TOS: S2E26: “Assignment: Earth”

In which I spend most of the article writing about the implications of time travel, nothing much important happens, and there’s a cat.

The  Enterprise has casually and under controlled circumstances gone back in time, in order to determine “how Earth survived all the problems” because apparently history was not recording. The ship intercepts a transporter beam, but bear with me a moment. This is actually important.

The Enterprise has been sent to use time travel  to do historical research.

In “Bread and Circuses” we learned that World War III caused 37 million deaths. Then again, we learned from that episode that only 11 million people died in World War II, and 6 million in World War I. That’s significantly different from the 60 million and 20 million, respectivelythat died in the timeline I live in. Putting those facts together, it seems plausible that the Eugenics Wars and World War 3 did, in fact, wipe out most of Earth’s historical records. (Either that, or the Star Trek timeline diverges from our own some time prior to World War 1. Yes, I’m aware I sound like a madman. No, I don’t care. Thanks for asking, though.)

And IIII would beam five hundred light-years and IIII would beam five hundred more...

And IIII would beam five hundred light-years and IIII would beam five hundred more…

Anyway, the transporter is originating from 1000 light-years away. Which is a bit far, so it’s interesting that the guy shows up in a suit. I mean, it tells us that transporters operate at FTL transmission rates. Otherwise, even if the origin point had some way to monitor Earth in real-time, any transporter signal that reached the Enterprise would have originated a thousand years ago. Before they had suits cut like that, is my point.

Also, dude has a cat with a lot of diamonds on its collar. Maybe he’s one of those little smurf alients from “Catspaw.” And he doesn’t look happy. To be fair, Kirk and the crew are the ones out of place, and Mr. Gary Seven has been living on another planet which is capable of hiding itself. Aldea, from “When the Bough Breaks,” perhaps, but I don’t think they actually fit. It would be nice, though. Gary Seven claims to have a critical mission which is vital to the survival of Earth. Kirk’s moral quandary, asking himself how he can trust Seven, is either incredibly dumb or incredibly insightful, and it’s impossible to tell without knowing exactly how slingshot-effect time travel works.

Consider: If the Enterprise had not been in place to intercept the transporter beam, Seven would have beamed down to the planet without interference and done what he intended to do. Now, one of two things is possible. Either the Enterprise has always been there,  doing whatever it does to play its part in Earth having survived 1968 (which is “the most critical point in Earth’s history” for some unexplained and probably narcissistic reason), or there was a prime iteration in which the Enterprise was not there and Seven just did what he was supposed to.

In the former case, effect can preceed cause and the timeline must exist in a state of stasis, where events are more-or-less predetermined, barring some interference from some motivator outside the timeline, because o suppose other wise would necessitate the Enterprise being in 1968 ‘before’ the Enterprise ever existed. Headache yet?

In the latter case, there existed a primary sequence of events in which Gary Seven did not successfully destroy the Earth, as Kirk postulates he might do. In which case free will as we understand it is preserved, including Kirk’s free will to agonize about Seven doing something he clearly didn’t do the first time around.

I’m sorry for laying all that on you when the vocabulary to describe changes in timeline states doesn’t even exist in english.

To add to the list of problems, Kirk’s experience with time travel as a whole is inconclusive, though his experience with slingshot-effect time travel has never yet produced a temporal paradox. Unfortunately, you can’t prove a negative, and in this case attempting to get proof positive might destroy the universe. Still, there’s a mathematics that approaches Pascal’s Wager which says that in the world where slingshot effect time travel can alter the timeline, then Seven beamed down without interference once and everything was fine. In a world where slingshot effect time travel can’t alter the timeline, nothing you do will change the outcome because free will is an illusion caused by inhabiting the timeline. So you might as well let him go, unless you physically can’t because you have no free will. In which case stop worrying about it.

Also, for some reason McCoy decided to call the transporter room. There’s no reason for that.

Huh. Apparently one of the crises is the launching of orbital nuclear weaponry. So there’s definitely timeline divergence between Trek and reality going way back. Anyway, Seven escapes the brig and beams down.

To a barren hellscape!

To a barren hellscape!

Seven beams down to a richly appointed office and accesses a massive computer and explains to it, by way of proving his authority, that he’s leading some specially bred human agents to prevent Earth from destroying itself.

Queue a comedy of errors as his agents are absent and he has to get caught up on everything. Kirk and Spock, trying desperately to stop Seven from saving the world, somehow come off of all this as the bad guys. It’s all very droll. Broadly, Seven is going to sabotage a launch platform, completely disregarding the balance of mutually assured destruction and providing the Russians with an indication that the US military strength is not capable of beating them back, should a hot war begin. Meanwhile, Kirk is either going to figure out that he needs to get out of the damn way or come up with a third option on how to de-escalate hostilities more subtly.

"If the egg's shell does not break, the chick will die without being born. We are the chick: the egg is the world. If the world's shell does not break, we will die without being born. Break the world's shell!"

“If the egg’s shell does not break, the chick will die without being born. We are the chick: the egg is the world. If the world’s shell does not break, we will die without being born. Break the world’s shell!”

What? I did like five paragraphs of solid analysis on the nature of time travel. What more do you want from me? All I have left is quotes from other things. Here’s a quote from Utena.

Ooh, here’s a thing. This marks another time when extremely advanced technology is found at a high-security base, as Kirk and Spock get detained at the launch site. They don’t have thick Russian accents, but it’s still the kind of thing that tends to make people nervous.

This is another one that feels like someone wrote a science fiction story and Star Trek was the only game in town, so they had to shoehorn Kirk into it somehow. I mean, it’s practically a Doctor Who script, right down to Gary Seven’s sonic screwdriver. Sorry, ‘servo-pen’ or whatever.



Did we miss something awesome?