Welcome to the web's only complete reference to Assignment: Earth.
This episode of the original Star Trek was intended to spin off into a series of its own.
Thanks to everyone who has written in. Your comments are always appreciated. This site first appeared on the net in 1998, and its growth is due, in part, to those people who wrote in and said, "Hey, did you know…". Well, no, no I didn't, but now I do, and thanks for your help. If you have more info, please feel free to contact me.
I have acquired copies of the early development material which had previously been referred to here only through second-hand quotes, and this section has been rewritten accordingly. In addition, I have referenced or quoted other sources, all of which are listed on the Media page.
– Scott Dutton
The First Script – November 14, 1966
Gene Roddenberry came up with the first version of Assignment: Earth as he worked on Star Trek's first season, and pitched it to Desilu in a 47-page script.
Gary Seven is a man sent back in time from the 24th century, the only Earth man to ever survive the transit. His goal is to defeat the Omegans, a race of shape-changing aliens who have sent agents back in time to change Earth's history so they can defeat Earth in the future. Harth and Isis would be the primary Omegan antagonists. Roberta Hornblower is described as she appeared in the final episode, but as a 20 year old.
Seven's cover in the 1960s is The -7- Agency, a private investigations firm. We meet Roberta as she enters the office looking for Mister Seven. At the same time, the landlord Marley leaves a package that has just been delivered for Mister Seven. The gadgets from the final episode are here, including the servo, and a pair of working x-ray glasses. She sits down at the typewriter to leave him a note. Roberta had nearly been killed by a falling chunk of a building, and had been pushed out of the way by a woman who instead died. The woman looked very much like her, and Roberta found Seven's address on her body.
While she's sitting there, she notices a female black cat out on the ledge of the skyscraper. It's Isis, though we don't know it yet. The cat is unfriendly, hissing at Roberta.
A moment later the vault door opens and Seven enters. He mistakes Roberta for someone else, but before we can clear things up, there's a knock at the door. A Detective Brunner has come to question Seven about his lack of a P.I. license, and has concerns Seven may be there to commit fraud on unsuspecting clients. As Seven has just set up his 20th century identity, he hasn't taken care of that yet and he promises to deal with it in the morning.
Once alone again, Seven quickly figures out what is going on with Roberta. Seven's agent 3Y3 had been sent to see Roberta die so 3Y3 could take her place without suspicion. Roberta had no relatives. Instead, it was 3Y3 who met her untimely demise.
Roberta thinks he's crazy and Seven tries to pass it off as some joke. Meanwhile, a shaggy male cat, Harth, joins Isis on the ledge.
Seven offers her a job, unlocks the door with the servo and says for her to think about it. Roberta says, "Don't forget your cat out on the ledge," and screams when she sees the malevolent human forms of Harth and Isis.
When she looks again, it's the cats. Seven realises the danger immediately, and quickly asks if anything has changed. Roberta says the package, and Seven grabs Roberta and dives into the hallway as the package explodes. The explosion rolls over them, incinerating Seven's office and part of the hallway, but his clothing has shielded them both from death.
As Brunner and Marley are drawn back to the scene by the explosion, Seven and Roberta dash inside the charred and office, locking the door behind them. Seven addresses the green cube computer interface and tells it to scan back in time 30 seconds and repair the apartment.
As the computer begins its task, Seven sets a combination on the transporter vault, grabs Roberta and tells her they're going to their sleeping quarters. As they transport out, the computer begins to repair the apartment by moving pieces forward in time from before the explosion.
Seven and Roberta emerge in a luxurious apartment in Parkside, and Seven tells Roberta they have only minutes to clean themselves up. As they rush, Seven tries to win Roberta's trust by foretelling her that her friend Cynthia will marry Eddie Norris later this year. Roberta scoffs at that.
Clean and in fresh clothes, they return to Seven's reconstructed apartment. There is no trace of the explosion. Brunner and Marley are still banging on the locked door. With a crash, a fire axe splinters the door. The vault door closed, Seven unlocks the office door with his servo and the door bursts in bringing with it Brunner, Marley, a fire department battalion chief and a fireman.
All are astonished to see a perfectly normal office. The battalion chief accuses Brunner of crying wolf. Seven plays it innocent and the fire department exits.
Inside the Omegan headquarters, Harth is chanting over a crystal sphere. His surroundings are dark and filled with evil carvings. In the sphere, Isis and Harth can see inside Seven's office. Isis comments on the change in clothing and Harth responds that Seven puts trust in his mechanisms. It is humanity's weakness.
Isis says Seven escaped their trap, and Harth believes they can exploit the anger in Detective Brunner. They watch as Brunner and Marley argue over what had happened. Marley leaves, but Brunner is not done with Seven. Brunner tries to arrest Seven, and when Roberta sticks up for him, Seven knows Roberta has made up her mind to work for him. She has questions, and Seven will answer them, in time.
Brunner pulls out the money that had been given to Marley for the lease. It is counterfeit. All the serial numbers are the same. As Brunner arrests Seven, Seven tells Roberta a strange phone number and tells her to not play with the cats.
Back in the Omegan headquarters, they watch as they see Roberta now alone. Harth thinks that it was easy for Seven to seduce Roberta to his side. Isis will see to Brunner, while Harth will take care of Roberta.
Roberta tries to dial the strange number Seven gave her, but it doesn't work. Instead, she calls her friend Cynthia. A view screen rises up out of the executive phone and Roberta is surprised to see Cynthia in her apartment. Eddie Norris is there, though Cynthia lies about it. Roberta is furious because Eddie is her boyfriend. After some angry words, she hangs up and the screen slides back into the phone.
Behind her comes the voice of Harth. "I can destroy Eddie for you, Roberta. If you'd do something for me."
Roberta screams. Harth's shadow is a catlike creature with the wings of a bat. Roberta backs away as he advances. Harth chants, attempting to mesmerise the young woman.
Just then, Marley comes by and sees the splintered door has been fixed. But how? No one has come in that he was aware of, and how could it be done this soon? Marley knocks and enters, seeing the big black cat. Harth snarls and spits at Marley, and Marley shouts back that there are to be no pets. It's in the lease. Harth, discovered, flees.
Marley mistakes Roberta's dazed condition for the shock of learning her employer is a criminal. Roberta speaks of how close "he" was to owning her, his eyes taking possession of her.
After Marley leaves, Roberta dictates a quick note to the typewriter that she can't take the job after all. When she tries to leave, she finds the door locked, and it can't be opened.
She goes back to the telephone and tries entering the numbers and letters Seven gave her. The view screen slides back out and she sees Seven pacing in his jail cell. He cannot hear her, and she can't figure out why.
In the cell, Isis has come for Seven. She tells him she has fixed his P.I.'s license and the counterfeit money. They can leave together and kill Harth and go anywhere in time they wish.
Seven doesn't bite. Who would own whom, he wonders. Isis tries to mesmerise him with her flashing diamond collar, but Seven is too quick for her. Isis threatens him with death at the hands of Detective Brunner, who is now under her spell. The zombified officer has his gun drawn and Seven knows he will be shot.
Suddenly, Roberta's voice fills the cell, startling Isis. Seven reacts as well, but Brunner is still cool and calm. He motions Seven out of the cell at gun point and guides him down the corridor.
Back in Seven's office, Harth is back and trying to subdue Roberta. She tries to get the computer desk cube to help her, but it only pings in response. Frustrated, she picks it up and throws it at Harth and it hits him heavily in the head. Harth drops to his knees. She tries to get out of the office, only to find the door still locked. Remembering how Seven dialled the vault safe earlier, she knows anywhere else would be better than here right now.
She begins a series of jumps through a Washington, DC senator's office and a Chicago men's steam room while Harth tries to figure out the vault controls back in New York.
Seven and Brunner exit the jail by the back alley. Brunner wants Seven to attempt to escape. Brunner fires, but Seven's clothes are bulletproof, even though they look like a regular business suit. Seven steps in and knocks the detective out. Two other officers come out and try to stop him, but Seven fends them off and flees the scene.
Roberta is still bouncing about. London, Moscow. In the Omegan headquarters, Harth tells Isis that Roberta's next portal brings her to them.
In New York, Seven is interrogating the computer, trying to track down Roberta.
As Roberta materialises in the Omegan headquarters, she screams, but at the last moment is pulled away. Seven helps a barely conscious Roberta back into his office. Seven sets coordinates for their quarters, and Roberta asks if every day will be like this.
Marley returns with a business permit that has been delivered from the police. The money issue has been explained as a mistake. Marley, confused, leaves.
Later in Seven's quarters, Eddie Norris stops by with hopes of clearing up the problem between him and Roberta and Cynthia. Eddie at first thinks he has the wrong place, but when he finds out that Roberta is in Seven's apartment, he makes the mistaken conclusion that Roberta is now with Seven, and Seven doesn't dissuade him from that line of thinking.
Seven needs an assistant, and given Roberta was supposed to die, she shouldn't contaminate the timeline with a relationship that wasn't going to happen.
This version of Assignment: Earth was not accepted, and Roddenberry set it aside.
This idea is quite a bit darker than the final Trek episode turned out to be. The malevolence of the Omegans is palpable in the script, and would have been quite intense for 1966. In today's world, it would be average for supernatural fare.
The gadgets and other technology are interesting, though adding the Beta 5 in the later scripts really offers a more interesting interaction for the story.
The straight-laced Detective Brunner and the comic-relief landlord Marley are very stereotypical characters and do not transcend the average drama of its day. In the interesting premise of the series, the supporting cast would have needed more consideration. However, we know that now from Joss Whedon's work, for example, but in the 1960s it would have been beyond even what Star Trek was able to accomplish.
The Series Proposal – December 5, 1967
In the middle of Star Trek's second season, Roddenberry and writer Art Wallace reworked the Assignment: Earth premise:
The first piece they generated was a 13-page series proposal.
Now conceived of as a Star Trek spin-off pilot, the new Assignment: Earth had Roddenberry and Wallace selling themselves as individuals respected in the business who were teaming up for the series. They made the clear distinction that while futuristic like Trek, Æ would be set against modern-day 1968.
Who hasn't dreamed of solving the world's problems? Living vicariously through the stories, with an array of special gadgets from the first pilot, the viewer would see creative solutions to today's problems.
A short presentation film and sales presentation is proposed to NBC, with the then-uncast lead actor guiding execs through the series' benefits.
Seven gains a first name, Anthony, and Roberta's character has the same background and set-up as the first pilot. The nuclear missile plot of the final episode is introduced. Acquiring NASA assistance and mission footage is presented as an integral part of the pilot. Additional footage of the lead in various globe-spanning locations expands on the international feel of the show.
Seven's background is described and is generally consistent with the final episode.
The next section list a series of parallels, hooks to other shows that have been on the air, hopefully showing this unconventional series will grab an audience, and thereby convince studio execs to back it because the rationale is sound.
The Sixties are described as a time of crisis, and as we know 1968 was particularly a challenging year for the U.S. People were looking for help, and a human raised among an advanced race sent back to Earth to help is presented as something people wanted to watch. It is stated once again that stories could come from anywhere in the world, keeping the series from becoming stale and formulaic.
The proposal wraps up with short bios of Roddenberry and Wallace, and a list of their credits. If picked up, it would be the Trek production team at Paramount-Desilu that would make the series, drawing upon their experience with challenging content and effects.
One of Roddenberry's strengths and benefits was to go to specialised individuals and organisations (like NASA) and ask them, "What if?" By going outside entertainment circles, he gave his work a depth and credibility that became a model for a better-informed process.
Some of the connecting-the-dots promotion of the series' ideas to already known commercial quantities is a bit funny to read now. Having done enough creative briefs and seeing the tell-tale signs in this proposal, I get the feeling studio execs have the same thought processes as other businessmen.
The First-Draft Trek Script – December 20, 1967
This is an item I don't possess. I know it exists, and if anyone has a copy, I'll gladly pay for photocopies and postage.
Roddenberry and Wallace continued their collaboration on the story, with Wallace penning the teleplay.
There were some differences from the final episode in this version:
Gary Seven's transporter beam came from even farther across the galaxy than it did in the episode.
After Seven was confined in the Enterprise brig, he revealed his mission to Dr. McCoy, turning the tables on Bones by asking him to think like a doctor, not a mechanic.
Roberta London, recruited by Mr. Seven, was beamed up to the Enterprise for interrogation. The frightened Roberta was soothed by Uhura, who reassured her that she was still among Earth people.
The Final-Draft Trek Script – January 1, 1968
Notable changes from the final-draft script to the filmed episode include:
The supplemental Captain's log which immediately follows Seven's capture where Kirk describes "A man in a 20th-century business suit. What is he? Not even Spock's…etc." was not scripted.
In the briefing room, a line by Spock is cut: "Medi-scanners indicate it is a cat, Captain. Female… as we've seen, remarkably intelligent…"
McCoy was to enter the briefing room scene earlier, with Kirk showing impatience with him to report.
Just before the Beta 5 says, "In response to nuclear warhead…", an exchange between Seven and the Beta 5 is cut:
Immediately following Seven saying, "That's the same kind of nonsense that almost destroyed planet Omicron IV", a line has been cut: "Balance of power won't work. The other side will launch still more, they'll end up with the sky full of H-bombs waiting for just one mistake."
The scene where we first see Roberta Lincoln was scripted to include Kirk and Spock in the background, following her. In the episode we see Roberta make a comedic entrance, and Kirk and Spock travel the same sidewalk a few minutes later.
When Seven poses as a CIA agent to Roberta, some of the dialogue was softened to make it a more friendly exchange. Originally, it was to be more combative, as it was in the first part of this scene.
After Seven transports out from his vault, the scene with Kirk, Spock and Roberta has been restructured. The three were scripted to come into Seven's private office together, they weren't aware of the vault transporter, and it was Spock who found the map of McKinley Base. In the episode, Kirk rushes into the office alone, sees the vault close before he can reach it, and brings the map back out to Spock and Roberta in the outer office.
During the scene with Sergeant Lipton phoning in the security check on Seven, Isis was scripted to be following Seven. Knowing cats, this was most likely impossible to accomplish on set, and so Seven carried Isis and the unscripted line for Seven to put down the cat was necessary to have her under foot to finish the scene as written.
Seven and Isis on the gantry arm is unscripted, though what they're doing is detailed. As written, Seven and Isis walk out of the elevator in one scene, and in the next Seven is removing the panel. Perhaps Wallace did not describe the exact environment because he knew that it would depend on matching the stock footage supplied by NASA with the sets that Desilu would build in response, and that happened after the scripting process was completed.
The cigar box Roberta uses to konk Seven in the back of the head was originally scripted to be a heavy art object. Given Teri Garr whacked Robert Lansing with the small padded box hard enough for the actor to see stars, it's probably just as well.
The call from Scotty to Kirk about all powers being on alert was scripted for Spock earlier in the scene.
Roberta was to lower the servo on her own, rather than having Seven intervene. As shot, the scene works better, building trust between Seven and Kirk.
Roberta's plea to Kirk, "He's telling the truth." was to have another piece, "A woman feels things about a man." And Spock's response, "A point against him, Captain. They are usually 100% wrong." Probably a good idea to have excised all that.
Kirk says, "Spock, if you can't handle it I'm going to have to trust him." As scripted:
During the wrap-up, a whole piece of the scene was removed:
Much of this happens while Roberta is looking at the human Isis, and as such, it probably didn't work because everyone else's attention was on Roberta and they would have seen Isis too.
After the "Simply my cat, Miss Lincoln" gag, Roberta's living arrangement dialogue continues:
The line Spock says about "interesting experiences in store for Seven and Lincoln" is absent from the script, and was most likely used to replace the longer explanation for a quicker and cleaner wrap up, and perhaps to leave things more open ended for how Assignment: Earth might eventually be produced.
"Assignment: Earth" aired as the last episode of Star Trek's second season. It failed to generate interest, and the series never materialised.