The Animated Series’ “Mudd’s Passion” in Review
How passionate can viewers of the original animated Star Trek show be when it comes to this particular episode? Let’s delve into the details, aiming for clarity, not muddiness…
The Enterprise is approaching the Arcadian system. Spock suspects Harry Mudd is there, on the planet Motherlode, and provides a precise probability of this supposition but McCoy suggests stating it more simply.
In a marquee on the planet, Mudd is promoting a love potion to miners — some of whom look like bears — when Kirk and Spock beam down. As part of his demonstration, Mudd says he’s poured a drop of the potion on himself and shows that a young human woman is entirely besotted with him. Kirk and Spock reveal that Mudd is a conman and that the potion’s power is simply illusory — the “woman” was really a shapeshifting Rigellian hypnoid. This causes an outcry among the miners. Mudd, to escape the chaos, surrenders. In the Enterprise’s transporter room, he threatens to vengefully sue Kirk.
In the brig, Chapel tends to Mudd. Kirk recalls leaving him on a robot planet. Mudd narrates his escapades since then, leading to swindling miners on Motherlode. So that Mudd can prove the love potion works, Kirk releases him. For Mudd’s arrest report, Spock requests a medical report from Nurse Chapel. She doubts the efficacy of Mudd’s love potion. While the Enterprise enters orbit of an M-class planet in an uncharted star system, Chapel, although sceptical, accepts the love potion for analysis.
As the Enterprise surveys the newly discovered planet, Mudd lures Chapel into testing the love potion. He then escapes the brig, nabbing her identity card. In Spock’s quarters, Chapel gives Spock the medical report, stumbling into his lap. He doesn’t become affectionate, which seems to prove that the potion is ineffective. They agree that her staying would be illogical. Chapel angrily returns to the brig, only to find Mudd has escaped, stealing her ID card. Spock has indeed been drugged — it was just slow to take effect on him — but Chapel, unaware of this, confronts Mudd. Spock reveals his unusual emotions on the bridge. Mudd, taking Chapel hostage, escapes to the planet surface. A love-inducing vapour meanwhile spreads aboard the Enterprise, affecting the crew.
As an unnatural romance develops between M’Ress and Scotty on the Enterprise’s bridge, Mudd and Chapel arrive on the planet surface. Having been exposed to the drug, Kirk and Spock beam down in pursuit, feeling emotions of affection between them. The foursome encounter two ferocious rock creatures. Chapel and Mudd discover that Spock and Kirk are affected by Mudd’s drugs. Tossing the remaining love potion crystals into one of the beasts’ mouths saves the group. The Enterprise crew members, recovering from the potion’s effects, secures Mudd, who jokingly calls them his “loved ones.”
The banter between Spock and McCoy continues to amuse. Also humorous is the dumbfounded look on the faces of the miners as Mudd presents them with the drugs. The bearlike look of some of the humanoid miners seems to emphasise the hardscrabble nature of mining while Harry Mudd looks virtually identical to his live-action version.
The concept of the shapeshifting Rigellian hypnoid opens a can of far-reaching repercussions, moreso than can be addressed in this single episode. It’s a bit odd that Spock firing a phaser at it doesn’t stun or kill the creature but instead merely causes it to change form.
The episode helpfully catches us up on the last time Mudd was encountered by the Enterprise, in the episode “I, Mudd”. He brings attraction-increasing drugs aboard the Enterprise and tries to disrupt things for Spock romantically again, much like when Mudd first arrived, in “Mudd’s Women”. In this episode, an interesting wrinkle in the plot is when he hints that he didn’t even know whether his love potion crystals would actually work.
There’s a bizarre reference to “the Starfleet Space Academy” and a few aspects of the plot are hard to believe. These include Kirk immediately letting Mudd go free; Nurse Chapel analysing the drugs by testing them on herself (even Chapel, in hindsight, finds this unbelievable!); Spock saying he feels “perfectly normal” when Chapel throws herself into his lap; and Kirk hurling the last of the drugs into one of the huge rock monsters’ mouths, far above him.
It’s wonderful that actor Roger C Carmel returned to voice Harry Mudd in this episode and that the role wasn’t recast. Here, Mudd is portrayed as rogueish as ever and there’s truth in Nurse Chapel telling him, “You’re the same fraud you’ve always been, Harry.” Other exceptional performances are delivered by Majel Barrett, as the duped Nurse Chapel and the doped M’Ress, and Leonard Nimoy, as the drugged Spock. On the other hand, the woman whom the Rigellian hypnoid poses as is too obviously voiced by Barrett.
The sense of farcical adventure in this episode is highly enjoyable, as is the nostalgia of a returning antagonist. The thrill of seeing Harry Mudd again almost makes the regular action on the Enterprise, when it cuts away from him, less exciting. The episode is improved both by the ship’s crew acting hilariously out-of-sorts due to the influence of Mudd’s drugs (for instance, M’Ress and Scotty make for an unusual, fun pairing) and by a handful of magnificent lifeforms in the planetary scenes. Ultimately, despite its lapses in story logic, this is simply a fun romp which proves lovable.
Webmaster of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course taught at Glasgow Clyde College, and coordinated the SubSpace Chatter (formerly The Scotch Trekker) YouTube channel, which regularly featured live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.