Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

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

“Mudd’s Passion”
Written by Stephen Kandel
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Animated Season 1, Episode 10
Production episode 22008
Original air date: November 10, 1973
Stardate: 4978.5

Captain’s log. The Enterprise is pursuing Harry Mudd to the Arcadian system, specifically the planet Motherlode, where Mudd is peddling a love potion to the heavy-metal miners down there. Motherlode is outside Federation jurisdiction, but when Spock exposes his love potion as a fake—the “woman” he used as a model was actually a Rigellian hypnoid—he turns himself in rather than face the wrath of the miners.

Mudd explains that he managed to escape the robot planet in a “borrowed” ship, sold Starfleet Academy to the Illyrians (which is how he got on the Federation’s radar), then discovered the love potion on Sirius IX, but when he sold the potion to the Sirians, they all got sick, which Mudd blames on the Sirians’ biochemistry.

Chapel treats Mudd in the brig, and he observes Chapel’s unrequited love for Spock, so he talks her into taking the love potion and trying it on herself and Spock. She agrees to take it and analyze it. For science. Yeah. While giving it to her, Mudd palms her phaser and ID card, using the former to break out of the brig, and altering the latter to have his own face on it.

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For her part, Chapel heads to Spock’s quarters to hand over Mudd’s medical record for the arrest report. Chapel “trips” and touches Spock. Nothing happens, so Chapel heads back to the brig, only to find that Mudd escaped with her weapon and ID. She tracks him to the shuttlebay and clubs him on the head.

However, it turns out the love potion does work, it just takes a little time to kick in. Spock becomes smitten with Chapel, and immediately reports to Kirk and McCoy that he’s feeling strange emotions.

Mudd tries to offer Chapel another crystal, thinking maybe the one was defective, but she won’t have any of it. However, when she tries to subdue him, the love potion is sucked into the ventilation system and Mudd manages to subdue Chapel and take her hostage, though not before she calls a security alert.

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The Enterprise is investigating a Class-M planet in a binary star system. Mudd takes Chapel into a shuttlecraft and heads to the planet. Spock, completely obsessed with Chapel, insists on leading the landing party himself. Kirk agrees, but goes with him. They beam down—Spock being very impatient on the subject—and declare their friendship for each other with smiles on their faces.

Meanwhile, the love potion gets into the air on the ship. M’Ress and Scotty start flirting, Arex starts playing a musical instrument, and everyone’s all happy and stuff—to the point where they’re no longer paying attention to their work.

The giant rock formations on the planet turn out to be large living creatures. They chase Mudd and Chapel, crushing the shuttle along the way. Phaser fire is barely effective, and Spock is too busy mooning over Chapel to focus on anything else. Mudd is rather shocked to discover that the potion actually works…

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Turns out that it only works temporarily—the love and happiness is followed by intense headaches and hatred.

Kirk uses the last two crystals on the rock creatures, at which point they focus on each other. That distracts the creatures long enough for the Enterprise to snap out of their funk and beam them back. Mudd gives a full confession to Chapel, who snaps at Spock, as she’s now all pissed at him.

Fascinating. Spock acts like a lovesick goon toward Chapel, and also says to Kirk that his idea is a stupid one.

I’m a doctor not an escalator. When affected by the love potion, McCoy chats up a female crew member with tales of all the times he’s saved the lives of the senior staff.

Hailing frequencies open. M’Ress runs communications, and also the science station when Spock is on the planet, with Uhura not actually seen in the episode, though McCoy does mention her.

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty is very annoyed that the love potion gives him a hangover without the benefit of having drunk Scotch first.

Forewarned is three-armed. Arex plays a nifty lute-like instrument when the crew is in the happy phase of the love potion.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Chapel’s unrequited love for Spock leads her to try the love potion on Spock. It does not go well for either of them. Meanwhile, M’Ress hits on Scotty and McCoy hits on an unidentified crewwoman.

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Channel open.

“That is an outstandingly stupid idea.”

–Spock’s best line since saying, “I am a fool” in “The City on the Edge of Forever.”

Welcome aboard. Roger C. Carmel reprises his role of Mudd, playing him for the third time, and also making him the third (and last) actor outside the main cast to reprise his role on the animated series after Mark Lenard and Stanley Adams.

The rest of the voices are provided by James Doohan (Scotty, Arex), Nichelle Nichols (one of the miners), and Majel Barrett (Chapel, M’Ress, the hypnoid). The human miner’s voice sounds like one of Filmation’s stock cast of voice actors.

Trivial matters: This episode marks the third appearance of Mudd, and the last on-screen one, though he’s seen in multiple works of tie-in fiction, as listed in the rewatches for “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd.”

Just as with the other two episodes, this one was written by Stephen Kandel (though David Gerrold did an uncredited rewrite of “I, Mudd”).

This is the first time Starfleet ID cards are seen—they’ll be glanced again in some of the movies.

Your humble rewatcher identified the lute that Arex was playing as a lood dir in the novel A Singular Destiny.

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To boldly go. “My dear friend, Spock.” This could’ve been a good episode. Stephen Kandel’s script actually isn’t too bad, if a bit simplistic. But this is a case where the fact that it’s an animated series, and in particular that the voice actors weren’t recorded together, hurts it. Mudd’s recitation of what he’s done since “I, Mudd” is, as written, a nice call-back to the similar scene in that earlier episode of what Mudd had been doing since “Mudd’s Women“—Mudd talking in euphemisms, and either Kirk or Spock “translating” into more blunt terms. Unfortunately, with the actors unable to play off each other directly, the timing on the scene is entirely off-kilter, and the humor is drained from it.

Leonard Nimoy’s inexperience with voiceover work at this stage in his career shows through, as his performance here as a lovesick goon is so much doofier than his like performances in “The Naked Time” and “This Side of Paradise” and “All Our Yesterdays.” There’s no nuance, and it’s just painful to observe. It doesn’t help that we’re denied Nimoy’s facility for subtle facial expressions.

This also harms Roger C. Carmel’s performance, as the joy of watching Mudd is as much in Carmel’s facial expressions and especially his body language. Filmation’s crude animation can’t re-create that, instead giving Mudd a near-permanent used-car-salesman smile that doesn’t do the character any favors. (Also, what happened to that poor Rigellian hypnoid? Spock shot it and then it just wandered off. They could’ve at least taken it into custody or found it a home or something.)

Finally—and this is entirely on the back of Kandel—the episode is a major insult to the character of Christine Chapel, who falls for Mudd’s lame confidence scam, allows her phaser and ID to be taken (which she doesn’t notice for a good ten minutes or so), and then manages to come out a loser in a confrontation in which she has a phaser on an unarmed person. Yeah. (Also, why is it so easy to alter a Starfleet ID? Seriously, it’s harder to alter a driver’s license now…..)

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It’s fun to have Mudd back, but the episode has too little humor, and not enough bite, plus the love potion plot has whiskers on it. Just a major disappointment.

Warp factor rating: 3

Next week:The Terratin Incident

Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest work is on sale today! The third Super City Cops novella, Secret Identities, is now out, following up from Avenging Amethyst and Undercover Blues. Telling the story of cops in a city filled with superheroes, these novellas are published by Bastei. For ordering information, cover, promo copy, and an excerpt, check out Keith’s blog. (There’s also an excerpt from Avenging Amethyst right here on Tor.com.)

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