone is beaming aboard the E, it becomes much more apparent convenient. 
Spock tells Scotty that the transporter beam is coming from over a thousand light years away, and Scotty calls BS: that isn't possible. Kirk rushes down to see what's happening, and a well-dressed dude beams aboard with a hauspanther. Dramatic music and commercial break!





"Who the hell are you?" the dude demands. "How come you intercepted my beaming?"
Kirk quietly calls for security, then tells the dude "This is the starship USS Enterprise."
The cat meows, and the guy says, "I know, Isis," to her, but then he spots Spock, and there's more dramatic music! "You have a Vulcan. You're from the future. Beam me down to Earth now!"
"Nothing doing," says Kirk. "Tell us who the fuck you are."
"Okay. I'm Gary Seven. I'm from this period in Earth's history, but I've been living with aliens far out in space. They're concerned about the state of things right now, and they want Earth to survive, so they and I are helping," Seven admits.
"Maybe you're an alien, invading Earth from the future," suggests Kirk. He orders his Reds to lock Seven up.
A fight breaks out, but Kirk stuns Seven, and the dude is taken to sick bay to determine what species he is.
In the briefing room, Spock holds the cat Isis, and tells Kirk that cats are awesome. Hell yeah, they are! Then Kirk does something a bit different: he holds an all-ship briefing over the PA, broadcasting the conversation, and asking for different crew members at their stations to break in with information.




They hear from Chekov about how there doesn't appear to be a planet in the spot where Seven's beam originated, and from Scotty, who says that the beam was super-powerful. Spock tells Kirk that a bunch of shit is going down on Earth today: someone will be assassinated, an Asian superpower will be making it's move, and the US may be launching nuclear missiles at someone else. Apparently, this will lead to H-bombs in orbit around Earth. Sound like someone in this episode is about to save us from ourselves, because I sure as shit don't recall reading about this in any history book. Or maybe there was a cover-up.



Down in sick bay, Seven has awoken to find himself in a security holding. After sizing up the force field, he whips out a sonic screwdriver to both take out the field, and put the security Red to sleep.
Bones enters the briefing room to tell Kirk and Spock that Seven is human, but that he's in perfect condition. Kirk wonders if Seven is a human body hosting an alien, but they all glance up when the door opens and Isis slips out into the corridor. Then they go to red alert and the PA broadcasts that Seven has escaped.
Isis makes her way down to the transporter room, where Seven has used his sonic to put the Reds down for naps. He grabs her up, they hop on the transporter pad and beam away.
We get an exterior shot of a city now, and I think it might be stock footage they got somewhere, because no way could this show afford to hire a helicopter, nor could it afford to build a bunch of detailed models for one establishing shot.



Then we go straight into an office shot, panning across until we get to a wall panel that slides open to reveal a huge wall safe. The safe opens on it's own, there's a transporter beam sound, and Seven and Isis emerge from blue clouds. I don't know if this is all animation effects, or animation projected onto smoke-machine smoke, or what, but it's cool. That panning shot and the self-opening safe were cool, too.



A huge computer is revealed to be hidden behind a false bookcase, and Seven attempts to interact with it, asking the computer where two agents are. The computer gives him some shit because she/it doesn't recognize his name. Irritated, he describes the agents he is looking for and their mission: one male, one female; descendants of humans that were taken from Earth 6000 years earlier, been trained for this mission by those mysterious aliens that Seven works for, and they want to know why and how Earth technology has been progressing faster than terrans have been evolving. They also want to keep Earth from destroying itself.  The agents have been missing for three days and the computer doesn't know where they are.  He instructs her/it to run a search for them. 
In the meantime, how about a quick history lesson? How many humans did these aliens take 6000 years ago? Please tell me that it wasn't just two, and that the aliens have been breeding this whole time from inbred stock. Unless they're clones? Or very smart prehistoric humans who have had their lives expanded immensely? These are questions that probably would have been answered eventually if this show had been picked up, but as it wasn't, we don't get the luxury of knowing. Which sucks.



Upstairs, Scotty assures Kirk and Spock that he can figure out Seven beamed down, and can get them to within a certain distance of the beam-down point. Spock reminds Kirk that they can easily fuck up all of the shit if they don't follow the Prime Directive. Kirk says he knows, but he thinks Seven might be lying and considers it to be worth the risk.
Back in the office, the computer tells Seven that the US was supposed to launch nuclear missiles today, and it was the job of the agents to sabotage the missile. But the missile remains intact at this point, and it's about 90 minutes to launch time.
"Oh, fml," sighs Seven.

We cut to a shot outside, where Kirk and Spock are walking down the street in 20th-century clothing. I have two complaints about this shot:
1. Why, WHY must they always use a fucking beanie on Spock? As we saw in "A Piece of the Action", a stylish fedora covers those ears very nicely too, thank you.
2. Look what's behind our boys - that's right, it's that ugly-ass fur muff dress. Now, I've noticed this dress on various other aliens in group situations, and a command gold star to you, Budget, for reusing old costumes. But using it here insinuates that humans have terrible taste as well. Vomit.



Kirk and Spock have Scotty quietly, through the comm, direct them to Seven's beam-down point. In the office, Seven receives fake printed credentials from the computer so that he can complete the mission if the agents aren't found. Meanwhile, a young lady is attempting to get to work, and is probably late, based on her demeanor. Holy shit, you guys! It's Terri Garr! I love Terri Garr! Her acting isn't always top-notch, and she's been in some real crap, but she has the best WTF reactions to things. If you want a character to loudly declare that a situation is bullshit, you hire Terri Garr.

Only here she's a little slow on the uptake, as she's just arrived at the office, and has not called bullshit on that hideous outfit. It's as though she's dressed like that on purpose... We've got a small circus tent in orange and lavender, belted with a black velvet ribbon, and paired with white tights. Ugh. Just in case you can't see as well, she's wearing matching bowling shoes in orange and lavender, and her purse is this cube with color-coordinated circles on each side. I know this was the late sixties, but she actually spent money on shoes that will go with no other outfits that she owns? Or - God forbid - she actually owns other outfits that go with those shoes?



She takes off her jacket. Good Lord, it was a jacket! And she's got a blouse on underneath that's the exact same pattern! And holy shit! Those white tights have a pink stripe down the side. In talking to herself, we find out that her name is Roberta. Roberta, you deserve a raise and a day of shopping. No one should be forced to dress like a clown. I almost kind of miss the simplicity of that fucking fur muff dress in the wake of this mess.
Anyway, Seven comes out of the back office and assumes that she's 201, the female agent. He tells her that he's the supervisor and demands that she sit at the typewriter and write up a report about where she's been the last three days. Weirded out, she pulls up to the typewriter, and he pushes a button on the side. It begins typing everything she says. Roberta loses it and declares that she's leaving.



Seven sonics the door closed and requests that a cube on the desk tie into the computer. The cube tells Seven that Roberta is the secretary, hired by the agents. Seven asks Roberta what work the agents told her they were doing, and a confused Roberta tells them that they were doing research for a new encyclopedia. That's actually a pretty good cover. Who the hell would ask about something that tedious?
He tells her that they're actually doing undercover work for the CIA and he whips out his new CIA badge as proof. She agrees to stay. Isis comes out of the office and meows at him, to which he responds that he'll be right in. Seven is uncomfortable.
"It's... a trained cat, like a guard dog?"
Whatever, she buys it. He locks himself in the office with the cat. The computer has figured out where the agents are, and tells Seven that they were killed in a car crash two days earlier, near the base where they were going to sabotage the rocket. Seven briefly bitches about the outcome of this situation, and I don't blame him. All that planning and kidnapping prehistoric humans and training people, only to have the agents die in a car crash two days before the Big Event? That certainly does suck.

Kirk and Spock find the office and ring the doorbell. Seriously, there's a doorbell? For an office? Why? (It is later revealed that the "office" is an apartment. Why the hell would they rent an apartment instead of an actual office space? Is the rent cheaper? Did they figure they wouldn't have to declare their business dealings with the city if they worked out of an apartment? While I'm busy thinking of business zoning vs residential, it occurs to me that they it's probably an apartment because Spock and Kirk ringing the doorbell gives Seven ample time to hop in the safe before they come in. That's it. They made the story slightly more complicated for the sake of a sound effect. Lame.)
They let themselves in, but Roberta tells them that they have to leave. Hearing Kirk and Spock in the front office, Seven grabs Isis and heads for the safe-transporter thing. Roberta attempts to call the police, but Kirk and Spock grab her. In the struggle, she rips that awful fur beanie off of Spock's head and demands, "What are you?"



Seven beams to McKinley Rocket base with one hour left to disarm the rocket. Everyone on base seems fine with this new dude who is walking around with a cat.
In the meantime, the cops have shown up. Roberta lets them in as Kirk and Spock run into the inner office. Kirk requests a wide-range beam-up, but they get a transporter fuck-up instead, and Scotty beams up Kirk, Spock, and both cops.
There's a WTH? moment before Scotty beams the cops back. Roberta is extra surprised to see them materialize in the office.
Meanwhile, Seven has finally been stopped by a security guard. He tells the guard that he is with the NSA, and the guard picks up the phone to double-check. Isis attacks the guard, and Seven uses his sonic screwdriver to make the guard... I dunno, ridiculously happy? Anyway, he tells security that everything is cool, then sets the guard down to take a nap on the sidewalk. With 45 minutes left until launch, he and Isis climb into the trunk of the launch director's car.



On the E, Scotty shows Kirk and Spock shots of the launch site by bouncing beams off the Earth's satellites. They ask him to beam them down to the site so that they can find Seven.
The launch director pulls up the the rocket and he and two other official-looking guys disappear off-camera for a few seconds so that Seven can climb out of the car. Then they leave. How convenient that whole scene was. Nobody notices that a guy and a cat get into the elevator that goes to the top of the rocket.



The sleeping guard wakes up just as Kirk and Spock materializes nearby. He pulls a gun and -- oh, for fuck's sake. Are you kidding me, costume department? First a fuzzy beanie, and now this? Nothing says "Goin' fishin' right after my espionage" quite like a suit and a bucket hat.



So an intruder has been detected by launch control, but for whatever dumb reason, they have decided to go along with it anyway. Okaaaaay....
At the office, Roberta has discovered by accident the lever that opens the sliding door to the safe-transporter.
And Scotty, up top, is dicking around with the satellite feeds, looking for better and better pictures.
Seven has made it to the place on the rocket where he needs to be. This is actually a really cool shot. I think that tower in the background is actually the tower where he and the rocket are supposed to be, but points for trying. Either way, it's a good enough match of stock photo, steaming rocket and construction arm to make me believe that this guy is about to sabotage a missile.



The guard brings Spock and Kirk into the launch room rather than some kind of holding cell, and their comms are confiscated. I guess maybe they think that Kirk and Spock are the intruders, because the system is telling the launch director that everything is fine. Really? The system honestly isn't registering that there's a panel open near the top of the rocket? Seriously? I thought rockets were designed to self-report that kind of shit so years of work doesn't accidentally blow up on the launch pad.
Scotty, still messing with the sat-pics, sees Seven and Isis screwing around in one of the panels on the side of the rocket. He decides that he can save the day by beaming Seven back onto the Enterprise. But, wait! Roberta has figured out how to open the safe-transporter, and by messing with the controls while Scotty is beaming Seven away from the rocket, she manages to get Seven to beam back into the office.

Kirk's Log, supplemental: "Spock and I are in the mission control room, which is frankly the worst place to take suspected intruders, because we could probably do a lot of damage here if we wanted. We don't know where Seven is, and we don't know how to stop the launch, even though we're not really certain why we should. We can't tell these guys what we know, because they would never believe us, and because of the PD. But here's something that will blow your mind: how am I recording this? On what? Am I talking to myself? Is this whole thing just a figment of my imagination? Haha, suck on that, whydoncha?"



So the rocket launches, even though it's been altered, and no one has been alerted. Seven, back in the office, runs to the computer, and asks if he can still control it, even though his alterations had not be completed. The computer replies that he can still run the rocket manually. Roberta picks up the phone, but Seven severs the cord. He manages to get the rocket off-course, and arm the war-head.
Back at McKinley, the mission-control people are finally made aware that things are not going according to plan. Uhura contacts Scotty to tell him that she's picking up alarmed transmissions from some of the world's super-powers. Scotty decides to risk calling Kirk.
In the office, Roberta smacks Seven in the back of the head with some kind of metal brick or something. He falls to the floor, and she takes his sonic screwdriver. The thing is, Seven had not finished his sabotage, and now the rocket is falling back to Earth. It will probably explode on impact.

"Do as I say, or I'm gonna force you take a nap!"


Getting this news, the mission-control guys are too busy to notice Kirk and Spock dematerializing behind them. On the E, they ask Scotty to beam them into the office.
Seven tells Roberta his backstory, in the hopes that she will believe him and allow him to finish his job. The rocket has less than a minute to impact, and Kirk and Spock bust in. This sucks, because Roberta has decided to believe Seven. They're aiming phasers at Seven, but Roberta is aiming the screwdriver at Kirk. Seven takes the screwdriver and gives it to Kirk as a show of faith. Spock, who has tried to get the rocket under control, admits that he does not have the information needed to blow it up mid-flight. Kirk agrees to let Seven take over, with 30 seconds left to impact. Scotty calls to report that all of the other major players on Earth have notice the missile and are on retaliation alert. Seven successfully makes the rocket explode 104 miles above the Earth.



In the outer office, Seven is sitting next to the typewriter, dictating his report. Kirk and Spock are there, back in their Starfleet jammies, because apparently it was necessary to go back to the ship and change into a uniform that could get them into trouble if someone from the twentieth century saw them. No biggie. Seven has also changed clothes, so it is either a different day, or Roberta has worn the same outfit twice. Or, possibly, out of all of the people standing in front of that computer with the exploding missile, Roberta was the only one who didn't shit her pants.
Kirk and Seven good-naturedly argue about who was interfering with whom, and Roberta glances over at the couch.



"Hey!" Roberta stomps over to Seven. "Who the fuck is that?"
"That's my cat," replies Seven.



"What are your records going to say?" Seven asks Kirk.
"None of your beeswax," laughs Kirk.
"I think they'll say that you guys have some interesting experiences ahead," notes Spock, and they beam up to lighthearted music.
Sadly, Roberta and Seven do not have interesting experiences ahead, because someone decided to pass on this cool new show. Those someones are dicks. You should be angry with them. They deprived you of fun.





*ring*
America: Hello?
Cuba: America, what the fuck?
America: What?
Cuba: What the hell was that? Something just exploded in our airspace!
America: Um, it did?
Cuba: Yes! What the hell was it?
America:
America:
Cuba: Hello?
America: Fireworks.
Cuba: Wha- are you kidding me? Fireworks?
America: Yeah. You know me, I like things that explode. Fireworks, all the time. They're fun.
Cuba: Yeah, I don't think that's what that was.
America: You know what, I got my good friend Canada here. He can vouch for me.
Canada: ...um, hullo?
Cuba: Yeah, your friend America there says he set off fireworks in my airspace just now. Is that what it was, or is he lying to save his ass?
Canada:
Canada:
Canada: Soorry, I don't know what you guys are on aboot. Oh, look, hockey's on. Gotta go.
*click*



Death Toll:
Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 20
Gold deaths this episode: 0
Gold deaths this season: 6
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 1
Total crew deaths this season: 27
Total crew deaths thus far: 44

No deaths, but Seven's sonic screwdriver clearly has a nap setting. How terribly polite of him. I would love to be shot with a nap ray, thank you.


*******


Some stores have better tea selection than others. Yesterday I was in one of those stores that offers a wide range of brands and flavors, and it was maybe too many. Should I choose the ones with fruit, or the ones with spices? What sounded the most awesome? At the moment, it was Tazo Vanilla Caramel. It's cold outside, and something warm and spicy seemed like just the ticket. But clearly it was too many choices. I totally missed the fact that this tea is chai-based. Chai is not my favorite thing ever. I read the back of the package and it listed licorice root. It no longer sounded good. I was kind of sad, but I made a cup anyway. And I was pleasantly surprised. It's warm, and you know how chai is usually made with milk? Not necessary. The caramel is creamy enough on it's own. And the spice palette is nicely balanced, reminiscent of holiday treats. Do I taste the licorice? Yeah, it gives the tea a bit of a bite in the after-taste, but it isn't obnoxious. I bet this tea is good with sugar cookies.







"Tag! You're it!"


1 comment:

  1. Honestly, this is probably the worst episode of TOS. Completely boring and totally skippable. I tune in to watch the main three slap-slap-kiss their way through b.s. sci-fi situations while Scotty, Sulu, Uhura et al. are amazing in the side-plot, not watch some Doctor Who wannabe run around the city while the bitchiest Daphne wannabe tries to fuck it up for him. Not even the incredibly cute cat could save this episode. Maybe if they had given him a bit more charm and an assistant who was actually watchable and not a sixties slang-slinging, empty-headed waste of space whose actress is worse than the little boy from ALF then it would have been picked up, but as is I'm glad it was ignored like the trash it is. Even as a stand-alone pilot not disrupting an established series, this still wasn't any good. No acting chemistry between the mains, boring, annoying plot about nukes that drags on forever, unfunny gag with the huffy computer, pretty much all the jokes took a prat fall and then assumed the fetal position. This would've needed a lot of reworking if it was to become something good. Lest I come off as not even giving it a chance, I'll mention that I did find the fact that the sonic screwdriver seemed to make people pleasantly buzzed before putting them to sleep pretty amusing, and I liked the idea of him talking to his cat and understanding her replies. The idea could've worked, it just needed different execution.

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