Star Trek Re-Watch: “I, Mudd”

“I, Mudd”
Written by Stephen Kandel
Directed by Marc Daniels

Season 2, Episode 9
Production episode: 2×12
Original air date: November 3, 1967
Star date: 4513.3

Mission Summary:
A new crewmember, Norman, has come aboard the Enterprise, and he stiffly greets Doctor McCoy and Spock in the hallway. Bones has a bad feeling about him—and since he’s the emotional core of the show, so do we.

MCCOY: There’s something wrong about a man who never smiles, whose conversation never varies from the routine of the job, and who won’t talk about his background.
SPOCK: I see.
MCCOY: Spock, I mean that it’s odd for a non-Vulcan. The ears make all the difference.

Norman makes his way to Auxiliary Control, where he silently karate-chops the crewman there and inputs a new course direction. Sulu can’t override it, and Security can’t seem to find Norman, which is shocking considering he’s taller than even Nimoy and looks like a giant among elves. Norman makes his way to Engineering next, knocking out poor Mr. Scott and reconfiguring the matter-antimatter pods into a trigger relay (yada yada SCIENCE!) that will destroy the ship if they try and override it. He then heads to the bridge, where an angry Kirk demands to know who he is and where they’re now inexorably headed.

Norman says in stilted pauses that “we” require the Enterprise, and reveals a circuit panel on his abdomen, complete with blinking lights: he’s an android! He then crosses his arms and turns himself off for the duration of the flight.

They arrive at a previously uncharted K-class (adaptable for humans) planet, and Captain Kirk, Uhura, Chekov, Spock and McCoy all beam down to the android’s leader. Seated atop a throne is none other than Harcourt Fenton Mudd, aka Harry Mudd, the memorable rascal from “Mudd’s Women.” He declares that he is Mudd I of the planet Mudd, and he is surrounded by many beautiful, and identical, android women.

Mudd is absolutely delighted by Kirk’s arrival, but Kirk is baffled—the last time we saw Mudd he was in custody on the mining planet Rigel. Mudd explains that he escaped from prison, and was able to illegally trade and sell intellectual property to a host of other civilizations, while not paying royalties to the actual owners of said technology. The people of Deneb V caught him and arrested him.

MUDD: Do know what the penalty for fraud is on Deneb V?
SPOCK: The guilty party has his choice. Death by electrocution, death by gas, death by phaser, death by hanging—
MUDD: The key word in your entire peroration, Mister Spock, was, death. Barbarians. Well, of course, I left.
KIRK: He broke jail.
MUDD: I borrowed transportation.
KIRK: He stole a spaceship.
MUDD: The patrol reacted in a hostile manner.
KIRK: They fired at him.
MUDD: They’ve no respect for private property. They damaged the bloody spaceship. Well, I got away, but I couldn’t navigate, so I wandered out through unmapped space, and here I found Mudd.

There are 200,000 androids on the planet, and delighted with humans, they’ve chosen to study him. But Mudd has become bored and restless and made a deal: they would let him leave if he replaced himself with more humans for study. Mudd plans to take over the Enterprise, and leave the ship’s crew on the planet Mudd for all eternity.

Before he retires to his own luxurious quarters, he shows Kirk and the others his favorite android. Behind a curtain in an alcove is a stern, severe-looking woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Bride of Frankenstein. Mudd reveals this to be his wife Stella. He activates her and she immediately harangues him in her best shrewish, ball-busting manner. (Stella Mudd in many ways prefigures Keiko O’Brien.) This Stella is an android, of course, so Mudd tells her to shut up and she does, presumably unlike the real Stella. “Marvellous, isn’t it?” he says to Kirk. “I finally have the last word with her, and with you.” Haha, get it, wives are ball-busting shrews! It’s funny! Groan.

The androids escort the Enterprise crew to a lounge area, where they tell us that they were created by The Makers, humanoids in the Andromeda galaxy who created machines which “freed [them] to evolve a more perfect social order.” But when the planet’s sun went nova (this seems to happen all the time in Trek—SCIENCE!), all the Makers eventually died, leaving the robots purposeless. They have become loyal to Mudd, for reasons that are unexplained and probably best left that way. In an attempt to please him they beamed aboard the Enterprise to take over the ship. All remaining crew have been beamed to the surface, doomed to the same fate as Kirk and his crew.

The androids are exceptionally advanced, and they will do anything at all to please Kirk and his friends, who are set to replace Mudd. One android explains that a brain can be placed within an android’s body, preserving the personality and character while bestowing immortality and eternal beauty—an appealing option to Lt. Uhura. McCoy discovers a scientific lab more sophisticated than anything he’s ever seen before, and excitedly ponders the breakthroughs he could have in a place like that. Mr. Scott, of course, gets a workshop to die for, and Chekov gets some hot android ladies (why Chekov gets all the tail in this show is utterly beyond my comprehension). It’s meant to be a paradise.

But like all paradises in the Star Trek universe, man cannot live in a world where he “can have everything [he wants] just by asking for it.”* Kirk continues to insist that he and his men are deeply unhappy because their wants are not fulfilled: they want the Enterprise.

ALICE 471: The Enterprise is not a want or a desire. It is a mechanical device.
KIRK: No, it’s a beautiful lady, and we love her.
ALICE 471: Illogical. Illogical. All units relate. All units. Norman, co-ordinate. Unhappiness does not relate. We must study this.

Kirk and the others take note: they depend on logic, and cannot operate coherently without it.

Meanwhile, Mudd has packed his bags and is waiting to be beamed aboard the Enterprise, ready to swindle another day. But not so fast: Alice 2 refuses to take his bags aboard the ship. Norman and the androids have made other plans:

NORMAN: We cannot allow any race as greedy and corruptible as yours to have free run of the galaxy.
SPOCK: I’m curious, Norman. Just how do you intend to stop them?
NORMAN: We shall serve them. Their kind will be eager to accept our service. Soon they will become completely dependent upon us.
ALICE 99: Their aggressive and acquisitive instincts will be under our control.
NORMAN: We shall take care of them.
SPOCK: Eminently practical.
KIRK: The whole galaxy controlled by your kind?
NORMAN: Yes, Captain. And we shall serve them and you will be happy, and controlled.

Why does everything always comes back to world universe domination? You’d think androids would have more sophisticated goals…

No worries, our intrepid heroes won’t let that happen without a fight. Mudd, now stuck on the planet he had so desperately hoped to escape from, is willing to help them. But they don’t quite forgive his initial stunt so McCoy hyposprays him and Mudd falls into Kirk’s arms, unconscious.

One of the Alice models arrives and Kirk insists that they all go to the Enterprise to get Harry the life-saving medical equipment he needs. The Alice is skeptical, and suddenly Uhura bursts out that it’s a trick.

KIRK: Uhura, why did you tell her?
UHURA: Because I want an android body. I want immortality. I’ll live forever, Captain. I’ll be young and beautiful.

Of course it was that that was the trick, and now that the androids believe the escape attempt has been made, they have free rein to carry out their real plan: a night of theater! Get the popcorn, this is worth it.

Back in the lounge area Kirk pages the Alice models again, requesting “your attention.” Mr. Scott and McCoy enter the area, and start playing the early equivalent of the air guitar—an imaginary flute and fiddle—as Chekov and Uhura waltz around the area.

ALICE 2: What are they doing?
KIRK: They’re celebrating.
ALICE 118: What are they celebrating?
KIRK: Their captivity. Do you enjoy the music?
ALICE 118: Music?
ALICE 2: Music?

Music? Chekov thanks Uhura for the dance, and then she slaps him, “because she likes him,” Kirk explains.** Kirk then tells Chekov to get up off the floor and stand absolutely still, as an officer. He bursts into dance! The androids seem to flatline from the illogical behavior and fall over, inactive. Not community theater fans, I guess.

Meanwhile, Spock is putting the moves on two more Alices. He attempts to neck pinch one, but of course that doesn’t work.

ALICE 210: Is there some significance to this action?
SPOCK: I love you. (To the other Alice) However, I hate you.
ALICE 210: But I’m identical in every way with Alice 27.
SPOCK: Yes, of course. That is exactly why I hate you. Because you are identical.

The androids flatline, baffled (and possibly heartbroken).

The crew reconvenes and sets its sights on the real threat here: Norman. If they can out-logic him (and they can—this is Kirk, after all) they can take down the entire robot network. They confront Norman and in a series of hilarious and brilliant moves, utterly baffle the poor robot. First Mr. Scott and Mr. McCoy lament in monotones that happiness is suffering, and that pleasure is pain:

MCCOY: Suffering, in torment and pain. Labouring without end.
SCOTT: Dying and crying and lamenting over our burdens.
BOTH: Only this way can we be happy.

I guess Livejournal doesn’t survive until the 23rd century because Norman has never heard anything like this before! He asks Mr. Spock to explain, and Mr. Spock says “Logic is a little tweeting bird chirping in a meadow. Logic is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell bad. Are you sure your circuits are registering correctly? Your ears are green.”

Then the entire crew turns on Mr. Scott, who dramatically says a farewell before they all pretend to shoot him with their phasers. “Scotty’s dead. He had too much happiness,” Kirk says, and they all burst out laughing. They then pretend to unwrap an explosive device (“Invisible Bomb!”).

And finally, Mudd unleashes the Liar’s Paradox at him:

NORMAN: But there was no explosion.
MUDD: I lied.
KIRK: He lied. Everything Harry tells you is a lie. Remember that. Everything Harry tells you is a lie.
MUDD: Listen to this carefully, Norman. I am lying.
NORMAN: You say you are lying, but if everything you say is a lie then you are telling the truth, but you cannot tell the truth because everything you say is a lie. You lie. You tell the truth. But you cannot for. Illogical! Illogical! Please explain.

Then his head smokes and he deactivates.

In the end, Mr. Mudd gets a reprieve from jail—sort of. Since the planet (presumably no longer called Mudd) still needs to be developed into a livable habitat, Mudd will remain there to “assist,” by providing a negative example of humanity to the androids. Angry at first, Mudd decides that a planet full of gorgeous, obedient women probably isn’t the worst thing that could happen to him.

But Kirk is smirking. They’ve created a special android to take care of Mudd. Stella emerges from her alcove to harass Harry, and this time when he tells her to shut up she just carries on. Another Stella enters, and another—and we see around her neck is 500, indicating that 500 models of his loathsome wife will be his company on the planet in the years to come.

MUDD: Kirk! It’s inhuman! Mercy!
KIRK: Goodbye, Harry. Have fun.

* I think I could live with it.
**This is a lie, no matter what your parents told you about that kid teasing you in grade school!

Easily the best comic episode so far, “I, Mudd” was a total joy to watch. Harry Mudd redeemed himself in my eyes—I like him much better as a dirty-minded scoundrel than I did as a peddler of women. Roger C. Carmel has impeccable comic timing, and Mudd’s verbal sparring with Captain Kirk is priceless. Kirk “translating” Mudd’s lies literally made me laugh out loud. The plot, unfortunately, gave me déjà vu. We’ve seen Kirk outthink a computer (or something like it) three times already: “What are Little Girls Made Of?”, “The Return of the Archons,” and “The Changeling.” And we’ve barely begun season 2!

“I, Mudd” is most likely a reference to two books: Asimov’s iconic series of short stories, I, Robot, and Robert Graves’ epic series of novels, I, Claudius. The first reference should be obvious: I mean, come on, androids—but I think there’s more than a touch of I, Claudius in here. The I, Claudius books deal significantly with the promise and problems of liberty, an idea that is shown as at odds with order, stability, and peace. The androids of the planet Mudd eventually come to the same conclusion, and feel that mankind must be controlled for the sake of order.

Again I see hints of the influence that the original series had on the later incarnations. When Norman is on the bridge and tries, inelegantly, to say “please,” it felt like a line right from Data in Next Generation. The female androids trying desperately to make sense of what Kirk and his crew are doing reminded me strongly of all the moments in which Data struggles to understand the illogical and absurd side of the human race. On the darker side of the coin, Norman’s repeated use of the word “we” and the obvious connectivity among all the androids in one great chain felt like glimmers of the Borg. These androids, too, lack any independent thought or identity. Very creepy.

Like in “The Menagerie,” the humans are able to escape by distinguishing themselves as creative souls who survive on the “nourishments of liberty.” If that isn’t poetry enough, Mr. Scott and Dr. McCoy are attracted to the place because the pleasure it offers is an intellectual one: the promise that they may be curious and resourceful and innovative. Creative. The androids explain that after their Makers died they lost a sense of purpose. Scotty and Bones have that sense of purpose, and that’s what drives them, and that’s the humanity the androids will never understand or possess.

A fun, smart, and very funny episode. Alas, it’s too derivative of several previous episodes to merit a better rating.

Torie’s Rating: Warp Factor 4 (on a scale of 1-6)

Eugene Myers: Given the title and premise, “I, Mudd” is apparently a play on Isaac Asimov’s robot stories, which explore humanity’s uneasy relationship with their mechanical servants. I had some apprehension over Harry Mudd’s second appearance in Star Trek, since “Mudd’s Women” was such a disaster, but I shouldn’t have worried because here he is the humorous character I remember fondly. Watching Kirk deal with the incorrigible conman is a delight, even more so since Mudd receives an appropriate punishment for his crimes.

Though the episode touches on some serious subjects, this is definitely a comedy, allowing the characters to have fun with their roles. The light treatment saves this from being just another story in which Kirk outwits a computer intelligence, in this case, by bombarding it with illogical behavior. The idea of paradise is also invoked again, but in a different way, by offering each member of the crew what they most desire.

Because there’s only the barest suggestion of a plot, there isn’t much more to say about the episode; as meaningful as Star Trek stories can be, sometimes it’s enough just to be entertained. I also appreciated the acknowledgment that Chekov wasn’t on the ship when they first encountered Mudd, since the young ensign asks the captain if they know him. And I also got a big kick out of the zany architecture on the planet.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp Factor 4

Best Line: KIRK: So far this thing has had its amusing aspects, but that threat the androids made about taking over all the humans in the galaxy is not very funny.

Syndication Edits: In the opening scene, Spock’s jibe that Norman probably hasn’t shown up for his physical because of McCoy’s “beads and rattles”; Spock’s arrival on the bridge and Sulu’s attempt to stop Norman; Norman making adjustments in Engineering; Mudd’s quip to Kirk that he should address him as “Mudd the First”; Mudd waxing on about ruling the planet before his androids enter; Mudd waving to call the androids on his other side; Scotty looking delighted in the Engineering lab; McCoy’s report to Kirk on the physiological and psychological perfection of the androids; two fun lines by Mudd and McCoy: after Kirk says the androids are sharing their plot because they’re sure they can’t be stopped, Mudd says “You’re so smart, Kirk, you and this pointy-eared thinking machine of yours. Well, you’d better do something because I’m as anxious to get off this ruddy rock as you are,” and McCoy replies, “You wanted to leave us on this ruddy rock and leave by yourself.” “Oh, yes” Mudd sulks, remembering.

Trivia: The two Alices weren’t quite reading the same script: when they invite Kirk to check out the planet’s facilities, one says, “You are free to visit them,” while the other says, “You are free to use them.” Oops.

You won’t be seeing Sulu again for the next fourteen production episodes. He had taken the time off to film The Green Berets.

Other Notes: The androids are very real women, and are actually sets of twins. Hiring twins saved them their special effects budget. Simple but effective.

Another cute bit: in the credits one woman is Alice #1-250, while the other woman is Alice #251-500.

Previous Episode: Season 2, Episode 8 – “Catspaw.”

Next Episode: Season 2, Episode 10 – “Metamorphosis.” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.

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About Torie Atkinson & Eugene Myers

TORIE ATKINSON is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books. EUGENE MYERS has published short fiction in a variety of print and online zines as E.C. Myers. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. When he isn’t watching Star Trek, he reads and writes young adult fiction. His first novel, Fair Coin, is available now from Pyr.