This episode is notable in that it introduces the character Harcourt Fenton (Harry) Mudd who returns in the much more enjoyable later episode “I, Mudd.”
The Enterprise detects a transport ship that is travelling without its identity beacon. Pursuing it into an asteroid belt The Enterprise is forced to overload its own engines while protecting the transport ship from destruction. Harry Mudd and his cargo of three women destined to be sold as wives to rich lonely miners are transported onto the enterprise just before the smaller ship is destroyed by an asteroid.
The women are repeatedly described as incredibly beautiful (meh) and have an hypnotic effect on the male crew. Interestingly, other than Uhura we don’t see any of the female crew members during the episode. The Enterprise is crippled by the destruction of its lithium crystals (apparently the term di-lithium crystals was coined later in the series) during the asteroid belt maneuver and the ship must head to a planet where lithium crystals are mined to replace them. Mudd finds out about this and communicates with the miners and they cook up a scheme whereby the miners will refuse to provide Kirk with the crystals unless he allows Mudd and his women to go to the planet’s surface for a meet and greet with the miners.
Things move forward on the plan but one of the women, Eve, is disgusted with the whole plan because of their guilty secret. The women are only artificially beautiful. They take a drug that makes them attractive. If they stop taking it, they become homely. Anyway, the miners find out about the secret and become angry but then we see that Eve becomes beautiful again due to the placebo effect of thinking she took the drug. Now she’s beautiful because she’s self-confident. And the miners are happy again because she has a heart of gold.
Mudd is taken back on the Enterprise where he will be put on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors against the Federation and the Enterprise is back to just having Yeoman Rand to maintain their hormonal balance.
Other than the slightly amusing acting of Mudd and the revealing costumes of the three women the only scene that I found engaging is when Eve and her miner are shown in bickering domesticity. She makes him breakfast and they spar about the value of female versus male housekeeping. I detected a spark of honesty in the portrayal which is highly unusual in anything Star Trekian.
But that’s it. Watching Bones, Scotty and Kirk salivate and gape at the women wears thin very quickly and cannot manage to fill out the hour while Mudd enacts his brilliant scheme. Kirk doesn’t do any shoulder roles or pontificate about life. It’s not very good. This episode is sub-par on both a conventional dramatic scale and with respect to Shatnerific bad acting.