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Star Trek – Assignment: Earth (IDW, 2008) (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

John Byrne’s five-issue Assignment: Earth miniseries is fascinating, because it is perhaps the closest that fans will ever come to getting an actual series spinning out of the episode Assignment: Earth. Of course, the second season finalé had been planned as a backdoor pilot for a new television show, but it never quite materialised. Understandably, Gary Seven tends to appear in spin-off material as a guest star or supporting player. Assignment: Earth focuses on the adventures of Supervisor 194 on his own terms.

Coupled with Byrne’s decidedly old-school done-in-one storytelling structure, Assignment: Earth manages to tell four separate stories featuring Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln doing what they do in the late sixties and into the seventies. A series of unique and episodic adventures delivered on a regular, Assignment: Earth comes quite close to capturing the feel of a television show. Taking the television episode as his starting point, John Byrne manages to pitch a series of adventures that feel like they might hint at the direction the show could have gone.

Sensors detect a spin-off!

Sensors detect a spin-off!

While the Assignment: Earth miniseries is ultimately disposable and largely forgettable, it is an interesting experiment. By their nature, prose novels like The Eugenics Wars can only focus on a single plot starring the character. Using his fairly compressed approach to comic book storytelling, Byrne can tell five different stories in rapid succession, each with a clear beginning, middle and end. While these stories are inevitably written from the vantage point of 2008, they still feel like they might offer a glimpse at what the show might have looked like.

In many respects, Byrne is hampered by his source material. While the writer and artist has a bit of fun with the concept, a lot of Assignment: Earth ultimately feels a little dry and a little heavy-handed. Despite all the nods towards relevance and social commentary, Assignment: Earth lacks the spirit of adventure and excitement that a television show like this would need in the longer term.

"You'll have fifty percent less Nixon to kick around!"

“You’ll have fifty percent less Nixon to kick around!”

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1989) #49-50 – The Peacekeepers (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

There is something quite disconcerting about Gary Seven.

Abducted from Earth at a young age by a race of mysterious aliens, Gary Seven was then returned to Earth in order to ensure that human history unfolds as expected. The unstated assumption is that “as expected” is a euphemism for “according to the wishes of his mysterious employers.” Using his advanced technology, Gary Seven manipulates the world around him. His technology allows him to cloud the minds of his enemies, and to materialise wherever he might wish. He tinkers with nuclear weapons, keeping his existence – and his objectives – a secret from the local people.

Everything comes apart...

Everything comes apart…

It is interesting to wonder how Assignment: Earth might have developed had it successfully spun off from Star Trek. After all, a pilot does not exist to completely define a new television show; it exists to set up a framework through which interesting stories might be told. Would a weekly television show built around Gary Seven have explored these big questions? Or would it have been content to exist as an imitation of Mission: Impossible? As with ever road not taken, it is absolutely impossible to be sure where it might lead.

Still, Howard Weinstein’s The Peacekeepers teases out some of these interesting questions and queries. Even if it never really offers any answers, there is a lot to chew over.

A spectre...

A spectre…

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Star Trek – Assignment: Earth (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Assignment: Earth was almost the last episode of Star Trek ever produced.

It was also possibly (although nowhere near “almost”) the pilot for a spin-off television show.

Seventh heaven?

Seventh heaven?

At the last minute, following a very high-profile fan campaign, Star Trek was renewed for a third season.

Fans would have to wait decades to see an actual Star Trek finalé that reduced the main cast to guest stars.

"Wait, who just hijacked my show?"

“Wait, who just hijacked my show?”

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Star Trek – Assignment: Eternity by Greg Cox (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Assignment: Eternity is pretty much exactly what you might expect from a sequel to Assignment: Earth written by Greg Cox. It is a functional story a number of nice clever continuity touches, but no real interest in playing with the big ideas suggested by the source material. Instead, it feels like an act of connecting various dots, stopping occasionally to wink at the audience, but never having anything particularly clever or insightful to say about its inspirations.

Like The Eugenics Wars or To Reign in Hell, the result is a competent piece of Star Trek continuity, albeit one that feels more than a little lifeless.

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