Star Trek TOS: Mudd’s Back and Kirk is Wildly Unimpressed
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2, Episode 8
McCoy sensed an oddity about a new crewmember, so remember that for later. Because of McCoy’s quick rush to judgment without any medical analysis, Spock gave him a hard time about being condemnatory.
But then the odd crewmember began karate-chopping folks, bringing McCoy’s prophecy full circle. Kirk and others started searching for the intruder. Continuing the matter, anti-matter theme of the season, the intruder altered the composition of those elements in the ship, wreaking havoc for operation.
The intruder, Norman, broke into the cockpit and revealed to Kirk his threat to the ship along with his biological makeup — he was an android. Norman was taking Enterprise to an uncharted planet.
On the planet, Kirk met his foe — Henry Mudd from Season One’s, Mudd’s Women. Kirk’s mood turned from bewildered and alarmed by the android — to thoroughly irked and “you gotta be kidding me” when he realized Mudd was the culprit. Kirk perceived Mudd as an irritant, not a crazy alien foe.
The crew learned Mudd escaped from prison — where Kirk put him in Season One — and his subsequent landing on the planet he aptly titled Mudd. The ex-pimp, Mudd, needed Kirk to remain on Mudd and manage the androids while he frolicked in the rest of the galaxy. Kirk declined.
Meanwhile, Mudd swapped the crew on Enterprise with androids to raise the stakes on Kirk’s defiance. On Mudd the Planet, Mudd The Guy tempted Kirk’s crew with the lures of anything they wanted. And some of them bought in, existing in a blissful, orgasmic-like state.
When Mudd plotted exodus from his planet, the androids had a change of heart. They decided Mudd could not leave, declaring their plan, as a “species,” was to serve humans until they were truly non-expendable.
And that was the first parable of the episode — aside from the routine “beware of machines” trope from Star Trek. Androids — literally the name of the cellphones used today — wanted to make their utilization so mainstream in society, albeit galactic, that humans could never discard them. So, this is a tale of forewarning on the dependence on machines. Perhaps contemporary humans missed the memo from I, Mudd. Think about it as your read this on your, well, Android device.
Mudd then tossed a “your mother” grenade (a joke, not a real weapon) in Spock’s lap, which he promptly denounced as silly and illogical.
After that, Uhura proclaimed her loyalty to android supremacy — a ruse to con one of the androids, Alice, into believing she was telling the truth. Outsmarting the machines was a bold strategy, one that paid off.
The whole Kirk-led crew played “mind” games on the androids to malfunction their capabilities. Also of note: The androids’ vocabulary, at times, sounded as if Spock was personally dictating their speech. This should be considered a tribute to Spock’s intelligence, not a likening of his personality to a machine.
Because the machine turned on Kirk and Mudd, the two wound up coexisting to stave off the threat of the androids. In two episodes, Mudd maintained a lovable antagonism — probably because he was a nonviolent ladies’ man.
In the end, I, Robot continued Star Trek’s cautionary tale on the rise of machines. In the writers’ view, human ingenuity always superseded the allure of the machine.
Themes. Man vs. Machines, Human Dependence on Technology
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).