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Old March 26 2013, 01:03 AM   #37
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Re: Mudd's Women Review

Joel_Kirk wrote: View Post
Mudd's Women Review

Harry Mudd and three female companions who are also his cargo - Eve, Ruth, and Magda - are picked up by the Enterprise; at the same time, the Enterprise is on the way to Rigel 12 to pick up dilithium - er - “lithium.” When the Enterprise reaches Rigel 12, the lonely miners refuse to give up the lithium when they become aware of Mudd’s cargo, the women, who are looking for romantic partners.

Like the previous TOS episode, a theme in this episode is: “never judge a book by its cover.” Harry Mudd and the women are all hiding something. Eve, in particular, is hiding more due to lack of confidence; a feeling that she isn’t complete without a male partner.

Now, even though there is sexism in the Star Trek universe, as evidenced in previous episodes, women - in Enterprise crew - are allowed to retain their feminism, be sexy, be professional; unfortunately, that ideology is overshadowed by the sexism of the episode.

Plot Holes/WTF stuff
Early in the episode, the writers make Harry out to be the villain of the piece. While being held with the three companions in the briefing room, he mentions how he will control the Enterprise in the ear range of a security guard standing watch; and this take-over isn’t addressed later on in the episode. (Did Harry have a change of heart or plan?) Moreover, his goal seems to be profit not necessarily the well-being of the women, but later on he seems to care for Eve when she goes missing. Hence, Harry Mudd is written and depicted as an inconsistent character, as well as a character who really poses no threat since the security guard stood listening without notifying someone in authority, unless he was so mesmerized by the women he couldn’t do anything....but, even that would be a stretch.

The drug that changes the three women from “melting humanoids” to beauties, is inconsistent like Harry Mudd. First, Kirk and Harry beam down with the pseudo-gelatin version of the Venus drug and give it to Eve as if they knew she would be changing at that moment (which, given everything that was happening, Harry Mudd couldn’t know...and he hasn’t shown himself to be that intelligent to even gather Eve was changing, even if he was calculating it in his head). Harry, nor Kirk would have known she would be taking the pseudo-drug to show (for the episode’s lesson) that beauty is not only skin deep. For example, what if it was Ruth or Magda that was present? What if Eve decided that she wasn’t going to take the drug anymore?

Lastly, Kirk has all the power in the episode. Granted he may be going the diplomatic route, but the miners on Rigel 12 are basically saying they need to get laid before they can hand over the, “lithium” to the Enterprise crew. If the situation is as desperate as it seemed, Kirk could have beamed down teams of scientists and security to look for the lithium to save the 400+ crewpeople on board, and prevent the engineering disaster.

Harry Mudd lives up to his name: He is literally hairy, and he is metaphorically hairy. The last name “Mudd” could also add to much hinted sleaziness of the character...but, as aforementioned, this sleaziness comes into questions when he seems to actually care of the well-being of Eve and possibly the other women. This goes along with the theme of ‘never judge a book by its cover;’ however, it still makes the Harry Mudd character inconsistent, since he also comes off overall as a non-threatening buffoon.

The three women follow the theme of never judging a book by their cover as being very beautiful; my favorite is Susan Denberg’s Magda, who reminds me a bit of another Swedish actress, May Britt. The women aren’t that lovely in reality (and no explanation is given as to why they look “different” without the drug) but they seemed to be tagging along to find men they can latch onto as lovers, and they will stop at anything to do so...even seduce male Enterprise crewmen (although, that seems to be dropped when the Enterprise comes into contact with Rigel 12). Eve seems more content to be waiting hands and feet for the miner, Ben Childress, or at least lending a women’s touch to the mining environment. Now, Eve wanting to find “Mr. Right” isn’t “wrong” but she feels she isn’t complete unless she finds aforementioned “Mr. Right”...and even throws herself to Kirk in order to gain his attentions.

Sexism and female objectification are apparent in the episode, of course, but there is a clash of ideologies. The women with Harry Mudd only want to find men to please and throw themselves at any willing male who smiles their way, however, with the Enterprise women, Uhura, in particular, in her tight-fitting yellow miniskirt and black go-go boots seems to be cool, composed, respected even though she is somewhat objectified and could easily match “Mudd’s women,” in looks; even though she doesn’t really do much in this episode; I’m basing this on the years I’ve known the character as well as the character’s tough incarnation in the 2009 film. Too, I believe we see a female crewmember wearing trousers; so, with Uhura and “Mudd’s women” there is a clash of statements or ideologies that have women as objects in this episode, but says that women can be still professional and sexy in the Star Trek universe. Interestingly, the Star Trek franchise later on (save for the 2009 film) says that women have to be fully covered in order to be respected, that they can’t wear skirts, because that will automatically objectify them. Interestingly, TNG -Star Trek: The Next Generation - introduced a “skirt” for men that many fans hated(for various reasons which could include masculinity issues, gender role issues, etc...) Later Star Trek - including fans - robs women of their femininity, or says women are closer to be respected if their femininity is suppressed; ironically it also tells men to “keep their pants on” and even tells men how they should dress and act because they are men. Therefore, as mentioned in previous reviews, Star Trek as a franchise isn’t as progressive as it wants to believe.

In the episode, there is a sense of urgency, there are stakes (things will “get real” if the lithium isn’t attained) but this urgency (and stakes) aren’t enough to sustain the episode. Kirk had the upper hand throughout the episode, and the miner’s sexual issues (arguably, “immature” sexual issues) could have been something to handle after the lithium was attained.

The overall lesson of the episode that “beauty is not only skin deep” is not a strong or novel lesson, it clashes with the images and ideologies seen in this episode, one of which is that women aren’t complete without men. So, I give this episode 2.5 out of 5. The weakest episode so far in Season One TOS, I think, an episode which definitely could have been more focused. However, William Shatner is again reserved in this episode, and his character works better this way; he knows when to joke and when to be serious. I like when he chuckles thinking one of the miners is actually joking when it is stated that the lithium won’t be turned over unless they get to be with the women.
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The Enemy Within
Another theme you missed was that drugs were not an answer to problems...the instant fix was not really a fix at all. Somehow this got past the censors of the time, unless they understood this lesson from the story, though they didn't have a really good track record of that.

Incidentally Eve is actually a really strong female character at the end, she tells Childress she wants to be a real wife for someone, a companion, but within the gender roles of the 60s of course. The miners walk the line of having these wives being glorified prostitutes but I think Childress finally accepts what Eve is saying in the end.
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