REVIEW: “Assignment: Earth” (Star Trek: Remastered edition)

Star Trek (Remastered): “Assignment: Earth”
Remastered Episode #67 (5/3/2008)
Original Episode #55 (3/29/1968)

The Enterprise is dispatched back in time to determine how Earth survived “desperate problems” in the year 1968. Considering all of the trouble they almost caused last season when accidentally going back in time to 1969 (“Tomorrow Is Yesterday”), Starfleet should really think twice before ordering such a mission.

The Enterprise then intercepts the transporter beam of Gary Seven (Robert Lansing), a man who claims to be a twentieth century human sent by aliens on a secret mission to save humanity from itself. Huh? While a confused Kirk tries to validate his story, he throws Seven in the brig though it does not hold him long.

The plot, such as it is, serves mostly to introduce creator Gene Roddenberry’s proposed and subsequently rejected Star Trek spinoff series, Assignment: Earth. As episodes go, this one is overly long (actually helped, for a change, by the syndication edits) and really not all that interesting. With a flat performance by Robert Lansing, who seems as bored as the viewers, the episode is somewhat saved by an enthusiastic performance by Teri Garr as Seven’s quirky secretary, Roberta Lincoln.

The proposed Assignment: Earth series seems like it would have been a sort of Wild Wild West set in the 20th century using Star Trek style technology, with Lansing as a James Bond type character. On paper, not a bad concept. On screen in this episode, it just never takes off.

Though this episode preceded many of them, the real 1968 indeed turned out to be a year with desperate problems. “Assignment: Earth” is notable for containing another chilling prediction. Spock notes that an important assassination will take place on the day they arrive. The episode originally aired on March 29 – six days before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, and just over two months before the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5.

There seemed to be signal problems in our local broadcast of the episode, resulting in audio problems. The video upgrades did not look as crisp as normal, including a lot of flashing brightness issues. However, I am going to chalk that up to the local problems, as all previous Star Trek: Remastered episodes have looked much better.

The biggest disappointment on the Star Trek: Remastered version of “Assignment: Earth” is the lack of creativity on the newly replaced visual effects. Most notably, stock NASA footage of the Saturn V rocket, filling in as the launcher of a US nuclear warhead platform, unfortunately remains. I suppose one could question why bother to replace actual footage with computer generated effects, but if that is the case, you could extend that reasoning to all of the Star Trek effects.

If the point is not to improve the episodes, then why bother? I can still watch the original episodes with the original effects. The similarly-themed “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” proves that CBS Digital could have done better than this in the creativity department. The effects upgrades they bothered to make look great, though; these are the basic Enterprise in Earth orbit shots. They should have those down by now, anyway. I am still docking three points for lack of creativity this time out.

Dramatic Content: 7 (out of 10)
Effects Upgrades: 6
Overall Experience: 7