Star Trek Animated Series Re-Watch: “Mudd’s Passion”

Mudd’s Passion
Written by Stephen Kandel
Directed by Hal Sutherland

Season 1, Episode 10
Production episode: 22008
Original air date: November 10, 1973
Star date: 4978.5

Mission summary

Enterprise makes a special trip to Motherlode in the Arcadian star system in search of one Harcourt Fenton Mudd, wanted on several counts of being annoying. They find the infamous swindler hawking a love potion to the human and ursine miners on the planet, claiming that all it takes is a drop of a magic liquid to compell any woman to love them with a single touch. “It matters not whether you are young, old, fat, ugly or repugnant,” he assures the crowd–and what better way to prove three out of four than by a personal demonstration? He brings up a young blonde who implores, “Please, darling, come back to the ship with me.” Yecch!

Kirk and Spock arrive just in time to witness this disgusting display. Spock exposes Mudd as a fraud by firing his phaser at the woman, revealing her to be a “Rigelian hypnoid,” a lizard that cleans up nice. (Possibly a distant relative of the Hypnotoad.) Apparently Kirk can’t arrest Mudd because Motherlode is a lawless den of iniquity, but he can save the conman from being stoned to death by angry miners. The opportunist recognizes this as an offer he can’t refuse and soon finds himself safely in Enterprise‘s brig.

Spock requests that Nurse Chapel examine the slightly injured prisoner, which gives her a convenient excuse to stick around the brig with a phaser.

CHAPEL: Of course, Mister Spock. I think you deserve congratulations for trapping him so cleverly.
SPOCK: You exaggerate, Nurse. Kindly see that your medical summary is more precise.

Mudd sees Chapel get shutdown by the unfeeling Vulcan and tries to give her a love crystal to solve her problems. She doesn’t trust him because hey, it’s Harry Mudd, but he goes into informercial mode: “One touch evokes friendship between men or women. But between woman and man, love.”

Just “friendship,” huh? What incredibly discerning love crystals!

Chapel decides that maybe she could take one after all, just to “analyze” it, of course. She lets Mudd out, and he convinces her to use herself and Spock as test subjects. She breaks the capsule and rubs the liquid on her skin, which causes her to swoon–allowing Mudd to steal her medical pouch, along with her credibility. He locks himself back in the forcefield and she heads off to touch Spock.
Mudd uses Chapel’s phaser to overload the forcefield and escape, then uses the Enterprise computers to change the picture on Chapel’s ID to his own. Meanwhile, Chapel delivers her medical report to Spock’s quarters and “accidentally” falls into his lap.

SPOCK: Was there something else, Miss Chapel?
CHAPEL: Wouldn’t you like me to, well, stay? Help you?
SPOCK: That would be illogical, Miss Chapel.

Chapel’s pissed that the love potion didn’t work and returns to the brig to file a complaint with the home office, only Mudd is gone. She realizes that her phaser and pouch are gone too. Oops! She tracks him down to the shuttlebay, where she beats the crap out of him and reclaims her stolen property, but not her pride. Mudd cajoles her and she shoots at him, but misses. He drops some love crystals, which get sucked up as vapor into an air vent. She hits a panic button that initiates a Red Alert, but Mudd somehow recovers and takes her hostage.

Unbeknownst to them both, Spock is starting to feel amorous toward the nurse and goes to the Bridge to confide in his best friends, and the rest of the eavesdropping Bridge crew.

SPOCK: Captain. Doctor. I wish to report a, er, a number of very strange, um, emotions.

He’s alarmed to find out that Mudd has kidnapped Chapel and escaped in a shuttlecraft, and insists on immediately going to fetch his “love.” Kirk decides there’s no way to deter his lovestruck first officer and accompanies him to the planet Mudd is heading for. Just before they beam out, they’re exposed to fumes from the air vents, along with everyone on the Bridge. M’ress and Scotty cozy up to each other, while Kirk and Spock get friendlier on the planet.

SPOCK: It’s good to have a friend like you.
KIRK: Strange, that’s the way I feel about you, too. My dear friend, Spock. Come, let’s go get Mudd and Christine.
They find Nurse Chapel and Mudd, and Chapel is delighted to learn that Spock is in love with her, but less pleased by the two giant rock monsters that crush the shuttle and attack them.
SPOCK: Don’t worry. You’ll be safe, darling.
CHAPEL: Yes, Spock. How wonderful.
MUDD: They’re coming closer.
KIRK: Emergency beam up. Enterprise, come in. No response. Spock, can’t you take your hands off her?
SPOCK: That’s my affair.
CHAPEL: Captain, please.

Spock and Kirk have a moment of clarity, realizing that they’re feeling the effects of the love potion, which Mudd didn’t even think really worked. Unfortunately everyone on the ship is so busy trying to score, they aren’t paying much attention to the plight of the people on the planet. Not only is Kirk and Co. about to be squished, but they’re starting to get on each other’s nerves. The love crystal-induced honeymoon is over; the Enterprise crew is hungover and surly, but they’re finally coming to their senses enough to check on the captain.

Mudd reluctantly volunteers his love crystals, which Kirk uses to dose one of the rock creatures. The rock creature suddenly becomes affectionate and protective of the humans and turns against the other rock creature, which buys them enough time to be rescued by an emergency beam out.

Now that everything’s sorted, Chapel records Mudd’s confession for his many crimes.

SPOCK: May I help you record his confession, Nurse?
CHAPEL: You? You’d be the last person I’d choose.
SPOCK: A few moments of love, paid for with several hours of hatred. Your potion is scarcely a bargain, Harry.
MUDD: Ah, well, Spock. So few things in this universe are perfect. Think I’ll get rehabilitation therapy again?
SPOCK: I can guarantee it.
MUDD: Well, that’s all right. I just hate to leave you all. All my loved ones.


If I had to take a guess, I’d say Harry Mudd wasn’t the only one who was stoned in this episode.

The more I thought about “Mudd’s Passion,” the more disgusted I became with it. This episode is written like bad fanfiction from start to finish, forcing the actors to demean themselves and behave wildly out of character. The only saving grace is that we don’t have to see them embarrass themselves onscreen, as we did in “Plato’s Stepchildren,” but their animated counterparts still made me plenty uncomfortable.

Plotwise, this adventure unfortunately is more along the lines of “Mudd’s Women” than “I, Mudd,” most notably in how offensive and inappropriate it manages to be, though also by revisiting the idea of the swindler preying on lonely miners. But the worst sin committed here is the awful depiction of Nurse Chapel, which singlehandedly reduces her to an unsympathetic parody of her former self.

Ignoring her orchestrated “fall” into Spock’s lap–one of the worst moments I’ve ever witnessed in Star Trek–I was most disappointed by Chapel’s half-hearted rejection of Mudd’s love crystal. She is rather easily swayed, never even considering the moral implications of forcing the Vulcan to love her; instead, she was only concerned with whether or not the crystals were genuine. And as far as I can tell, there were no lasting consequences to her dangerous lapse in judgment and the resulting chaos caused by her inept handling of a prisoner. Though Mudd compliments Chapel (“You’re not simply a beautiful woman, you are a scientist.”) it’s evident that he’s just buttering her up and, perhaps, speaking facetiously–he doesn’t respect her as a person at all, and I’m not sure the writer does either.

As for the love crystals (Or are they capsules? Liquids?), I was stunned by the explanation that they merely initiate “friendship” in people of the same sex and love in those of the opposite sex. I know it’s a cartoon, I know it was 1973, but still–wouldn’t it have been better to avoid that question entirely, if they were simply going to write it off so simplistically? Do Kirk and Spock really need a dose of the love potion to admit they’re good friends? I mean, that scene of them embracing each other seemed tailored for all the K/S writers out there.

The crystals also don’t even function consistently! Kirk never touches the rock creature after feeding it the crystals (which never seemed to match the number mentioned in dialogue), but the alien develops strong feelings for him anyway. M’ress doesn’t touch Scott, but finds him attractive anyway. And I still can’t quite figure out how they were sucked into the air vents in the first place.

This episode shocked me at every turn, from M’ress blatantly cozying up to Scott on the Bridge to Dr. McCoy bragging to a woman just to impress her. Why do love potions always make people change their behavior so drastically? Why must love always be shown as obsessive, instead of dealing with a shift in attitude and feeling more realistically and thoughtfully? Why does Arex start playing a banjo at his station? I was also constantly creeped out by Spock’s smarmy facial expressions when he’s thinking about Nurse Chapel. That’s just wrong.

Though I enjoyed Roger C. Carmel’s performance as Mudd, reprising his role from the original series, I don’t particularly like his character. His particular acting style is conveyed very well in his voice acting and translates well enough to animation, but his usually entertaining interactions with Kirk simply feel copied from previous episodes.

The plot also drags considerably, despite too much going on for me to follow much of the time. Once again, I have the impression they tried to cram a forty-minute script into a twenty-minute runtime, or put more accurately: ten pounds of crap in a five-pound bag. And when the episode was finally over, I felt like I had a hangover and hated everyone involved with it.

Eugene’s Rating: Impulse (on a scale of 1-6)

Torie Atkinson: While he irked me on his first appearance (“Mudd’s Women”), Harcourt Fenton Mudd warmed on me a lot the second time (“I, Mudd”)  and so I was pretty excited about this episode. That was unfortunate. Compared to laserbeam-shooting Lucifer and jolly green giant Vulcan clones, it’s all right.  “Mudd’s Passion” actually manages a coherent plot and keeps things moving quickly. It takes advantage of the format to pack a punch into each little scene. If only that were enough… The weaknesses (most significantly, a strong creep factor) were nontrivial, and I have to give negative credit to an episode that had me making noises for a full twenty minutes–cringing in horror and squealing in empathetic embarrassment.

Carmel remains a brilliant comic actor, but I felt that only hurt him here. His (fun!) line delivery is undercut by lifeless animation and some of the creepiest, least human expressions I’ve ever seen. Most of the joy of watching him as a performer are the little physicalities missed in this kind of show: the way he narrows his eyes, moves his hands around, carries himself. Even so, he blows the rest of the actors out of the water in every scene. (Nimoy is especially awful, delivering some of the best lines with wooden indifference.)

The rigid animation’s chilling effect on comedy sabotaged everything from the starting line. Reaction shots became painted backdrops of creepy faces, and any time a character was supposed to respond to a joke or something funny, it looked like he or she had just seen a deer. There isn’t enough vitality or expression in those drawings to convey real humor. Some of the lines are just phenomenal, though. My favorite is Scotty’s bit about how this hangover compares to the (obviously numerous) others in his memory. A light that shines in dark places…

I really liked the idea that Mudd’s crystals wound up being genuine (even if I loathed the actual repercussions), and his reaction when he learns it is priceless. It’s fun to see a conman get conned with something legitimate. Unfortunately, the plot elements that weren’t Mudd-specific are muddled and embarrassing. I found a good thirty percent of the screentime frankly kind of disturbing. Spock’s lines about wanting to hold and protect “his” Christine, in addition to Mudd’s weird speech on Chapel’s “feminine” profession of being a healer (what is this, a D&D campaign?), felt twenty years out of date even for the 70s. It seemed especially odd given the extraordinarily slashy little scene between Kirk and Spock. That’ll be imbued in my memory forever, yep. Do they need to be wasted to communicate their friendship? And oh god, M’Ress, phone sex operator from the stars. Scotty, what’s going on!   At least in the most surreal Krofftian nightmares there was some hint of Star Trek, and the characters we know so well. Not here. Who are these people?

And so many things are nagging at me. Why doesn’t Mudd fall in love with Chapel, seeing as she touches him almost immediately after rubbing the crystal on herself? And why does Mudd bother changing the ID picture when it still says “Christine”?

I can see why Carmel has fans, but Mudd? No more, thanks.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 2

Best Line: McCoy: “I’ve saved just about everybody on this here ship. If the Enterprise had a heart, I’d save her too.”

Trivia: This episode is a direct sequel to “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd,” which were also written by Stephen Kandel.

The illusion-making reptile Mudd uses to fool the miners is from the Rigel star system. Enterprise first encountered Mudd at the lithium mining station on Rigel XII, back in “Mudd’s Women.”

Producers considered bringing back Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

This is the last time we see Chapel’s feelings for Spock. That’s probably for the best, all things considered.

Other notes: Mudd returned in the tie-in books Mudd’s Angels in a novella titled “The Business, As Usual, During Altercations” by J.A. Lawrence and Mudd in Your Eye by Jerry Oltion.

Previous episode: Season 1, Episode 9 – “Once Upon a Planet.”

Next episode: Season 1, Episode 11 – “The Terratin Incident.” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.

About Eugene Myers & Torie Atkinson

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 fiction. His first novel, Fair Coin, is forthcoming from Pyr. 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.