Sunday, January 15, 2017

There's Only One Kind of Woman: Star Trek episode 3, "Mudd's Women"

Tonight's episode:
  
  
  
  
It's by no means one of my favorites.  Don't misunderstand me: if you tell me that you like it, I'm not going to retaliate by coming over and shitting on the hood of your car or anything.  I mean, to each their own and all that: so if you're a fan, I ain't judgin' ya; it's just that I'm not a fan.
  
That said, I found my analysis for this post made me appreciate the episode more than I did before.  There are things here to enjoy, so let's discuss them for a bit and then get while the gettin's good.
  

We'll begin with Leonard Nimoy, who delivers a terrific comedic performance as the straight-man of the episode.  In noticing that Mudd's women are having an effect upon his crewmates, Spock is prone to displays of palpable disgust and/or amusement, and occasionally a bit of both at once.
  
  


This moment, of course, comes when the women first beam aboard the ship.  Scotty and McCoy are struck nearly dumb by their appearance, and Spock is befuddled by whatever it is that is happening.  The further it goes, though, the more smitten the engineer and doctor seem to be, and Spock's bemusement grows.  One might fairly point out that since Spock himself is showing emotion, he's (A) got no room to judge and (B) being written/acted in a manner that is not entirely consistent with what we think of as "Spock."
  
If the end result is Spock getting to deliver that sort of frown in McCoy's direction, then it's all fine and dandy in my book.  And anyways, we know Spock has emotions; he simply represses them.  For whatever reason, he's not capable of doing so this week; so be it!  My headcanon contains the notion that it is the events of "Mudd's Women" that kicks off the enmity between Spock and McCoy.  Our favorite Vulcan has seen that grin on McCoy's face, and there's no going back, ever.

Elsewhere in the episode, Spock shows some delight for what I can only assume he perceives to be an imminent bout of sexual-desire-motivated self-recrimination on Kirk's part.  Spock escorts Mudd and the women to Kirk's quarters, at Kirk's command, and Spock announces them by saying, "The commander of the transport to see you, Captain."  Nimoy then gives what can best be described as a devilish grin.  A bit later, as the ladies are filing out, Nimoy gives Kirk a knowing look -- knowing WHAT, I'm not sure, but it's a look that certainly implies an unspoken communication of some sort -- combined with a sort of smirk/shrug combination:





What is this unspoken moment all about?  I'm hesitant to even try to explain my perception of it; it's such an oddly specific yet undefined little moment, one that can/could be given so many potential interpretations.  It seems a shame to try to impose a specific meaning upon it.

Another marvelous Nimoy/Spock moment comes during the briefing-room scene.  Mudd -- who has called himself Leo Walsh up to this point -- is being interviewed at his hearing.  Spock asks him to state his name for the record, and...

Oh, jeez, man, it's too good.  I had to just excerpt this bit of the episode:


video



There are two Nimoy moments here that kill me.  First, the barely-tolerating-this-shit blink he gives when he tells "Walsh" to state his correct name; second, the deep sigh he heaves after Mudd protests that the panel is taking the word of a computer over the word of a flesh-and-blood man.

Priceless.  I don't think much of "Mudd's Women" as an episode, but its existence is justified for having brought these wonderful Nimoy/Spock moments into the world.

What else works?  William Shatner.  He's not quite the force of nature here that he was in "The Corbomite Maneuver," but he's still pretty great.  As Shatner plays him, Kirk is obviously having a grand old time fucking up Harry Mudd's plans.  You get the sense that while Kirk is thrilled to be out among the stars exploring sections of the galaxy mankind has never before seen, he's also got a touch of authoritarianism in him.  If James T. Kirk (here given that middle initial for the first time ever) had to find himself another line of work, you get the feeling he'd enjoy working as a beat cop in some big city, rousting kids off of stoops and cracking the skull of an occasional wino.  As a starship captain, he might not go out of his way to find a Harry Mudd to harass ... but when the galaxy drops such a figure into his path, he'll respond accordingly, and with some glee.




That's one way to look at it, at least.  Another is to say that Shatner was simply playing television norms of the era, wherein one character being annoyed by a character whom the audience is expected to like came out as mock disdain.  If so, Shatner plays that perfectly, also.  No matter which way you look at it, Shatner is aces.

Kirk as a character gets a few good moments, too.  During the scene in which the miners attempt to blackmail Kirk for Mudd's release, the captain initially shows a sort of exhaustedly amused disbelief; then, when it sinks in that they are serious, he turns on a dime and issues a stern refusal to deal.  He's also admirable during a scene in which Spock, after examining one of the burnt-out lithium power crystals, expresses regret for seeing such a beautiful object destroyed for so little reason.  Kirk points out that it was either that or see another man's ship -- and (unstated) the man himself -- be destroyed.  The implication is that that's always going to be the right decision, because life is precious, even the life of Harry fucking Mudd.
  
Either that, or ships are precious; with Kirk, maybe it's a bit of both.
 
I also like most of what DeForest Kelley does this episode.  He's a bit over-the-top at times -- "I wonder what makes it do that?!?" -- but not in a manner that is out of keeping with what his character is experiencing.  He's great during the scene in which he asks Kirk if the women actually are more beautiful than other women, or just act that way.  Kelley sells the idea that McCoy, a man of science and rationality at his core, is having a hard time reconciling the reactions he is having.  It seems to set off an existential crisis of sorts.  It makes for an interesting scene: here's Bones, seemingly trying to strain his way back to a more logical viewpoint, while Spock -- not a part of the conversation, but witness to it -- observes from nearby, himself locked in an inner struggle of some sort.  Is he amused by McCoy's confusion?  By his attempts to find solace in logic and rationality and science?  Is he gratified by the latter?  Disgusted by its lack of success?




Could be any or all of those things.  However you read it, it's a fine scene, for both Kelley and Nimoy (and Shatner, for that matter).

Alas, we now must speak of Harry Mudd.






   
  
  
Somewhere in the world, there is a person who absolutely adores Harry Mudd.  This person's favorite Trek character of all is Harry Mudd; they got into Star Trek thanks to Harry Mudd, they've probably written Harry Mudd fanfiction of some sort, and they were 100% onboard when that horrid rumor went around that Jack Black was going to play Harry Mudd in one of the Kelvinverse movies.

This person exists.  You know it; I know it.  There might even be multiple such people.  Enough to Kickstart a Mudd-centric fan-produced webseries?  Jesus Christ, I hope not.  Sorry for the blasphemy and all, but, I mean, fuck, man.

Roger C. Carmel, who played Mudd, passed away in 1986 at the age of 54.  That seems much too young for anybody to go.  That said . . . Carmel's Wikipedia page claims (citing a letter column in one of the DC-published Trek comic books) that if he had not passed away, Carmel would have reprised the character of Mudd in a first-season episode of The Next Generation, the rogue having been rescued from cryogenic freeze.  I'm not in any way glad Carmel died; I wish he was still working today, in his mid-eighties.  Although...

No, no, I'm definitely not glad he died.  It's just that the fact that that episode of TNG never got made is a heck of a silver lining.  (For the record: I assume this is how we got "The Outrageous Okona," which is pretty awful in its own right; bad enough that I'm tempted to wish for the Mudd episode instead.  Good lord, what am I saying...?!?)

Anyways, I'm not inclined to blame Carmel for "Mudd's Women."  He is appallingly annoying, it's true; but Mudd is (I assume) appallingly annoying on the page, so should we take Carmel to task for having done a great job of playing his part?
  
Yeah, that's right, I said it: Carmel does a GREAT job of playing Harry Mudd.  It's just that Harry Mudd is the worst fucking thing this side of Boss Nass, so I'm having a hard time seeing how I should thank anybody for it.

Speaking of things I don't entirely know how to process, let's now turn to a brief contemplation of TOS and gender.




 
I don't know how inclined I am to try to write about the objectification of women in this episode/series.  It's 2017, and I fear that any thoughts I might have on the subject are going to be seen as wildly objectionable on the grounds of me myself (and not merely the episode/series) being misogynistic; or, conversely, that they will be seen as wildly objectionable on the grounds of me myself being an SJW libtard or whatever.  I don't think I'm either; but ultimately, that's for others to decide, and I'm comfortable enough with my viewpoints that if I'm approached in that manner, I'm likely to simply fly a finger at the accuser and go about my day.  Still, it's for others to decide.

Same goes for the issue of objectification in this episode, and series, and genre, and era, and so forth as you see fit.
  
Personally, I think the episode plays both sides of the fence.  It does sexually objectify these three women, but it also shows that doing so -- and allowing (encouraging?) it to be done to you -- is a mistake.  Not just a mistake, either: an illusion.


There's a serious conversation to be had about gender depictions in Star Trek, and another one about the treatment of women in the real-life production of the shows during Roddenberry's era(s).  There is plenty of info in the world that claims that Roddenberry was a cad at best, a pig at middling, and at worst...?  Well, let's say that at worst, there's something very troubling indeed.  The allegations are out there in the world; if you're interested, you can Google them, and make up your own mind.  I'm just not able to deal with it here, and maybe that's a serious failing on my part, one motivated by selfishness and a form of misogyny on my part.  Some would accuse me, and other Trekkies, of such; and I'm not sure they'd be wrong to do so.
   
All I can tell you is that I've been a Star Trek fan for almost literally as long as I can remember; and I'll turn 43 this year, so asking me to rethink that fandom because certain aspects of it are (arguably) morally and ethically problematic is a bridge too far for me.  I can't do it, and I won't do it, even if I could.  Again, that's for each of us to decide.

The best I can do is compromise and say that when the time comes to discuss things like why Grace Lee Whitney left the series, I won't shy away from it.

I can live with that.  After all, even if a work of art was created by a complete piece of filth (and I have a difficult time getting to that severe an assessment of Roddenberry), it doesn't necessarily invalidate the work of art.  This is especially true if the medium is a collaborative one, and also if one keeps the focus on one's reaction to the art rather than on the artist.  Having literally grown up with Star Trek, I can be said to have had it as a sort of lifelong teacher.  That being the case, it feels to me that if the series (plural) carried a genuinely objectionable sexist message, that message would have become a part of whom I am.  And if I go into a self-diagnostic mode, I find that in that regard, I'm alright.  If I'm the worst thing feminists have to worry about, they've got an easy battle ahead of them; oh that it were so.


My point is, if Star Trek teaches objectionable lessons about objectifying women, then I guess I was a shitty student.  I don't think I am, and am therefore forced to conclude that whatever lessons of that nature the shows had to teach, they were innocuous enough that I shrugged them off at a more or less instinctual level.  For me, then, it's kind of a no-big-deal type issue.

If it's different for you, I get it.  There are certainly things that even I cringe at in some of the episodes, and "Mudd's Women" is certainly one of them.

If nothing else, it might have been nice for there to be some sense of how the female crewmen -- is that how you say that? -- were reacting to all this business with the Venus drug.  If nothing else, Uhura could have given somebody a disapproving frown.  As is, the ship seems to be entirely populated by horny men, and that's just not that great a quality for a series that is proclaimed -- falsely, say its opponents -- by its fans to be a model of progressiveness.

It's a big, thorny issue.  I'm mostly going to duck it here, in this post and on this blog generally.  I wanted to make sure that it had been stated that I am at least aware of the issue; but beyond that, unless there are specific issues that are raised for me, it's a thing that simply isn't going to factor into Where No Blog Has Gone Before.  Part of me regrets that; I'm horrified to say that in a bit less than a week, my country will be under the rule of a Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief.  Everything about that horrifies me, and that being the case, I have to ask myself: if some of what has been said about Gene Roddenberry is true, shouldn't I be similarly horrified by certain aspects of, say, "Charlie X"?
 
I just don't know.  I like Star Trek; I know that, and that's what I feel answerable to.
 
Moving on: so that those who wish to holler "hypocrite" at me get some ammo quickly, I may as well do a bit of objectification of my own.





That's Maggie Thrett as Ruth, who just knocks me right out.  She's the only one of the three who does.  That's not to say the others are unattractive, nor is it to imply that if I found them to be they would be somehow lesser people in my eyes.  No, I'm just stating a fact, which is that Maggie Thrett knocks this blogger out.

Despite my homina-homina-homina response to Thrett, I find this shot to be hideous:




Just ... no!  I mean, no!  What is happening in this shot?!?  Am I -- even the hypothetical 1966 version of "I" -- supposed to find this hot?  I don't.

Which arguably works in the story's favor, of course.

Similarly:





That's Karen Steele (top) playing Eve, and Susan Denberg playing Magda.  I can see how both ladies would have ardent admirers; Denberg has that sixties-European-vixen thing going on, and that's never been a thing I responded to, aesthetically-speaking.  Don't get me wrong; she's a knockout, just not one whose charms make my blood boil.

Speaking of knockouts, how this episode made Karen Steele look a bit on the homely side is a mystery to me.  To be fair, it's written into the story, and works to its benefit: the fact that I myself think Eve is kind of a pudding makes the big plot twist regarding her character more believable.  And oddly enough, it's those scenes -- where we're point-blank told that Eve (when not under the influence of the Venus drug) is plain and unappealing -- where I find Steele to be the most beautiful.





There are interesting things going on in those eyes.  Eve herself is an interesting character; she's much more forthright and self-possessed than either of her cohorts, and while it's Ruth who makes my blood boil, I'd choose Eve any day of the week.  Eve would be well worth spending time with, and not because she cooks and cleans and whatnot: because she seems to possess a sense of self-worth, and an ability to be self-reflective.

That brings us to the episode's big theme, uttered in after-school-special fashion by James T. Kirk.  "There's only one kind of woman," he says ("or man, for that matter," interjects Mudd): "you either believe in yourself or you don't."

As messages go, that's not a bad one.  I'll grant you that it comes during an episode of television that thinks "homely" is Karen Steele wearing minimal makeup; but still, it's a worthy sentiment.
 

A few more brief notes before we move on:

  • "You're part Vulcanian, aren't ya?" asks Mudd of Spock.  This makes Harry Mudd the first person on Trek to name Spock's species.  I guess it had to be somebody.
  • Speaking of homely: Jim Goodwin as Farrell:
    
  


  • Eve's explanation that she, Ruth, and Magda all come from planets where there are no available men is bizarre.  But I get no sense that the episode wants us to think of it that way.  Indeed, it may only be bizarre because of the way we think about Star Trek from a modern perspective.  Remember, the series was not fully established at this time.  So far, we've got every reason to believe that space is a fairly empty place; there's not even a large amount of evidence of alien races thus far.  Remember, in "The Corbomite Maneuver," Bailey goes into a state of near-panic at the sight of an alien who, by the standards of later episodes in the series, would be completely run-of-the-mill: at the time of "Mudd's Women," this was not a series about people who were meeting new civilizations on a weekly basis.  Remember also that in "Where No Man Has Gone Before," a presumably-vital industrial planet is completely unmanned; that makes the three-person mining crew of "Mudd's Women" seem downright luxurious.  So in Trek as it existed as of this episode, in space, humanity is still enough of a scarcity that Eve's explanation seems rather plausible.
  • Majel Barrett returned to Star Trek in this episode, making her first appearance -- of MANY -- as the voice of the ship's computer.
  • DeForest Kelley is great in the moment when Ruth walks into sickbay and asks if he will see her.  There's a technician of some sort milling about in the background, and McCoy turns to him with a disappointed and annoyed glint in his eye,  "Connors," he spits, "are you finished?!?"  Never have you seen a doctor so agitated by another man's failure to know when to amscray.
  • Eve complains to Kirk about the crewmen who are giving her the lusty eyeball as she walks the corridors.  "They're probably just lonely," she admits.  "I can understand loneliness."  Kirk gives her a look that indicates he is, in this moment, suddenly forced to restrain himself: not from his physical impulses, but from launching into an I'm-so-lonely soliloquy.  This ties in with a moment later when Mudd tells Eve that she'd not fare well if she tried to get between Kirk and the Enterprise.  "You'll find out that ships' captains are already married, girl," he says: "to their vessels."  We've already explored a bit of this idea, in "The Corbomite Maneuver."  Clearly, it's an aspect of Kirk that Roddenberry and the other producers felt needed to be emphasized a bit in the show's early episodes.
  • Why is Mudd himself unaffected by the women?  Oh, wait ... yeah, okay, that makes sense.
  • Another week, another outstanding musical score from Fred Steiner.  I could live without the va-va-voom music that accompanies a few scenes, but (as per Marc Cushman's These Are the Voyages) Steiner didn't write that: Alexander Courage wrote it for the episode's promo commercial, and the producers liked it so much that they edited it into the final cut. 

This shot (which the va-va-voom music accompanies) seems rather risque for sixties television.



  • I don't entirely understand why Venus drugs are illegal if they simply amplify a person's natural traits.  Maybe because of the reactions it prompts in others?  But even those are only amplified versions of what is naturally happening.  Ah, well; let's just accept it.
  • "I'm glad the affair is over," says Spock when asked for a summation of recent events; "a most annoying, emotional episode."  Indeed, Mr. Spock.  Indeed.




So, this sucker is bound to have some tantalizing behind-the-scenes stories, right?  Let's find out.




Cushman is a fan of "Mudd's Women," and says it "is well deserving of its classic status."  So what interesting tidbits does he give us about it?


p. 151


  • Writer Stephen Kandel was hired to write a script based on Roddenberry's original story outline, "The Women."  Kandel made significant contributions, including creating the character of Harry Mudd, who had not existed in Roddenberry's outline.  Roddenberry would later extensively rewrite Kandel's screenplay, which was par for the course on a great many first-season episodes.
  • Kandel envisioned Mudd as "an interstellar con man" not unlike the medicine salesman in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Robert Justman suggested a few changes to Kandel's script: the number of women should be reduced to three from five, and a space-koala that sat (parrotlike) on Mudd's shoulder was eliminated.
  • Cushman gives director Harvey Hart credit for a push-in on Spock's face during the elevator scene in which Mudd says Spock is unaffected by the allure of the women  He specifies that the push-in reveals "the dark anguish that tells us Mudd's statement is not necessarily true."  I suppose that's a valid interpretation, but personally, I don't get that from this scene at all; I think Spock is just annoyed.  If he IS affected by the women, why would he be so seemingly confused by the reactions of Scotty and McCoy earlier?
  • That elevator scene -- it was not yet being called a turbolift -- was written by associate producer John D.F. Black, but Roddenberry also ended up making substantial contributions, such as the entirety of the teaser, plus having Scotty and McCoy present with Spock in the transporter room when Mudd and his "crew" beam aboard.
  • Says Cushman, "Yeoman Rand was in the earlier drafts of the script, but was written out, more because of budget concerns than anything else."
  • James Doohan on the subject of Scott having to ogle Magda: "I didn't consider that an acting challenge.  I looked at her and thought, Wooooeeee."
  • At the time of filming, Harlan Ellison was in the offices working on the script that would eventually become "The City on the Edge of Forever."  He claimed to have "really hooked up" with "Maggie Treat."  John D.F. Black (according to his wife, Mary) "started laughing and said, 'Harlan, her name is not Maggie Treat; her name is Maggie Thrett.'  And Harlan says, 'Well it just goes to show you the difference between you and me.  To you, she's a threat; to me she's a treat.' "
  • Roger C. Carmel on William Shatner: "Bill had no problem in stepping back and forth from portraying Kirk as the lonely, somewhat stern leader and then, once the camera stopped, being the life of the party.  And I don't remember many wasted takes.  He'd have us laughing one minute, then the director would call 'Action,' and there he was, the grim-faced Captain.  Remarkable discipline to do that."
  • Director Harvey Hart's footage was well-received by everyone involved, but he went a day over schedule and was prone to cutting in-camera (a filming method that reduces the editing options in post-production in favor of the director's vision), and was consequently never asked back for another episode.
  • "Jerry Stanley, NBC Manager of Film Programs, recalled, 'One of the problems we had was in trying to talk [Roddenberry] out of some of his sexual fantasies that would come to life in the scripts.  Some of the scenes he would describe were totally unacceptable."





This book is fascinating and wonderful, but I suspect we will visit it less frequently as time goes by.  It's not structured in a manner that makes it a natural companion to episode-by-episode viewing.  Still, I'm going to (obviously) keep reading it, so I'll just knock out a bit every time I write one of these posts and quote from it as I see fit.

  • Tracy Torme, creative consultant on Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Gene and I had many golf-cart rides across the Paramount lot.  We would go from one end of the studio to the other, taking these long meandering drives.  He would wave at people he knew, saying hi to the security guards, and he used these times to talk to me about a number of things; personal things, professional things, great stories about the old Trek, stories about Shatner, stories about Majel, stories about his ex-wife, his divorce, his relationships with women."
  • Robert H. Justman: "I guess I'm prejudiced.  I think Gene Roddenberry is a genius."
  • Diana Muldaur (actress): "A lot of people try to diminish his genius in order to put themselves up there, and I have said to them, don't ever forget his genius, because none of us would be here without him, period."
  • John D.F. Black: "GR had a view that nobody liked him.  When Gene would come up with an idea, I would say there was an 80 percent chance he was right; he was right about the characters, the crossover between outer space and inner space, he was right about a lot of things.  And I don't like to say that.  I was one of the ones who didn't like him."
  • Ande Richardson (assistant to producer Gene L. Coon, who has yet to be hired as of the production of "Mudd's Women," but about whom we will certainly talk frequently later on): "There were certain people who had my respect, and Gene Roddenberry didn't really get in that group.  I mean, he came to my wedding and I went to his and Majel's wedding party after they'd gotten married in Japan."  "But Gene Roddenberry was a sexist, manipulative person who disregarded women.  I didn't value and respect him.  He was funny in his own way, but he was paper-thin.  He wasn't substantial."  "Sure, he may have been the Great Bird, but he wasn't a great person.  He would have women walking from Bill Theiss's fitting rooms through to his office in the skimpiest outfit so he could perv them.  He was really such a sexist.  I remember him telling me something and I thought, 'Why is he telling me this?'  Just personal kind of stuff I couldn't really care to know about him.  Disregarding people's private space.  I remember seeing him with Nichelle in his office, which is when I realized, 'Oh, he's been banging Nichelle.'  But he moved Majel into an apartment just down the street so he could go for nooners.  I don't know why he had to be lecherous, looking after every woman.  He came back from Japan with Majel and he said to me, 'You know, Ande, you can go from the front to the back but you can't go from the back to the front.  Majel's got a heck of an infection.'  Again, why are you telling me this?  But that was him: freaky-deaky dude."

 


This is another one which doesn't reward episode-by-episode consideration, yet has innumerable insights.  So we'll dip into it on a limited basis, as well.

  • "Assigned to operate in a far-off sector of the galaxy, the ship's duties include: scientific investigation and reconnaissance of previously unexplored worlds, providing aid and supplies for Earth colonies, diplomatic courtesy calls on alien planets, and the enforcement of laws regulating commerce between Federation members."
  • "Man-plus-woman-pus-time very often equals babies.  It would be a trifle awkward having a bunch of toddlers around a Starship, and it is therefore natural to assume that some type of birth control will be required.  This point has never been discussed in the series, since the censors won't allow it.  But if the subject could be discussed, the consensus is that birth control would closely parallel the military practices of today.  Birth control would be mandatory for unmarried females, voluntary for married females.  In keeping with the advanced state of the medical arts as practiced aboard the Enterprise, a single, monthly injection would be administered.  A woman found to be pregnant would be given her choice of a medical discharge or rotation to a shore base for the remainder of her pregnancy."
  • "Science tells us man must have the proper balance between physical and psychological surroundings if he is to survive in space.  His mental health is as important as his physical health.  To this end, the life support systems are programmed for several functions that are purely psychological.  For instance, subliminal sounds (below the conscious level of awareness) are continually broadcast throughout the ship.  These sounds, directed to the subconscious level, include bird calls, the sound of falling water, the rustle of wind through the trees, and other sounds native to the crewman's home planet.  He is not consciously aware he is hearing these sounds, but he is affected by them nonetheless.  This helps prevent him from getting too lonely, even subconsciously, for his homeland.  Additionally, familiar odors are introduced into the environmental systems.  The crew can actually smell the earth, fresh air, and even that distinctive smell that water has, in connection with trees and things that grow and are alive.  This process is very subtle, but its impact is immensely significant all the same.  The harmonious blending of colors used in the various rooms and corridors throughout the ship is yet another extension of this principle."
  • "Relating to this (and referred to in several STAR TREK episodes) is the use of a 'psychological profile.'  The implication is that everyone, even the Captain, continually undergoes a form of psychological testing.  The purpose is to detect any aberrations that might be developing within the individual and to take the appropriate action, whether it be treatment or transfer."






  • Justman tells an amusing (though odd) story about how Roddenberry decided that associate producer and story consultant John D.F. Black needed to loosen up; so he decided to play a prank on the younger man.  Roddenberry asked Black to interview Majel Barrett (with whom Black was unfamiliar) for a potential role, and instructed Barrett to make salacious advances toward him and begin taking her clothes off during the interview.  At this point, everyone would burst in on the scene, catching Black in a compromised position.  Barrett was game, but once she got in the room and began playing her part, she realized the same thing everyone on the other side of the door had also by then realized: they'd failed to think of a way to signal when the surprise was supposed to take place.  Anyways, the prank came off, albeit a bit less elegantly than intended.  Justman recalls that after this, Black was "a lot looser."  Does this sound to anyone else like an episode of Mad Men?
  • Justman: "Actress Maggie Thrett was one of the three space hookers who boarded the Enterprise in the first-season episode 'Mudd's Women.'  Gene had spent a  goodly amount of time 'making their costumes better.'  But as we filmed Maggie writhing about and attempting to entice our heroes, one of her breasts popped out from behind what little bodice was left of her costume.  She quickly stuffed it back in, smiling ruefully.  It didn't stay put, however, much to the crew's amusement and her embarrassment.  The moment was preserved for posterity in the first of the famous Star Trek Christmas gag reels."  I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that the prospect of seeing one of Thrett's breasts pop out of that costume captures of full attention.  But unless she signed off on it, BOY is it immortal to have put that footage in the gag reel.
  • Roddenberry's first draft of the title-sequence narration: "This is the story of the United Space Ship Enterprise.  Assigned a five year patrol of our galaxy, the giant starship visits Earth colonies, regulates commerce, and explores strange new worlds and civilizations.  These are its voyages . . . and its adventures."  There would be several drafts -- including some written by Black and one written by Justman -- before Roddenberry eventually settled on the familiar words Shatner ended up recording.

 We'll add a new book into the rotation this time:
  
  

  
  
I can't believe I forgot about this one until now!  This was the first book about Trek I ever owned, and I read it pretty frequently during, say, 1989-1991.
  
It's not a particularly long book (182 pages), and is consequently not as rich in detail as other such books that would come down the chute later.  It was nevertheless full of information that greatly enriched my experience of the series during my teenage years.
  
Since I'm just now getting to this book, we'll back up to "The Cage" and begin there.
  
  • Asherman provides more detail about the uniforms than would ever occur to me to mention, including some notes on the differences between the pilot-episode costumes and those for the eventual series.  Among these details, we learn that "Captain Pike's wardrobe also includes some special items, including his little-known hat.  Although Pike never wore it in the final cut of 'The Cage,' the hat is seen resting atop his 'TV set,' near his laser pistol."  I felt obliged to check the tape on that claim, and sure enough, Asherman is correct.  That's an eagle-eye, too, because you only see it for the length of time it takes Pike to walk past it.

Does anyone in Starfleet wear a hat of any kind until the Kelvinverse movies?  If so, I don't remember it.

  
  • Asherman gives a paragraph-length recap of the Twilight Zone episode "People Are Alike All Over," which also starred Susan Oliver in a similar plotline to "The Cage."  I read about this episode last spring at Dog Star Omnibus and thought I was learning about it for the first time, which goes to show that I forget things.
  • We are given details about some of the differences in the longer version of the "Where No Man Has Gone Before" pilot.  Another thing I forgot Allan Asherman had already told me about!
  • "There are several 'bloopers' in 'The Corbomite Maneuver': toward the end of the episode we see Mr. Bailey in front of a completely blank main viewing screen.  The large lucite screen, backed with pulsating light patterns (which were used as cues to alert the cast and crew that a matte would be inserted over this footage), has no optical inserted at this point."  I skimmed the episode and could not immediately find any evidence of this; but we'll assume Asherman is correct.
  • He's got a good point about "Mudd's Women," saying that it "is somewhat surprising that NBC never eliminated the drug angle from this script.  Perhaps the setting was so far removed from reality the network never realized what they were dealing with.  It's also possible the network was happy with the ending, which proved the drug was not really that potent after all.  It was the 'magic feather' that enabled Dumbo to fly, or the 'wizard' who was going to get Dorothy home to Kansas.  Yet when Harlan Ellison handled the problem of drug addiction in a far more serious and direct manner in his first-draft script for 'The City on the Edge of Forever,' it was necessary to rewrite the entire tale."
  • Worth mentioning: Asherman's book covers the episodes in production order.

Let's now proceed to the final phase of our examination:




As we mentioned during our discussion of "The Corbomite Maneuver," Jams Blish had died in 1975, leaving parts of Star Trek 12 written, but incomplete.  His wife, Judith Ann Lawrence, completed the work so that Star Trek 12 could be published, and the line of episode adaptations thereby completed.

Except two episodes were missing: "Mudd's Women" and "I, Mudd."  Blish had not neglected them: he had begun work on them as well, but intended to write original Mudd material to supplement it, and then publish it all as a novel.

Lawrence opted to take on this task as well, so 1978's Mudd's Angels includes the two episodes, but sadly does not include "Mudd's Passion."  Lawrence mentions in her foreword that due to rights issues, that episode of the animated series could not be included.  (It had in fact already been adapted: by Alan Dean Foster in 1975's Star Trek Log Three, part of his series of adaptations of TAS episodes.)  Taking what might otherwise have theoretically been its place: a novella-length original story called "The Business, as Usual, During Altercations."

We're only going to cover "Mudd's Women" here; we'll deal with the rest when we get to "I, Mudd" next season.  Something to look forward to...!

I might not like Harry Mudd, but I love the cover art to this novel.  It's courtesy of Bob Larkin, and it's glorious.




We'll see more of his stuff down the road quite a bit, but while we're here and on the subject:


This is the cover art to a Marvel Illustrated Books paperback which contained reprints of issues #7 and #11-12 of the early-eighties series.

This, which I absolutely adore, is the cover art to Kathleen Sky's novel Vulcan! (one of my favorite instances of an unnecessary exclamation mark in a title).

  
Larkin's Wikipedia page is well worth a visit if you're a Marvel Comics fan.  Marvel is where most of his career seems to have been spent, and if you spend a pre-1990ish career doing covers for Marvel, you're getting an automatic thumbs-up from me.

Moving on: what of "Mudd's Women" as adapted by J.A. Lawrence?

The first thing that comes to mind for me has nothing to do with the adaptation, but it seems relevant within the context of this post: Lawrence's pen name.  Mudd's Angels was published during an era when female authors -- within the field of science fiction, if nowhere else -- sometimes dropped their first names in favor of their initials, the idea being that a sizeable number of readers would not buy sci-fi novels written by women, and that doing so was therefore an aid to their odds of being published.  Not only was it apparently considered weird for women to be interested in this sort of stuff, it was in some cases seen as an active danger to commercial prospects.  It's not hard to find sci-fi fans in 2017 who think feminism is a bunch of horseshit; but within my lifetime, it's been necessary for people like Judith Ann Lawrence to literally try to hide the fact that they are women.  So, no, definitely not horseshit.

This is worth dwelling upon for a moment, not only so we can reflect on the fact that we have indeed made some substantial -- if still insufficient -- progress within my lifetime, but also so that we can place "Mudd's Women" (and perhaps all of Star Trek) within the proper context.  It's a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless: from the time of Trek's genesis in the mid-sixties up until at least the late seventies when this novel was published, women were still being seen and treated as second-class citizens.  I think it's an important fact to keep in mind when we're covering this era.  Some of the sexist hijinks described in this post seem both more acceptable and less acceptable in light of it.  It paints TOS as being a product of its time, but one which does at least make some efforts to rise above itself.

As for the adaptation itself, it's not bad.  Lawrence is an uninspired writer, and delivers some really clunky lines, plus the occasional misused word (I don't think "evoke" means what she thinks it means); but she's probably no less inspired than Blish has been during the adaptations by him we've covered so far.  She's got an occasional nice turn of phrase or interesting viewpoint, too, so by no means would I say she's a bad writer; just an uninspired one.

Mudd's Angels begins with a four-page prologue that sets up the novel.  It consists of a first-person recollection by Kirk that basically serves the purpose of saying, "Boy, that shit with Harry Mudd we all went through sure was some shit, wasn't it?"  It's kind of clunky, and seems mostly to be there so that we know up front that these stories are all going to be mushed into a single narrative.  I'm not sure it was necessary, but it didn't bother me.  Mostly.

What did bother me is the following bit of dialogue from Scotty, giving Kirk an assessment of a report he's filed: "It was aye a crazy business from start to finish, and muckle glad I am that we're shut of it.  But yon report drains all the life out o't."

I suspect that in the future, when we begin considering original Trek novels, I'll frequently complain about authors who feel the need to present Scotty's dialogue in this dialect.  For one thing, it's poorly rendered: a Scottish brogue would involve "I" being represented as "Ah," for example.  For another thing, in this particular case, Lawrence makes no effort to replicate the faux-Irish dialect with which Carmel portrayed Mudd.  So why favor one over the other?  For a third thing, Scotty's brogue is (mercifully) absent during the "Mudd's Women" chapter.  Why, then, use it in the prologue?  (Devil's-advocate time: since this is a first-person account by Kirk, maybe the idea is that this is how he hears Scotty.)  Finally, apropos of very little, I'm already grumpy thinking about all the "keptins" we'll likely have to suffer when a prose version of Chekov shows up down the road.

Another worrisome aspect of the prologue is a mention to an "Integrator Lawrence" who is on board trying to sort out whatever the larger-scale "Mudd affair" has been.  This makes me worried that "The Business, as Usual, During Altercations" is going to include a wish-fulfillment version of Judith Ann Lawrence, and if it does, then I suspect that will be rough sledding.  We'll burn that bridge after we cross it, though, if needs be; and that won't be until "I, Mudd" time rolls around next season.  (Spoiler alert: I kind of love that episode.  Doesn't make me love Mudd himself any the more, but the episode is so daffy that it tickles me.)

A few interesting notes from the "Mudd's Women" chapter:

  • Lawrence has changed the "lithium" circuits to dilithium circuits.  This makes sense; it's not true to the episode, but given that Mudd's Angels culminates a series of books, why wouldn't she make a change to bring the story more in line with established continuity?  (Similarly, Mudd now refers to Spock as "part Vulcan," not "part Vulcanian.")  She does actually slip up and refer to "lithium miners" at one point, though; although I suppose that could be an accurate description, if there are multiple types of lithium crystals apart from dilithium.  Hey, why not?  Later Trek series refer to the existence of trilithium, so it's possible this was indeed a purposeful vocabulary choice on Lawrence's part, intended to imply the mining of multiple types of lithium.
  • I don't think Lawrence likes Mudd any more than I do.  She actually drains the character of the charm -- such as it is -- Carmel invested him with, and goes above and beyond to describe him in unpleasant terms.  She mentions his waxy ears at one point, and his yellowed teeth at many (MANY) points.  He's also referred to as being "an obscenely fat man," which makes me blush to think what J.A. Lawrence would have made of my 330 pounds.  We are a fatter people than we were in 1966, or 1978; so I don't know if the idea is that her Mudd actually is a fatter person than Carmel's Mudd, or if she wants us to feel that Carmel's Mudd is "obscenely fat."  I tend to think the former, actually: Carmel also didn't have yellowed teeth.  He did have that appallingly high chest hair, though, which goes unmentioned by Lawrence.
  • During the scene in the turbolift, in the episode it is Eve who apologizes to Spock for "Walsh" being rude; in the prose version it is "the dark girl," which I take to mean Ruth.
  • We find out from whom Magda got the communicator that she gives Mudd: "Magda was listening raptly to Farrell, her pale hair like silver to his copper.  This was a woman who knew how to listen to a man describing his work.  She was just as interested in the Enterprise communication system as she'd been in its navigation problems.  Even the speed of signals passing through space, a difficult and technical matter, seemed to intrigue her.  His stride took on a new firmness as passing crewmen eyed his companion with lean and hungry looks."  Interesting!  I wonder if this comes from the screenplay?  By the way, we didn't talk much about Ferrell earlier, but he's our third navigator in as many episodes, and he's honestly not much more impressive than Bailey.  Seems like the crew is really going to the dregs of the bench in the wake of Gary Mitchell's death.  Ferrell does get to be a part of Mudd's hearing, though, and one wonders why he got that honor instead of Sulu or Uhura.
  • There's an unintentionally horrific moment during the scene in Kirk's quarters when Eve tries to try to seduce him: "Kirk broke the spell of her eyes with a wrench," Lawrence tells us.  I know what she's going for (Kirk wrenches himself away from Eve's gaze), but I can't help imagining that Kirk goes into serial-killer mode, grabs a wrench, and starts angrily pounding the gaze out of her head altogether.
  • There's a nice couple of extra beats added into the scene in which McCoy asks Kirk if the women really are beautiful or just act that way.  "Are they actually any more lovely, pound for pound, measurement for measurement, than any other lovely women you've known?" McCoy asks, as in the episode.  "Perhaps I lack your vast experience," Kirk answers, to which Bones says, "Granted."  Lawrence doesn't specify that Kirk is being sarcastic and that McCoy is willing to see that sarcasm and raise; but it's how I read it, and I give it a thumbs-up.
  • A very interesting alteration comes in the scene when Mudd gives the women a new dose of the Venus drug.  "Eve's fingers closed round the pill, as Mudd's attention was wholly absorbed.  She crushed it to powder, and dropped the colored dust on the floor.  As Mudd turned to have a look at her, she rallied all the energy of her nervous system, forced it to deliver a gay vitality.  Mudd saw a laughing woman, as golden as ever, and was satisfied."  We never actually see her take the pill in the episode; it cuts from a shot of her holding it to a shot of Spock holding the lithium crystal.
   

It's a nice edit, and I'm tempted to assume that the scene originally went on a bit longer to include Eve not taking the drug, but that the episode's editor (Bruce Schoengarth) came up with an edit that everyone liked enough to omit the extra beats.

  • I didn't mention this earlier, but I have a ton of questions about the way the Venus drug is used in the episode.  Frankly, it doesn't make any sense; and I don't think any potential explanations will dissuade me from feeling that way, so I don't see much of a percentage in dwelling on it.  But, for the record, do I think the Venus drug is stupid bullshit?  I sure do.
  • Mention is made to there having recently been a fourth miner, Charley Shorr, who died a month previously when he got lost in one of the storms.
  • Lawrence refers to the third miner, Benton, as both "Benion" and "Benson" (as well as "Benton") at various points.  She seems to think "Benson" is the name, as that's the variant used most frequently.
  • Kirk's big "There's only one kind of woman" moment is replaced with much worse dialogue: "There's only one kind of desirable woman, Eve -- the one who knows she's Woman."  That doesn't work even on the page, but if it did, it could only work on the page, which means it is not merely dreadful dialogue, but abysmal.  Is it from a draft of the screenplay?  If so, whoever changed it deserved an Emmy.

Overall, Lawrence's "Mudd's Women" is okay.  It improves on the episode in some ways, and devolves from it in others; it's on a status-quo level as far as these adaptations go.

We'll conclude with leftover screencaps and some J.A. Lawrence prose (some of which comes from the non-episode-centric prologue):


"Clearly, the moving light on the Enterprise screen was not a star.  Stars do not adopt evasive tactics.  They do not try to run away from starships, but stay put in their orbits.  So the moving light on the screen was baffling.  Captain James T. Kirk frowned at it."

" 'An Earth vessel, Mister Spock?' "

"Chief Engineer Scott halted in his rounds of the bridge stations to look at the screen."

" 'You see, sir, my job is to communicate facts -- or sometimes to conceal or distort them, but telling a long, complicated story -- and this one is surely complicated! -- is a special talent, and people who have it usually aren't encouraged to go into Communications.  No captain wants a Communications Officer with an irresistible urge to romancing, or embroidering the truth when he finds it dull.' "
  
"Farrell shouted, 'There go the engines now!' "

"Scott, his mind on his precious engines, cried, 'We'll overload ourselves if we try that, Captain!  He's too far away!' "

"The lights dimmed and brightened.

'That, sir, was one of our dilithium circuits,' said Sulu."

"Though all the six positions on the platform were activated, only one shape was gathering substance.  It gathered a lot of it.  It continued to collect it for some time, until it had formed into an obscenely fat man.  He wore a shabby, gilt-buttoned uniform of no known designation and a yachting cap was set rakishly on a gray, curly fringe of greasy hair.  But despite the soft jowls that spilled over the collar of his uniform, McCoy did not think he looked soft.  He had the unmistakable air of a man who knows his way around -- and has often been around it.

With an unconvincing look of narrow-eyed suspicion, he stepped from the platform."

"The shimmering on the platform was assuming shapes -- shapes that pulled a gasp from Scott.  Three women slowly coalesced -- three women, each possessed of a loveliness calculated to fire ardor in the breasts of saints."

"Even Spock was taken aback."

"All the words occurred to McCoy . . . 'captivating' . . . 'breakthaking' . . . 'gorgeous.'

A blonde of golden dreams; a dark enchantress who might have launched the Greek armada toward Troy; a small, silvery nymph who suggested ice lit by fire within.

And their appeal was frankly sexual.


They smiled in open invitation to every man in the room."  [Bryant's interjection: this just now occurred to me, but do you think it probable that the reason it takes a while for the women to beam over is that they've had to take a dose of the Venus drug and are waiting for it to take effect?]


"Farrell stumbled as he went toward this" [sic] "station, looking utterly dazed."

"Spock eyed them curiously as they settled into position.  The mating instinct of human beings was a rather unattractive mystery . . . and extraordinarily obsessive."



"Eve's clear, fathomless eyes were on him as he entered the Briefing Room.  He was too conscious of her presence for ease of mind.  Masking his feelings under cool formality he took his place between Spock and McCoy."


"Kirk glanced at McCoy, who briefly met his eye and returned to his rapt contemplation of Ruth's dark eyes."


"The women stared blankly."

"The wave of female magnetism hit him like a blow"[.]

"Her soft amusement engulfed him, surrounded him, lit by her eyes -- her wonderful, beautiful, mysterious, compelling eyes."


"Kirk blinked; his mind and senses were spinning wildly."


"Kirk eyed the approaching Rigel Twelve on the viewscreen between anxious glances at the dropping power indicators."

"Their faces were drawn and pale, and their short, close-fitting costumes were hanging limply on shrunken figures."

"All was not well; in the lowered lights, the gleaming hair of Magda seemed leaden."

"Eve watched without interest, her eyes dim."



"He moved toward her.  She turned, and saw Kirk.  Between them flashed the bittersweet acknowledgment of lost possibility"[.]

"Impatient and anxious, Kirk was finding it hard to contain his growing irritation.  He glanced at Spock -- but even his First Officer seemed to be . . . tolerant of these human games."






"As he opened the door, Eve was sitting at a rock-slab table laying out cards from an odd-sized deck."

"The woman, looking down at herself, was quiet.  Then, she looked from one to the other of the men.  Slowly she became aware that she didn't feel quite the same as she had before -- under the drug.  Kirk was charming, and compassionate.  She gave him a smile of special . . . tenderness, not seduction.  And Mudd -- an absurd rogue; so clumsy in his mischief.  And the big miner, proud of his appalling domestic arrangements and dreaming of buying queens.

She grinned with real delight.  She loved them all."


And that, fellow Trekkies, is that.
  
Next time: "The Enemy Within," or as it's known in some quarters, Shatnerpalooza.

2 comments:

  1. I loathe both Harry Mudd episodes, but enjoyed reading your insights and commentary.

    ReplyDelete