The final broadcast episode of Star Trek's second season was this clever and funny story in which the Enterprise travels back in time to 1968 (the year this program aired) to discover how the nuclear arms race came to an end. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) encounters a strange fellow named Gary Seven (Robert Lansing), who claims to have been trained by extraterrestrials in sabotaging the escalating nuclear threat. With the ambivalent aid of a nervous secretary (Teri Garr), Seven (yes, there was a Trek character with that name before Voyager) attempts to carry out his assignment, but Kirk isn't sure if he can be trusted. Lansing's droll and somewhat imperious performance is nicely counterpointed by Garr's cute confusion, and the eerie presence of his familiar--a black cat named Isis--adds a hint of hoodoo exotica. (Don't blink at the end or you'll miss the really exotic creature Isis briefly turns into.) "Assignment: Earth" was actually the pilot for an intended Gene Roddenberry-produced TV series that never happened. Too bad... But speaking of eerie, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) at one point refers to an important assassination that will soon take place. A week after this episode's original airdate, Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered.
"Spectre of the Gun"
In this taut, exciting episode, the Enterprise trespasses Melkotian space and is punished in a unique fashion. Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan), and Chekov (Walter Koenig) are all transported to the planet's eerie surface, where they are trapped in a re-creation of 1881 Tombstone and mistaken for the Clanton brothers, doomed principals in the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral. Despite their efforts to avoid trouble, Kirk and company can't seem to avoid their fateful duel with the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday (Sam Gilman). When Chekov is shot dead by Morgan Earp (Rex Holman), the danger is all too clear. The strange Twilight Zone look and atmosphere of this episode--tumbleweeds and Old West facades popping up in a black void--grips one's imagination and doesn't let go until the very end. Fans of Captain Kirk's street-fighting style will especially enjoy the thrilling climax. --Tom Keogh