Assignment Earth IV: Story Generator, Jamming, 12/10/2013

By the fourth season of my entirely imaginary and physically impossible term showrunning the television masterpiece of the early 1970s, Assignment: Earth, we would follow up Leonard Nimoy’s Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series with a special two-hour season premiere. At the centre of this story is whether Leonard Nimoy will even return to the show.

Of course, Louis Ten will be played by
Ricardo Montalbán. How could it be
As you will remember from the tragic third season finale last week, after the brutal murder of his friend Johnny Robinson, Nimoy’s Gary Seven has disappeared. His mission for the Hegelian extra-terrestrial manipulators of human history, the Aegis, has gone spinning out of control. No Aegis operative has ever abandoned his mission for any reason short of his own death before. Gary has been missing for the last year, and Isis has spent that time fending off threats from her superiors/creators to punish her for his disappearance. She’s promised to find him, even though she knows he doesn’t want to be found.

We discover Roberta Lincoln working in a genuinely boring clerical job in Queens. She has tried to move on from her three years working with Gary Seven, but something about booking meetings for an architecture firm just isn’t as exciting as historic-dialectical espionage. One evening, she’s at her local for a drink to unwind from the ennui when a middle-aged Hispanic man in an impeccable suit begins chatting her up. She’s put off at first, but then slightly intrigued, and starting to get into it, when he starts asking questions about her employer, and her former employer. Then she realizes that he’s never said his name.

“Louis,” he answers. “But my full name is Louis Ten.”

This is when Roberta understands that she’s being interrogated by an Aegis operative. He’s quite charming, but makes no secret that he is prepared to torture, warp, and destroy her body and mind if it will lead him to Gary Seven. That’s when a black cat appears in the window.

I’m not entirely sure what this fight scene would look like. Maybe some freeze-frames to indicate that Isis has frozen all the non-Aegis people at the bar in time to prevent them from being hurt when she and Louis are throwing energy beams at each other. Either way, Isis rescues Roberta and prevents Louis from killing everyone in the bar to get to her. 

Remember, Isis can turn into a cat.
A comment from one of the other readers of the Vaka Rangi post that started this whole insane scenario discussed the status of Isis in the original episode as a familiar. Gene Roddenberry's sexism has become notorious over the years, and Vaka Rangi has amassed a pretty comprehensive catalogue of Roddenberry's moral repulsiveness over the original series. The familiar, in traditional European folklore, is a kind of animal companion to a witch, having magical powers that supplement the witch's, and a subservience to its master. In the original Star Trek episode "Assignment: Earth," Isis clearly functions as Gary Seven's familiar, even accompanying him to such ridiculous locations for a cat as a rocket launch tower. When she transforms into humanoid form at the end of the episode, her hair is even made up to resemble cat ears. She acts as a trickster according to Gary's orders. She was originally designed as a female character who is basically a magical cat.

The arc of Isis in my imagined series is quite different from the static familiar we got in that one hour of mediocre television. One of the science-fiction tropes that have always fascinated me are aliens that are sufficiently more powerful than us that they become practically indistinguishable from gods. Star Trek has a long history of dealing with these types of aliens, since some of its very first episodes. One of the many absorbing ideas in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 series* was his conception of the monolith-making aliens: creatures who were so lonely in the universe that they created machines to encourage the development of intelligence around the galaxy. The Aegis are gods that use their powers to bend the histories of intelligent species to their ideals of logic and thought. They have human operatives like Gary Seven and Louis Ten, but these operatives are accompanied by familiars like Isis. Consider her, for this story, as a Clarke-style monolith that can speak. Indeed, one of the suspicious attributes of Louis Ten is that is that he has no familiar.

*As much as I think that the original novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey was the greatest artistic achievement of a progressively declining book series, the books were filled with intriguing ideas throughout the run.

Isis would offer my parallel-universe Diana Muldaur a great challenge for an actor. Isis is a creature defined by her designed purpose: the successful operation of the Aegis plan for human development. In the course of her adventures on the show, she must form friendships with humans in order to live properly in the world. However, she remains separate from them because of her nature as a machine-creature designed by alien engineers. Gary Seven (and Leonard Nimoy's real-life iconic character, Spock) are defined by their inherent duality, a blended heritage of alien and human. For Isis, simply achieving a blended heritage would be progress in breaking away from her programmatic nature. This would be the arc of her character over the first three years of Assignment: Earth. She is first entirely defined by her plot purpose of being Gary's computer, genie, and also his minder to make sure he stays on track. Over the three seasons so far, but especially through season three's storylines based in ordinary struggles, she comes to be defined by no purpose at all. For the first time (that we know of), an Aegis familiar simply lives. 

Mike "The Situation"
Sorrentino is one of those
turds from Staten Island.
That's how low Roberta has
Precisely how many capture-escape sequences occur as Roberta and Isis are on the run from Louis Ten depends on how long it takes to build tension to Gary’s inevitable return. I will have devoted quite a chunk of the first hour of the finale to looking at Isis and Roberta’s lives without Gary in it. Isis will have several scenes where she’s hounded by communiques from Aegis taking place over the absent year between the last season and the current episode. This would be intercut with some comic scenes showing Roberta’s dull life: interacting with her dormative bosses at the architecture firm, going on dates with turds from Staten Island. 

But after one more battle with Louis, Isis is dangerously wounded, and they escape to a hole of a motel in New Jersey to recuperate. There, Isis reveals what she’s actually been doing for the last year. She actually hasn’t been searching for Gary; she’s been keeping him hidden from the Aegis. Louis Ten’s theatrically violent methods are a tactic the Aegis has never tried before because of their huge amounts of collateral damage, and it suggests that Aegis authority is slipping. Isis has had a homing beacon in her cat’s collar for the last year. If she activates it, Gary will come, and Gary is the only person on Earth who can heal her injuries from Louis’ weapon. But the beacon will also lead Louis straight to them, and they’ll have to hope that Gary arrives first.

Isis finally passes out from her wounds, and Roberta knows she doesn’t have long. She goes out into the grassy fields and abandoned industrial districts behind their off-highway motel and activates the homing device. 

There are twenty minutes left in our climactic two-hour fourth season premiere of Assignment: Earth.

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