Cancelled Before It Began: Gene Roddenberry’s Assignment: Earth

By | April 4, 2019

Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.

As Star Trek was airing its second season back in 1967-68, Gene Roddenberry was uncertain whether the show would survive into a third year and started developing a new series idea in order to have something in the pipeline in case of a cancellation announcement. The new show would be titled Assignment: Earth and would focus on the character Gary Seven who is a human sent back in time from the 24th century to defeat the shape-changing aliens known as the Omegans who are trying to change Earth’s history in order to defeat it in the future. Seven would act as a private investigator as his cover, running The-7-Agency, and the human Roberta Hornblower (from contemporary Earth) would be his secretary and assist him with missions.




Roddenberry had planned on doing a 20-minute presentation film and he had convinced well-known actor Robert Lansing to take the lead role. NBC was not interested in the idea and Roddenberry instead incorporated it as an episode of Star Trek where it would act as a back-door pilot and possibly get picked up to series if the ratings were strong enough. The concept was tweaked a bit as Gary Seven would no longer be fighting aliens but had been sent to Earth at a time a great strife in order to protect humans from their greatest threat: themselves. The shape-shifting cat Isis was added to the mix, though mostly just as a teaser for a character that would be better developed in the series.

The episode was titled “Assignment: Earth” and capped off Star Trek‘s second season. The ratings were not high enough to convince NBC to pick the show up, but Trek did get the third season renewal which kept Roddenberry busy for the next year. Assignment: Earth would be revisited in novels and comics over the years, and some of the concepts were carried over to Roddenberry’s failed pilot The Questor Tapes, but nothing more ever came from it. Surprisingly, with all the reboot / revival fever in the air and the fact that Gene Roddenberry’s name is quite bankable, there has been no attempt to revisit this series idea. Considering the current political environment in this country and globally, the idea of an advanced society trying to save humans from themselves would be quite appropriate (and pairing up Seven with Questor would be interesting as well). Perhaps something could still happen, but for now this is relegated to history as another Roddenberry idea that had plenty of potential that was never realized.

You can read more about Assignment: Earth at this link, and the fan site www.AssignmentEarth.ca has tons of additional information about the pilot.

Aired: March 29, 1968

Created By: Gene Roddenberry, Art Wallace

Starring: Robert Lansing, Terri Garr, April Tatro


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