Imagine at TV series where there’s a mysterious alien traveling through time and space with a often silly companion and a little magic wand that helps him get through tough situations. No, not Doctor Who, although…
I’m thinking of Assignment: Earth, the would-be TV series born of the Star Trek episode of the same name. I think it might have had a chance in the spy-crazy era of the late 60’s. And with the cold war still raging at the time, Gary Seven and his cat Isis would have made a fun entry into TV land. Unfortunately, it wasn’t picked up, and we are only left with the one hour where Spock and Kirk are made to look really silly as Gary Seven embodies a cool only equaled by Spock.
The more I looked into the brief world of Gary Seven, the more I see homage to (or copyright of?) Dr. Who. Consider after all, he can travel anywhere through time and he has his own little version of a ‘sonic screwdriver’. And if he and Miss Lincoln are to have “…interesting experiences” together, Hmm, I think I’m beginning to see where the inspiration came from…
From what we’ve seen, Gary is a lot like The Doctor. He seems to be awfully intelligent about well, everything, he is often sent on missions to fix events in time (boy could we use him now), and using the convenient ‘screwdriver’ that is often the determinant between escape or capture. We never see the ship he travels in, but it is assumed that his ‘assignments’ take him all over the galaxy through different eras. He’s a Time Lord.
Miss Roberta Lincoln would make a good companion. She’s young, quirky, a bit daft, but determined to make a statement (“We want to know if we’ll be alive when we’re 30!”) I think of the series were picked up at the time, I hope she would evolve into a stronger female character, yet in reality, if it was picked up the 60’s she’s probably remain more comic relief, at least until the advent of the Women’s Movement. Now if it was made today, I’m pretty sure she’d be more like a combination The Doctor’s companions; I’m thinking Donna Noble, Clara Oswald and a little Martha Jones, and she’d be much more interesting. Unfortunately we have little insight into Roberta left. Teri Garr, who played Roberta, noted in her memoir: *
“I played Roberta Lincoln, a dippy secretary in a pink and orange costume in a very short skirt. Had the spin-off succeeded, I would have continued on as an earthling agent, working to preserve humanity. In a very short skirt.”
Then there’s Gary Seven’s cat, Isis. Of course we found out at the very end that Isis was actually a shape-shifter; she briefly appeared as a human sex-kitten lounging on Seven’s couch, much to a flummoxed Roberta Lincoln’s instant jealousy. Isis wears cat ears and purrs in her human form! Yet Gary depends on her greatly, and acknowledges her advice. Maybe she’s Gary’s River Song (The 11th Doctor’s wife).
No doubt Isis’ little trick was meant as a teaser to entice the would-be buyer of this pilot-within-a-Star Trek-episode to want more. So is Isis a woman in a cat’s body or a cat in a woman’s body? The world may never know…
As a bonus, I’ve always loved how Spock was instantly ‘strangely attracted’ to Isis. It’s fun to see the real chemistry between Nimoy and the cat in the Briefing Room. The cat sits and purrs contentedly in his arms, eyes slowly opening and closing. Cats know a good person. Although speaking from a character’s point of view, I wonder if Isis was subtly mind-melding with Spock, or giving off pheromones, or at least good vibes? How else to explain Spock’s urge to cuddle? But then, he had the same, if embarrassed reaction to Tribbles! It was a cute touch.
So I wonder, why wasn’t Assignment: Earth picked up as a series? Was it too expensive, too far fetched? Would it have continued to connect with the original Star Trek series? Well…
Turns out Assignment Earth did find a way to continue after it’s ill-fated pilot. Comic book writer and artist John Byrne did write a 5 volume sequel to Assignment Earth – in glorious graphic novel style! The issues cover 5 years, starting 3 months from the date Enterprise left Gary and Roberta to figure their fate. Each issue presents a year later. These came out a while back, but you can find all 5 in digital versions on Comixology.
Of course, since Gary Seven is part of the Star Trek universe, maybe he could turn up on Picard? Or sequel-mad CBS All Access could reconsider that little pilot, updated for the times. I could see Mahershala Ali or Adam Driver or as Seven.
How did you feel about Assignment: Earth and Gary Seven? Please let me know in the comments!
*Speedbumps: Flooring It Through Hollywood. by Teri Garr.
10 thoughts on “Speculations about Gary Seven, Isis, Dr. Who, and the “Assignment” that never was.”
Robert Lansing who played Gary Seven would have been 92 today. The character of Gary Seven (plus Isis and Roberta) have shown up in Greg Cox’s novel Assignment: Eternity as well as another of his Star Trek novels, and Roberta is featured in 2 of Dayton Ward’s novels. They also appear in one issue of a series of comic books Star Trek: Year Five which are available as Kindles from Amazon. Enjoy!
Thanks for the update! Yes, I found out that it was Robert Lansing’s birthday after I wrote the article yesterday! What a cosmic coincidence!
Fans might enjoy The Zygan Emprise Trilogy by Y S Pascal.
Thanks Jill! Always happy to hear from readers 🙂
Voices From the Past
2 private detectives investigating time travel
Features an elderly Roberta Lincoln
“Assignement: Earth” was an all-time favorite. I was bummed when it was not picked up as a series.
Fan video for the opening credits of an Assignment: Earth series.
(No, I didn’t make this. I would not know how.)
He actually made two, but I think the comment system gets cranky if I try to put more than one link in a comment.
I will try to post the second one, meant for a hypothetical second season, here.
Speaking as someone born in 1963, these themes do sound like they could have come from an adventure show of the late 1960s. 😀
I for one would love for there to be an Assignment: Earth series. I do not believe it will ever happen though. There are other adventures of Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln out there: I found this article after noting the similarity between Gary Seven and Doctor Who while reading Greg Cox’s Eugenics Wars books, in which they play a prominent role. However, the apparent influence of Doctor Who on Gary Seven is only apparent given the realities of 1960s television vis a vis the UK and the US are thar Roddenberry was very likely unaware of Doctor Who at all. It seems to be just one of those weird coincidences. Great article though.
I can see Gary Seven as a Time Lord agent of the Celestial Intervention Agency. He could be one of the extra faces we saw in The Timeless Child. The vault door opens to the Tardis interior, or the whole office is the Tardis, as has been done in other DW episodes. He has a vortex manipulator for when he doesn’t want to take the Tardis. He has a sonic screwdriver. He has a companion. And that cat is Frobisher, the shape changing alien that’s usually a penguin.
I watched the original star trek in the 60’s (on a black-and-white TV) and I probably saw this episode when it first aired. I subsequently re-watched all the episodes (over and over) in the 70’s and then occasionally afterwards. So I recently watched “assignment earth” after a lapse of many years (decades?) and I felt I saw this episode with new eyes. Since I had it on my DVR I re-watched the episode several times now. I have to say this is my 3rd favorite star trek episode after the original (second) pilot (leaving the galaxy) and the one with the time-gateway trip back to the 1930’s. As I watched it I thought this would have made a great spin-off series. Since we now have the internet a quick search revealed this was a pilot or pilot-like episode. I was shocked and saddened it was never made. But thinking about it I wonder if it would have had staying power. The concept would have to have been fleshed out more and maybe not stay earth bound. But I would love to see a remake in the 60’s style (and secret agent style) and not all the “social conscious” crap we see today and all the shows that have to have that “human drama” (ie. emotions, sex…more than I would like to see, relationships, etc…all the stuff Spock would find illogical and non-essential to a good story). Also I really liked the camera work in some of the shots and I though this was artfully stylized and it looks great in color on a high-definition TV. There is so much to this episode and the irony to 2021 earth and all its problems. “Assignment earth” I think has only gotten better with time and as relevant as ever !!! … loved the historical shots of the saturn V rocket too !!! What an astounding human accomplishment !!!