Thief. Swindler. Con man. Liar. Rogue. These are just some of the ways Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) described Harcourt Fenton Mudd, a.k.a. Harry Mudd (Roger C. Carmel), though Mudd himself would prefer “entrepreneur.” The original Star Trek series had its share of lighthearted episodes and some of the most popular involved the irrepressible, but dangerous, rascal Harry Mudd. With his penchant for puffy pirate shirts and his flamboyant, over-the-top theatrics, it would be easy to take someone like Mudd lightly, but in his encounters with the crew of the original Starship Enterprise, Mudd has proven to be more than the mere “irritant” Kirk also once called him. In his way, Mudd has been a unique threat to Kirk’s crew.
With Star Trek: Discovery set to re-introduce Harry Mudd, this time played by Rainn Wilson (The Office), in two episodes beginning with episode 5 “Choose Your Pain”, let’s look back at the dastardly machinations of Harcourt Fenton Mudd and the trouble he has caused throughout the Original Series.
THE ORIGINAL HARRY MUDD
Harry Mudd was one of the earliest antagonists introduced in the original Star Trek. Mudd debuted in “Mudd’s Women”, the third episode of season one, which involved him leading the Enterprise on a wild goose chase that ended up damaging their Dilithium crystals, the starship’s main power source. When Mudd was beamed aboard the Enterprise, he didn’t come alone. Mudd had three astonishingly beautiful women with him who inflamed the desires of the Enterprise’s crew. Ultimately it was revealed Mudd’s female companions were enhanced by the illegal Venus drug, which boosted their physical attractiveness. Mudd planned to sell the women as wives to three miners on the planet Rigel XII, which is a source of Dilithium crystals for the Federation. In a rather dated example of sexual relations, the miners eventually agreed to marry the women even after discovering they were enhanced by the Venus drug. Kirk got the Dilithium crystals the Enterprise needed, and Harry Mudd was taken into custody and incarcerated.
Mudd proved popular enough with fans to warrant a comeback. In the 12th episode of season two, “I, Mudd”, Harry reappeared doing better than ever: suddenly he was the king of an entire planet. A mysterious android named Norman took control of the Enterprise and brought it to an unknown planet, which Kirk and his crew discovered was populated by a race of androids ruled by King Mudd The First. We learned that Mudd had escaped prison and gone back into a life of crime, this time selling alien technologies to other races without patents. Mudd’s criminal scheme was discovered by the Vulcans, and though he escaped, he crashed on the android planet, which made him their king while they used him as a guinea pig to study humanity. Mudd planned to escape the planet by substituting the entire crew of the Enterprise for himself, trapping them on the planet while Kirk and company took his place.
In “I, Mudd” we learned Mudd had been married to a woman named Stella, who regularly chided him for being a lazy, good-for-nothing swindler. One of Mudd’s reasons for living in space and engaging in criminal schemes was to escape his wife on Earth. The androids created 500 identical versions of Stella; Kirk used these androids to torture Mudd when he left him behind on the planet after he and the Enterprise crew figured out how to defeat the androids and escape. This was the last we saw of Mudd… at least in live action. Harry Mudd appeared a third time in Star Trek: The Animated Series, in the episode titled “Mudd’s Passion”. Somehow escaping the android planet, Mudd began selling a dangerous love potion across the galaxy. Mudd was again captured by the Enterprise, but he gave the love potion to Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry), who used it on Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Eventually Mudd was incarcerated yet again, this time sentenced to rehabilitation therapy. As Mudd never appeared again in Star Trek going forward, we are left to wonder if Harry Mudd ever reformed his ways.
HARRY MUDD ON STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
Discovery is not only introducing fans to a Harry Mudd who is a decade younger than the version who clashed with Kirk, the Harry Mudd played by Rainn Wilson will be an edgier re-imagining of the character to suit the tone of Discovery. From what we know so far about “Choose Your Pain”, Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) is captured by the Klingons and held aboard a prison ship. He is held in the same cell as Harry Mudd and another new character, Starfleet Lieutenant Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). Discovery‘s version of Harry Mudd looks to be both mischievous and deadly at the same time. It will be interesting to learn more about him in his younger days (expect plenty of Easter eggs), and whether or not he is already married to Stella in 2256-2257. With Wilson already set to continue appearing as Mudd, Discovery is banking on their version continuing the popularity of the original from the 1960s. It’ll be a Star Trek first, however, to have a Harry Mudd episode where his name isn’t in the episode’s title.
Star Trek: Discovery streams @ 8:30pm ET on CBS All-Access and internationally on Netflix.
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