Boldly Going: Mudd’s Women

16 Feb

Annnnnnd…I’m back.

Stardate: 1329.1

Original Air Date: October 13, 1966

The Story: While pursuing a stolen cargo ship, the Enterprise beams aboard a few of the passengers before the fleeing ship is destroyed in an asteroid field. Three beautiful space ladies and a colorful, boisterous man named Leo Walsh, who claims to the ship’s captain, are beamed aboard prior to the ship’s destruction. The women, Ruth, Magda and Eve, have a strange, almost hypnotic effect on nearly every male crew member of the Enterprise— with the exception of a skeptical, smirking Spock and a level-headed Kirk, who plans to bring Walsh up on charges.

Before long, Walsh is revealed to be a fraud; he’s actually Harcourt Fenton Mudd, a kind of space pimp and wanted criminal cruising around the galaxy looking to marry off his women.  At the same time, the Enterprise is running low on the dilithium crystals that power it (thanks to the space chase that opened the episode), meaning they’ve got to land on the closest mining planet and refuel. Learning this, Mudd plots to marry his women off to the rich miners of Rigel XII and strikes a deal with the mining chief, Ben Childress. When the Enterprise touches down on Rigel XII, Childress tells Kirk he’ll receive no dilithium crystals unless Mudd’s women are handed over. What Childress doesn’t know — what no one knows but Mudd — is that the women are being kept beautiful and youthful-looking by ingesting a Venus drug that disguises their plainness.

Eve, distraught over being married off to Childress and forced to live life as a domestic servant, runs away. Both Childress and Kirk catch up with her and Kirk, who has learned the secret of the womens’ beauty, gives Eve a placebo that gives her the confidence to once again appear beautiful. The women decide to stay on Rigel XII with the miners, and Childress gives Kirk the dilithium to save the Enterprise from destruction. Mudd is taken away to face charges…though an incredibly rudimentary knowledge of Star Trek tells me that he’ll be back someday.

Reflections from a First Timer: What a strange episode “Mudd’s Women” is. Part goofy comedy, part mixed-message statement about gender politics and women’s lib, it’s a tremendously entertaining installment without really resonating at all. I don’t know whether to take the show to task for sidelining Kirk and the crew for most of the final act or to applaud the show for taking that kind of chance. For such an inconsequential episode, it sure left me with a lot of mixed feelings.

“Mudd’s Women” was originally written to be Star Trek‘s second pilot, and I’m awfully glad it didn’t get to that point. It’s not a bad episode, but it would have set the wrong tone for the show; it’s too goofy and fails to play up nearly all of the characters’ strengths. Spock, while a bit more lively and spry than ususal, is reduced to nothing more than a “look at you silly humans” smirk (though it is revealed that his internal organs are in different places than ours). McCoy spends most of the episode with a dopey grin, hypnotized by the beauty of Mudd’s women (one thing that’s most amusing about the episode? What passes for other-worldly beauty on Star Trek). Sure, Kirk gets to be the strong leader and eventually saves the day, but most of his textures aren’t on display — he’s a one-note hero.

Still, Mudd is fun in a very obvious guest-star kind of way. Dressed like he’s straight out of the flamboyant outback, Mudd is all puffy shirt and handlebar moustache (he needs a pair of frosty mugs to help complete the picture). Roger Carmel is clearly having a terrific time playing him, and it’s good to see a “villain” who isn’t bent on domination or a misunderstood alien — Mudd’s just a slippery con man, and it takes a different skill set to bring a guy like that down. It’s neat to see Kirk play against him, though the episode misses the opportunity for much sparring; Kirk gets the upper hand on Mudd early on and retains it, even with back-door deal the space pimp strikes with Childress. I don’t know if the original Star Trek was big on recurring characters, but I do know that Mudd is someone who shows up in at least one subsequent episode. Based on “Mudd’s Women,” I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

Enterprise Casualties: None!

Badass Kirk Moment: Pep-talkin’ the pretty lady: “There are two kinds of people in this world: those that believe in themselves, and those that don’t.” He literally talks a woman into being hot.

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6 Responses to “Boldly Going: Mudd’s Women”

  1. Darren February 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    Nice assessment.

    Mudd’s Women is an episode that I’ve never felt strongly about one way or the other. It’s not bad but it’s not terribly memorable either. Probably the same scenario could have been better executed a little later in the season when the producers had found their stride. Harry Mudd is a good character and I like the dynamic that exists between him and Kirk. I’ve always kind of wished that he was used in The Trouble with Tribbles in the Cyrano Jones role instead of the I, Mudd episode.

    • PATRICK BROMLEY February 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      I think that’s pretty much exactly how I feel, too, Darren. Mudd is ok as a character and strikes a different tone than most of the villains on Star Trek, but it’s far from being a “great” episode. And that’s a great call on “Tribbles,” since it seems like that’s exactly what they’re going for with Cyrano Jones.

  2. Nick February 20, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    I’ve always thought this episode was fun. It’s not often you see non-Starfleet humans in space throughout the series and we also see that some of the more… colorful… characteristics of humanity have survived our trek into space.

    I like Fenton Hardcourt Mudd. I think he is enjoyable to watch. His crime sheet says he has had psychiatric treatment and that the effectiveness of this treatment is “disputed” That amuses me to no end. Perhaps Roddenberry was a closet Scientologist. lol

    I do have to dispute something Patrick said here… which also brings up a bit of trivia about the episode:

    This is the first episode that mentions what fuels the Enterprise’s engine…. except in this episode the Enterprise is not fueled by Dilithium… it is, in fact, fueled by Lithium! If my memory serves me correctly this is the only mention of Lithium Fuel in all of the episodes in all of franchises. Obviously Starfleet quickly found a better fuel. 🙂

    Also Spock is not a Vulcan in this episode. He is a Vulcanian. Again the only reference of it’s kind.

    As Patrick mentioned this was a pilot script and Roddenberry was still hammering out the finer points of the show.

    Great review as always… minus the Lithium. How could you Patrick… how could you.

    🙂

    • PATRICK BROMLEY February 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

      I promise I’m going to make a ton of mistakes, Nick, especially as it pertains to the specifics of the show. Please feel free to continue correcting me in the comments, and as much as I’d like to promise I’m going to try and be better about that kind of stuff, there’s a good chance it won’t happen.

      As always, thanks for all of your commentary. Your comments at the end of each article are like “footnotes,” and that’s awesome. Plus, way less work for me!

  3. Heath Holland February 22, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    When I first saw this episode, circa 2005, I really couldn’t stand Mudd. Time has softened that quite a bit and when I watched it again when the Blu-Rays came out, I liked it way more. I think it’s the mustache…it’s just sex, man. One of these days I’m gonna rock my own version of that ‘stache.

    I guess you can tell the episode didn’t resonate too much with me either outside of just being a fun, average filler episode.

    • PATRICK BROMLEY February 27, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      That seems to be the general consensus around here, Heath. The episode isn’t all that remarkable; what makes it stand out at all is Mudd (understandable that you would hate him, but you have to respect how strong he keeps his pimp hand), who’s just different enough from EVERY OTHER Star Trek villain (except Cyrano Jones, as Darren points out above) to make the episode stand out.

      Good to have you over with us, Heath!

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