Fine, Evie, Fine: TOS “Mudd’s Women”

The Enterprise rescues the crew of a rogue spaceship and deals with Harry Mudd, whose scheme is to sell women to lonely miners on distant planets.

  • In the enhanced graphics, we see a spaceship, complete with nacelles, whereas in the original series, the ship was a blob.
  • Trek physics: the astronomy is dicey. The Enterprise is pursuing this smaller ship, and someone comments that they’re entering an asteroid belt. Really? Are they in a planetary system? You wouldn’t come across an asteroid belt out in interstellar space. But they do, so the plot can cause the destruction of the smaller ship and the Enterprise’s rescue of its crew.
  • Enterprise mechanics: now the crucial items are the “lithium crystal circuits” which burn out, one by one, as the ship over-extends its power to shield the renegade ship. In another episode, the concern is about the matter/anti-matter mix. Are these related? I’m sure the fans rationalized these later, and maybe the producers had some relationship in mind in the series’ ‘bible’, but seeing these early episodes just gives the appearance that these ideas were made up by separate writers without any overall guidance.
  • Thematically, this episode is the most sexist, dated, story in the entire series. The idea is that Harry Mudd, a lovable rogue type, is on his way to transport three beautiful women – who appear throughout most of the story in tight evening gowns – to find husbands. Because, you know, pioneering men out in space are lonely; and these women have no ambition in their lives than to find a husband. Worse, when the women first appear on the ship, the male Enterprise crew members – McCoy and Scott, initially – seem hypnotized by this female beauty, as if their female crew members are, what, sexless, compared to these beauties? And so as the women arrive, and walk down the corridor, the composer, Fred Steiner, offers some swanky, hubba-hubba music.
  • Mudd observes that Spock is part “Vulcanian”; Kirk’s quarters are on deck 12, which doesn’t make sense in terms of later schematics of the ship.
  • OTOH, this episode features a four by two rising three then falling one theme that we hear over and over again, but in different instrumentations, being remarkably versatile to color a variety of different emotional situations.
  • As they’re down to one lithium crystal, they decide to head for Rigel XII, site of lithium miners, just ‘2 days’ travel’. I’ve always thought Trek played fast and loose with real star names, using them for audience familiarity, without any regard for actual positions in the galaxy; I plan to plot them out, suspecting that the implied voyages of the starship would make no more sense than stories about a Navy ship that visited Hawaii one week, London the next, and Antarctica the week after that.
  • In the briefing room hearing scene, note the portrayal of the talking computer. The computer monitor displays a meaningless oscillating sine wave; the voice [by Majel Barrett] is underscored by teletyping sounds. This is a topic for how film and TV play — to this day, arguably, but especially 50 years ago — to intuitive, and wrong, ideas of how computers work; or more generally, how dramatic stories play to audience expectations, rarely, even in SF, challenging them.
  • Harry has a nice line, accused of being a menace to navigation: “My tiny little ship in this *immense* galaxy? A menace to nav—?“, he scoffs. He has a point.
  • Then he mentions planet Ophiuchus Three. Ophiuchus is a constellation, not a particular star. The writers and production staff are not too careful about astronomical nomenclature.
  • And the women are always shown in soft focus, as in movies of the 1940s.
  • Of the three women, Eve McHuron is the only one with any character—she’s frustrated by Mudd’s promises and put off by his wheeling and dealing. Harry tries to mollify her: “Fine, Evie, Fine”, and she fires back, “No it’s *not* fine.”
  • The episode has several interestingly shot scenes, as with Kirk and Eve speaking to each other through a decorative grate in his quarters.
  • Trek physics: the Enterprise arrives at Rigel XII, but its remaining crystal allows only a ‘shaky’ orbit for only 3 days and 7 hours. Huh? A later episode, “Court Martial”, pulls this stunt too, implying that without power, the ship’s orbit will decay. (And “The Naked Time” implied that too.) No. Not unless they’re in such a low orbit that the ship is skimming the atmosphere. Otherwise they’re in space, in free fall, in endless motion without anything to hinder it. Just like the moon is, around the Earth.
  • The enhanced graphics have a better shot of the miners’ camp than the original.
  • Another early Trek theme: a ‘magnetic storm’ affects the ship and planet.
  • Plot point: why doesn’t Childress, the head miner, having gotten his woman, comply with Kirk’s command to provide lithium crystals? Perhaps because Eve, coughing from the dust storm, seems obviously unhealthy.
  • Eve runs off; the Enterprise searches for her from orbit; Kirk and Mudd confront Childress and Eve in his quarters, and reveal to him the secret of the Venus Drugs – that which made the women so alluring. “It gives you more of what you have…” Mudd explains, offering masculine and feminine examples. Eve, having become worn down, gives in to Childress’ desires and takes a pill, but crying out in pathos: “And I hope you remember it and dream about it! Because you can’t have it! It’s not real!!” For me this is the most memorable line of the episode.
  • But then it turns out she’s only *acting* beautiful; she was duped. Is this resolution plausible? I’ve never been completely convinced.
  • Finally, here’s an early episode that undercuts its drama with a flip, comedic ending, not one but two. Mudd, about throwing away the key; Spock and McCoy, about the former’s internal anatomy. These endings became common especially in Season Two, and in retrospect, I find them annoying.
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