Star Trek: I, Mudd

Spock: "Logic is little tweeting bird chirping in meadow. Logic is wreath of pretty flowers that smell bad."

I liked this one a lot when I was a kid. It's still fun, but I have to say it hasn't aged well.

This is only our second completely comic episode (unless you count "Catspaw") and some of it is quite funny. It's my favorite of the many episodes where the crew talks a computer to death with insane troll logic. It also made great use of twins, considering the state of special effects in 1967; one or two of the Alices were in nearly every shot. And Harry Mudd was more fun than he was in his previous outing, even though he was still completely focused on exploiting women.

Yes, I know, social attitudes have changed since 1967, but as Ben outlines so eloquently in his section below, the androids consisted of two negative female stereotypes: the beautiful, obedient sex object and the ugly, disobedient nag. The possibility of immortality via android was again explored, but less effectively than in "What Are Little Girls Made Of" and unfortunately, it was expected that Uhura would betray her shipmates for a chance at eternal beauty. And we again had a single magical object that the crew could destroy and save the day (Norman), like Trelane's mirror and Apollo's temple.

There were some "gaping defects in logic," too. The androids were originally created to serve humanoids, so wouldn't their core programming have included dealing with conflicting and illogical input? Okay, maybe after all those centuries, the programming was changed because that function wasn't needed any more, or maybe the Makers were like Vulcans. But the androids came from another galaxy, had virtual immortality to play with, were able to increase their numbers quickly and easily, and their technology was so advanced that our crew was impressed. How come they didn't already have starships?



Even though I've always enjoyed that long sequence where the crew inundated the androids with contradiction, absurdity and illogic, the opening dialogue between Spock and McCoy was funnier. The "you're just like an android" digs seemed mostly affectionate, and Spock took them in stride while countering effectively with witty zingers of his own. It showed how much these characters have come into their own, and I loved it.

Ben says...

For men everywhere to women everywhere, I apologize for this episode which postulates that heaven is a world of quiet, obedient, attractive women and hell is a world of disobedient, nagging shrews. Wait, maybe that's not broad enough. Let's not forget that when Mudd wants to leave, well, the robo-chicks turn out to be so clingy. And controlling. That's really how it goes, they lure you in with the "we're hot and fully functional," and the next thing you know you can't go to your fantasy spaceball draft with your friends. Wow, seriously, ha ha, that's hilarious.

(Yeah, I know, "Norman" is in charge because how could a woman even organize a robot society?)

I don't want spend a lot of time flogging gender issues here. After all, we'll finish the series with "Turnabout Intruder" (both the most sexist episode and the only Star Trek title ever to also be used for a sex toy). But this one is hard to take as a man because it's supposed to be a comment on what men want. And the worst part is that it would not be that out of place even today although, as here, it would still have to be done for "humorous" effect. I can see an episode of The Simpsons which followed the script except, in the end, the robots would eventually shut down out of sheer frustration with Homer (Woo hoo, Treehouse of Horror, here I come!).

So let me conclude with a heartfelt, sorry about that one, ladies.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 4513.3. Planet Mudd, a class K planet, meaning it can be adapted for humanoid life by the use of pressure domes and life support systems.

— Why would androids have life support systems they don't need, by the way? Did they keep it going for their humanoid masters for all those years? Or did they bring the systems back just for Harry Mudd? The latter, I suppose.

— The female androids had gorgeous costumes. The male androids were wearing what looked like colorless sweats, with ballet dancer cups.

— The extinct "makers" of the androids came from the galaxy of Andromeda.

— Chekov said that the androids being "fully functional" made planet Mudd "better than Leningrad." That Perestroika. Who knew?

Quotes:

McCoy: "There's something wrong about a man who never smiles, whose conversation never varies from the routine of the job, and who won't talk about his background."
Spock: (drily) "I see."
McCoy: "Spock, I mean that it's odd for a non-Vulcan. The ears make all of the difference."
Spock: "I find your arguments strewn with gaping defects in logic."

McCoy: "He has avoided two appointments that I have made for his physical exam without reason."
Spock: "That's not surprising, Doctor. He's probably terrified of your beads and rattles."

Mudd: "Spock, you're going to love it here. They all talk just the way you do."

Kirk: "Opinions?"
Chekov: "I think we're in a lot of trouble."
Kirk: "That's a great help, Mister Chekov. Bones?"
McCoy: "Well, I think Mister Chekov's right. We are in a lot of trouble."
Kirk: "Spock? And if you say we're in a lot of trouble..."
Spock: "We are."

Mudd: "You may be a wonderful science officer, but believe me, you couldn't sell fake patents to your mother."
Spock: "I fail to understand why I should care to induce my mother to purchase falsified patents."

McCoy: "He's dead."
(He wasn't.)

Two out of four falsified patents,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

Tallifer said...

Not sure why any man would find this story offensive; mildly embarrassing in the presence of his significant other perhaps, but hardly an affront. It is an hilarious take on men's inner "bad" man, the one that so many women fall for to the rue of sensitive fellows everywhere.

Juliette said...

Ben, thank you for such thoughtful comments - so often I see others, especially male friends, rolling their eyes when I get on my feminist high horse! I totally agree about Turnabout Intruder as well - I do my best to pretend that episode never happened. This one was not nearly as bad as that, at least - partly because the focus was more on men's opinions and less on real women, and partly because a lot of it was genuinely funny.

Jerry Modene said...

This episode *is* a lot of fun - Harry had made the transition from a threatening character in "Mudd's Women" to comedy relief in "I, Mudd" - but some of the humor is indeed a little forced. You can tell the cast had fun with it, though.

It's significant, I think, that Star Trek's three "comedy" episodes - this one, "Tribbles", and "Piece of the Action" - were produced while Roddenberry was on vacation and Gene Coon was in charge; remember, Coon was an integral force in the creation of such shows as "McHale's Navy" and "The Munsters" and while a talented dramatic writer ("Devil in the Dark") could write comedy just as easily. Roddenberry, OTOH, was reportedly reluctant to have his characters telling jokes; ironically, while he was himself a terrific practial joker (the "perfume in the weather balloon" story, the Majel-strip-tease he set up to prank John D.F. Black, etc.) the staff found they couldn't prank him back. There's a very good chance the comedy episodes might not have happened at all had GR not been out of town those weeks; these three episodes were all produced within five or six weeks of each other.

As for the sexism in this episode - you have to consider that Kirk and crew were not really combatting the androids; they were combatting Harry Mudd and were combatting him with his psychology in mind. And of course Mudd, the ultimate M.C.P. (look it up, kids), would consider heaven to be all those beautiful girl androids and hell to be Stella - which is what makes the final denouement - the 500 nagging Stellas - so delicious.

So, the Uhura thing - which was beautifully played by Nichelle Nichols, BTW - was clearly aimed at what Harry (by extension through the androids) would expect, not necessarily what *we* would expect. Of course, really, it wasn't that far out of character for Uhura to "act" like that - it had only been a year-and-a-half that she complained, on the bridge ("Man Trap"), that Spock wasn't paying enough attention to her.;-)

I, Mudd is a perfectly enjoyable episode, as long as you don't take it too seriously. Not Top Ten, to be sure, but still enjoyable.

tinkapuss said...

I love this episode! Okay, it's dated but it's romping good fun!