Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Animated Series, Season 1: Mudd's Passion

The Animated Series, Season 1
"Mudd's Passion"
Airdate: November 10, 1967
8 of 22 produced
10 of 22 aired


The Enterprise is off in search of an old "friend," one Harcourt Fenton Mudd. He is on the mining planet Motherlode peddling a new wonder drug. This one is alleged to make you irresistible to members of the opposite sex. The Enterprise succeeds into taking Harry into custody, but for how long? And what trouble will he cause the crew of the Enterprise this time?

Say, old chum, why don't you show me the "Vulcan Death Grip" later?


Kevin: Here we have another outing that is essentially a sequel to a TOS episode. On the upside, they got Roger Carmel to come back and do that voice, and that helps the episode immeasurably. Since the episode focuses so much on the guest star, having James Doohan fake it just wouldn't work. On the downside, the plot feels less like a sequel than a retread. With "More Troubles, More Tribbles" and "Once Upon a Planet," there was a new element or a twist on the original episode that helped keep in interesting. Here, Mudd is up to precisely the same trick on precisely the same people. Harry is always a treat, but they need to mix it up.

As for the drug itself, it's a pretty standard plot device. I like that it inspires in the same sex a feeling of deep friendship. It still sets up some pretty slashy situations, and I'm surprised they mentioned an impact on the same sex at all. I also liked that it comes with a side effect of feeling hatred later on. It's not the most earth shattering side effect, but it led to a few cute moments.

If I had to identify a real problem with the episode, it's Nurse Chapel taking the drug. First, I think it borders on character assassination that she would trust him enough to let him out to take the drug. At least when his "beauties" were wooing people, they were aided by their drugs psychological effects. Harry's just lumpen and a little gross. More importantly, it completely forgets the events of Plato's Stepchildren. She know exactly what it feels like to have this particular fantasy turn into a nightmare (her own words if you recall the episode) by having Spock be forced into making romantic overtures to her. Plato's Stepchildren managed to use just the right dialogue to portray that scene for what it was, sexual assault, and to have her turn around and try to do it to Spock again just for the sake of letting Harry out of the cell is cheap storytelling for both plot and character.

In the balance, this one is fun to watch, at least. Carmel does his usual oily job as Harry and he gets some good one liners in. The retread of an earlier episode and the plot device with Nurse Chapel pushes this down to a 2, though.

Matthew: This episode was gleefully, almost blissfully, stupid, from start to finish. I was thoroughly entertained.

I didn't find Nurse Chapel's behavior to be as egregious as you did. I can easily imagine a situation like this in which a normal, intelligent person, male or female, would be tempted by the prospect of togetherness with their love object. She resists for an awfully long time, too. I also think that, as opposed to making him less attractive to her, the intimacy they shared, however forced and degrading, in "Plato" would not necessarily make her averse to a continuation, and perhaps would make it even more alluring.

Some of the dialogue was frankly hilarious. When Spock said "Ah, Nurse Chapel's... sweet... summary...", I laughed out loud for nearly 30 seconds. I had to pause the episode. Intentional? Maybe, maybe not. Funny? Heck yes!

I'm surprised some of these references got past the censors. Scotty talks about hangovers and alcohol, characters cast amorous glances and grope each other, the whole thing revolve around drugs and sex. I guess it was the Seventies, and free love was in the ascendancy.

Does it do much to deepen Trek? No. We have more talk of ID cards, credits, non-affiliated planets, and the like. But it does continue Harry Mudd's story, which is always welcome in my book. Having Carmel's voice is definitely a boon, as well.

Perhaps against my better judgment, I'm giving this a 3. I was amused consistently, and sometimes, love is all you need. That gives us a 5 in total.

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