Monday, March 10, 2014

TWITrek Character Insight No. 87: Harry Mudd

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight!  This week, we profile Harcourt Fenton Mudd, the notorious con artist from TOS.

Harry Mudd was devised as an alternative type of antagonist that 1960's audiences could readily understand compared to the Talosians of the pilot episode. A human grifter and con man who went into the business to run away from a nagging wife is a perfect fit for the original audience. Of course, the gifted writing of Stephen Kandel and the great acting job by Roger Carmel made the character an icon of original Star Trek.

The first time Mudd encounters the Enterprise, he is in the middle of conning some miners to buy beautiful women as wives, but the women turn out to be older haggard women with appearances masked by an illegal Venus drug. Mudd then flees a death sentence on another planet and ends up as a king of a planet of androids who want to study humanity in an effort to later enslave it. Later on, he is captured for defrauding thousands of buyers of a love potion crystal, although he later gives one to Nurse Chapel and it leads to a short romance between her and Spock. Basically, Mudd is always full of shenanigans.

Mudd allows for a look into the future of criminal justice, and it is clear that rehabilitation programs are what the show writers saw as the future. Mudd is the only recurring character who was played by the same actor in more than one live action TOS episode. Along with Khan, Mudd is also the only antagonist to go against Kirk and the Enterprise more than once. He's the Q of his day! That's also likely why he even got an Easter Egg mention on Star Trek Into Darkness: (Insert quote from Sulu about "the Mudd incident").

There was a third TOS episode written by Stephen Kandel featuring Mudd, but it never was filmed because Carmel was busy filming something else. This episode would have told the story of Mudd's escape from the android world with a cache of high-powered weapons and scientific equipment, which he then uses to bribe a group of pirates who end up clashing with Kirk's Enterprise.

The Quote of the Week is from "I, Mudd"
Harcourt Fenton Mudd: Now listen, Spock, you may be a wonderful science officer but, believe me, you couldn't sell fake patents to your mother!
Spock: I fail to understand why I should care to induce my mother to purchase falsified patents.

Roger Carmel played Mudd,and he played bit roles in many television shows from the 1960's through his death in 1986. His last credit was for Ducktales, of all things!

Speaking of movies, don't forget to help vote for the upcoming list of best Trek movie villains over at You can help craft Character Insight!

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