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Mudd's Women

Acting, Beautiful

This script was written as one of the three presented to the studio as a possible second pilot. It contains no fighting, no phasers, and features something of a cerebral story -- albeit centered on some very non-cerebral gawking. It makes for a great episode, but it must be admitted that it probably would not have successfully sold the series. It's a good thing it wasn't chosen for that, but an equally good thing that it was ultimately produced.

The script is wonderful for the most part, but the real credit for the success of this episode must go to Carmel for creating a most memorable guest, and director Hart for beautiful imagery and storytelling.

Hart places a priority on camera motion, color, and the close-up. An unusually large number of the shots are either head or shoulder shots, most with unusual color backgrounds [1-P04Spock.jpg] and complementary colors in the backlighting [1-P04Kirk.jpg]. And there are no less than three sequences filmed from behind a textured grid of some sort [1-P04Barrier.jpg]. It's a truly effective device because it perfectly suggests the "look, don't touch" nature of the ship's cargo.

We also get the camera in unusual locations, trying to give a feel for the many places on the Enterprise. This is another very significant part of creating the sense that this ship is a city in space. This creativity with the camera would be gradually lost as standard setups became established, so it is a genuine treat here. There are side shots of the Captain's chair, a conference on the engineering side of the bridge, a significant conversation at the railing in front of the navigator's position, and a unique tracking shot across the front of the helm/navigation station in the teaser. The sets were new, so they tried out all sorts of things, and Hart and Finnerman were very creative throughout the episode.

This also probably kept George Merhoff busy lighting the many surfaces and demonstrating the fine art of painting with light. The impact of the lighting cannot be overstated, especially in this episode where the lighting (along with hair) essentially makes the difference between the ugly [1-P04EveUgly.jpg] and beautiful [1-P04EveBeautiful.jpg] women. (Frankly, it might be said that the Venus drug actually just makes women look less disheveled, more dramatically lit, and more softly focused.) It would become a signature of the show that when doors open, the wall visible beyond them is a color complementary to those in the rest of the scene. With the walls of the set painted a neutral grey, light can be used to effectively dress a set, such as the red used to redress Kirk's quarters into Mudd's. [1-P04Red.jpg]. Color is also essential in costumes, and Theiss created for this episode the first of many memorable gowns [1-P04Gowns.jpg] for the guest stars.

Carmel, a larger-than-life actor if ever there was one, makes the perfect rogue. He's aided by a remarkable costume which has distinct pirate overtones (puffy shirt, wide belt, earring)[1-P04Mudd.jpg], and a story which gives him the opportunity to lie, manipulate, connive, cackle, and even whimper a bit. He was born for this part.

Shatner again shows great range, but allows Kirk a couple of temper flares (To Spock, "You got a better idea?"), which is thankfully not something he would retain in the character. Nimoy continues to wear a mostly bemused expression for Spock, complete with shrugs, deep sighs, and somber head nods. Lack of emotion did not yet mean lack of smiles. It doesn't help that his make-up artist, while concentrating so hard on the ears, accidently gave him rosy cheeks.

The other guest actors excel also. Steele is remarkable as the insecure bride-for-hire. Her scene on the "morning after" is particularly notable. Likewise, Dynarski is memorable as the moody miner. He manages the perfect look [1-P04Childress.jpg] when he tastes her cooking, then composes himself carefully without letting it get out of hand.

Optical effects like the computer lie detector probably cost a fortune. At least one elaborate effect, the asteroid sequence [1-P04Asteroids.jpg], may not have been necessary. It probably would have been sufficient to have Mudd's engines overheat and destroy his ship. With that little change we probably could have seen another shot or two of the Venus drug. I presume this is animation, and it sure is effective. Luckily, the script is written to avoid needing to show the effect more than once. This is all about efficiency, and it does work well.

Much effort was spent on creating a plausible mining planet, complete with constant wind and dust. This works exceptionally well except for one shot where Kirk looks like he's collecting snowflakes in his hair. Sound also contributes mightily, although it's something of a stretch to accept that a magnetic storm audibly crackles. Fred Steiner creates a very fine new score which, like Courage's original, will be mined thoroughly over the three seasons which follow. His walking music for the women is certainly one of the most memorable musical themes from the series.

The plot has more than a few holes. We might ask questions like why the girls were allowed to go to the planet, why Mudd isn't in the brig, why the miner's shack (a nice set in and out) is metallic on the outside but rock on the inside, etc. But these are really nitpicks. For the most part, the script is sharp ("We're busy, Mr. Kirk.") and the story efficiently told. There is a wonderful scene when Kirk asks McCoy what it is about the girls, and McCoy asks the important question: "Are they actually more lovely, pound for pound, measurement for measurement, than any other women you've known? Or is it that they just... well, act beautiful?" It leads to a miniature morality tale which actually comes as a complete surprise, although it follows quite naturally from everything which has gone before. Roddenberry has something to say ("You either believe in yourself, or you don't."), but it's slipped in almost incidentally, which is the only time such things actually work.

Ultimately, the script fails to provide more than an exercise for our crew. No life-changing decisions must be made. No crisis gets beyond "save the ship." Our characters do not grow. This is disappointing, but it brings us back to the whole purpose of the script: to demonstrate that Star Trek would have fun -- and girls ("Though not too much of either," exclaimed the nervous network nellies). From that standpoint alone, and for the performance of Carmel, the episode must be considered a solid success.

Rating: Top (2)