Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “Mudd’s Women”

“Mudd’s Women”
Written by Gene Roddenberry and Stephen Kandel
Directed by Harvey Hart
Season 1, Episode 3
Production episode 6149-04
Original air date: October 13, 1966
Stardate: 1329.8

Captain’s log: The Enterprise is pursuing an unidentified Class-J cargo ship. The cargo ship is pushing its engines to the limit in its running-away strategy, and refusing to communicate. When the ship’s engines finally overheat, it’s adrift in an asteroid field. Kirk orders Lieutenant John Farrell to extend the deflectors around the cargo ship, but that starts to mess with the Enterprise’s engines. Scotty and Spock try to beam the crew aboard by locking onto their distress signal—but by the time they complete the transport, the Enterprise has burned out all its lithium crystals but one, and the last one has a hairline fracture.

Scotty beams aboard the shipmaster, a piratical looking chap—seriously, he’s got the floppy hat, the handlebar mustache, the poofy shirt, big belt, earring—who speaks with a comedy Irish accent and identifies himself as Leo Walsh. The only other crew on board are three hot babes—two blondes and a brunette—whose very presence turns Scotty and McCoy into drooling idiots, and also turns the camera settings to soft-focus.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

Spock, who has a somewhat amused look on his face at Scotty and McCoy’s adolescent idiocy, escorts Walsh and the three women to Kirk’s cabin, where Walsh explains to a gobsmacked Kirk that this isn’t his crew, it’s his cargo. Kirk also informs Walsh that he’ll be convening a hearing regarding Walsh’s actions and confines him and his “cargo” to quarters. When Walsh tries to reassure the women that everything will be all right, they keep trying to call him “Harry.”

Scotty can’t bypass the lithium crystals because they burned out the circuit array extending the deflectors around the cargo ship before it went boom. There’s a mining operation on Rigel XII where they can get new crystals. Kirk orders them to head there, then convenes Walsh’s hearing in the briefing room. He’s accused of travelling without a flight plan or an identification beacon, refusing to respond to hails, operating without a masters license (his license was expired)—and, it turns out, lying about who he is, as the computer identifies him as Harcourt Fenton Mudd, who’s been convicted of smuggling, counterfeiting, theft, and a number of other things. The ship he was on was supposed to be captained by Walsh, but he died, so Mudd assumed his identity. He’s in the business of wiving settlers—the three women were to become the spouses of lonely men on the frontier, and we remember again that this was filmed in 1966 when someone obviously thought it made sense to use “wife” as a verb.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

The computer has no record of the women, nor do sensor scans detect anything about them, though the computer does notice that the men on the hearing board are suffering from escalated body temperatures and blood pressure. One of the blondes, Eve, defends Mudd’s little operation, saying she was stuck on an automated farming world with the only company being fellow family members whom she had to clean up after.

When the final lithium crystal goes, Kirk orders Spock to contact the miners on Rigel XII and have them get the crystals ready instantly. Mudd is ecstatic—miners tend to be lonely and wealthy, and are the perfect marks—er, that is, clients for him.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

By the time they reach Rigel XII, the ship’s on battery power and will barely make it into orbit. Ruth comes to sickbay to flirt with McCoy, and her very presence makes the medical scanner go wonky. Meanwhile, Kirk finds Eve in his quarters uninvited. She admits to running in there to get away from the overwhelming attention of the male portion of the crew. She actually does a pretty good job of almost seducing Kirk, but at the last second she says she can’t do it, no matter what Mudd says.

We soon find out that Mudd sent each women to perform a task. Ruth’s job was to find out how many miners there are and how long they’ve been alone, while Magda gets the miners’ names and steals a communicator. Mudd contacts the mine and makes a deal. We also learn that the women are as beautiful and appealing as they are thanks to something called Venus drugs—which are wearing off, and it takes Mudd a while to remember where he hid them. After the women take the drugs (which look like glowy gummy vitamins), they go back to being soft-focused paragons of beauty.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

Childress and Gossett from the mine show up, and Childress makes it clear that the only currency he’ll accept for the crystals is Mudd’s women. Kirk refuses, threatening Childress with an aggressive lack of extraplanetary support from Starfleet, but Mudd calls his bluff, especially when the ship has to go to half-power.

Mudd and the women beam down. Ruth and Magda play along, dancing with the miners and generally trying to be as appealing as possible, but Eve is miserable, refusing to get into the convivial atmosphere. Childress—who refuses to give Kirk the crystals until he feels like it—abandons Eve and yanks Ruth away from Gossett. So Gossett tries to yank Magda away from Benton, which starts a fistfight. Eve, horrified, runs out into the magnetic dust storm outside, which will probably get her killed. Kirk, of course, goes after her, but they can’t find her on foot, so Kirk beams up to try to use the Enterprise to find her—and Childress, who also has been lost in the storm.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

The ship has about five hours of power left. But even as they search, Childress actually finds Eve and takes her back to his man cave (okay, it’s really his quarters built out of a rock, but sometimes you have to call a spade a gardening tool).

Childress wakes up from a nap to find that Eve has cooked for him. They have a rather tense interaction, with Childress preferring his own way of doing things, making it even more clear that the only thing he really wants is someone to shtup. And then the drugs wear off, and Childress is even more disgusted by the plainer verison of Eve.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

The Enterprise tracks Eve and Childress to the man cave and Kirk and Mudd beam down. Mudd admits that he’s used chemical enhancements. Eve takes the drug and asks if he really wants something pretty and vain or a woman who will actually cook and sew and do all those things that only women are fit to do and this is supposed to show what a good person she is and ACK!

Then Kirk and Mudd reveal that she didn’t take the drugs—they were gummy vitamins cleverly disguised as the Venus drugs. Apparently, she has the ability to put herself in soft focus and fix her hair without the use of pharmaceuticals. Childress agrees to provide all the crystals they need—and he would like to keep Eve around and talk to her.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

The ship is fixed, and off they go into the wild black yonder, with Mudd in custody, and Kirk offering to testify as a character witness at Mudd’s trial (to which Mudd’s reply is an appalled, “They’ll throw away the key!”).

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: The Enterprise, at least in this episode, channels its power through lithium crystals, which sorta-kinda explains why a lithium-cracking station was so useful in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” (This will soon be retconned to dilithium crystals.)

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

Fascinating: Mudd describes Spock as “part-Vulcanian,” the first indication of his father’s species. The fact that Mudd recognizes him as “part” just by looking at him indicates that the original notion was that Vulcans looked even less like humans than Spock does, if his halfbreed status was that obvious to a casual observer.

Still some remnants of shouty Spock, when he demands things from Mudd during the hearing, and he also spends a lot of the episode amused as hell at the way every male turns into a pile of goo in the presence of Mudd’s women. Seriously, look at that smile on his face when he brings Mudd to Kirk’s quarters, not to mention the swishy head tilt when he escorts the women out…

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

I’m a doctor not an escalator: McCoy is sufficiently kefluffled by Mudd’s women (especially Ruth) that he can’t even contrive an excuse to give them a medical exam (a lack Kirk chides him for), though he does notice that Ruth makes the medical scanner go flippity-flop.

I cannot change the laws of physics!: Scotty is able to get over his drooling idiocy in the transporter room via anger at his engines going to pieces.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

Go put on a red shirt: At least one, and often two, guards are on Mudd at all times. His attempts to get rid of them so he can speak freely in front of the women before the hearing fail utterly.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: The three women have a devastating effect on the men in the crew (except for Spock, though on him they have an indirect effect of amusement at the silly emotional people). When they report for their shift, Farrell is dazed and confused and Sulu, who’s also pretty taken but has his fecal matter together better, snaps him out of it.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

Channel open: “I read once that a commander has to act like a paragon of virtue. I never met a paragon.”

“Neither have I.”

Eve coming onto Kirk and Kirk being modest.

Welcome aboard: Making the first of three appearances as Harcourt Fenton Mudd is the great Roger C. Carmel, who will reprise the role in “I, Mudd” in the second season and “Mudd’s Passion” on the animated series. Karen Steele (Eve), Maggie Thrett (Ruth), and Susan Denberg (Magda) play the titular women, while Gene Dynarski (Childress), Jon Kowal (Gossett), and Seamon Glass (Benton) play the miners. Dynarski will twice return to Trek, as Krodak in “The Mark of Gideon” in the third season, and as Commander Quinteros in TNG’s “11001001.”

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

Plus we have recurring regulars DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, and Nichelle Nichols, as well as Jim Goodwin, making the first of three appearances as Farrell.

Trivial matters: This was one of the three stories Gene Roddenberry pitched as a possible Trek pilot, along with what eventually became “The Cage” and “Return of the Archons.” NBC’s stated reason for not going with this pitch was that they didn’t want to lead with a story about a space pimp and his female slaves. Good instincts, NBC!

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

A lengthy monologue, that Roger C. Carmel was reportedly very proud of, in which Mudd tries to convince Uhura to take the Venus drug, was cut.

There was a reference in Star Trek Into Darkness to “the Mudd incident,” during which the Enterprise obtained the flitter they used to land on Qo’noS in that film. Said incident was chronicled in the comic book Countdown to Darkness by Roberto Orci, Mike Johnson, & David Messina.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

James Blish was contracted by Bantam to adapt the episodes of Trek into short story format. Most of those adaptations were published in twelve anthologies released between 1967 and 1977. The two exceptions were this episode and “I, Mudd.” Blish and Bantam’s intention was to release a thirteenth volume called Mudd’s Angels, which would adapt the two Mudd episodes and also include an original Mudd novella. Blish died while working on Star Trek 12, but his widow, J.A. Lawrence, completed her husband’s work, adapting “Shore Leave” and “And the Children Shall Lead” for that final anthology, and also writing all three parts of Mudd’s Angels: adapting the two episodes and writing “The Business, as Usual, During Altercations.”

Beyond the works mentioned in the previous two paragraphs, Mudd has appeared in plenty of other tie-in fiction, including the novels Where Sea Meets Sky and Mudd in Your Eye, both by Jerry Oltion; the final issue of Gold Key’s Trek comic; issues #39-40 of DC’s first Star Trek monthly comic by Len Wein & Tom Sutton; issues #22-24 of DC’s second Trek monthly comic by Howard Weinstein & Gordon Purcell; and the Star Trek 25th Anniversary videogame.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

Plans for Mudd to return in the third season, in an episode entitled “Deep Mudd,” had to be scrapped due to Carmel being busy with film work.

Kirk identifies himself as “James T. Kirk,” thus exposing Gary Mitchell’s gravestone as a dirty dirty lie.

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

To boldly go: “This is me cargo.” I always liked the character of Harry Mudd, but that was entirely due to the joy and hilariousness of “I, Mudd” in the second season. I never had any interest in this episode, to the point that one time when I was playing FASA’s Trek role-playing game in college, the game master had someone show up with the name “Leo Walsh,” which was meant to be a hint to the players that it was Mudd. I totally missed the reference.

Watching it now, it’s like suffering through “Profit and Lace” all over again, though this story has a better excuse for its sexism than the Deep Space Nine episode. Not that it makes it any better. Mudd is, basically, a space pimp—what he’s selling is sex, which Eve all but comes out and says to Childress, limited only by 1966 Broadcast Standards & Practices not letting people use that word out loud. But the more “noble” calling that Eve yearns for is also to service a man, just in different ways: cleaning up after him, cooking for him, sewing for him, crying for him (yes, she really holds up crying for a man as a virtue). The fact that there are women assigned to the ship, many of whom are officers, is avoided like the plague (why aren’t there some women on the board of inquiry?).

Star Trek, Mudd's Women

Plus there’s not enough story here for an hour. The initial chase of Mudd’s ship goes at a snail’s pace, there’s way too much time spent standing around with furrowed brows worrying about the ship, and there’s way way way too much time spent on lingering soft-focus shots of the three women and recycling the same closeup of Ruth staring seductively. Plus the whole “Leo Walsh” misdirect is utterly pointless, as the only purpose it serves is to a) drag out the plot and b) display the inadequacies of Roger C. Carmel’s Irish accent.

The episode gets a point for introducing one of the more entertaining characters in the franchise, but that’s all this sexist twaddle deserves.

 

Warp factor rating: 2

Next week:The Enemy Within


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at (Re)Generation Who this weekend in Hunt Valley, Maryland (along with Doctors Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and, via Skype, Tom Baker, as well as dozens of other Who actors and writers). Exclusively at this con, Keith will have copies of the out-of-print Short Trips anthology Destination Prague at his table in Artist Alley, and he’ll sign and sell plenty of other books of his. His schedule is here.

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