Season Two - TOS

Star Trek: The Original Series – I, Mudd – Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Written by Stephen Kandel and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Marc Daniels

Of all the characters in the original Star Trek series to be brought back for a repeat viewing, I would have never chosen Harry Mudd from the first season episode Mudd’s Women. I could understand the Klingon, Kor – great character. Another episode with Khan would have also worked well, although it might have squashed any chance for one of the best movies in the Star Trek franchise. I could understand another trip to the mirror universe. But to choose to revisit the character of Harry Mudd was a strange move on the part of the producers of the show.

In I, Mudd, a play on Isaac Asimov’s title of I, Robot, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) has misgivings about a crew member, Mr. Norman (portrayed by Richard Tatro). He has been on the Enterprise only 72 hours, but already McCoy has an inkling that something is wrong with him. The Vulcan, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) challenges McCoy’s assessment. However, it turns out McCoy had valid instincts when Mr. Norman overpowers another crew member and enters a course change for the ship that can’t be overridden on the bridge.

Mr. Norman seems to be able to overpower everyone who gets in his path. He has soon locked out everything to send the ship as quickly as possible to the destination he had programmed. Mr. Norman reveals to Captain Kirk (William Shatner) that he is an android, then shuts himself off.

After four days, the ship enters orbit around an uncharted planet. Mr. Norman demands that Kirk beam down along with Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and Mr. Chekov (Walter Koenig). On the planet, they are greeted by several beautiful women who bring him to Harry Mudd (portrayed by Roger C. Carmel).

And that was the best part of the episode, even with the tremendous plot hole of how easy it was for one crewman (or several) to gain control of the ship and lock out everyone else.

In fact, Mudd eventually has the entire crew of the Enterprise beamed down to the planet with the ship now being run by a crew of androids. Pretty damn easy to just take over a ship in Starfleet, isn’t it?

The goal of the androids, who populate the planet in the hundreds of thousands, is to have more humans to study. Harry Mudd figures if he provides them with this, he will be able to leave the planet. However, the androids themselves have a different plan, and in the end, Mudd must enter into an uneasy alliance with Kirk and the crew to free themselves.

Where to begin? The episode is so poorly written and conceived that I can’t imagine how it got the green light from the studio. There are sequences involving the entire crew of the Enterprise that are so absurd. Even to think that they could put together to elaborate and intricate a plan and manage to rehearse it to the point of carrying it out as well as they do is unbelievable. These are military officers – not a traveling theatrical troupe, although they look more like that here.

Then there is the pounding into the ground of a one-note joke of Mudd having created an android of the wife he hated. The entire concept was ridiculous, and perhaps it would have worked in a darker sense, but here it is supposed to be comic relief. It’s not, and it just comes off as stupid.

Even the costuming wasn’t that great. I could see Shatner was getting a gut here. According to some of the books I read, it was something he had an issue with and was quite self-conscious about. It’s quite noticeable in several of the profile shots. The white lycra costumes the male androids wore left little to the imagination, and I‘m surprised it made it past the censors at the time.

The actors do all right. In fact, the regular cast actually does pretty well with what’s thrown at them. The problem is the script treats them as actors, rather than as Starfleet officers. Roger C. Carmel is such a parody of Mudd as a character, that he comes off as unrealistic. The android characters are all the same actors, just with different numbers on a lighted medallion around their necks. That also gets old, fast, as technically there should be no difference at all between them, but at times they show different personalities. Like every “joke” in this episode, they beat it to death really fast.

I, Mudd fails on every level. It’s not funny. It’s not dramatic. It doesn’t even work well as showing that there are competent people in the future. It’s just a poorly written, stupid episode that feels like something thrown together while trying to milk an idea that worked once before.

Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Catspaw

Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Metamorphosis

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