This was one of the more topically relevant episodes when aired. The topicality was helped by the setting--Earth in 1968. It deals with the Cold War arms race, the burgeoning space program (remember that this was before the first man landed on the moon; the first lunar orbit and return, via Apollo 8, would arrive 9 months after this episode aired), and an early version of a satellite-based nuclear defense system, the Sentinel Program, similar to what came to be known by the tag "Star Wars" during the Reagan Era.
These subjects are broached by again employing a time travel plot. Captain Kirk and crew head back to conduct historical research to "find out how our planet survived desperate problems in the year 1968". They intercept a transporter beam (a "beam down"/"beam up" signal), and end up bringing on board a strange man in a 1968 business suit holding an even stranger cat. He claims that he's Gary Seven, a human being from the 20th Century, but one who has been living on another planet, far more advanced. He demands to be sent to Earth immediately, and says that if the Enterprise interferes with what he has to do, the Earth will be destroyed, and probably the Enterprise crew, too. He won't give Kirk and company details. However, he does seem to be more advanced, as he relatively easily escapes the Enterprise's security and beams himself down to Manhattan to begin his assignment. Kirk and Spock eventually follow.
One of the slight flaws with this episode is that the set-up of both the Enterprise's and Gary Seven's missions is a tad murky. The Enterprise usually doesn't do "historical research", and the plot is a fairly transparent way to just do a topical show. As such, it doesn't have the same impact that it would have had in the late 1960s, but on the other hand, it's not as if multilateral weapons build-ups are not a problem any longer. Another oddity is that for much of the episode, Kirk and Spock aren't given much to do. For one extended sequence, they pretty much just stand around and watch. And Scotty shows us one of the worst "zooming" systems you could imagine, all thanks to the limitations of the stock footage on hand.
Well, it turns out that the motivations for all of the above are explainable by this being effectively a pilot episode for a spin off series, tentatively called "Assignment Earth", about Gary Seven (and presumably other agents if the series were bought). Presumably, the spin off show would have been set in a sci-fi present, on Earth. This was the last episode of "Star Trek's" second season, and earlier in the year, Star Trek had already been threatened with cancellation. Only a letter writing campaign gained a commitment from NBC for one more year. Roddenberry hoped that if "Star Trek" ended up getting axed in the near future, "Assignment Earth" would keep him employed. That explains some of the problems this episode has as an episode of "Star Trek", but it doesn't exactly excuse them.
On the positive side, Assignment Earth has one of the more unique "Star Trek" plots. Gary Seven is intriguing--kind of a "Mission: Impossible" character with a strong sci-fi twist. Terri Garr plays an unwitting Manhattan secretary who becomes wrapped up in the machinations of Seven, Kirk and Spock and she frequently steals her often-funny scenes. The different, well-known locations are achieved by integrating sets with stock footage, but except for Scotty's zooming, they are very well done, especially for the limited budget available to Rodenberry and crew. This isn't one of the best "Star Trek" episodes, but it's good. "Assignment Earth" would have been a fun show, had NBC gone for it. As it stands, it's more of a curiosity that gives the Enterprise a surprising historical footnote in the "Star Trek" universe.
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Roberta Lincoln: [frustrated] Okay. That does it. I quit!
Mister Seven: Wait a minute, what're you...
Roberta Lincoln: I'm quitting right now!
Mister Seven: You're not acting, are you?
Roberta Lincoln: [puts on her coat and grabs her purse] Acting? I'm leaving! Goodbye.
[walks to the door. Gary locks it with his servo]
Roberta Lincoln: Hey. Hey!
Mister Seven: [activates cube on desk] Tie into computer.
Beta 5 Computer: Computer on.
Mister Seven: Scan unidentified female present.
Beta 5 Computer: Roberta Lincoln, human. Profession: secretary.
Roberta Lincoln: [nervously] Ha...
Beta 5 Computer: Employed by 347 and 201. Description: age 20; five feet, seven inches; 120 pounds. Hair presently tinted honey-blonde. Although behavior appears erratic, possesses high I.Q.
Roberta Lincoln: Heh!
Beta 5 Computer: Birthmarks:...
Roberta Lincoln: Hey.
Beta 5 Computer: Small mole on left shoulder; somewhat larger star-shaped mark on her...
Roberta Lincoln: [deactivates cube] Hey! Watch it! Okay, I'll bite. What is it?
Mister Seven: [realizing he has given himself away] Miss Lincoln... Miss Lincoln, um... What kind of work did your employers say they were doing here?
Roberta Lincoln: Research for a new encyclopedia?
[Seven looks at her]
Roberta Lincoln: No? No.