Editor’s note: This review is part of an ongoing series by guest blogger, Joshua, who will view and review the Star Trek Original Series.
Episode: Mudd’s Women — Season 1, Episode 6 (1966)
Director: Harvey Hart
Teleplay by: Stephen Kandel
Story by: Gene Roddenberry
The Enterprise is in hot pursuit of a J-class cargo ship when the little craft’s engines overheat going into an asteroid field. The effort costs Kirk most of his lithium crystals, but on the plus side, they manage to rescue the cargo ship’s crew before it is destroyed: galactic pimp Harourt Fenton Mudd and his trio of beguiling star whores.
This episode marks the first time in the franchise that Captain Kirk doesn’t punch his way out of a problem. Instead, we are introduced to Captain James T. Kirk, Space Bureaucrat. He immediately convenes a hearing to nail Mudd down, what with his failure to have an ID beacon, no pilot’s license, and a rap sheet longer than the port nacelle. After the proceedings, when the last lithium crystal pops, the Enterprise has to limp to the mining station on Rigel XII in the hope of acquiring more.
But Mudd’s women leave the (suddenly?) homogenously male crew all twitterpated due to the influence of a “Venus Drug” they take to make themselves insanely compelling. He leverages the general confusion to cut a deal with the miners securing his own release and load of cash in exchange for assigning his three women to the miners as “wives.” Hilarity ensues when Kirk realizes he’s been outfoxed and has to sign on to the deal or see his ship burn up.
Atypically, this episode lingers over a scene between the head miner, Ben Childress (Gene Dynarski) and the most interesting of the women, Eve McHuron (Karen Steele). They manage to engineer a kind of cranky domestic synergy out of the small necessities of frontier life. After the magic drug wears off, Childress begins to realize there might be more to the woman than just the pretty face.
On cue, Kirk and Mudd show up to administer more of the hotty-inducing supplement so the deal doesn’t get queered. Eve regains her surreal radiance, but surprise! The pill was a fake, and this time her beauty comes from “the inside.” She just had to learn to believe in herself!
Set aside for a second the fact that this episode is mostly porno music, short skirts, and period soft-misogyny. It’s this troubling “true beauty comes from the inside so why do women resort to artifice?” trope that is still with us and causing so much trouble. How many times have you read or heard someone complain about women slutting it up with make-up, when their own “natural beauty” is all they need? Guess what: make-up helps people look prettier. Not all women “naturally” look like melon-chested 18-year-old star whores. And good thoughts don’t make good skin.
Which is a pity, because every metric we have confirms what most of us intuitively recognize: being a physically attractive woman (or man, for that matter) confers enormous benefits. Having a good personality just doesn’t stack up in the free market, so why should we criticize people for trying to even the field?
If Gene Roddenberry really wanted to get some work done, he would have had Childress experience the epiphany, rather than the poor farm girl. Or maybe Kirk. Yeah, now I’m pushing it.