Friday, August 02, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 8 (I, Mudd)

Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd is an odd character.  He’s annoying, outlandish, conniving and opportunistic.  The character could easily have gone off the rails.  Roger C. Carmel did well enough in Mudd’s Women that he was asked to come back for a second episode called I, Mudd.

The Enterprise is commandeered by an android called Norman.  He takes the ship to a planet with over 200,000 androids and one human.  Somehow, Mudd came to live on that planet.  The inhabitants have been good to him so far, in that they’ve given him everything he could ever want.  The only notable exception would be a way off the planet.   That’s where The Enterprise comes in.  The crew is beamed down to the surface.  Mudd is told that he’ll be beamed down.

It isn’t until the androids start making modifications to the ship that their ruse is discovered.  Given Mudd as their only example of humanity, the androids have come to the conclusion that humanity needs to be tamed.  They will do so by serving humanity and making them complacent enough that they’ll need the androids.  The scary part is that it could work.  Of course, the humans are able to outsmart the androids.  Kirk gets his ship back and leaves Mudd to the androids.  Mudd can leave, provided that he becomes a better man.  However, it will likely be a rather long sentence.

This is one of those episodes that could only have worked in the context of The Original Series. The Next Generation-era shows tended to be more sophisticated.  Here, the androids are undone by simple logical paradoxes.  Spock claims to love one android and hate another android, despite the fact that they’re both the same model.  Norman, who acts as a controller, is undone by the liar paradox.  It’s all neat and orderly.

It’s also a bit odd that given a population of 200,000 androids that can create anything, no one thought to build a ship.  Their creators are long gone, but created a ship that could travel from the Andromeda Galaxy.  Mudd must have also had a ship.  How is it that they had to steal the Enterprise?

For that matter, how did Norman insinuate himself into the crew?  He would have had to have been transferred.  I suppose it’s no big deal for them to fake orders, but it’s still a lot of effort given that they didn’t really need a ship.  Even if you say that they needed a Federation ship, why not build an exact replica?  (For that matter, how did Norman get off the planet if they didn’t have a ship in the first place?)

It’s one of those episodes that becomes confusing if you start to think about it.  Given that the planet’s androids were so easily outmaneuvered, it’s hard to believe that a full-scale invasion would have worked.  It would have been a matter of time before someone would have figured out how to stop the androids.  If not that, then another race, such as the Vulcans, would have come to our aid.

The story is more about humans not being able to survive in captivity.  Even the best cage is still a cage.  There has to be some motivation to do better.  Even when Kirk leaves Mudd on the planet, he gives Mudd an out.  If he doesn’t want to stay there forever, he has to change his ways.

In a way, it’s a shame that more wasn’t done with the concept.  It’s conceivable that other similar outposts were located elsewhere in the galaxy.  I realize that The Next Generation couldn’t rely on The Original Series for too many episodes, but it would have made for a nice reference.  Maybe have an Andorian or Romulan mention finding a group of the same androids.  Maybe they’ll show up on Star Trek:  Discovery.

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