After watching “Mudd’s Women” and reviewing it, I was going through my episode list figuring out what to watch next. I saw an episode called “I, Mudd” in Season 2 and I’m going, “Seriously? You brought back that dude?”
I was actually in for a treat, partly because it seems like the episode was trying to be campy and funny (instead of that being unintentional and just a product of watching it decades later), and the actors did a good job pulling it off.
We start off with McCoy, who’s suspicious of a new dude on the crew who doesn’t smile and keeps avoiding getting his physical.
Yup, looks sketchy to me. Very quickly McCoy’s suspicions are confirmed as “Crewman Norman” effectively sabotages key systems until the ship has changed course and there’s nothing the bridge crew can do about it.
Norman shows up on the bridge and ominously tells Kirk: “We require your ship.” When Kirk asks who “we” is, Norman lifts the hem of his shirt to reveal:
He’s a freaking android! I am basically sold by this point.
When they get to their destination, an uncharted planet, Norman orders Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty and Chekov to go down with him. On the planet they are ushered into the very purple presence of Mudd and his posse of shiny, beaded, bouffant-ed robot girls.
Mudd, who now has a bit of a put-on British accent, says he’s now the Emperor of this planet of androids and his plan is to strand the Enterprise team there.
Of course, he has to explain the identical android attendants: “Lovely, aren’t they? You must admit, Kirk, that I still retain my eye for beauty.”
He announces he has made 500 of this, the “Alice” model, “all identical, beautiful, compliant, obedient, I wasn’t super shocked. .” Of course the idea of having robot women totally lacking in personality who are just there to serve men is icky, but maybe since this is the second episode I’ve reviewed involving a guy making a sexbot, I wasn’t super shocked.
But it’s not long before we find out that Mudd is really not in control. He reveals the androids are studying him and wouldn’t let him leave unless he brought them more humans to study.
The next android we meet is another Mudd creation, this time a re-creation of Mudd’s wife, Stella, who resides in a shrine in his anteroom. It’s not out of love, but to remind him of what he’s missing being far away from her: “her continual, eternal, confounded nagging” that drove him into far away space. So she’s a classic shrew archetype.
In the next scene the away team gathers and there’s an annoying incident where Kirk asks them for their opinion on the situation. He goes through all the guys and just totally ignores Uhura.
Mudd and the androids try to convince the Enterprise crew that they’ll like living there and having all their dreams catered to. Mudd parades his different series of android women for them and one of the Alices tells Uhura that they have a procedure to place a human brain in one of their flawless android bodies (and dresses we originally saw in “Mudd’s Women”).
“Immortality and eternal beauty, hmm?” Mudd says to Uhura. It’s worth noting that all the robot girls we see who encapsulate this ideal of “eternal beauty” are white.
Meanwhile, a couple of the Alices are trying to corrupt Chekov, who gets pretty excited when one says, “We are programmed to function as human females, lord.” (You know, except for all those messy human female things like individual feelings, identities and desires).
Uhura and Chekov are both a little tempted but Kirk snaps them out of it. The androids can’t understand why they keep wanting to return to the Enterprise. Soon they let on that their dastardly plan is more than just studying the Enterprise crew: they are concerned about humans’ aggression and drive to acquire, and they want to neutralize the threat they represent through serving them like they have been serving Mudd.
Needing to act, the crew knock Mudd out and then pretend they need to take him back to the Enterprise to treat him. I almost lost my shit when Uhura blew their cover by announcing it was a trick attempt to escape.
“Uhura, why did you tell her?” Kirk demands.
“Because I want an android body. I want immortality. I’ll live forever, Captain. I’ll be young and beautiful!” she says, passionately.
Thank god it turns out it’s a trick. Kirk picks up Uhura and we think he’s going to shake her but instead he congratulates her for doing a great job fooling the androids, and me.
Through observation they determine Norman is the head android and all the others’ minds are controlled by him. They figure out if they can confuse the androids, it will cause them to short and stop functioning.
The rest of the episode is awesomely fun as the team do everything they can to make no sense whatsoever, and the androids cannot handle it. Uhura and Chekov dance and then Uhura slaps him for no reason.
My favourite part is when Spock tells one Alice that he loves her, and another identical Alice that he hates her.
When Kirk and Mudd finally confront Norman, it’s epic. His brain literally starts smoking and he sputters: “Illogical! Illogical.”
Kirk tells Mudd they’re going to leave him on the planet to be controlled by androids, which he’s cool with until Kirk tells him he’ll have to live with at least 3 copies of his ex-wife, Stella.
So I can’t say the episode was feminist but it was sure fun and humourous, and I appreciated the role Uhura got to play at the end.
What we learned from this episode:
- Being around a nagging ex-wife is a fate worse than prison
- Mudd is a classic misogynist: he can’t stand women unless they’re obedient to and dependent on men (him, specifically)
- Exploring the stars and seeking out new life and new civilizations is more important than eternal beauty (for women) or enjoying the company of sexy, permissive robot girls (for men)
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Uhura talks to Alices.