Monday, July 09, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 6 (Mudd's Women)

Any advanced society is going to have an undesirable element.  There will be places that aren’t safe.  There will be people who are less than reputable.  The United Federation of Planets is no exception.   Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd is one such example.  He tries to evade Starfleet’s flagship only to be brought aboard with what would seem to be his crew, except that the three beautiful young women are not his crew.  They‘re his cargo.  You see, he supplies lonely men with wives.

In rescuing Mudd, The Enterprise burns out it’s dilithium crystals.  They can get more, but Mudd sees an opportunity.  Dilithium miners tend to be especially wealthy and especially lonely.  He’s able to contact the miners and do his own negotiating, knowing that the ship is in no position to negotiate.  If Captain Kirk refuses, the ship will stay in orbit of the planet indefinitely.  What’s a captain to do?  Kirk is able to eventually get his crystals and help both the miners and the women.  As for Mudd, he’ll be brought to justice.

If you’re wondering, yes, the women really do appear to be that attractive.  All the men, with the exception of the half-Vulcan Spock, fall for them.  In fact, Mudd is able to use the women to get information from various male crewmembers.  The catch is that the beauty comes from a pill.  Without the pill, the women seem much more plain.  Herein lies the moral:  Attractiveness need not come from a chemical.  It’s not clear if Mudd’s pill is a fake, but Kirk is able to get the same effect through a placebo.

One thing I find odd, at least from a modern perspective, is how it would seem that almost all of the male crew fawn over the women and the female crewmembers don’t.  Yes, it’s the 1960’s.  That may have been a bit too daring for Star Trek at the time.  Still, to even have that kind of attention paid to beauty is a bit much.  Humans are supposed to be more evolved than that.

Speaking of which, it was a minor miracle that Mudd was as likable as he was, considering that he was trading in people.  He’s trying to use women to turn a profit, which would seem to be a rather inappropriate way to make a living.  This is mentioned, albeit briefly, since it does put Kirk in an awkward position.  He doesn’t want to use the women to get the crystals he needs, but he has little other choice.

This brings me to a third point.  It would seem that Kirk has some time in orbit before it would decay.  It’s not mentioned whether or not he could call for backup.  (At the very least, another ship might be able to bring some dilithium crystals.)  Space is big, so it’s conceivable that the nearest ship would take too long to get there.  Kirk does also point out that there would be consequences for the miners if they insist on taking the women as payment.  It’s not a major issue, as Kirk is able to deal with the situation himself.  It’s just one of those things I wondered about.

The episode did pretty well considering that this is only the sixth episode of the first season.  It could have been better, but I’m saying this with the advantage of fifty years of hindsight.  There are certain aspects of the episode that are undoubtedly a product of the era and it did manage to get a message across effectively.

Roger C. Carmel is also able to sell the character of Harvey Mudd.  Had he been played any other way, the episode might not have come across as well.  Carmel also plays well off of William Shatner.  Mudd is as goofy as Kirk is serious.

If you’re watching the series streaming or on DVD, I’d say it’s worth watching.  Mudd will make an appearance later in the series.  It’s worth noting that he doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson.

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