Ah, Harry Mudd, that old rascal I’ve heard so much about. I’ve seen a version of the man, of course–Rainn Wilson in Discovery–but not Classic Harry Mudd, not until now.
I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t exactly expecting the hat. Or the mustache. Or the giant poofy sleeves.
There will be SPOILERS for this episode and probably the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.
WHAT GOES DOWN, BASICALLY
The Enterprise chases after a small ship, which immediately flees into an asteroid field. Kirk screws over his own engines in order to save the lives of those he’s pursuing, namely, a conman named Harry Mudd, and three beautiful women characterized as cargo: Eve, and two others who clearly don’t matter to the plot. These women are mail-order brides, and they seem to bewitch any human man they meet.
Before Kirk can hand Mudd over to the authorities, the Enterprise has to stop at a mining colony to replace their damaged
dilithium lithium crystals. Mudd makes a deal with the miners, who in turn offer a deal to the Enterprise: they’ll only part with the crystals if they get the brides and Kirk lets Mudd go free.
Eventually, it’s discovered that Mudd is giving the women some bullshit called the Venus Drug, which is what’s making them all unnaturally alluring. Eve gets paired off with this sulky miner named Childress, who’s extremely pissed that Mudd duped him. But Kirk slips Eve a placebo pill to prove that her beauty actually comes from believing in her self, or some shit. Eve stays with Childress, while Kirk gets his crystals and leaves, taking Mudd with him.
This is kind of a boring episode.
It’s not the absolute worst episode, or anything. But for all the build up, Harry Mudd is a bit of a disappointment: there’s nothing here that actually strikes me as terribly iconic. I mean, the outfit, maybe, but otherwise, meh? I know Mudd comes back at least once, so hopefully I’ll find him more interesting then.
Worse, there really isn’t enough plot here to justify a whole episode. It’s mostly just, uh, sexism. Like, a fair amount of sexism. And believe me, people: I, too, would like these recaps to not always be all “TOS and Gender Imbalance: A Study In Pop Culture,” but they keep providing me the lecture material.
The best thing I can say about Eve and the other two brides here is that, at least, they’re not being married against their will; each genuinely seem to want husbands. Unfortunately, TOS never really bothers to give any consideration to what else they might want; their only desire, apparently, is to get dudes so they can cook and clean for them. Like, maybe I could get this if they were each searching the galaxy for their one and only, but these aren’t women seeking domestic bliss with their One True Love; these are women who apparently have no other path but to find some stranger who will consent to marry them. And, like. Star Trek is supposed to be this huge universe full of equality and diversity and possibility. Even if these ladies do come from shitty planets where marriage is their only path to survival, like, they’re all on the Enterprise now. Maybe someone could show them there are a few other options if they’re so inclined?
Well, no one does that. Certainly not the female Starfleet officers, who are barely in this episode–something that’s lousy not only on a thematic level but just a failure of basic plot mechanics, too. (Like, if you’re a dude captain and all your dude officers are too busy drooling over the new passengers to do their duties, maybe it’s time to have your lady officers do some investigative work, yes?) Sadly, despite the fact that this is the kind of episode that just screams for female perspective, we really just get Eve, the only bride with even the smallest amount of personality . . . which, really, can be quickly pared down into her single, frustrated desire to be married for who she really is (read: what she really looks like) rather than just how the Venus drug makes her look.
And seriously. There are so many problems with the ending here. One: the placebo effect, while sometimes powerful, does not and cannot provide makeup and soft focus. Self-confidence can certainly make people more attractive, but no matter how awesome I feel about myself, eyeshadow does not spontaneously appear on my face. Two: this dude, Childress, has been nothing but a dick to Eve this whole time, but now that he knows she’s not pill-popping-pretty but naturally pretty, he wants to get to know her better . . . and she’s just cool with that? UGH. Three: I’m sorry, but what exactly is the moral here? Ugly girls, you just don’t believe in yourself enough? Clap your hands if you believe, and you’ll be attractive enough for some arbitrary asshole to decide you’re worthy to cook for him?
Honestly, I get what TOS is going for here, but wow, do they wildly miss the mark with this episode.
According to Memory Alpha, there’s a deleted scene where Mudd tries to convince Uhura to take the Venus drug. I’m disappointed that this scene was cut, although I can’t help but wonder how much dialogue Uhura would’ve even had, considering the scene is described as Mudd’s “lengthy monologue.” I would’ve taken a lengthy monologue where Uhura told Mudd to shove his pills up his ass, but I guess that’s what fanfiction is for.
I still can’t get over the fact that we’ve already seen the only TOS episode (“The Naked Time”) which has Uhura, Christine, and Janice in it. This is some Bechdel-failing bullshit.
Spock, wildly flip-flopping once again, proves to be my favorite part of the episode, as he openly smirks at all the men acting like idiots around the brides. I know it’s OOC for him to smile this much, but man, I don’t even care. It’s hilarious.
Mudd’s whole trial seems weird to me, like, there doesn’t really seem to be any reason to have this here on the ship? Also, I see we’ve replaced the truth serum referenced in “The Man Trap” with some sort of future polygraph that can tell if the guys present are hot and horny. Personally, I’m disappointed. I really wanted to see that truth serum.
Why the hell does no one live or work on a hospitable planet? So far, it’s all frozen worlds and disintegrating worlds and miserable, rocky, dust storm worlds. Where is my away mission to Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet, damn it?
Chief Asshat of the Week is, thankfully, not going to a member of the crew this time. Obviously, Mudd’s a candidate, but . . . nope, I’ve definitely gotta go with Childress. This motherfucker reminds Eve that he’s been good to her because he hasn’t hit her yet. He tries to advise Eve how to play a card game that she knows and he doesn’t, then sullenly complains when she flatly tells him he’s wrong. He also knocks her cards off the table, shouts that she’s “homely,” and physically grabs her by the shoulders while yelling that he could’ve bought queens instead of her ugly ass. Gosh, I’m so happy Eve ends up staying with this guy after he decides that she wants to. (At least Kirk asks Eve for her opinion before taking off. I might have wept blood if he hadn’t.)
I also forgot to mention that Eve automatically equates her Beauty Face to being “vain, selfish, and useless,” while comparing such flawed traits to those of a Good Wife, who will “cry and need” as well as cook and sew, and oh good God, never mind, there are those blood tears I was worried about.
Fashion Report: Oh. Oh, there’s so much to discuss here, people:
First, Uhura is wearing a gold dress instead of her customary red. (At least, I assume it’s customary? All my TOS fashion knowledge has been so challenged in these first few episodes.)
Then of course there’s Harry Mudd himself, who not only sports a gigantic handlebar mustache, but also an orange shirt with massively poofy sleeves, a belt and belt buckle that are nearly bigger than my skull, a big brown rancher hat with half the brim awkwardly folded up, and . . . is that neck hair, or a necklace of hair? I genuinely can’t tell.
And then we have the brides. Eve and the brunette bride are both wearing these ugly, colorful, super sequined gowns, while the other blonde bride wears what I can only describe as an asymmetrical, sequined, purple poncho with one sleeve. And that’s it. No pants, no skirt. Just the poncho. The only thing covering her lady parts is the purple fringe around her waist.
Finally, I see the next episode is titled “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Oh God, it’s only going to get worse from here, isn’t it?
LINE OF THE EPISODE
“The fact that my internal arrangement differs from yours, Doctor, pleases me no end.”