Star Trek: The Original Series

"Mudd's Women"

1.5 stars

Air date: 10/13/1966
Teleplay by Stephen Kandel
Story by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Harvey Hart

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

By way of emergency beam-out, Scotty rescues galactic scoundrel Harry Mudd (Roger C. Carmel) and his mysterious passengers—women who have a hypnotic effect on men—but these people are all obviously hiding something. The plot centers around some dilithium miners who agree to purchase these women from Mudd in exchange for dilithium crystals the Enterprise needs.

Shatner's retrospective comment about "Mudd's Women" explains how "daring" the episode was for NBC in 1966, and how the fact it was even made remains a small miracle because of its implicit topics of prostitution and drug addiction. Well, maybe that's true, but that doesn't make it a good show. Carmel's amusing turn as Harry Mudd is fine and well, and attractive women have always been a Star Trek staple, but the story for "Mudd's Women" is simply not interesting enough to withstand the passage of time—assuming it was ever good in the first place. Given the episode's "payoff" of either choosing a beautiful but useless woman to hang perfunctorily at one's side, or a woman who cooks and cleans, the options seem equally unflattering today. Shatner claims this episode became a fan favorite, but not this fan's.

Previous episode: The Enemy Within
Next episode: What Are Little Girls Made Of?

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30 comments on this review

Jacbob T
Wed, Mar 14, 2012, 11:21am (UTC -6)
Well, I have started to watch this episode many times, never to get past Mudd's court martial. In the end Kirk makes a bad choice, and is only able to save his ship because the miners fell for one of his speeches. Eh okay. I still am not sure of what the point of this one was. One popcorn.
NCC-1701-Z
Fri, May 11, 2012, 4:17pm (UTC -6)
A snoozefest. The best you can say about this ep is that it got us the infinitely better "I Mudd" a season later. Roger Carmel does the scumbag part perfectly, but the writing just stinks on this one. Music was pretty good though.

Biggest plot hole = Mudd explains his plans in the presence of a security guard. And the guard just sits there. *shakes head*

1 star from me.
Strider
Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 8:04am (UTC -6)
I think every now and then SOT has some POV problems. We really don't need or want to see what's going on with characters who aren't our own beloved crew...we really just want to see how the crew deals with each other while dealing with the crisis. I know that GR had some other agendas, but ST is always strongest when it keeps its focus where it belongs.
Eduardo
Sat, Aug 11, 2012, 1:24pm (UTC -6)
I'd love to have a talking computer that kept repeating to me the word INCORRECT, every single time.

Speaking of which, what was the point of that computer scene, other than to establish that Harry Mudd was a scoundrel?
mm
Thu, Jan 10, 2013, 3:49am (UTC -6)
The direction was very stylish, warm.
close shots from below of spock ,scotty etc
trying to solve the dilithiium problem, or mccoy and kirk trying to solve the problem of "the women", establish the warm repore between characters very early in the series. Performances excellent all round(well used close ups). Hart's direction excellant, but justman didn't like him(?)...he went one day over schedule.
The story is thin..but thats not the point of this episode. very enjoyable. Many episodes were not directed nearly so well, and many stories were much worse.
Clark
Mon, Feb 11, 2013, 12:35am (UTC -6)
I took away that the message of the episode was that beauty is what you make. Believe in yourself, and you'll be just fine. You don't need shallow products or whatever to create some phony sense of self-esteem.

Mudd described the drug as "taking what you have and giving you more of it."

In the end, when Eve took the fake drugs, but still became beauty, it was sort of an obvious way of saying that she was beautiful because she believed in herself rather than relying on some drug.

I think it was really relevant when you realize that most women on television in those days (and even today) tended to be oversexed nymphos with thick layers of makeup and beauty products.

Yeah, I know, that sounds kind of lame. I'm slightly annoyed by myself typing this, but that's what I took from the episode, at least.
Paul
Mon, May 6, 2013, 1:40pm (UTC -6)
I'll give this one a little slack, considering how early it was in the series' run.

That said, the ending is just hokey (believe in yourself and your eye makeup will instantly return!). Plus, the fact that the lights on the Enterprise dimmed every time a crystal blew seems pretty unlikely. TOS wasn't known for its good science, but this episode makes the ship seem a lot more rickety than it should. It's not the only episode that does that, though.
Moonie
Sat, Sep 14, 2013, 10:27am (UTC -6)
I tried very hard to not get annoyed with this episode. I failed.

The makers of Star Trek (and ts fans) always make the claim that they were (are) ahead of their times.... ell in THIS episode they've proven that when it comes to women and male/female relationships, they are stuck in 19th centiry thought patterns and ideas. Sometimes it's disheartening to see how backwards the authors of those shows were in that area - something the writers of the TNG era have proven yet again in the abysmal "Code of Honor" (Yar: "of course I am attracted to ". Head, meet wall.

Clueless. Just clueless. Backwards and disappointing coming from a bunch of SCIENCE FICTION writers. Apparently their "forward" way of thinking did not include relationships between the sexes (or women in general).

Kirk saved this episode, as he is wont to do :)
Moonie
Sat, Sep 14, 2013, 10:31am (UTC -6)
Sorry about the tyos in my comment above. I hope it is comprehensible. I *was* annoyed. lol
William B
Sat, Jan 4, 2014, 10:02pm (UTC -6)
Spock helpfully sums this up at the end: "I'm happy the affair is over. A most annoying emotional episode."

I mean, I disagree about the "emotional" part. More later, perhaps.
K'Elvis
Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 9:09am (UTC -6)
In this episode you have would-be "trophy wives" looking for rich men. Remember, this was still a time when women were often perceived as attending college only to get their MRS degree, that is, to find an educated young man to marry. Now, by today's standards, cooking and cleaning may seem like demeaning roles for a woman to aspire to, but contrast that with the trophy wife, who is only there to be a pretty ornament, pretty but empty. In the end, the miner sees her as more than just am ornament. There's also the idea that a large part of beauty is attitude, and that is quite true. I think it's a better episode than it often is given credit for, but I am judging it by 1966.
Cloudane
Sat, Mar 15, 2014, 6:33pm (UTC -6)
I kind of liked what it ended with: that beauty comes from believing in yourself. Though it's a bit odd, as whatever way you look at it, it was conveyed with makeup tricks, and belief in oneself doesn't apply makeup and fancy hairdos. But I get what they were *trying* (badly) to say.

Unfortunately it took an ungodly amount of cringe-worthy sexism to get there. All in all, not exactly a favourite.

Spock suggested a few emotions like enjoyment, though he's never struck me as hardline non-emotional as Data.
redshirt28
Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 2:54pm (UTC -6)
One thing I like about this review board is that by reading what others see, it sometimes opens my eyes to a way of seeing a story I hadnt thought of.

I always saw it as beauty comes from the inside and still do, just never thought of it from the angle of prostitution. Which this is.

It is not an overly entertaining ep and i never liked mudd, but it does address enough about the human condition that id want to watch again. 2.5 popcorns for me.
Sarah M
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 12:34am (UTC -6)
I'm usually pretty good at viewing TOS as a product of its time when it comes to the way it uses female characters. It tries more than most productions of its era did, and it generally let its real characters, like Uhura and Chapel, be functional, competent members of the crew who did necessary jobs aboard a star ship. Even having women on board the "Enterprise" was something of a revolutionary idea at the time, so props for that, and I can deal with the T&A and occasionally shallow characterization of Kirk's chick-of-the-week.

I'm not giving "Mudd's Women" a pass, though. And even if you put aside the gender stupidity, the plot is almost non-existent and Mudd is pretty annoying. 1.5 stars is about right.
William
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 10:58pm (UTC -6)
Among the other problems with the episode I just didn't think those women were anything to lose your head over. Were they pretty? Sure. Were they Orion slave girl sexy? Not so much. I never got how they could cause such a fuss.

Like someone else said above, the best gift of the episode was the set up for "I, Mudd."
Beth
Wed, Nov 26, 2014, 2:29am (UTC -6)
I thought this episode was one of those bad, but entertaining, ones. I like Mudd as comic relief (esp. during the little trial scene with the obstinate computer chiming "INCORRECT". The "police record" is amusing too - it looks so '60s. Like they couldn't have white text on a black background to make it look like something from the future? Oh well, cost-cuts and oversights like that are forgivable.

It's somewhat harder to forgive the overt sexism of all the guys ogling at the women, but it's not nearly as bad as some Star Trek episodes. ("Turnabout Intruder" comes to mind as a particularly one-legged and stupid example, with the idea that women STILL cannot be Captains of vessels in the 23rd Century as "stand-in" for 1960s workplace sexism).

I chuckled a little when Sulu's guiding one over-smitten crew member back to his place on the bridge, and tells Spock that he HAS noticed the women. And yet he's so much more calm and seemingly far less affected than the rest of them? Nice cover, George, I mean, Sulu. :p

Also, one thing that the episode never explains: Why DID the presence of one of Mudd's women cause the medical scanner to "boop-boop" weirdly? I hadn't seen this full episode before, so I thought for sure the drugs they were taking were causing their bodies to create fields that interfered with the ship's functions, causing it to lose even more power. But this Venus drug just gives you "more of whatever you have". Does that include more gut bacteria, more electricity, more energy burning producing more heat, duplicate organs, more excrement? LOL.

And the ending is pretty cheesy. "Think of yourself as beautiful on the inside and you'll have perfect makeup and a neat hairdo on the outside just like that!" But I guess that's about the best that 1966 TV can do for talking about body issues and self-esteem.

Anyway, your rating is fair. It's a good hour for some giggles, but it's not a very good episode.
KL
Tue, Apr 7, 2015, 10:10am (UTC -6)
In today's anti-male pro-female sentiments, it is easy to be dismissive and derisive against Mudd's Women. People seem to fail to see the point of Eve's pivotal speech at the end; a woman who contributes to marriage by cooking, cleaning and "cry and need" is not necessarily oppressed and subservient as we are now taught nowadays, but an equal partner in a relationship with a man. A real wife is irreplaceable. Trophy wives on the other hand, is far from being empowering. She only have her beauty to rely on and beauty fades with age.
KL
Tue, Apr 7, 2015, 10:20am (UTC -6)
This blog have a more interesting view on Mudd's Women, that I think this review do not give the episode much credit for:

bloggingstartrek.blogspot.com/2010/01/mudds-women_27.html
Nolan
Sun, Jun 19, 2016, 12:54pm (UTC -6)
Whenever Trek fans talk about Roddenberry's Star Trek "vision" when discussing Trek they don't like, they should remember this episode. Star Trek had 2 pilots and for both of them Gene wanted to make this episode.

This episode is how he wanted to represent Trek to the network and world at large. A show about sexism, selling people, and muddled messages about beauty.

Star Trek is not Gene's vision, it's the result of all the people who worked on it and reigned Roddenberry in when he went a little too far. Look at TNG Seasons 1 & 2 when he had more control, they were pretty bad.

Star Trek lives and dies by the people at the top, and their ability to accept input from those under them.
Skeptical
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 8:51pm (UTC -6)
I think this episode is a bit better than it's usually given credit for, although it's still not all that great. Yes, its message is kinda muddled (har har) with that last scene showing that beauty is inside you, as long as your inner beauty magically creates makeup. But I still enjoyed it some extent.

For one thing, I really like the fact that this episode shows space to be a frontier. In TNG, everything is kinda sterilized. Bashir and so many others in DS9 made comments about how they were at the edge of civilization or whatever in season 1, but seriously Bajor wasn't really roughing it. Here though, the mines are clearly dangerous, unpleasant, and with few niceties. Eve described her homeworld as nothing but hard work and no prospects. This isn't a perfect sterilized utopia. Making the utopia in TNG is hard work, dirty, and requires people willing to give up the finer things in life. If it wasn't for those hard working miners, the Enterprise would be adrift in space. It's a tiny factor, but I like it. As crude as these people are, they're necessary. And out on the frontier, there are realities that people back home in their comfortable cities might find uncomfortable. Like the idea that women with no prospects might be willing to become, essentially, mail-order brides, and that men who live in the middle of nowhere with no women around might be willing to accept mail-order brides.

You may call it sexist, and a horrible situation, but this episode never passes judgement on it, merely shows that hardships exist out here, and some concepts take a back seat to cold, hard facts. It is an unpleasant situation, but again, these people are the lifeblood of the Federation and are the ones building the utopia we wanted.

And when looked at with that perspective, Eve comes off as an interesting, strong character. She wants a better life for herself, and thinks at first her only option is to essentially become this empty, pretty face. But despite that, she refuses to give up her integrity when Mudd suggests she seduce Kirk to get what she needs. She wants to be more than just a trophy wife. Again, people may complain that she's just offering to cook and clean and that's demeaning, but that's not what that scene shows. She has a practical solution to the cleaning problem the miner has; she shows she is smarter than him in some aspects. More importantly, she shows that she can complement him, be a true partner rather than a shallow one. It wasn't shown perfectly well, but I liked what they were doing there.

Unfortunately, these bright spots were harmed by an inconsistently plotted episode, with plenty of problems that other people have pointed out. I mean, Mudd was fun, and it was good to see Kirk frustrated, but all the little details just added up, and the story was inconsistent enough to survive them.
icarus32soar
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 9:29am (UTC -6)
Never mind any ST aspects here. This is classic misogynistic sixties Americana. In fact not even, because the gender stereotypes here were so entrenched no one even thought of it as misogyny. This ep should go into a sixties TV time capsule. It's a hoot Just for that and I adore it. ( PS I'm a woman!) The most priceless thing is McCoy going gaga over the green eyed one.
dreamlife613
Sun, Sep 11, 2016, 1:47am (UTC -6)
Spot-on review. Maybe because I'm viewing this series in 2016 as a woman, but it really bothers me how the female crew members and guest stars are being handled so far in the run. The beautiful 'Mudd's women' render the otherwise smart, decent male crew members as ogling idiots was ridiculous. The resolution, that the miner had to choose between a beautiful, 'vain' woman or a pleasing, dutiful housewife may have been reflective of the times, but not at all relatable today. Also, still not happy with the portrayal of the female crewmembers. If not for referring to Uhura as Lietenant, you'd think she's an office assistant or secretary.
Why?
Sun, Jan 8, 2017, 4:41pm (UTC -6)
Why is this not relevant to today? Why is it unflattering by today's standards s other commentators have said? Just look at the Kardrashian trash and clones women are anything different today (in the media - not in the real world which is always greyer than it is represented). And women still do the chores mentioned and still hack with rich men for money nothing has changed. Women have been strong in the past women are strong today. Women have been weak in the past women are weak today.

The central message at the end that you can only be the person you want to be if you believe in yourself will always be true.
Rahul
Tue, Jan 17, 2017, 3:52pm (UTC -6)
The weakest of TOS episodes to date (chronological order of Season 1 airing). Not a good portrayal of women -- certainly not ahead of it's time. A couple of good things about the episode is Carmel's acting of the criminal Mudd and Kirk's acting (it's good when he blows up at Scotty and then has to apologize).
I guess the episode isn't entirely useless if it makes the point that beauty comes from within and you don't need to take a drug to feel beautiful (or whatever the point is).
But one of the things that I will always say drags down an episode is when it portrays the crew as being unprofessional (being completely mesmerized by woman). And what about the loose end of one of the women tripping up McCoy's medical scanner?
"The Way to Eden" adopts a similar plot and is a worse episode.
For me, 1.5/4 stars -- as I say, the worst of Season 1 so far.
Greg
Sun, Mar 26, 2017, 9:01pm (UTC -6)
Ok, I first saw this as a kid of 7. And then I went on to revisit it throughout my adult life. So my perception of it has changed through the intervening time period. But I really love this episode. And most of it comes down to the performance of Rodger C. Carmel. He really nailed the part of the con man (space pimp?) that when push came to shove was compelled to do the right thing. His performance was truly over the top and I think it made the episode. The other great performance was given by Karen Steele as Eve. She had the best lines in the whole show, "Oh, the sound of male ego. You travel halfway across the galaxy and it's still the same song." And later in her final scene (After she thinks she took the Venus drug). "Is this the kind of wife you want, Ben? Not someone to help you. Not a wife to cook and sew and cry and need. But this kind. Selfish, vain, useless."
Wow! What a line. You mean women can actually be selfish, vain and useless? You wouldn't ever have the question come up on tv of today. Women have a halo around themselves now. But 50 years ago political correctness had yet to be born.(Borne?) You could admit the obvious. That such women exist. And having the bad luck to be married to one is a one way trip to hell. Or as I have heard it said, "Marriage isn't a word. It's a sentence."
In short I thought this to be a standout episode. As a kid I loved the planet scenes because it really tried to give the impression of an outpost on a dangerous planet. As I matured into adulthood I could appreciate the commentary concerning the human condition and the relationship between men and women. And the notion that in a few hundred years out in space it will still be a struggle for us to understand each other.
And for Beth that objected to the men ogling the women...it was a plot device. The Venus drug had made them almost irresistible to most men. So yeah, there was going to be a fair share of ogling.
Cloudane
Fri, Mar 31, 2017, 7:19pm (UTC -6)
Already commented. Rewatch thoughts:

Oh god the 3 of them in the transporter room gawping like horny 13 year olds D:
*CRINNNNGE*

I still see this as a classic "Spock irony" episode. He's overtly mentioned several times as being emotionless, and yet expresses emotion more than we've seen so far. He doesn't drool over the women as heavily, but he still does, you can see it quite a lot.

Sexism wise, it's hard to know what to think as if you try and mention such things nowadays you can very easily get dismissed as SJW (which I think is a much worse thing. I'm a bit leftist, that doesn't mean I'm an authoritarian nutjob who just reverses sexism and racism). It makes me cringe a whole lot, but I like how Eve rises above it and is just an individual. One comment tried to suggest this episode as proof Star Trek wasn't Rodenberry's vision because he wanted to do this as a pilot, but really I think it was progressive enough for its time.

As an aside with the HD remaster, Mudd's scenes often seem to be of a lower quality. Odd.
Also the HD makes the "magic pill gives you makeup" thing all the more obvious (along with all the makeup they slapped on Shatner himself!)
Trek fan
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 9:25pm (UTC -6)
A good but not top-drawer episode with a thought-provoking message about illusion versus reality in romantic relationships. I would give it 3 or 3 1/2 stars. Particularly enjoyable is the introduction of Harry Mudd, a rare human scoundrel in a franchise that often pretends humans have evolved beyond baser instincts. Roger Carmel is fun to watch here and even better in the hysterical "I Mudd."

I'm astounded at all of the self-righteous and anachronistic accusations of "sexism" and "misogyny" leveled at "Mudd's Women" in this thread. As someone remarked above, the kinds of women our pop culture holds up for girls in advertising remain the "Venus drug" types, making this episode more relevant than ever. People today go through all kinds of plastic surgery and cosmetics to present a false image to potential mates, making the drug use of "Mudd's Women" seem far less dated than we who assume our times are so much more enlightened may think.

But let's consider two more facts: 1. This is actually a science fiction take on the well-known Western trope (Sarah Plain and Tall, anyone?) of the mail-order bride, and it presents the practice (including all the tropes of lonely frontiersmen and government explorers) in a primarily negative light. Lots of people in this thread seem to have missed this essential context for the story, which clearly *subverts* the notion of trophy wives rather than glamorizing it. We may view the story's take on mail order brides as prostitution, since Harry addicts the women to a drug and then pimps them out for marriage, but the women here (like mail order brides) seem to choose this path out of hopes for a better life and it's really a story with cowboy origins. 2. This same darn story was done on TNG -- all way into Season 5, long after Roddenberry died -- in far more offensive fashion as "The Perfect Mate," in which a woman (Famke Janssen) is not only being pimped out as a mail order bride to avert a war, but has literally had her own personality suppressed in order to adapt herself to the man she mates. Pcyhologically, that's deeply offensive stuff, but but readers here seem more willing to excuse the dozens of sexist episodes on TNG (too many episodes to count, really, throughout all seven seasons), DS9 (pick any Ferengi show for starters), and Enterprise (that Orion slave girl episode "Bound" in particular) which strike me as less excusable given their supposedly more enlightened era. To lambast "Mudd's Women," which actually satirizes and sends up the male ego in addition to offering a forward-thinking woman (and she's entitled to cook if she wants to!) in Eve, seems awfully unfair to me in comparison. Voyager, despite the initial appearance of Seven of Nine in a catsuit, actually has the cleanest record on gender equality of any show -- but I would actually rank TOS second in that regard since it was actually *ahead* of its times rather than behind them like TNG/DS9/Enterprise.

Once we get past the unfair ideological criticism of "Mudd's Women," we find a bemusing comedy (albeit not as funny as other TOS comedies) that delivers a meaningful message at the end ala "Shallow Hal" with Jack Black. But it's more thought-provoking than a gross-out Hollywood comedy, it features a great scoundrel of a villain in Harry Mudd, and it offers some well-acted sendups of the supposedly advanced crew going gaga. The message about the illusory nature of drugs, delivered far better here than in the TNG Seasson 1 take with Yar's speech to Data, also comes in a surprisingly palatable way that complements the message that facing reality with self-confidence is always the best way to live -- and I like the twist at the end in how Kirk tricks Eve into displaying the self-confidence we've seen bubbling under the surface throughout the story. Some really nice moments for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy here, but Eve's story at the center of the show (she's the one who ultimately undoes Harry) remains fairly compelling to me. And the confrontations between Harry and the crew are always fun to watch in his two TOS episodes and TAS appearance.

To conclude, this is an entertaining and touching episode, and it really worries me when modern viewers are so willfully ignorant of a story's context that they can't distinguish a satire of male ogling from ogling for its own sake -- that they don't realize the TOS male cast is basically winking at the camera when they make themselves look so dumb here. There are times when TOS uncritically accepted the gender roles of its times, and I really wish Uhura had taken command in the captain's absence prior to the Animated Series, but "Mudd's Women" doesn't deserve the opprobrium it is receiving in this threat.
davidw
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 1:42am (UTC -6)
This was a good dramatic episode that explored really interesting issues , as Jammer says - about prostitution and drug addiction, and I would woman's rights and opportunities. This was 'Wagon Train to the Stars' Star Trek - a bit slow - but nonetheless I thought the drama was pretty intense, especially when you find out the women were there 'by choice' - of course in a Western that is often the only 'choice' a woman has.

Just another fan
Fri, Oct 13, 2017, 11:41am (UTC -6)
I thought Skeptical and Trek Fan raised very interesting points. Today, people object to Eve offering to cook and clean. But I think the chores weren't the point. The man was lonely and looking for a partner--a real partner, and so was she. Eve soon proved she had real contributions to make. And the miner showed he wasn't that narrow-minded, considering Harry tried to pull a fast one on him.

But if the drug just enhances what you already have, then the effect on the men in the crew didn't make much sense. McCoy asks Kirk about it, Are they really more beautiful than any other women you've ever seen, or do they just act beautiful? But there it is. I think most agree that the message is inconsistent, even though it does make some strong points in the end.

I have more problems with later Trek episodes, which should be progressing in their portrayal of women given that decades have passed between shows, but are falling woefully short. I have commented on this in Enterprise. In TNG, The Perfect Mate claimed that male metamorphs (aliens who could change their personality and mannerisms to suit their partners) were common but a female was born only once in 7 generations (if I remember correctly). But of course we see only a female metamorph in the episode because that's what the writers or the higher ups want to show us. I might have liked to see a male metamorph! That would have seemed truly alien to us. :)

Trying to address relationships between the sexes is a topic filled with potential landmines, so I have to give them props for even trying. The actors portraying Eve and Harry Mudd were particularly strong, but because of the inconsistencies in the story/direction, I reduce it to 2.5 stars.
Peter Swinkels
Sun, Nov 12, 2017, 3:46pm (UTC -6)
While initially amusing the story become difficult to follow, at least to me. Did anyone else have trouble making out what the actors said at times? Normally I can understand English (second language) fine... Oh well.

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