Sunday, December 19, 2010

Star Trek TOS S1 Ep6: Mudd's Women

It's the one, the only Star Trek: The Original Series.

"Even at this early stage of the game, there was no mistaking Bill's [Theiss] fondness for for flashing female flesh, as he almost immediately pulled the pants off our female crew members, and replaced them with (and I mean short) miniskirts.  Even within our first handful of episodes, Theiss had begun his series-long habit of keeping our guest actresses chilly ... and nearly naked.  One look at Mudd's women or at the 'dress' that Sherry Jackson's barely wearing in What Are Little Girls Made Of? proves this point quite nicely." -William Shatner with Chris Kreski, Memories [1993] [p.86] speaking of Theiss eye for the ladies as well as his skill at creating an Enterprise uniform-

It's clear to me now Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One fails to rival Star Trek: The Original Series on every level including the hot babe quotient. Are these women not some of the finest of the female population?! Sexist or not, ST:TOS got it right on every front [most of the time].

Robert J. Sawyer wrote in his introduction to the book Boarding The Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles And The Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, "Four decades on, and all over the planet, people still know and love Star Trek- indeed, they know it so well that they recognize individual episodes by their titles." This is a remarkable truth. We remember sets, we remember faces, we remember the women, we remember the ideas and concepts and dog gone it we remember the bloody episode titles. You certainly can't say that about most series. Some series have their moments and I know them by their name in some cases, but how many episode titles in Star Trek, in general, conjure the kind of vivid, colorful memories in the way ST:TOS did? This is why it is a classic. There are movements, gestures, words spoken by its cast and stories burned into our collective subconscious like no other series.

Well, the world of Gene Roddenberry is certainly, rightfully credited to THE man for its vivid, expansive and detailed mythology as it was slowly revealed and unfolded over the course of three amazing seasons. But, as Allen Steele accurately points out in his piece called All Our Tomorrows: The Shared Universe Of Star Trek in Boarding The Enterprise, the success of Star Trek wasn't achieved my one man alone. It took many creative minds to add elements to the gradually unfolding adventure and mythology. As Steele points out it took "many other writers to add bits and pieces here and there." As he states, "they collectively developed a universe unlike any that had ever been seen before." This layered, "bottom-up approach" as he calls it generated the detail and foundation needed for a lasting legacy. Season One of ST:TNG appears to lack that kind of definitive vision.

Take writer Stephen Kandel's treatment of a Gene Roddenberry concept [Roddenberry did love his women] and we have some interesting elements introduced in Mudd's Women to the lasting Star Trek universe, almost. There is a reference to lithium crystals, rather than dilithium, with regard to the power source of the Enterprise. They may not have gotten it exactly right, including a reference to Spock as "Vulcanian," but they were striving for something major, something very big here inside of each story.

Captain's Log Stardate 1329.8. Enterprise in pursuit of an unidentified vessel. Spock indicates it is a cargo vessel. Scotty warns the ship may overheat its engines if the pursuit continues. Kirk orders Spock and Scotty to standby in the transporter room.

Scotty, Spock & Bones: Twitterpated!
One of the things I always loved about Star Trek was the promise of women- lots and lots of beautiful women. I was young then. I don't think I fully appreciated the women until the latter syndication years. The other aspect of Star Trek I love more now is that ongoing potential for love with those women by my favorite characters. Perhaps the potential for loving would be more appropriate.

Bambi, Thumper & Flower: Twitterpated!
I digress a bit here, but watching the men of ST:TOS moved by the arrival of attractive women somehow reminded me of another trio of friends who learned that such attraction was perfectly natural. Of course the attraction on Star Trek wasn't wholly natural, but it certainly could have been. I had to laugh watching Scotty, Spock and Bones greet the ladies in a kind of mesmerized stupor. It was like watching the tail end of Walt Disney's Bambi [1942]. Do you remember the scene? I give you the Spock, Scotty and Bones of Bambi in Bambi, Thumper and Flower.

Fan service: Star Trek style.
Three. I've been considering the number three for some time lately. It's been a theory of mine I've been developing. They say bad things happen in threes. Movie franchises, some of the best, happen in trilogies [Mad Max, Star Wars]. Some of the finest television series often center on the chemistry between three key characters. Star Trek of course gave us Kirk, Spock and Bones. Six Million Dollar Man delivered some genuine magic through the Steve Austin, Jamie Sommers and Oscar Goldman played by Lee Majors, Lindsay Wagner and Richard Anderson respectively. Of course, comedies like Three's Company delivered too. Finally, the best science fiction series of all-time, Star Trek: The Original Series delivered three seasons. Could the magic of it all be the number three? I do wonder. The theory is hardly original I'm sure, but there's something about the number three.

We now boldly go now into Star Trek: The Original Series, Season One, Episode 6, Mudd's Women.

We open with some impressive new special effects of the Enterprise navigating an asteroid field in pursuit of the spacecraft. The Enterprise is experiencing some circuit and power issues throughout the old girl. Scotty beams aboard an intriguing character in the form of Irishman Leo Walsh. Have you seen characters as flamboyant and colorful as this personality in ST:TNG Season One? I think not. Walsh beams over three additional parties as their vessel is breaking apart. The three other crew members are brought aboard as the ship explodes. Bones is among the receiving party who essentially welcomes three mightily hot, sexy, curvy babes that rank off the charts. The three men are captivated by their beauty taking large gulps in awe of their presence [as noted earlier]. Kirk makes every effort to hail his man Scotty who finally snaps out of it and reports to Kirk that four individuals are now aboard. Bones is particularly lost in their beauty. Here is that noteworthy sequence.

Walsh's women are to die for with voluptuous curves in all the right places. The group really turns heads aboard the Enterprise. "Men will always be men no matter where they are... you'll never take that out of them." Spock keeps his emotions in check and the women at bay. The group is brought before a fairly perturbed Kirk who turns in stunned astonishment to what stands before him. Temptation and sex were certainly undercurrents throughout ST:TOS and sometimes these issues were unabashedly overt while others more nuanced. Sexuality was certainly one element of ST:TOS, politically correct or not, that I adored and still do. You'll find far less of this subtext in ST:TNG and no science fiction franchise pulled it off with as much sexual tension, feeling, emotion and overall delicious execution than ST:TOS. The series captures a sensual mood and atmosphere that walks a line of open and concealed better than any I've seen. Thankfully, Roddenberry and the creators fearlessly went down these roads. Kirk asks Walsh if this is his crew, but he corrects him indicating that "it's me cargo." Kirk notes the females have a "magnetic," almost hypnotic effect on his crew.

Kirk is convening a hearing on Walsh's evasive actions throughout the asteroid belt. "You can feel their eyes when they look at you like something grabbin' a hold of you," indicates one of the crewman to Sulu. Sulu agrees.

In the prison hold, Walsh is held with his three lovely lassies. One of the girls, desperately indicates to "Harry" they are going the wrong way. Leo tries to correct her on his name, but the truth about Harry is beginning to get out. He is essentially a certifiable space pimp. There's a touch of the manic about the jolly fellow.

"I'll go for the girl in green and you'll take the one in purple."- "Aye."
Scotty indicates to Kirk and Spock the "lithium" crystals are burned out thanks to that "jackass Walsh." Wow! Just hearing Scotty speak a mild insult seems rather odd even by today's standards and while some colorful language was certainly rare on Star Trek I'm sure it was a bit of an eyebrow raiser back in the day. Spock indicates Rigel XII has lithium crystals and Kirk requests the crew make haste to arrive there.

The visually powerful and forever classic Enterprise Briefing Room.
Much can be said about all of those scenes in the Star Trek Briefing Room. How often did we see a briefing room in any of the other Star Trek franchises? The Briefing Room was not only simple in design, but pure and powerful. Heads were cleared, people presented and decisions were made. It represented the place aboard the Enterprise where hopes and dreams for progress were born. It was a place where command decisions could be made. It was a place where character development flourished and allowed us to realize this was a ship run by real people with real ideas and creative solutions. It was a powerful visual moment in any Star Trek episode and it symbolized the Star Trek ideal.

Writer Eric Greene captured the feeling many of us experienced while the crew was in that Briefing Room in the essay The Prime Question from Boarding The Enterprise. "As a kid watching Star Trek in the '70s, the image from the show that most excited me- was the briefing room. That's right, the briefing room. Just a table and some chairs." He recalled vividly, as we all do, "Captain Kirk looking around at those gathered together of different races, species and specialties and saying to them, "I want options"." He concludes, the room was "where decisions were made, and destinies were shaped- where all that mattered was if you had the brains and imagination to sit with the best and the brightest, think through problems and create solutions. The position you earned counted." Amen. It was like your momma always told you. Nothing comes easy, you have to work for it. This was the crew of the Enterprise. There was no room for casual arrogance or elitism.

The hearing commences and Kirk indicates the name of the man in question is Leo Francis Walsh. The computer corrects the man's name as being "incorrect." Harcourt Fenton Mudd is the real name, a.k.a. Harry Mudd. He indicates falsely he is a businessman, but the computer [the voice of Majel Barrett] correctly identifies the man as a smuggler. The man, needless to say, is trouble. While Mudd stumbles about with his words in explaining away his troubles, his women go to work seducing the men around the table with their charms. Bones is particularly affected. Mudd indicates he recruits wives for settlers. Scotty too is also affected. The computer indicates abnormal perspiration and respiration patterns in the men. "Now that's fishy" says Kirk. I'm not sure I agree. I think I might be equally affected. Scotty wipes his lip, another his face. Things are not going well for the men aboard the Enterprise. The women are Ruth Bonaventure, Magda Korvacs and Eve McHuron. The conclusion from Kirk is that all will be handed off to the legal authorities at the earliest opportunity.

Sulu reports to Kirk that the Enterprise is operating on battery power exclusively. Harry believes Rigel XII will be perfect for the women. Kirk recaps the lithium is imperative as the ship operates on auxiliary power.

The girls weave their webs in the meantime. The ultra smokin' hot brunette pays a visit to Bones. Bones notes she is having an adverse affect on his sick bay equipment. He inquires if the girl is wearing some kind of "radioactive" perfume of a sort. She tells him, "no, I'm just me." Kirk is greeted by Evie in his quarters laying prostate in the hopes of some loving. She is seductive to be sure and the sweeping music complete with violin doesn't hurt either. She nearly plants a whopper of a kiss on Kirk when she breaks down indicating she can't go through with Harry's plan. Kirk's sheer sex appeal and charm wears down Evie and she flees unable to be Mudd's dishonest woman. She could have been a mere notch on Kirk's bedpost, but not today. The women are reporting back to Mudd one by one. They are a venomous bunch. Evie returns and tells Harry she does not like him. She is not feeling well and she tells Harry it must be nearly the time. That time of the month?

In a rare instance, this would be as close as Kirk gets to the lady of his choosing in this one.
Kirk tells Scotty they need to remain in orbit to get just six crystals. Kirk asks Bones if Ruth was examined, but he indicates she refused. The two men wonder what it is about these women. Bones wonders if it's because they "act beautiful?" He says to strike that thought. Yes, Bones, not your brightest assessment as the resident physician. "What are they Bones?" asks Kirk. Are they alien? Bones indicates his medical equipment was affected by the presence of Ruth. Yes, this might suggest the ladies were doing more than 'acting beautiful.'

The post-honeymoon [is over] look.
Spock reports their orbit can be maintained for three days, seven hours. Elsewhere, Ruth is changing. She is aging. All three beauties are getting older. Harry gives the ladies tic-tacs of some kind to stem the aging process. Some classic ST:TOS make-up and some dishoveled hair quickly apply a few years to the once lovely ladies.

Spock uses the analogy of Rigel XII's crystals as a parallel to Mudd's women. Rigel XII's mining chief arrives aboard the Enterprise. He wants a swap of the crystals for Mudd's women. He requests the charges dropped against Harry as well. The mining chief indicates Kirk has no choice. Think again mining chief. Never push Kirk. "No deal," Kirk declares pointing out the colony is in deep space and a long way from help of any kind. The women arrive and have their affect and way with the mining boys. Mudd is gleeful over the odds in his favor.

Kirk beams down to the surface with Mudd and a blue shirt. It is there that the women are making themselves right at home. There's nothing like a good wind on Star Trek to create the impression our heroes have arrived on another alien planetoid rather than a re-worked studio set. What is up with this Mudd character? Kirk informs the mining chief he wins and as the Captain needs the crystals, but he tells Kirk he'll get to it eventually, because he is punch drunk in love with the ladies. Spock indicates time is running out.

The man can deliver drama!
Kirk notes Evie is coughing. The miner men love the women. You would too if you lived alone on this forsaken Rigel XII. Unfortunately fights begin to breakout over their affections. Evie leaves the compound and Kirk goes in pursuit. She is clearly self-aware she is getting a little long in the tooth, but dang she is still beautiful no matter how you slice it. No matter what the make-up people do, Evie is still a beautiful woman. Those special camera lenses are always a sweet trick too. "EVE!" yells Kirk amidst the raging winds on the planet's surface. Kirk is good with one syllable yelling.

Back aboard the Enterprise Scotty indicates they need the crystals and Kirk is short with him, but Kirk does apologize.

The mining chief saves Evie. Kirk beams back down to the surface with Mudd. Evie is cooking in the Mining Chief's cave quarters. He's a crotchety fellow. The two argue like an old married couple. With her golden blond hair let down she plays cards. She is beginning to age, though it is the resulting lack of make-up and camera lens at this point. Kirk and Mudd arrive. Apparently Harry utilizes something called the "Venus Drug." Kirk points out Harry is using a drug to make the women something they are not. The One To Be Pitied jokes they aren't ugly even when they are suppose to be ugly. They are beautiful still! Evie seems to be the only one that gets the fact that the drugs are just that. They are not real or genuine, but a placebo. She despises the falsity of the drug and the affect it has on the men over them. Still, she eats more of them anyway.

Kirk begins to moralize as only William Shatner could. "There's only one kind of woman. You either believe in yourself or you don't." And that my friends is today's Kirkism. Kirk wins the crystals and the mining chief seems to like Evie as she is or was. Mudd would like to remain on the planet. Kirk tells him he will act as a character witness on his behalf at his trial.

"... a most annoying, emotional episode," as Spock sums it up best. True. Mudd's Women does have its problems and didn't quite pack the punch of most ST:TOS entries, but as one might expect, even the worst of ST:TOS is still pretty damn sharp. When you have three central characters that are drop dead gorgeous you can't go all wrong.

Even at Eve's worst without the Venus Drug she was smoking hot according to The One To Be Pitied. She isn't wrong. Magda and Ruth were equally amazing. This is a complete fanboy dream. Though, my Boy Wonder was expecting the women to turn into aliens, perhaps giant bugs, so he was a little disappointed. I'm glad Star Trek didn't resort to the alien transformation trick, which is never out of the realm of possibility with Star Trek. And of course the lesson, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one should embrace the aging process naturally perhaps. Shoot, those women were hot! Maybe I liked this one more than I thought, or maybe not. I fear I may have been twitterpated and my judgment has been severely impaired.

Mudd's Women: C+/ A [for the choice of extremely hot women]
Writer: Stephen Kandel [based on a story by Gene Roddenberry]
Director: Harvey Hart

Dead Crewman: 0
Dead Crewman To Date: 8
Babe Alert: 3
Babe Alert Total To Date: 8

Writer Footnote: Stephen Kandel [?]: A writer who also penned I, Mudd for ST:TOS, Season Two and Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes Mudd's Passion and The Jihad. It's safe to say he owned the Mudd character. He also penned the final episode of The Six Million Dollar Man in Season Five. With his pulse on the ladies he also penned five episodes of Wonder Woman including the two-part Judgment From Outer Space, Season Two opener The Return Of Wonder Woman and the two part Mind Stealers From Outer Space.

Actor Footnote: Roger Carmel [Harcourt Harry Mudd] [1932-1986]: He also appeared on Batman, Hogan's Heroes, The Munsters, Hawaii Five-0 and other popular '70s classics. He also provided the voice of Smokey Bear in those forest fire commercials from the period.

Babe Alert: Karen Steele [Evie/ Eve McHuron] [1931-1988]: Her career was varied and included appearances on Dragnet, Bonanza, Get Smart, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Flipper and Hogan's Heroes to name a few.

Babe Alert: Maggie Thrett [Ruth Bonaventure] [?].

Babe Alert: Susan Denberg [Magda Kovacs] [1944-present]: A German born Austrian beauty.


Porky said...

You do this stunningly well. A pleasure to read and view.

John Kenneth Muir said...

SFF: I agree with Porky. You write stunning reviews, and accompany them with great illustratons/art and the like. It's always a treat to read your blog.

I love your description/delineation of Kirkisms, and "Mudd's Women" offers one of my favorites (especially with Mudd's interjection included: "There are two kinds of women in this universe...(or men for that matter) either believe in yourself or you don't."

That's just...great.

And from "Charlie X", I cherish the Kirkism about "a million things you can have in this universe and a million things you can't...."

This isn't one of my top episodes either, but in a way that's the point, I think, of your intelligent rumination on the subject.

Even during a light-weight or relatively insubstantial Original Series episode, the viewer is wholly entertained and swept away by the storytelling, by the characters, by the the pure color and humanity of the events and people.

Great read!


SFF said...

Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad it delivers with a bit of an impact as I hoped. Thanks so very much. Best, SFF

Thanks so much John as always. Exactly as you added- having seen ST:TOS so many times in my life I like to think we can step back a little to look at it objectively.

On the other hand, I feel so close to the series because it has such a powerful place in my sci-fi consciousness that maybe it's impossible to be completely objective.

But, as we agree, this probably isn't the strongest in the TOS line, yet there are so many parts that are impressively special that even as an entertaining departure it hits the mark.

The story, the characters, the fun of it is there and it still delivers a strong satisfactory diversion if not good on the whole.

The series really gets the color, the make-up, the sets, the designs, the dialogue oh so right. It may be light weight but as lightweight goes Star Trek is usually very very good.

I feel I may be judging this harshly within the context of ST:TOS because I would take this episode over all of ST:TNG Season One [except for maybe Heart Of Glory] and that's probably saying alot.

Thanks for highlighting those Kirkisms! He is the wise old owl from Bambi! : )

Thanks again for the kind works my friend, SFF.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, probably not one of my biggest favorites from the original series. But it's a fun enough episode. I'm a huge fan of TNG as well, but I have to agree about season 1. It doesn't cast the show in a very good light.

I think TNG actually did have quite a bit of time spent in the briefing room, though. But I don't think you see that much in any of the other Trek shows.

SFF said...

Thank you again Crowmagnumman for your additional thoughts. I'll have to be more aware of the briefing room in ST:TNG.

I think that says alot about that series for me- so much of it is forgettable. Even the sets on ST:TNG lack the visual superiority of this original series stunning work.

And as you said, this may not be the strongest material, but it's still "fun" and that's something sorely lacking in that first season of ST:TNG. Thanks for the terrific commentary. We will enjoy your input on all things Trek in the future. : )
Best, SFF

Will said...

*before I comment I need to just give JKM a quick punch in the nads for Picard's sake. . .just in case his honor is insulted in this comment board*

Okay. . .I've only skimmed through (I will read in full at a later time tonight) but love the Red Shirt counter (and Babe counter). I look forward to see the totals!

le0pard13 said...

Another of your fine ST:TOS recaps, SFF. The clips and screen captures do it justice. While it's not the greatest in the series, it is in the top tier for sexual allure in a 60s TV series. And you're quite right that Star Trek was far ahead in pushing the envelope in what you could show on network television. ST:TNG tried to capture some of that with its more enlightened approach to the sexes. But, you knew they were following ST:TOS' two-decade lead. Still, between Nichelle Nichols, Karen Steele, (a young) Joan Collins, Yvonne Craig, Nancy Kovack, France Nuyen, Barbara Luna, etc., it's simply too much for any of the spin-offs to compete in this area ;-). Thanks for this, my friend.

SFF said...

Brilliant Leopard13! You hammer home yet another logical reason why there is no ST franchise that can hold its own against TOS and that is the long list of amazingly talented and beautiful women and you my friend have named some of the finest.

Of course Terri Garr, Madlyn Rhue, Sherry Jackson, Mariette Hartley and many more populate this wonderfully colorful universe.

ST:TOS is irrisistible when it comes to the ladies and if you were alone and these women approached you in college and your girlfriend was far away it would be very, very hard to resist.

Yes resistance is futile. : )

Thanks as always and great points on Star Trek being a groundbreaker when it came to pushing the sexual envelope in the 1960s.

Therese said...

I just found your blog, and I love your Trek reviews! I just wanted to share my Trek Blog with you too, especially my 'StarTreKomics'
Thanks, Therese

SFF said...

Hello Therese.

Thrilled to hear it. I love seeing new folks arrive and offer their input and opinions on those science fiction episodes that appeal to them.

I would love to see you return with your thoughts. Thanks so much for the kind words and I'll be sure to check your site out.


Therese said...

Thanks sff! I just read your nice comment now. I'm working on writing my own reviews of TOS, not so much reviews since anyone who reads them usually knows all about it, but offering my estrogen point of view! Thanks for the inspiration, and I'm bookmarking your site! I'll comment from time to time too, Thanks!-T

SFF said...

I look forward to seeing that viewpoint Therese. I'll also be heading over to check your site out. I look forward to those reviews. Likewise, thank you for your encouraging remarks.

Take care, sff