This is another in a line of songs on the more ridiculous side, which I think will sit comfortably next to the likes of “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “The Deadly Years.” It is also the first song I wrote for Year Four, even before Five Year Mission had gone through our normal process of randomly choosing song titles from a Gorn mask.
“Assignment: Earth,” the final episode of Star Trek TOS season 2, is in many ways the “least Trek” of any episode ever produced. This is due to the fact that it was devised as a backdoor pilot for another series which was to debut later in 1968. It appears that “Assignment: Earth,” the series, would basically have been an American version of Doctor Who, starring Robert Lansing as the mysterious lead, Gary 7, and a young Teri Garr as supporting actress in the role of secretary Roberta Lincoln. Spock and Kirk appear throughout the episode, but their presence primarily seems confusing and contrived. And while the premise for the series showed some promise, the results of the pilot episode are somewhat underwhelming. Use of some NASA stock footage only highlights the feeling that this 50-minute episode could have been told better (and more excitingly) were it half that length.
Nonetheless, the uniqueness of this episode in the TOS canon instantly inspired me with a clear musical direction: I would write a “theme song” for the series that was never made. As the aborted show would have been released in 1968, I attempted to craft a track that would combine vintage sounds with stylistic elements of themes like “Secret Agent Man” and the 60’s Batman television series. Of the songs that I wrote for Year Four, “Assignment: Earth” was written the most quickly. Demoed at about the same time as “For His Head Is Hollow and I Have Touched) Spock’s Brain!” from our previous album, “Assignment: Earth!” was likewise given a more deluxe demo treatment than any of my previous Five Year Mission songs, with multiple guitar parts, percussion, and vocal harmonies.
Despite it’s earlier writing date, “Assignment: Earth” was the last of my songs to reach the rehearsal room or recording sessions. Because we had worked on the song less than most of the others from Year Four, I laid down many of the parts myself during the recording process, including lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, and an idea for a rough bass line until the final version could be added. The final bit I insisted on adding was the announcer voice at the beginning and end of the track, basically evoking an advertisement for the upcoming television show.
What would “Assignment: Earth,” the series, have actually been like, had it been made? Fifty years later, it’s impossible to say for certain. But I am happy to have created something fun that harkens back to those late sixties days of abandon when men were real men, women were real women, and t.v. show pilots were season finales in other shows.
Five Year Mission
Written by Patrick O’Connor