Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek to NBC as Wagon Train to the Stars. So it’s not surprising that the premise for “Mudd’s Women” would be one of the half-dozen or so story ideas that Roddenberry brought back to the network when asked to generate more than just “The Cage” during their pitch meetings.
“Mudd’s Women” feels like the script for a Western show but instead of taking place on the old frontier, it takes place on the “final frontier.” Cross out “mining town” and put in the phrase “mining colony” and you’re fairly close. The script does make wonder about a few things – and no, I’m not just talking about the overall message that you can make yourself beautiful just by thinking about it.
For a story set in the old West, it wasn’t hard to imagine if and how the population got things like supplies. But in “Mudd’s Women” I can’t help but wonder just how exactly the miners survived and got supplies. I’m guessing they can trade their lithium crystals for whatever they need, but how often is someone coming by to trade. And while the miners can apparently hide the crystals from conventional scanners to keep them from being attacked and robbed of this commodity, they still feel a bit isolated out there in the outer space.
I imagine I’m not supposed to contemplate these details too deeply. But it’s something I can’t help but think about when I’m watching this episode.
It helps to distract me from just how shoddy security is on board the Enterprise.
You probably know the scene I’m referencing here. After being put on trial for all the charges against him, Mudd has his three women bamboozle the male crew members out of information and a communicator. Mudd then uses said communicators to call up the miners and make a deal with them for the crystals. The deal will put Mudd in charge of the ship in exchange for wives for the miners.
Of course, the fact that Mudd does this in front of several security members causes me to wonder just what exactly one has to do to either report what’s going on to the head of security and/or Kirk or to be stopped from using stolen equipment. It also makes me wonder if the person at communications is napping at the board and not seeing a signal being sent from the ship.
At this point in Trek history, I’m guessing they haven’t quite got a consistent feel on how the various forms of technology on the ship work or interact with each other.
All nitpicking aside, I can’t say that “Mudd’s Women” would necessarily have made a strong pilot for the series the second time around. There’s the action on the bridge of chasing Mudd’s ship through the asteroid belt and there’s the conflict down on the surface with the miners. But there’s not quite the same sense of grand adventure that “Where No Man Has Gone Before” gave us.
There’s also the plotline of selling women in outer space that I imagine would make NBC balk.
I’m not quite sure how Roddenberry got that one past standards and practices of the day. Maybe they were all distracted by the women in shiny short skirts. Because it sure seems like the entire crew of the Enterprise (well, male anyway) can’t stop fumbling over themselves every time the women walk into the room. We get lots of leering gazes at the women as they wander the corridors and McCoy is so distracted he won’t follow-up on the information the diagnostic bed is giving him.
Also of interest is just how Harry smuggles the drug aboard and then manages to hide it from security. Again, not a great week for the security team of the Enterprise.
Of course, there’s also the message that if you just believe hard enough you can become radiant. I suppose I could cut Roddenberry some slack here and say the message is really that if you’re confidence makes you more attractive. But that is really stretching things a bit. It also seems to imply that men will only be interested in women if they’re beautiful by conventional standards – aka wearing sparkly short skirts and having soft focus shots taken of them.
From reading several of the behind the scenes books on Trek, I know that Roddenberry had his head turned by beautiful women and it seems like he’s trying to explain that tendency here in his script.
And yet if it were not for “Mudd’s Women” I might not have gone down my road in to Star Trek fandom as I did. After seeing Wrath of Khan and getting ready for a long cross-country trip, I talked my parents into purchasing several tie-in novels for me to read during the long car ride. One of them was an adaptation of the two Mudd scripts and third original story. I read the two Mudd teleplays and was intrigued enough that I wanted to see them play out on screen. And so once we got to our new home and I found out when Star Trek was on, I began watching and looking for them.
And wouldn’t you know it, but they were two of the last episodes I got to see that initial time watching the original 79!