Thursday, June 07, 2007

Star Trek And Reality Revisionism

Mudd’s WomenOriginal Series, episode #4, from season one. Teleplay by Stephen Kandel. Story by Gene Roddenberry.

The Enterprise rescues con man Harry Mudd and his ‘cargo’ of three beautiful women.

The first season of Star Trek often brought up serious issues. “The Conscience of the King” dealt with mass murder. “Space Seed” dealt with eugenics. “Mudd’s Women” brought up the combo platter of drug trafficking and slavery. Harry Mudd is a criminal who, in back-story, approaches vulnerable women on planets without opportunity and gets them hooked on a drug which makes them think they are beautiful and empowered. Then, using access to the drug as his control, Mudd ‘persuades’ the women to allow him to sell them to men on planets where women are in short supply.

Pretty awful stuff, especially considering that here in the real world activity very similar to this goes on every day, creating almost unspeakable tragedy for women and their loved ones.

But this post isn’t about the somewhat dubious handling of these themes by this episode. The episode brings up the serious issues and, by the end, they are more-or-less resolved and Harry Mudd is on his way to prison, as you’d hope such a criminal would be.

But season two brought the return of Harry Mudd:

I, MuddOriginal Series episode #41, from season two. Teleplay by Stephen Kandel.

Harry Mudd returns, now the ruler of a planet of beautiful androids. Mudd plans to use the androids to capture the Enterprise, but the androids have other plans.

This episode is one of Star Trek’s tongue-in-cheek excursions. Lots of funny facial expressions and music cues underscoring the laughs. They introduce a robot version of Harry Mudd’s wife, a cornball shrew who apparently ‘drove’ Harry to his life of crime.

Even as a kid I was struck by the juxtiposition of the first episode with its serious introduction of drugs and slavery, and this comedy episode in which by the end, Mudd, drug pusher and slave trader, is working with Captain Kirk and the crew to defeat evil robots.

There must have been some story conference where producers and writers discussed bringing back Mudd. Someone must have pointed out that Mudd trafficked in drugs, got women hooked to control them, and then sold the women to men. Someone else must have said, “Oh, yeah, but that’s not sooo bad. He didn’t kill anyone. We can just make him a lovable rogue...”

And there you go. Reality revisionism.

Quotes from: The Star Trek Encyclopedia

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