Star Trek Short Treks: The Escape Artist

"If I had any money, I'd be sipping jippers on a beach somewhere."

By nature I love brevity: Solid. I got a kick out of this one. 'Calypso' remains the best of the Short Treks, but this is probably the most satisfying.

'The Escape Artist' is the story of Harry Mudd's impressive yet ultimately futile effort to break Jonathan Archer's record for the most imprisonments ever. It's impressive because even Archer never got himself captured this many times in the span of one episode, and it's futile because no matter how many times Mudd exploits the bounty on his head, it will never feel like it happens to him more than good old Captain Captive.

Joking introductory paragraphs that endear you to the author aside, this was a really solid and tight episode. Gone are the plot holes that plagued 'Runaway' and the split focus that stifled 'The Brightest Star;' this one is focused and direct, with a simple narrative and a clever reveal at its close. The episode centers around Mudd and his Tellarite captor Tevrin Krit (Harry Judge) as they fly in Krit's ship to deliver Mudd to the Federation for a reward. Mudd tries various different tricks and sleights of hand in an attempt to escape from the Tellarite, but none of them work. At each new turn, we're treated to a flashback of a different time Mudd has been captured. He uses the same trick, often with the same line, on his captor both in the present time and in the flashback. As a narrative device, this is interesting and fun, and it keeps the episode moving along at a good clip.

But each of Mudd's manipulative devices fails, both in the present and in the past, and finally he and Krit arrive at the Federation starship De Milo so Krit can collect his bounty from the Feds. It is here that the officer who greets them (Jonathan Watton) guesses many of the details of Krit's acquisition of Mudd. To explain, he opens a door and reveals a group of about half a dozen Harry Mudds, swapping capture stories with one another. You see, the real Harry Mudd was never really being held by Krit. The Mudd Krit had was an android duplicate made to look like him, as are all the Mudds aboard the De Milo.

Mudd, it turns out, has been disguising himself as a bounty hunter and giving his duplicates over to other bounty hunters for a small fee. He's making money off of the bounty on his own head, which is a terribly clever concept that I really haven't heard before. This twist is just perfect. The whole time, you're wondering how Mudd is going to escape, and when he doesn't escape from any of his captors, let alone the main one, you wonder what's going on. To show that he has never even needed to escape all along, using a sci-fi idea that's new and fresh, is really something. It also sets up the technology that Mudd will use in TOS's 'I, Mudd' to create android women that do his bidding. I really love this, and it's cleverly written. I don't watch Rick and Morty, because it's not my kind of humor, but I suspect Mike McMahan's clever writing is part of the show's success. Kind of boosts my excitement for his work on the Lower Decks series, too.

Though this was written well, however, it could have failed miserably in the execution. This is mainly because all of said execution depends almost entirely on Rainn Wilson. Directing a film in which you are also the main actor and appear in every scene is a tough task no matter how short it is, and either his direction or his performance could very easily have suffered for it. Luckily, Wilson's portrayal of Mudd is as charming and fun as always, and his direction is clean and light. He has every reason to be proud of his work here.

Strange New Worlds:

Mudd was held captive on several different unnamed planets, but exploring them at all would probably have detracted from the story.

New Life and New Civilizations:

Well, we haven't seen too many DIS-era Tellarites before, but we didn't learn anything new about them here. It's still nice to see a Tellarite, though.

Pensees:

-Mudd's android clones lost their arms aboard a ship called the De Milo.

-The bounty on Mudd's head is latinum. I wonder what the exchange rate is from credits to latinum. It's interesting to note that this was a commodity before the Federation ever (officially) interacted with the Ferengi.

-Lots and lots of fun gags in this one. I particularly loved the little easter eggs in the background of Mudd's base.

Quotes:

Mudd: "Cudgel? I've never heard of that. Is that some sort of kitchen implement?"

Kris: "Harcourt Fenton Mudd. Wanted by the Federation on 30 counts of smuggling, 20 counts of attempted homicide, one count of attempted regicide-"
Mudd: "Pfft. Regicide? He was a duke. Hardly counts as regicide. What are we attempting to murder now, accuracy?"
Kris: "Transportaton of stolen goods, and one count of... Penetrating a space whale?"
Mudd: "You kind of had to be there."

Krit: "I've never heard of any resistance."
Mudd: "That's because it's a secret resistance. Nobody knows about it except the resistors. Which I am one... of them."

Mudd: "Maybe if you were taller, you wouldn't get lost so often."
Bounty hunter: "I know exactly where I am at all times."
Me (high-pitched voice): "She's amazing!"
Ah, how I love publicly making jokes and references absolutely nobody will get.

Mudd, to the Orion guard: "Your enemies will be positively green with envy! Well, greener."

Mudd: "So, you have me wrapped in chains, in a cell, and suspended from the ceiling? Is there a word in your language for 'overkill'?"

Mudd: "Thank you, Mudd."
Mudd: "You're welcome, Mudd."
Mudd: "Watch where you're going. I'm mopping."

EDIT: We have seen DIS Tellarites - in the Mirror Universe, as part of Voq's resistance.

5 out of 6 almost record-breaking captures.

---
CoramDeo wishes he were sipping jippers on a beach somewhere.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

CoramDeo, you keep making me want to watch these. But I don't have CBS All Access yet. :)