Mark Watches ‘Star Trek’: S02E08 – I, Mudd

In the eighth episode of the second season of Star Trek, THIS IS ONE OF THE STRANGEST THINGS I’VE EVER SEEN. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For sexism.

WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH? This has got to be one of the weirdest episodes of the show, and it brings back Henry Mudd, and I just want to know: Was he fucking robots? Did that happen? It’s implied, and I’m really messed up by this. I think that because “I, Mudd” is portrayed so humorously, it makes it challenging to analyze the more disturbing implications of this episode.


I know for certain that this episode is not going to be unforgettable for me because there is no way there’s ever going to be anything like it. Star Trek takes a concept they have already addressed before – the cold logic of computers and machines – and makes their characters combat it in the most absurd way possible. It’s not even that the idea behind defeating the androids is all that different from the last time we saw this trope. You trick illogical beings or machines into loopholes and they cannot process said illogical reasonings, and then they self-destruct. It’s a super common trope in the genre, and yet I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS EVER.

But we don’t get to see how far these actors go until the final third of “I, Mudd.” Up to that point, this is largely a whimsical episode that brings back Henry Mudd to the show and features him scheming to get what he wants. He hasn’t changed one bit since “Mudd’s Women,” not even in the way he objectifies women. And lord, that aspect is all over this episode, and it’s distracting at times that there’s no explicit criticism of this behavior. Chekov’s scene didn’t help because DUDE THEY ARE ALL ROBOTS, WHY ARE YOU BOTH SO EXCITED ABOUT THE PROSPECT OF FORNICATING WITH A MACHINE. On top of that, you’ve got Stella, who is… lord. Lord. A robot who is an apparent replica of a nagging wife? Okay, Star Trek, that’s a bit too much for me.

What I did find fascinating about the androids was their backstory and motivation, and that’s definitely the best-written aspect of “I, Mudd.” If these androids were created to serve humanoid creatures, what happens when all their creators perish? In this, the writers explore the restlessness of the androids, who have survived for years without any sort of interaction that would fulfill their programming. That’s why the arrival of Mudd is so exciting to them, and it’s also why it’s a terrible curse for him. It may seem appealing to have hundreds of thousands of androids ready to do anything to serve you, and Mudd certainly does what he can to please himself like he always does.

But the androids, devoid of any sort of humanoid influence, crave understanding. They crave attention. They crave direction. And that means that Mudd is at the center of their obsession, unable to escape something he thought he wanted. HE DEFINITELY DOES NOT WANT IT ANYMORE. Initially, he exploits this obsession by promising the androids more humans, and he fulfills this through kidnapping the entire crew of the Enterprise. (I’m still confused as all hell as to how Mudd was able to get Norman onboard the Enterprise, though. We hear at the beginning that Norman was recently assigned to the ship, but how the hell would Mudd be able to do that? I DON’T GET IT.)

The problem is that this plan of Mudd’s backfires in the most hilarious way imaginable. By giving the androids more humans to study, the androids realize that the human race is destructive and horribly flawed, SO THEY’RE GONNA KEEP EVERYONE ON THE PLANET AND THEN GO TAKE OVER HUMANITY IN ORDER TO SERVE THEM. This isn’t disturbing to me; it’s SO GODDAMN FUNNY. And I know that Spock, while fascinated with the androids’ behavior, found this all to be the most amusing thing imaginable because he already knew humanity was deeply flawed.

So what are these people to do? Well, I wasn’t exactly surprised that Captain Kirk’s theory was that they needed to use the androids’ commitment to logic against them. Again, as I said before, that’s a common resolution to this problem. They’d all short circuit if the crew could contradict them and confuse them! Except then the crew decide that the best way to do this is TO ACT LIKE FUCKING WEIRDOS. AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH. It’s jarring and confusing and bizarre, and that means it is the greatest gift anyone could have given me. They don’t just create logical paradoxes; they take the androids’ understanding of human behavior and twist it with increasingly surreal displays of behavior. They rely on their absolutely deadpan depictions of contradictions and non sequiturs to break the androids, and… yeah. I don’t even know how else to describe this. It’s a lot of fun to watch because all the actors get to be sillier than they’ve ever been, AND THAT’S THE POINT. And when it comes to Norman, they break him by creating an unending paradox.

The resolution of this is just weird as hell. Does Kirk have the legal authority to give Mudd parole on this planet? How the hell did they reprogram all of the androids? How did they create five hundred versions of Stella? Why am I questioning this? Well, because it doesn’t make that much sense. But it does leave the future open for Mudd to return again, and if he does come back, I’m willing to bet that he doesn’t learn his lesson. He clearly didn’t the first time around.

The video for “I, Mudd” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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