Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series: “I, Mudd”

“I, Mudd”
Written by Stephen Kandel
Directed by Marc Daniels
Season 2, Episode 12
Production episode 60341
Original air date: November 3, 1967
Stardate: 4513.3

Captain’s log. McCoy and Spock discuss a new crew member, Lieutenant Norman. He doesn’t smile, only talks about ship’s business, refuses to discuss anything personal, and has missed two appointments for his physical.

Norman goes to auxiliary control and renders Ensign Jordan unconscious, then takes control of the ship from there. He inputs a new course and sets the Enterprise on it. Security reports to auxiliary control to find only Jordan. Norman’s gone, but he’s locked out the controls. Norman has moved on to engineering, and taken over that as well, after rendering the entire crew unconscious.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Norman’s next stop is the bridge. He informs Kirk that he has set up a trigger relay that will destroy the ship if they try to change course. Norman reveals himself to be an android—which explains why he didn’t report for his physical, as well as how he beat the crap out of everyone in sight—and he assures Kirk that “we” have no harmful intent, but they do need the ship. They’ll arrive in four days. When asked for specifics, Norman says, “I am not programmed to respond in that area.”

Then Norman simply shuts down, right in the middle of the bridge. He stays there for four days, crew members awkwardly moving around him, until they arrive at an uncharted planet, and then Norman wakes up. He informs Kirk that he, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, and Chekov will beam down to the planet. On the one hand, he says he’ll blow up the ship if they don’t beam down; on the other hand, he does say “please.”

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

So they all beam down to an underground cavern, and are brought to the ruler of the world: Mudd the First, a.k.a. Harcourt Fenton Mudd. He is surrounded by four identical women, who are also androids (and all named Alice). Kirk is furious. He tries to call the Enterprise, but one of the Alices crushes the communicator with one hand.

Mudd explains that he organized a technical information service that brings technology to various worlds that need it—but without paying royalties on those patents. He sold a Vulcan fuel synthesizer to the Denebians, who then contacted the Vulcans. The penalty for fraud on Deneb V is death, so Mudd broke out of jail, stole a ship, and barely escaped—but not before the Denebians fired on him and damaged his navigational array. He wandered about for quite some time until he crashed on this planet, which includes two hundred thousand androids, all ready to serve his whim. But they also wanted to serve and study humans, and Mudd ran out of things for them to do, and they won’t let him leave. So he sent Norman off to fetch a starship captain and his crew. The androids can have four hundred people to play with and Mudd can finally leave the world.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Mudd also reveals that he keeps an android version of his wife around, one who nags him just as the real one did (and who drove him out into space), but who shuts down when he says, “Shut up.”

Norman and two Alices show them to a common area with quarters nearby. Norman explains that their creators came from another galaxy, but their sun went nova, and most of them died. The only survivors were on remote outposts, like this one, but eventually they too died, leaving the androids without purpose or function. Mudd’s arrival gave them that function.

After the androids leave, the crew discuss their options, with Chekov, McCoy, and Spock all agreeing that they’re in a lot of trouble. Spock seems to think that there has to be a central control for the androids to direct their programming. Kirk tasks him with finding it, and tells the other three to look around and learn everything they can.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Spock quickly finds the control area, though he is skeptical of Norman’s claim that the simple relay station he’s standing in front of is capable of controlling all two hundred thousand androids.

Mudd shows Kirk and Uhura the place where the androids are created. The bodies are believed to able to last for five hundred thousand years (none of them have actually broken down yet), and Alice explains that they can transfer someone’s consciousness into an android body. Uhura is intrigued by the notion.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

The androids beam up to the Enterprise and send down the entire rest of the crew, then take it over themselves. Kirk is furious, and tries to choke Mudd, before getting ahold of his temper. Spock agrees that the androids are loyal to Mudd, so they will act as his crew on the Enterprise, and he can probably stay ahead of Starfleet indefinitely, given that he’s got a top-of-the-line capital ship.

Spock also points out that the facilities here can provide people with pretty much anything they want instantly. That’s going to be a nasty temptation for the crew. As if to prove the point, we see Chekov being waited on hand and foot by two Alices, and Scotty gets access to a state-of-the-art engineering shop.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Kirk tries to ask Alice to give them their ship back, as that will make them happy—without it, they are unhappy. Alice is confused, as their needs are all being fulfilled, so they should be happy. Desire for the Enterprise confuses Alice (particularly when Kirk calls her a beautiful lady and says they love her), and she gets caught in a brief feedback loop, saying things like “illogical,” and “all units converge,” and “Norman coordinate,” before declaring the notion of unhappiness to be a silly goose and they must study it further.

When Mudd orders the androids to bring his bags to the Enterprise, they say “no” in perfect unison. They reveal that they knew Mudd was a weasel of the highest order, but they used him to gain knowledge. They have decided that people need to be taken care of and made happy by the androids in order to keep them from succumbing to their base instincts. By catering to them and taking care of them, they will keep them from being greedy and corrupt and warlike. It’s actually kind of practical in a holy-shit-that’s-scary way.

Our heroes (and Mudd) gather in the common area to figure out what to do next. Spock points out that there are hundreds of Alices, Maisies, Hermans, etc., but only one Norman. Given Alice’s “Norman coordinate” line, it’s possible that Norman is the true central brain for the androids. What they need to do is take out Norman—preferably with irrationality, as that seems to give the androids fits—and the rest will follow.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

They enact Plan A, which involves sedating Mudd. Kirk then goes to Alice and asks for access to McCoy’s medical equipment in sickbay to care for Mudd, who is “ill.” Alice is directed to observe, and Kirk leads her to the common room, where McCoy is “examining” Mudd and says he’s dying.

Uhura then declares what they’re doing to be a trick, that they want to beam back so they can sabotage the ship. In exchange for this, Uhura wants an immortal android body. Alice refuses the request to go to the ship and promises Uhura that her android body will be ready by the time they leave.

As soon as Alice leaves, Kirk congratulates Uhura on her acting job. The androids were expecting the crew to try to escape, and now they have. They now enact Plan B.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd" Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Kirk sits on Mudd’s throne, which summons the Alices. Kirk asks for their attention. Scotty and McCoy enter and bow to each other. They mime playing instruments while Chekov and Uhura dance. The Alices are confused as there’s no actual music (Kirk asks them how they like the music, too), and Kirk says they’re celebrating their captivity. Chekov then compliments Uhura on her dancing, in response to which she slaps him. Kirk explains to the Alices that she slapped him because she likes him. Kirk then orders Chekov to stand still, at which point he starts dancing.

The Alices shut down in a puff of illogic.

In the engineering lab, Spock discusses dimensional interfaces with two more Alices. And then he says that he loves Alice 27 but hates Alice 210, because they are identical. They too shut down in a puff of illogic.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

They head to the control center, where there are two more Alices as well as Norman.

Kirk asks Norman to surrender. Norman says that’s illogical, as they are stronger and faster.

The crew explain to Norman—in overly dramatic and very silly fashion—that humans require more than nourishment of the body, but also nourishment of the soul.

Confused and bewildered, Norman goes to Spock, hoping that he will explain this logically. In response, Spock says, “Logic is a little bird tweeting in a meadow. Logic is a wreath of pretty flowers that smells bad.”

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Scotty then does a dramatic death scene, declaring himself tired of happiness, comfort, and pleasure, so Kirk, Spock, and McCoy “fire” on him with their index fingers and silly sound effects. McCoy declares him dead. They laugh over his dead body and Kirk gives a speech about how important dreams are.

Kirk and Spock then mime putting an explosive together. Spock “throws” the explosive to Mudd, who mimes almost dropping it. Mudd then is handed several nonexistent items by McCoy, then he golfs the explosive, while everyone pretends to wince in pain from the noise of the explosion.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Two more Alices shut down in a puff of illogic. Kirk then tells Norman that everything Mudd says is a lie. Mudd then says he is lying. Norman is sufficiently mindfucked at this point that he can’t handle it and begs Kirk to explain. Kirk says, “I am not programmed to respond in that area.” And then Norman goes blooey.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

The androids are reprogrammed to their original function of getting the planet ready for colonization. Mudd is paroled to the android population as a human irritant, a perfect example of a human failure. He’ll stay there as long as he remains an irritant.

At first, Mudd thinks it won’t be so bad, given all the female androids whom he’ll be surrounded by. But then Kirk informs him that they’ve created a new series of androids specifically designed to cater to Mudd’s every need: Stella. Three of them (one of which is numbered 500) come out to nag the crap out of him as the crew beams back to the Enterprise.Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Spock says that androids “must” have a centralized computer that runs them, which makes no sense on the face of it. It’d be one thing if he said the way they spoke in unison indicated such a thing, but Spock speaks definitively as if that’s the only possible way an android could function, something that is belied by the previous use of androids on the show—the mechanical folk in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” needed no central authority to control them—and later uses—Data, Lore, and Lal on TNG.

Fascinating. The androids gravitate toward Spock because he is logical and rational. Mudd sees this, too—at one point he says Spock will love it on Mudd’s Planet, because “they all talk just the way you do.”

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy sees a biolab that he says he could spend the rest of his life in. Which is kind of why the androids showed it to him.

Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu only appears in the early part of the episode on the Enterprise, not in any of the scenes on Mudd’s Planet. George Takei will be missing for the next ten episodes, not back until “Return to Tomorrow,” as he was off filming The Green Berets, a John Wayne film in which Takei played Captain Nim, a South Vietnamese military officer.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Hailing frequencies open. Uhura is obviously intrigued by the notion of eternal youth in an android body, but it’s only curiosity—when push comes to shove, she has no interest, but she fakes it enough to fool the androids.

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty does a particularly horrible death scene. Then again, he has actually died once before

It’s a Russian invention. Chekov describes Mudd’s Planet as “even better than Leningrad.” Of course, the city stopped being called that in 1991, returning to its original name of St. Petersburg (the name the city had between its founding in 1703 and 1924, when it was renamed after Vladimir Lenin following his death).

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. The Alices make it clear to Chekov that they are fully functional, and also that their sexual subroutines (they don’t use those words, as it’s 1967) were programmed by Mudd himself. Wah-HEY!

Channel open. “I am not programmed to respond in this area.”

The most used line in the episode.

Welcome aboard. Roger C. Carmel makes a triumphant return as Mudd, having previously been seen in “Mudd’s Women.” He’ll be back in “Mudd’s Passion” on the animated series.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

The various series of androids were played by twins in order to simplify the filming process and cut down on the number of effects shots needed (and also to enable those shots to have more people in them). Alyce and Rhae Andrece play the Alices, Ted and Tom LeGarde play the Hermans, Colleen and Morreen Thornton play the Barbaras, and Starr and Tamara Wilson play the Maisies. Richard Tatro plays Norman, while Kay Elliot plays Stella.

Plus recurring regulars George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig are all present, alongside Mike Howden and Michael Zaslow as other Enterprise crew.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Trivial matters: This is the first sequel in Trek history, as this is a followup to “Mudd’s Women,” and the first time we’ve seen a one-time guest star make a return engagement.

David Gerrold did an uncredited rewrite of the script. He was actually offered co-scripting credit, but Gerrold declined, preferring to let Stephen Kandel—who created Mudd—keep all the credit (and concomitant residual monies).

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

The title, like pretty much every like title, up to and including TNG‘s “I, Borg,” was inspired by Robert Graves’s seminal novel I, Claudius.

The 2006 remastering of this episode had one of the more peculiar changes: the closeup of Norman’s “belly flap” opening to reveal his circuitry was replaced with what the CGI programmers probably thought was a more sophisticated control panel. But the new one doesn’t look any more or less ridiculous than the old one, and is honestly one of several reasons why I don’t even bother with the remastered versions, as far too many changes are unnecessary and pointless.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

This, along with “Mudd’s Women,” was not adapted in any of the collections of adaptations of episodes, mostly by James Blish, but rather in a separate volume called Mudd’s Angels by Blish’s widow J.A. Lawrence, which adapted the two live-action Mudd episodes and also had an original novella featuring Mudd called “The Business, as Usual, During Altercations.” Among other things, the novella established that the real Stella was actually much worse than her android counterpart…

To boldly go. “Harcourt Fenton Mudd!” This episode is why Mudd is well remembered as a character, and it’s entirely on the back of the uncredited David Gerrold. I mean, we don’t know precisely what was Gerrold’s rewrite and what was in Stephen Kandel’s original script, but we also have Kandel’s other scripts and Gerrold’s other scripts, and it’s Gerrold whose dialogue tends to crackle and snap and have magnificent comic beats.

And it’s the dialogue that makes this episode shine like a big giant shining thing. Roger C. Carmel owns the role of scoundrel, and the entire episode is worth it for the scene where he explains what happened to him since last we saw him, and Kirk “translates” for him. Indeed, Carmel and William Shatner make a superb double act throughout most of the episode.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Of all the Kirk-makes-the-computer-go-blooey episodes, this is my favorite because the crew hits Norman and the others with one thing that really might make a computer put its little feet up and go “urk!” and that’s insane humor. Because that’s such a subjective, such a ridiculous thing that I can actually almost believe that their looniness made them all short-circuit. (Certainly, more than I believe the absurdity of “The Return of the Archons” or “The Changeling“…)

I also like that Spock is right in the middle of the craziness, and he does so beautifully, best seen in his superb delivery of the “smells bad” line. For all that he tamps down his emotions and thinks logic is just the jinkiest, Spock has had a sense of humor from jump, seen as early as his recommendation that Bailey have his adrenal gland removed in “The Corbomite Maneuver,” not to mention his “beads and rattles” line to McCoy at the top of this episode.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Not only is the episode genuinely hilarious, with the snappiest dialogue this side of “The Trouble with Tribbles” (gawrsh), but underneath the guffawing is a good science fictional concept: the servants who care for people so much that they become indolent—or prisoners. The androids’ plan is an insidious one, and the bland monotone in which Norman spells it out makes it more so.

The episode’s only flaw is 100% a byproduct of being produced in 1967, and for all that a shrill voice screaming “Harcourt Fenton Mudd!” has become a Trek staple, the character of Stella Mudd is pretty much everything that is wrong with popular culture’s portrayal of women in the 20th century. Mudd’s shuddering whining about his nagging shrew of a wife may have gotten laughs for Carmel in 1967—and for Henny Youngman in the 1940s—but it just makes the episode look dated and awful now.

Star Trek, Original Series, season 2, "I, Mudd"

Not enough to ruin it, of course, but still a blight on the episode that is otherwise delightful.

 

Warp factor rating: 8

Next week:The Trouble with Tribbles

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Arisia 2016 this weekend in Boston, Massachusetts, along with guests of honor John Scalzi, Johnna Y. Klukas, Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez III, and Venetia Charles. His full schedule—which includes a tribute to Leonard Nimoy panel—can be found here.

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