Friday, April 23, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: I, Mudd

The Original Series, Season Two
"I, Mudd"
Airdate: November 3, 1967
42 of 80 produced
37 of 80 aired
Click here to watch on


The Enterprise is hijacked by an android and forced to travel to a distant, uncharted world. There, they find thousands of androids led by a familiar, mustachioed face: that of Harry Mudd. He plans to leave the crew of the Enterprise marooned on this world and take an Enterprise crewed by androids out into the galaxy.

"So let's see... that means it will be 500 days before I have to clean one out!"


Kevin: This episode has the virtue of being both a well-executed comedy and a pretty strong science fiction backbone, almost too many science fiction concepts at once. We have androids, and the question of human consciousness in artificial containers. We have technology running amok and taking over and unintended consequences. We have the question of how much conflict and strife humans may actually need to thrive. We even have a fairly good discussion of the nature of thought and creativity.

Matthew: I was disappointed by the unceremonious dropping of the immortality concept, yet again. I also felt that the setup was pretty much ripped straight from the pages of "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" I think this might be an indication that things are changing slightly in Season Two. It's not to a terrible point yet, but we're seeing some recycling.

Kevin: I enjoy that all the secondary characters got to play in this episode, Uhura even getting to be the early lynchpin of a plan. It's always nice when the ensemble gets to be an ensemble.

Matthew: Dialogue is definitely the strong point, and the comedy, especially in the final dig at Harry Mudd. The writers clearly know what they have to work with, because they write scenes specifically keyed to the chemistry between Mudd/Kirk, as well as the rest of the cast each getting their own comic bit. So for as much conceptually as I think this episode punts, it nails the execution of characters.

Kevin: The problems I think that keep this episode from being spectacular is that none of these concepts gets explored too deeply and the solution is terribly pat and a retread of the "Kirk defeats computer with logical conundrum." Aside from that, the team of Stellas harassing Mudd for all eternity was a pretty satisfying scene, as was the required banter between Spock and McCoy at the end about Spock having to return to his illogical colleagues.

Matthew: I do appreciate yet another philosophy reference, the "liar's paradox." I am told there is a solution, but it involves a lot of big words and symbolic logic. So I'll not try it here.


Kevin: I will say the comedy in this episode is very strong, but that may owe more to the acting than the writing per se. Roger C. Carmel turns in another great performance as Harry Mudd. It was also fun watching everyone be tempted by the pleasures of this world. Uhura particularly did a good job of allowing herself a moment to be dazzled.  I gotta say, sign me up. A staff of pliant customizable hot people who do whatever I want and I can still have tons of projects to work on to keep me from going senile. Plus, the whole immortal thing. What is not to love? Really.

Matthew: Yes, although Sulu is again on vacation with John Wayne (George Takei was filming "The Green Berets" during about half of Season Two), which prevented us from seeing images of Sulu sneaking peeks at the crotch bulges of the male androids, the rest of the cast got plenty to do, which was great. The actors are all so charming that it brings an episode up whenever this "ensemble" thing occurs. Faults become easier to forgive, fun increases. This is definitely at play here.

Kevin: The androids turns in fairly flat performances, and while that's obviously intentional, it just doesn't make for the best viewing.

Matthew: I for one found the pantomime with the "bomb" to be a little painful to watch. You can chalk it up to writing (would that really completely flummox 500,000 year old android intelligences?), but the acting didn't save it, either.

Production Values

Kevin: The sets are great, and classic Trek. They clearly put a lot of resources into these sets, and one of the times that spending the episode off-ship yields no downside production wise.The scene when Norman shows off his android innards was particularly good, especially for the time.

Matthew: The Norman "innards" scene was remastered pretty well, with an even better internal construction. You can see it in the link we provided above for the episode. I found it interesting that Scotty was waxing rhapsodic over the facilities, when the equipment he was marveling over was a pretty obvious re-use of the doohickey from McCoy's sickbay. But I do agree, the planet sets, even for a near-"bottle show," were atmospheric. It really made you think about staying there for the rest of your life, hot android sex slaves or not. I wonder how the feel would have changed if they had been in an idyllic, pastoral landscape? Bronson Canyon perhaps?

Kevin: The use of what I assume were a convention of Doublemint Twins was good, and it avoided a lot of unnecessary optical effects work.

Matthew: Actually, the first shot in which Mudd reveals the Alice series (picture posted above) does betray a pretty obvious optical effect, at least to my eye. Take a look at the floor - you can see color variation where the film negatives of separate shots are spliced together. OK, that said, it was a fine effect for its time, standing up at least to some of the cheese-ball optical effects from TNG, most of which were done with bad blue-screen.


Kevin: This episode does an overall good job of giving us a comedic episode mixed with some solid science fiction. It has great production values, and some A-class acting all around. The too-easy ending and not enough attention to some of the ethical and philosophical issues keep this from a five, but the solid 4 I am awarding it is nothing to sneeze at.

Matthew: I'm going with a 3, and I have no apologies. The ending was a lazy re-hash of at least two previous plots (Return of the Archons and What Are Little Girls Made Of?.) Also, the fact of human-to-android immortality transfer is again lightly glossed on and then thrown away. At least in "Little Girls" they gave some lip service to what a profound discovery this would be. OK, harping aside, the episode is still a lot of fun. I just feel its shortcomings undercut each of its strengths and relegate it to "average" territory. So all told, we have a total of a 7.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen this one! I think I'm catching up! Downside is that I didn't particularly enjoy it, maybe because it was the first time I'd seen Mudd, and didn't like him. As soon he introduced the android of his nagging wife that he'd made just for funzies, I was sort of mentally done with believing him as any sort of menace, and saw the ending coming (though not the League of Nagging Wives, which seemed to me kind of overkill/a dick move). The androids were much cooler, although also not very menacing, since they mainly represented the threat (like you said) of being forced to hang out with super hot androids.