9/8/2015 Update: We recorded a new podcast for this episode. Check it out here.
Tonight's episode: Mudd's Women (Original air date: 10-13-66). Tonight's drink: who the hell knows, something involving Sprite and watermelon Pucker. In a sense, the choice of drink, while seemingly gross and random, actually has a symbolic connection to the episode. On one hand we have the lively effervescence (the Sprite) of the Harry Mudd character. On the other hand, we have the lemon-lime flavor mixed with an over-sweet fake watermelon flavor (rendering the drink a pale pink) clash that represents the ideas in this story. When I ponder this episode, I vacillate between thinking the show is trying to make a forward-thinking social statement about drug dependency and "just being you" and thinking that it's a clumsy attempt to make the statement that beauty is only skin-deep. Oh, and along the way, reinforce conventional stereotypes about women and their role in society (in the 60s).
Or, let me steal a quote from the Star Trek website comment section: "What's not to like about an episode in which the Enterprise is taken over by an insane pimp and his three junkie whores?" Crap, I wish I'd come up with that very amusing and accurate statement about the episode (there's even a shot of his police record where it mentions psychiatric treatment). This one, in some ways, is more satisfying than Charlie X in that the cringe-inducing moments are balanced by a smattering of good acting and funny situations as the crew is knocked for a loop by their hormones, not to mention some 60s-sounding pseudo-lounge music that accompanies the women as they swing their hips down the Enterprise corridors (I also couldn't help but notice the very obvious ass camera shots -- I've recently learned that this was edited out of the syndicated TV cuts). I've always enjoyed the appropriately slimy Harry Mudd character, well played by Roger Carmel, and the Eve character actually has a small amount of development. However, too many things in this one bug me. Maybe it's the fact that some of the ideas haven't aged well.
A few other issues:
What's with Uhura wearing a yellow uniform; was she afraid of being the first red shirted character to be killed? At the end of the episode where Eve swallows the placebo drug, how does she instantly don makeup and restyle her hair (looks like she also had a facial)? For that matter, how *does* a drug do those things?! Yeah, yeah, I know Roddenberry was going for the idea that attractiveness is at least partially dictated by self-attitude, but because they really went overboard making the women look unattractive, the "transformation" seems really contrived, even within the context of this story. And finally, why weren't the bridge crew giving Spock a hard time about "noticing" the women? There are scenes where he certainly looks interested. Oh yeah, he only notices the "interesting qualities" of Kirk (sorry, couldn't resist!)! So, that's my take on this one. If someone wants to point out something I'm missing about this one, I'm certainly open to alternate opinions...
And here's Eric:
I’ve always liked “Mudd’s Women", largely, I think, due to the fact that Harcourt Fenton Mudd (dontcha love the name) is a fun character, and the late Roger C. Carmel did a great job in the role. The scenes with the male crew members going hormonal over the three women were also amusing (although I’ll bet the female crew members didn’t appreciate it). I also loved the scene where McCoy has one of the women in sickbay for an exam: “I wouldn’t trust my…judgment". Right Doc. And I liked the fact that Kirk apologizes to Scotty for getting snapping at him. It’s little touches like these that really help flesh out characters, and it does much for making Kirk likable.
One problem I have with this episode is that it uses the “crisis with the engines that results in a race against time" plot device for the second time in the series, but it was only the fourth episode produced. It worked in story, but it was a definite harbinger of that particular plot device being badly overused. This episode also had a very noticeable (somewhat off-putting) 60s sensibility with regards
to sex roles, but the story was written by Gene Roddenberry, who was known for being lecherous. And keep in mind that the distaste for 60s sexism is from a 40-years-later perspective. In 1966, the viewing audience probably didn’t bat an eye.
Finally, the moral of the story, that you can be anything you want as long as you believe in yourself, is perhaps a little too blatant, but at the same time it’s positive and life-affirming, which is sadly missing in much of our entertainment these days.
Next time: “What Are Little Girls Made Of"