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.