Assignment Earth III: Story Generator, Jamming, 05/10/2013

On my imaginary 1970s sci-fi spy adventure show, one of
these charming brownstones contains Gary Seven's
extra-terrestrial office.
The third season of Assignment: Earth, showrunner a time-displaced Adam Riggio, would move Gary and Isis’ office/apartment from East 68th Street to a two-story brownstone in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, which would also allow for storylines to cross into neighbouring Bedford-Stuyvesant so domestic episodes can explore issues of racial injustice through Gary Seven’s extra-terrestrial perspective. Ostensibly, it would simply be so that Gary could have some extra space in his home without the constant humming presence of his asexual apartment-mate Isis.

I picture a running gag in which Isis forgets that her cover identity is as Gary’s sister because she’s an asexual shapeshifting cybernetic construct who sometimes doesn’t bother to remember what to her are incidental details. This will usually happen in social situations where Isis is mistaken for Gary’s wife or girlfriend.

This season would be the first to display a consistent narrative arc throughout the year, where previous seasons merely had a thin movement of character development stretched over adventure-of-the-week stories. Gary would probably be the only character having a genuinely complex arc, what with being the central protagonist navigating the complicated paths of his alien origin and mission, alongside his growing attachment to humans and his developing solidarity with humanity and the Western ideals of freedom (however miserably those ideals are actually articulated in the West). 

Roberta Lincoln’s arc is one of increasing competency in her work, as she develops into a character that never loses her comic pluck, but becomes increasingly good at the historico-dialectical espionage working for Gary Seven (and by extension Aegis) involves her in. She’s also becoming better friends with Gary, and possibly developing some romantic tension. I know how dull this is, and my imagined actress, Barbara Feldon, had already gone through this arc on Get Smart. But it’s a slow romance arc on a very different sort of show. Isis, meanwhile, is learning a begrudging respect for humans, though this is coloured with her own doubts about whether Gary is still fit to carry out his work. At some point during season three, Isis may send a fairly innocent question to Aegis authority that results in serious danger for them all down the road.

The narrative arc of Assignment: Earth season three would go something like this. Clues spread throughout Aegis’ various interference missions for Gary Seven would indicate their philosophically sinister motives. Aegis doesn’t want what’s best for humanity, but only for Earth to follow a course of development that conforms to Aegis’ philosophical conception of the proper arc of history. Essentially, Aegis literally believes Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, and is slowly manipulating humanity into a total conformity to Aegis’ conception of the culmination of history: a utopia of total cultural uniformity and submission to their logical system. Aegis achieves this by manipulating species over millennia into thinking according to their logic. When their work on Earth is complete, not only does no one want to think differently, but no one can even conceive of how. Once Gary works this out, he’s incredibly uncool with it: his time on Earth has taught him the value of individual thought and subversive creativity. His philosophy of life is no longer that of the people who raised him.

Leonard Nimoy's Gary Seven would never quite get the
hang of the subtleties of New York fashion in 1973.
The climax of season three comes with this philosophical eureka, but also with a tragedy. Throughout the year, Gary, Roberta, and Isis have become friends with a young man named Johnny Robinson and his family in Bed-Stuy. Gary occasionally uses his extra-terrestrial powers to do his family favours, mostly keeping it secret from Isis. The Robinsons have no idea Gary is an alien; they just think of him as an eccentric white guy. But they’ve run afoul of a local gangster who develops a vendetta against them because the Robinsons refuse to pay him protection money for their general store. Gary has been surreptitiously protecting them from the gangster’s sabotage, with the frequency of a B-plot about every two or three episodes. In the second-last appearance of the Robinsons that season, Isis discovers Gary’s favours for them, but she no longer cares about his minor acts of unsanctioned interference. Earth has been wearing her down too.

In the third season finale, the gangster finally gets his revenge on the Robinsons, ambushing Johnny in a drive-by and killing him while Gary, Isis, and Roberta are involved in dialectical-historical espionage on the other end of the city. They get back to Brooklyn too late to save him. 

Gary is psychologically destroyed by the death of his friend. Isis, meanwhile, is the one who takes proper revenge, appearing at the home of the lead gangster and unleashing her full powers as a shapeshifter and an Aegis construct to torture and destroy him. All the violence happens off screen, of course, because this is American network television in 1973. But her last line before we cut to the final commercial break is, “I should have done this a long time ago. And I’m not afraid to interfere anymore.”

Gary, Roberta, and Isis appear at Johnny’s funeral in the season’s coda, but shortly afterward, Gary distracts his friends and disappears.

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