EP0068: Star Trek: Assignment Earth Review

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A Star Trek spin-off that never was becomes a comic book, featuring twin Richard Nixons.

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Graham: The Star Trek T.V. spinoff that never happened gets its own comic book. Is it any good? Find out as we take a look at Star Trek Assignment: Earth, straight ahead.

[Intro Music]

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise Idaho, here is your host Adam Graham

Graham: Fifty years ago, at the end of season two Gene Roddenberry left Star Trek the original series. The Season two finale was a backdoor pilot for another T.V. series. This was a common practice at the time, although it’s really somewhat annoying in retrospect, where you watch one T.V. series but you get a pilot for another potential series. Sometimes this can work well, if they mesh together for example, the Andy Griffith Show really had a back-door pilot as part of the T.V. series, Make Room for Daddy. However, the match of Star Trak and Assignment Earth wasn’t really good match. It had to have the Enterprise travelling back in time to 1968 for the flimsiest of reasons and then the crew of the enterprise really didn’t impact the outcome of the story.
The characters for Assignment Earth did that. The characters were Gary Seven, a human who was actually taken by aliens and trying to be part of their long, ongoing organization which tries to save humanity from itself. He has an I.Q. of 200 and is in peak physical condition, able to resist a Vulcan Nerve Pench. His secretary, Roberta Lincoln, is somebody who came in just looking for job and only in the episode Assignment Earth does she really learn what’s going on. She can be flighty and erratic but she is actually really intelligent, which makes her an asset. And then there is Isis, a shape shifter who, most of the time looks like a cat. However, is able to change into a beautiful black-haired woman and they are assisted by a computer that’s known as the Beta 5, which can allow them to teleport and do a lot of other neat tricks.

The series wasn’t picked up but John Byrne gave them a comic mini-series with stories set between 1968 to 1972. So, let’s take a look at this series and see how it worked.

The book starts out with “Brighter Than a Thousand Sons.” It begins with a duplication of the final scene of the Assignment Earth T.V. show and then it picks up three months after the Enterprise left where they are in Albuquerque, New Mexico and they’re clued in to a Soviet agent plot to hijack a rocket test and so they go undercover at the nucular laboratory at San Lobos because apparently, they don’t want to be sued by the government for using San Alamos.
But at any rate they discover a scientist is doing a test on advanced nucular fusion. This alarms Gary Seven because this technology destroyed Delphi Centaurius Six. Gary Seven begins to fall for the female lead scientist on the project and at the same time, they try to track down who the spy is. There is actually a page plus with John Byrne drawing panels about each particular scientist and potential for them to actually be the criminal behind the action and so it’s a mystery story but without really enough time to develop.

Now, we have the next story which is Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, and in this story the enterprise arrives in 1969. However Gary Seven is able to figure out without contacting them that this is actually an earlier version of the Enterprise arriving because this story is taken from season one of Star Trek. “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” which has the Enterprise ending up in 1969 and trying to find a way to remove evidence of their arrival from local databases so as to not interfere with history and what we see in this story is that Gary Seven and Miss Lincoln are kind of on the periphery of the story trying to make sure that things go well and that this doesn’t go and become a catastrophe but unable to reveal themselves to the crew of the Enterprise since the crew of the Enterprise hasn’t met them yet. It’s got a nice time travel element to it but to be honest, you really have got to be a hardcore Star Trek fan to find this particularly story interesting and be able to follow this. Though, perhaps that’s kind of the point of the book.

Issue 3 is My Name Is Legion and essentially, they go undercover at a college with Seven disguising himself as a Professor and Lincoln going undercover as a student. Isis goes undercover as herself spending most of her time as a cat but also can pretend to be a student and she is not recognized by Miss Lincoln when they meet. And we also meet Curtis, who is a war protester but he’s very thoughtful and new on, saying that he’s opposed to the war but he does support the troops. It’s a nice sentiment. I don’t know how many people held such a nuanced view back in 1968. I know that there were certainly was that sentiment and people wanting to voice that sentiment in 2008, where the war most recently protested was the Iraq war but he’s a likeable and nuanced character and he and Miss Lincoln really interact and they hit it off and then he is kidnapped by the bad guys which puts Gary and Miss Lincoln onto the path of the bad guys and the bad guys kidnap Curtis for very vague reasons that seem more to do with plot convenience. The plot of the evil military people is revealed and exposed. Curtis is the highlight and the story does have a touching epilogue where Isis and Miss Lincoln visit the Vietnam Memorial several years later after Curtis ended up going and dying.
In, “ We have met the Enemy,” essentiallly Gary Seven and Miss Lincoln have to thwart an invasion of the planet by shape shifting bug-eyed monsters. I don’t think it’s much more complicated than that. It’s not a bad story but it is what it is, fairly typical science fiction affair.

Issue five is my favorite in the book, Too Many Presidents, and essentially what’s revealed is that the Chinese have hatched a plot, along with the Soviets, to kidnap President Nixon when he goes to China and replace him with a double who will do their bidding. This is such a fun plot. It’s really well realized and there are some great scenes of different versions of Nixon fighting. It’s just a really fun story and a liked it quite a bit and it’s the highlight of the book.
Then there is the story, Ah Ha, which essentially involves Miss Lincoln using tricks from a magic shop to fool Isis. I guess that could be cute but it’s just kind of feels out of left field and a weird little short, not connected to anything.

Overall, I have mixed feelings on the book. John Byrne does the art and he writes it and it’s actually not bad. The stories are about what you would expect from a science fiction series, mostly typical science fiction fare that’s OK but far from spectacular. I think this book could have been better. One that thing that stands out as an obvious option would have been for Bryne to not tell 5 separate stories but to do 3 of them. Do 2 two-parters and a one-parter. I think the Nixon story stood out pretty well on its own. But Brighter Than a Thousand Sons, really had a lot going on. It was trying to be a mystery and a story about this world threatening technology as well as being a story where Gary Seven falls in love and you just really don’t have time to feel a lot of that in the story. I think My Name is Legion could’ve been expanded as well. I thought Curtis being brought in the way that he was really felt like a plot contrivance to get our heroes to the solution and I think that that could have worked and then just ditching the other two stories. What we end up is 4 stories, which really are OK but don’t have time to really develop into anything particularly interesting.
The T.V. pilot gave us very little impression of these characters. Gary Seven, in particular, seemed a bit cold and emotionally distant and nothing in this story really developed either of their personalities other than Miss Lincoln’s relationship to Curtis. So, it’s a really mixed bag.
I think that I will give this book a rating of somewhat classy with a caution that the more you’re interested in Star Trek the original series and the more curious you are about the Assignment Earth concept, the more that you’re going to enjoy this book. If you’re not really interested in the original series and you’ve never heard of Assignment Earth, I don’t think that this book will do a whole lot for you.

Alright, that’s all for now. If you do have a comment, send it to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at classycomicsguy and be sure and rate the show on iTunes. From Boise Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.

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