Star Trek N00b, Episode 7: Mudd’s Women (That Horrible Human Trafficking Episode)

Star Trek N00b_(2)_Rory Midhani_640

*Trigger Warnings: Immense show stupidity, rampant sexism. Trivialized human trafficking.*

Wow, Star Trek, you really know how to tackle those hard issues. Unfortunately, I think the show creators handled the issue of mail-order brides and human trafficking with ZERO TACT. However, “Mudd’s Women” does give viewers some special insight into the legal rules and ramifications of the Star Trek world (and lack thereof). You can watch along (and rage along) with me here.

Looks like Uhura’s rocking a gold command uniform in this episode! However, it’s just temporary – they started her out in gold early in production, and then decided to keep her in a red engineering/support outfit for the rest of the series.

Check out those earrings! And that Bluetooth headset! Uhura's always stylin'.

Check out those earrings! And that Bluetooth headset! Uhura’s always stylin’.

Eff the police!

The episode opens on the Enterprise, as it chases an unidentified craft through an asteroid belt. Talk about risky! The vessel’s engines overheat and blow out. It drifts in space, about to get smashed by an asteroid at any moment!

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Mudd? Wasn’t that a brand of jeans popular in the 90’s?

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Kirk decides to jump in and rescue the poor crew, before they go ka-blooey. Unfortunately, this means they have to dedicate massive power resources (like the Enterprise’s precious lithium crystals) to chase the vessel and shield it from asteroids.

Scotty starts beaming people over, and guess who appears? This jolly hipster pirate guy with a thick Irish accent! I don’t even….

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This guy is immediately sketchy, avoiding questions about his crew and why they were fleeing in the first place. He introduces himself as “Captain Leo Walsh!” Then to add the confusion, look who beams over just as Walsh’s ship gets smashed by asteroids:

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This was probably supposed to be racy for 1960’s television. But all I could think of was old McCall’s sewing patterns.

These women spend about five minutes of the show striking various “titillating” poses while Bones and Scotty drool all over them. What an appropriate time for Kirk to ask over the intercom: “Bridge to transporter room. How many did we get off?”

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Kirk and Spock shippers, you’ll be pleased to know that Spock is totally unmoved. He rides up in the elevator with Captain Walsh, Eve (wearing pink), Magda (purple), and Ruth (green).

The women try to charm Spock, but Captain Walsh interjects. “You’re part Vulcanian, aren’t you? A pretty face doesn’t affect you at all, does it? You can save it girls. This type can turn himself off from any emotion!”

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A Tale of Human Trafficking

The party reaches the bridge, and of course, Kirk is enthralled by the women. This is when Walsh straight up admits that Eve, Magda, and Ruth are his CARGO. Not his crew. Yuck yuck yuck. This character is truly disgusting. The fact that he can openly admit trafficking these women makes me worried about laws in the future… how alarming.

Hella creepy and so not okay.

Hella creepy and so not okay.

Instead of getting upset about the very clear human trafficking issue, Kirk decides to focus on Walsh’s reckless driving. He’s going to confine Walsh and the women until they can have a formal Starfleet trial.

Security escorts the group away, and the guys can’t help but fixate on Eve, Magda, and Ruth.

Poor Johnny is suffering from intense hetero desires, and Sulu restrains him.

Poor Johnny is suffering from intense hetero desires, and Sulu restrains him.

The newcomers are really shitty at keeping secrets. While the security guards confine them to a conference room, the women fret aloud about staying away from medical inspections and how they’re different from everyone else. Their depiction as total airheads really infuriated me. Someone slips and refers to Leo Walsh as “Harry.”

Sherriff Kirk and Starfleet Laws

The officers jump into a hearing to determine the fate of their visitors. A computer sits in on the conversation, playing the role of a lie detector. The computer blurts out “INCORRECT” when Walsh identifies himself as “Leo Walsh.” Turns out his real name is Harcourt “Harry” Mudd, and boy, he’s got a rap sheet a mile long! We also discover that the women are being trafficked to Ophiucus III to become settlers’ wives.

You are the weakest link. Goodbye!

You are the weakest link. Goodbye!

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Can we add “human trafficker” and “horrible fashion sense” to the list of offenses?

Sheriff Kirk lectures Mudd on endangering the Enterprise, charging him with: galaxy travel without a flight plan, traveling without an identification beam, failure to answer a starship’s signal, operating a vessel without a master’s license, and being a general “menace to navigation.” But NO charge for human trafficking?? Really?

SMH

SMH

Aside from the officers’ lack of concern about the women, I found this scene to be very interesting when it comes to the rules of this world. I’m looking forward to learning more about Starfleet’s role in upholding the law.

Back in Dick Bay, I Mean Sick Bay

Remember how all sorts of strange, kinky things seem to happen in sick bay? Well Bones breaks the cycle! Ruth wanders in, attempting to seduce the Doctor by walking around and posing (seriously?). She passes near a medical scanner, which displays two strobing dots. Bones is baffled by the readout, and seems to snap out of his trance. He asks Ruth if she’s wearing some kind of strange or radioactive perfume. She denies everything, and leaves.

Strange perfume? You mean like this wonderful fragrance by George Takei?

Strange perfume? You mean like this wonderful fragrance by George Takei?

Emergency Trip to the Crystal Mines

So the Enterprise is in some deep shit. Their lithium crystals, which power the ship, shattered during their pursuit and rescue of Mudd, Eve, Magda, and Ruth. Now the Enterprise must embark on a quest to Rigel XII, a mining planet, so they can restore their crystals.

Source: Cheezburger

Source: Cheezburger

Unfortunately, Mudd gets ahold of a communicator and makes a shady deal with the miners behind Kirk’s back. He’s all excited, getting SUPER CREEPY and exclaiming, “Girls, lithium miners! Don’t you understand? Lonely, isolated, overworked, RICH lithium miners! Girls, do you still want husbands?” Mudd entertains himself with delusions of grandeur, imaging aloud that he can sell the women for immense profits and become the new captain of the Enterprise. Hurl.

The four of them scheme about seducing the lonely miners and taking over the entire planet. I really hope Rigel XII looks like this when they arrive:

Gay dance partayyyyy!

Gay dance partayyyyy!

But then we learn their secret! The women have been taking a special “Venus Drug” which keeps them young and beautiful! If they don’t take their drugs, then they wilt into wrinkly, less-airbrushed women!

Oh darn, my Photoshop wore off.

Oh darn, my Photoshop wore off.

The Enterprise parks itself in the planet’s orbit. The miners beam up and reveal that they’re not giving up the crystals. Why? Because good ol’ Mudd promised them the women, in exchange for his own sanctuary. This way, he’ll get to escape trial for his crimes.

Kirk isn’t having it, and exclaims “NO DEAL!” Well, they’ve only got power for a few more hours, and the crystals are hidden somewhere on Rigel. Whoops! If the Enterprise runs out of power, then they’ll go spiraling off into space. I know I’ve asked this before… but can they not land the ship on the planet?

Awkward High School Dance

Spock is not amused.

Spock is not amused.

Everyone beams down, and the miners get cozy with the women. They begin to dance, but Eve isn’t feeling so well. She’s wracked with guilt, because they totally screwed up the Enterprise. Her future husband, Ben Childress, is butthurt that she won’t dance with him, so he tries to cut into other couples’ dances. Chaos ensues.

Eve is distraught, and rushes out into the windy sandstorm of Rigel XII. Her husband-to-be, Ben Childress, rushes after her and carries her back to shelter. He falls asleep on a bench, exhausted.

When Ben wakes up, Eve is already in the kitchen, cooking up food and performing her wifely duties! Who know that heteronormativity could thrive so well on a deserted planet!? He derides Eve’s efforts, bragging about how he could make better food and survive without her.

But then Eve impresses him by suggesting that he hang the dishes outside. Since they’re low on water, the sand can blast away the grime, leaving those dishes spotless! Eve is full of Martha Stewart housekeeping surprises!

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But then Eve’s looks begin to fade and Ben is ENRAGED! Kirk and Mudd beam down and hand her more of the pills. Eve pops them, then transforms back into Airbrushed! Eve.

But guess what! They were placebos!!! Eve is astonished and asks how these fake pills worked. And Kirk tells her, “You either believe in yourself, or you don’t.” I SHIT YOU NOT. Apparently the magical antidote to everything is to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. None of this makes any goddamn sense. Also Kirk I’ve lost tons of respect for you!

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Right. Astonishingly enough, Eve and Ben decide to stay together and see if their marriage will work. In what universe is this a good deal for Eve, Magda, or Ruth? They’re stranding themselves on a deserted planet with husbands they don’t even know. And Kirk doesn’t check in with Magda or Ruth to see if this is okay. He just peaces out!

ASDJFLKJ RAGE QUIT

The episode ends with some chummy banter between Mudd and Kirk. Mudd jokes around, hoping that the Captain will just leave him behind on the planet. And Kirk insists that he’ll “appear as a character witness” at Mudd’s trial.

Whaddya mean you're not gonna let me go!

Whaddya mean you’re not gonna let me go!

And the episode ends there. I definitely was not expecting that. Star Trek writers, WHAT were you thinking? This grossly trivialized human trafficking and bought into some silly bullshit about self-confidence and the “feminine mystique.” It’s gonna take me a while to recover from this one.

*headdesk*

*headdesk*


Growing up, I had never watched a Star Trek episode all the way through. My family members weren’t huge sci-fi fans, and they’d flip the channel whenever Star Trek came on. Now I am embarking on an epic nerd rite of passage, chronicling my reactions to every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS).

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Hapa haole queer writer who flew away from an island of nostalgia. Inspired by gadgets. Uninterested in quitting her coffee habit. Conjuring up a collection of sci-fi and horror short stories. Find Loraine at lorainekv.com or @lorainekv.

Loraine has written 28 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. Thumb up 3

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    I don’t have much to say about the episode – it’s one of the ones that reminds me everyone in Hollywood was doing way too much coke in the 60s-early 90s – but I do have something to say about landing the Enterprise!

    Roddenberry originally wanted the Enterprise to land, but it was too expensive to build the sets & do the special effects for it, so they came up with the shuttle and transport system. The shuttle wasn’t ready for filming the pilot though, which is why you don’t see it until a bit later.

    The budget necessity led to an in universe explanation that the Enterprise Class ships weren’t really designed to land – they’re just too damn big. I believe (and I might be wrong here, but I’m fairly sure) that we don’t actually see a planet landing of a Federation ship until Voyager. Voyager was an Intrepid class though, so about half the size of the Enterprise, and designed as a long term research vessel. Essentially, it was designed to be landed.

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      Yeah it always seemed pretty clear to me that the Enterprise is meant to be a “space” ship only, and not meant to be able to fly through a planet’s atmosphere and land there (which also makes sense because it’s HUGE and that might be rather difficult). Which is why whenever they go back to Earth, it’s in space dock, and even in the most recent reboot film, when we see the Enterprise “land” on the Earth, it’s pretty obvious that it’s really not supposed to be able to do that, and can’t handle it at all well. Although also nu!Khan wasn’t trying that hard.

      Also I always thought this episode was shit. Sigh.

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    Oy, this was so sad and funny. I remember being struck with the problematic sexism in ST:TOS even when I was a trekker kid in the 80’s. TNG looked so fantastically serious in tone compared to the camp of the 60’s. Now, of course, even TNG comes off as embarrassingly retrograde in alot of ways. (Only you save it for me, Ensign Ro.)

    Roddenberry had much more radical intentions for ST for the time. Number One from the pilot was considered outlandish authority for a woman character by the network suits.

    Anyway, just wait till you get to Harry Mudd’s femmebots…

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    This episode, and the whole series really, is a good illustration of the tensions of the times. The advances made by woman and people of color couldn’t be denied or ignored, but no one was really comfortable with them yet and so you get Uhura on the bridge and women being trafficked in the same breath. You get Spock as a valuable second-in-command, respected and honored, yet he has to endure racial slurs from his shipmates. You get clear messages that racism (in the guise of xenophobia) is nowhere near being either resolved or resolvable. What you get is Roddenberry trying to create a female first mate and being told no and further, getting forced by the studio to put the female crew into miniskirts and bizarre, ultra-feminine hairdos to counter-balance their authority. Even the cast themselves had lots of trouble with all of this. You must have heard the famous story of Nichelle Nichols being on the verge of quitting when she ran into Martin Luther King, Jr. at a restaurant. She’d never met him, but one of the things she said to him was that she was going to quit the show as they never really used her well, or even at all sometimes. He told her not to quit. “You’re there,” he said. “People can see you, and that’s important.” It wasn’t enough, and one could argue that not much has changed in some quarters, but it was still important.

    And eventually, Harry gets his comeuppance, in hilarious fashion.

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      Absolutely – I listened to Nichols describe King’s inspiring words on PBS, I think. I can’t even imagine how startling that must have been, when she came out to meet “the Trekkie.”

      Thanks for pulling the social tensions of this period back into focus.

      Look forward to seeing what happens to Harry!

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