If the four seasons so far of Assignment: Earth can be said to have an overall narrative, it’s Gary Seven’s growing skepticism that the plan that the aliens who raised and trained him, the Aegis, have for Earth is the best plan for its people. I’ve described the Aegis as operating something like a simplified Old Hegelian with regard to Earth’s history. They see the human race as an insignificant primitive people who nonetheless have potential, if they can be guided correctly to the right path of development. Their manipulation of human history has a moral justification over millennia, the Aegis are tweaking different events in human history to improve the likelihood that humanity will develop what they consider the highest morality. Precisely in what that consists, we’re never entirely sure.
Even Gary, who was raised among them, isn’t entirely sure what all the principles of the Aegis’ highest morality are. Isis always finds it difficult to explain, often referring to the value of harmony and reciprocation. Selena Three, Nichelle Nichols’ periodic guest character throughout season three, best articulates the moral perspective of the Aegis.
|The fourth season saw Gary Seven grow in his|
skepticism, even as he resolutely failed to develop his
She’s mostly appeared this season in plots not directly connected to the shenanigans of Francis Eight at the United Nations. She’s often involved in promoting or promulgating some new development in computer technology or a discovery in environmental science. Rather, she and Gary help protect them from threats and hostile actors, because this is an action-adventure show and we need guns and fistfights. As best as Selena can explain, Aegis morality revolves around a kind of total recycling, a society where every waste product is used for the construction of everything else. It’s a plural holism, valuing individual experimentations (which is why Gary hasn’t had his own work shut down over the last two seasons), but understanding that all parts of a smoothly running system are ultimately replaceable, providing their function to constitute the whole remains in place. The needs of the whole are of an entirely different category than the needs of individuals.
Of course, the Aegis’ progress hasn’t always been entirely successful. Many of the individualist values that developed in the West are entirely against Aegis moral principles. The same goes for the centralized dictatorships of the other major world powers over the years in Asia, which have holist elements, but are too draconian and easily corruptible. Aegis interference in human development is millennia old, and will continue for millennia more.
But the core idea is that the Aegis empire is a moral one; their desire is to build a network of intelligent races across the galaxy that share values and principles. Gary had come to dislike this idea because, however good he may think the moral principles are, he no longer thinks Aegis has the right to manipulate the history of worlds to encourage them developing those moral principles. He believes in autonomy of the development of worlds. The conflict with Francis Eight works along entirely different lines.
Because Francis is tired of the slow path to success in the Aegis plan, and he doesn’t think the idea of an empire of morality alone achieves all that can be achieved. Francis has seen how lofty and noble the moral goals of the Aegis are, and knows this is incompatible with the underhanded methods of secret agents and hidden cultural manipulation they use to achieve them. Francis can’t abide by the hypocrisy anymore, and he’s convinced his familiar Morrigan that their hypocrisy is likewise intolerable.
At least this is what he says to Gary Seven when they finally confront each other in his office at the United Nations. Francis and Morrigan have failed to manipulate Gary and Roberta into ending their friendship, and they’ve traced the interference to Francis. When Gary confronts him, Francis explains all this, and ends his speech with the rhetorical flourish that marks him clearly as the villain of the season. Imagine Patrick Troughton and Leonard Nimoy having this conversation:
|Francis Eight would be every inch the upstanding imperial|
gentleman of the modern era.
Francis Eight (Patrick Troughton): “I couldn’t abide the hypocrisy anymore, Gary. I simply could not! I have lived such a long life for the Aegis, and all this time I’ve been their slave. But I was happy in this slavery. My life was comfortable, my goals assured and guaranteed. You know how good it feels to devote yourself wholeheartedly to a cause that’s bigger than you are, almost infinitely bigger. It was like we were working for gods. According to most religions, I suppose we technically are working for gods. Your heart must be so empty living as an apostate.”
Gary Seven (Leonard Nimoy): “It was a happy life. But I still have a happy life. There are other ways to be happy.”
Francis: “Oh, I’m sure there are. And I’ll find my own way to be happy again soon. You see, I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy of the Aegis going to so much effort for such a modest goal as creating a shared morality, as if they wanted every intelligent life form in the universe to be their echo. As if that were enough.”
Gary: “Enough? What do you mean by enough?”
Francis: “Our masters want a moral empire. But we would have no place in that moral empire. We’re the soldiers, the ones to build the empire. But once the empire is established, our work would be done. We’d be superfluous. Useless. What I do, I do not for us, but for our descendants, those who our masters will discard when the work is done. When the Aegis learn the rules of my empire, we’ll never be rejected. Operatives will always be necessary.”
Gary: “An operative has his task, and his work is done when his task is done. That’s what we always learned.”
Francis: “True empire is a never-ending task, Gary. The Aegis will only truly profit and prosper when they control Earth. An Earth on the same moral level as the Aegis will be their equal. They’re building an empire just to give it away. The purpose of an empire is to keep it.”
As the full weight of what Francis has just said dawns on Gary, the sky darkens overhead and the penultimate episode of Assignment: Earth’s fourth season comes to an end. A massive Aegis ship, black, round, covered with angular protrusions and lights of a thousand colours, descends over New York City as Francis Eight laughs maniacally as his dream of a genuine interstellar empire comes to fruition.