This episode features the return of Harry Mudd, a character from the first season episode “Mudd’s Women” in which he played a smuggler and con-man that was trafficking in chemically enhanced mail-order brides. This present episode is decidedly written as a comic story.
A new crewman on the Enterprise named Mr. Norman hijacks the ship by overriding the helm and engine room with a Deadman’s Switch that will explode the ship if it is tampered with. He sends the Enterprise to a planet that cannot directly sustain human life but requires domed habitats. When Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and Chekov beam down to the planet they discover that the planet is inhabited by two hundred thousand androids and one human, Harry Mudd. When Kirk threatens Mudd if he does not release the Enterprise Mudd laughs at him and explains that Harry will give the orders because he is the ruler of this planet. His status is that of an absolute king and his title is Mudd the First. Harry tells Kirk that in escaping from a capitol crime he stole a spaceship and crashed on this planet and the androids took him in. He has had hundreds of beautiful android women created to serve him and surround him with beauty. And he has had one other android specially made, one that looks and acts exactly like his shrieking harpy of a wife Stella. Whenever he approaches her shrine he only has to say, “Stella dear,” and she screams out his name, “Harcourt Fenton Mudd,” and then launches into a tirade of insults and accusations to which Harry only has to shout, “Stella shut up!,” upon which she winds down and goes dormant. Mudd draws great solace from this ritual that allows him to always have the last word.
But Harry also reveals that although he can have whatever he wants he can’t leave. Because the androids desire to have someone to serve they keep him as a virtual prisoner. And so, he is desperate to escape. His plan is to use the Enterprise to sail off to life in the galaxy with some of the androids as his beautiful crew. In exchange he will leave the Enterprise crew on the planet to give the androids someone to serve.
Kirk and his officers attempt to learn something that will allow them to regain the Enterprise before Mudd leaves. Spock learns that there are many series of identical androids, the Allices, the Maisies, the Roberts. But there is only one Norman. He is the central control for the rest of the androids and he may be the key to escape. We also learn that the androids were the servants of a race that came from the Andromeda Galaxy but was destroyed by a nova of their star. Meanwhile the androids inform Harry that they are not going to let him have the Enterprise. They recognize that Harry is a corrupt individual and should be kept away from civilization. They instead will take the Enterprise and use it to contact human civilization and both serve and control humanity for its own good. They intend to become so useful to people that they will leave all action up to the androids. The androids hope to eliminate war and other illogical activities that humans are prone to.
Kirk and his crew and Harry Mudd devise a plan to overcome the androids. They exhibit illogical behavior and say nonsensical things and this has the effect of shutting down the individual androids in a sort of overload condition. Finally, Spock, Kirk and Mudd channel their efforts to overwhelm Norman. The last step is for Kirk to state to Norman that Harry Mudd is a liar and everything he says is a lie. Then Harry tells Norman, “I’m lying.” The paradox of these two statements overloads Norman. Smoke comes out of his ears and he shuts off.
The final scene has Kirk telling Mudd that the androids have been reprogrammed to terraform the planet. Mudd will remain there under their surveillance and will only be released when they decide he has been reformed. Mudd looks at the beautiful androids and decides that he can live with that. Suddenly the Stella android, no longer in a box, runs up to Harry and starts accusing him of skullduggery. But when Harry tells her to shut up nothing happens; she continues the diatribe. Several more Stellas show up and when Harry notices that one of them has the tag number 500 he begs Kirk to save him as the Enterprise crew walks away laughing.
This episode is for laughs and should be evaluated in that light. The Stella gag is extremely funny and one that can be appreciated by any husband no matter how genial his wife might be, bless your heart, Camera Girl. And the end gag with the Stellas is even funnier. The familiarity of Kirk and the other crewman with Harry Mudd’s crimes and foibles is somewhat amusing although at some points taken a little far. Shatner mockery points are restricted to some overacting when Kirk is belittling Mudd about his crimes and misdemeanors. But there’s not much there. All in all, it’s a satisfactory episode. Call it a 7 // 3.