Star Trek: Season 2, Episode Eight “I, Mudd”

Stardate: 4513.3 (2268)
Original Air Date: November 3, 1967
Writer: Stephen Kandel, David Gerrold (uncredited)
Director: Marc Daniels

“What is a man but that lofty spirit, that sense of enterprise, that devotion to something that cannot be sensed, cannot be realized but only dreamed! The highest reality.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In this goofy Harry Mudd sequel episode, a crewman named Norman (Richard Tatro) begins acting strangely and he rather quickly locks the ship’s controls and hijacks the entire vessel. He stiffly addresses the bridge (referring to himself as “we”) by stating that the Enterprise will arrive at a new intended destination in four solar days. Norman then reveals himself to be an android and then promptly shuts himself down while the ship speeds toward its unknown destination.

Several days later, the Enterprise arrives at an uncharted planet, classified a “Class-K” planet (meaning a planet which can be adapted for life with the help of machinery). Norman awakens and commands Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, and Chekov to beam down to the planet’s surface, or else he will destroy the ship’s engines in order to strand it in orbit forever. Without other options, the crew beam down to the unnamed planet where they surprisingly find the notorious conman, Harry Mudd (reprised by Roger C. Carmel). He now rules this planet like a dictator –“Mudd The First.” How did Mudd escape his fate from his last encounter with the Enterprise in “Mudd’s Women?” Apparently, he escaped imprisonment and wandered through the galaxy. He was caught selling a Vulcan fuel synthesizer to the Denebians and then sentenced to death on Deneb V; though fortunately for Mudd, he was able to steal a ship and get away.

Now, on this planet, Harry Mudd is surrounded by beautiful android women who hope to study a new group of humans, hence why the Enterprise has been hailed (Mudd also has a full-size android of his nagging wife). The Androids are the product of an ancient cohort of “Makers” from the Andromeda galaxy but their sun went nova and they were forced to flee. Spock surmises these androids have a central intelligence hub while the androids completely take control of the entire Enterprise. Their light-flashing necklaces reveal their inner artificial intelligence.

The crew stages another ruse to get back aboard the Enterprise, and Kirk and Spock use twisted logic to effectively melt the circuits of the Norman android –they suggest that everything Mudd says is a lie (i.e. the liar’s paradox: “everything I say is a lie; I am also a liar”). These and other antics spell the demise of android rule, and in the end the androids are reprogrammed for their original purpose: to make this unnamed planet productive. Additionally, Mudd is sentenced to remain on this planet with all the androids (including 500 android copies of his shrew of a wife). The episode ends on a whimsical note: will this be the end of Harry Mudd?

Once again, Starfleet security aboard the Enterprise appears to be a complete joke as a single nondescript (android) crewman –who has apparently been aboard the Enterprise for a mere three days– locks the whole crew out of its own controls as he easily takes control of the whole ship! If ever there was a reason to tighten Starfleet’s recruitment protocols as well as the Enterprise’s security defenses, this is it.

At any rate, this episode presents a silly twist on the plot of the Season 1 episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Whereas instead of a weighty figure like Dr. Korby, Harry Mudd seems to somewhat accidentally rule the planet at the behest of androids, though he is not some grand maniacal visionary. Why does he want to escape this situation? What does the roguish criminal Harry Mudd truly desire? As Kirk notes, there are certain problems posed for people with limitless horizons. There are, no doubt, some intriguing parallels to draw between this episode and classic science fiction literature, perhaps Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? or I, Robot (indeed the title of this episode is likely a nod to I, Robot) however I find myself drawn to Star Trek episodes of greater gravitas and enduring quality –though I admit a screwy comedy involving Harry Mudd is a nice bit of levity!

Star Trek Trivia:

  • This is the second time the Enterprise crew has had a run-in with the whimsical con man Harry Mudd. Roger C. Carmel previously appeared in the role in the Season 1’s “Mudd’s Women.” He was one of only two non-recurring actors to reprise their characters in TOS.
  • Although Stephen Kandel (original creator of Harry Mudd) is credited as the lead writer for this episode, based on a story by Gene Roddenberry, David Gerrold completed uncredited re-writes to this script. Mr. Gerrold was given the job after the crew was pleased with his work on “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Almost nothing from his script made it into the final episode and Gene L. Coon offered to take up the matter with the Writer’s Guild for arbitration but Mr. Gerrold declined.
  • This episode employed the use of identical twins (Alyce Andrece and Rhae Andrece) as well as a collection of cinematic tricks to give the illusion of thousands of androids on this planet.
  • Apparently, there is an amusing story about how Casting Director Joseph D’Agosta spotted a pair of twin prostitutes and tried to hire them for this episode, however while being introduced to them, they brought a cat which clawed up Gene L. Coon and the twins were never hired.
  • Around this time, NBC considered launching a spin-off show about Harry Mudd but Gene Roddenberry was far too busy with Star Trek to begin a new show.
  • This episode marks perhaps the fourth or fifth time thus far in the series that Kirk manages to reason with a computer or android, and essentially talk it to death.
  • There are a few moments wherein Chekov becomes quite “comfortable” with the female androids, and he also makes an amusing remark that this unnamed planet is even better than Leningrad!

Click here to return to my survey of the Star Trek series.

The Papacy: The First Crusade, The Concordat of Worms, and Schism (1086-1143)

Despite Gregory VII being driven from Rome, chaos continued to ensue for the papacy. Antipope Clement III could not hope to win over the reformist cardinals and so they persuaded a remote cleric, Abbott Desiderius of Monte Cassino, to retreat from his splendid monastery, which was filled with rich libraries and gardens, into the unpleasant political world of the papacy. It took the cardinals nearly a year to persuade him, and as a result he was perhaps the most reluctant pope in history. And four days after his consecration, Desiderius (now dubbed Pope Victor III) was quickly proven right in his skepticism. Riots broke out in Rome and drove him back to his monastery. He was was forced between Rome and Monte Cassino for the better part of the year amidst Norman incursions and the threat of a returning Clement III. In the middle of this ongoing civil war Victor III died in 1087.

He was followed by an austere aristocrat, Pope Urban II, a reformer in the vein of the Gregorian “papal supremacy” variety. He was consecrated but spent six years in exile thanks to the forces of the antipope Clement III. Through a mix of cheating and bribery, Urban II was able to enter the Lateran and assume his rightful throne. His papacy oversaw strong efforts to re-unify diplomatic relations with the Byzantine Empire.

The First Crusade

It is worth mentioning that the only way to unify the fractious parties of Christendom occurred through a shared common enemy. The battle within was ended only by developing an enemy without. A delegation met in Constantinople at the Council of Piacenza and spoke of the looming threat from the Saracens who were conquering Asia Minor, thus bringing the humble allies of Christianity under the brutal heel of an Islamic tide (or so the narrative went). In truth, Muslim rule in region had quietly existed for centuries. Nevertheless, the propaganda was urgent, the language immediate, the threat contagious. After the council met in Constantinople, Pope Urban II traveled to France where he loudly proclaimed the threat to huge swarming crowds: Jerusalem was being besieged by a cabal of brutal Turkish overlords. It was now the duty –no less the burden– of the Christian West to unite under a common flag in order to liberate the Christian East. There was to be no delay, the great army of the Pope must assemble quickly and march eastward by the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, 1096. Many hundreds of noblemen and peasants alike, priests and monks, bowed the knee and vowed to take up the cross of the pope. Thus began the First Crusade.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the venture was a resounding “success” for the Crusaders. They quickly invaded and defeated the Seljuk Turks at Anatolia in 1097, followed by the fall of Antioch in 1908, and finally in July 1099 the Crusaders stormed their way into Jerusalem and unleashed a merciless bloodbath. They slaughtered nearly every living Muslim in the city and executed all the Jews –most were burned alive in terrible agony. After this horrid scene, many of the Christian warriors simply returned home, believing they had released the Holy Land from crushing oppression.

News of the victory never reached Pope Urban II as he died two weeks prior. He was succeeded by a good-natured Tuscan monk, Paschal II. Upon assuming the papacy, he destroyed the threat from several would be usurping antipopes and claimed the central authority of the papal imperial struggle: the power of investiture of bishops and abbots. He sought to make a deal, essentially handing over papal lands and wealth in Germany over to the new German Emperor, Henry V. It was followed by riots, the arrest of the pope, and preparation for the eventual coronation of Henry V as Holy Roman Emperor, granting him the power of investiture which, in England, Henry I was unable to extort from the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, any power given to Henry V was soon rendered null in Rome and he was excommunicated. Controversy, rioting, and land grabs hailed the end of Pope Paschal II and he died in 1118.

His successor Gelasius II was pope for only a year. He inherited the political battle with Germany over the right of investiture. After assuming power, Gelasius was immediately imprisoned and brutally beaten by the Frangipani family, one of the two chief ruling Roman families, meanwhile German Emperor Henry V appointed his own antipope to counter Gelasius II. After Gelasius was snatched and imprisoned again, he narrowly launched a dramatic escape on horseback, but this time Gelasius had had enough of Rome. He fled the city for the last time and died in January 1119.

The Concordat of Worms

By now it was clear: the issue of investiture needed to be resolved. As luck would have it, the son of a Burgundian Count, Pope Calixtus II, came to power. He sought a peaceful resolution with Germany by convening a Council at Rheims and captured the lingering antipope, Gregory, who was brought to Rome and dragged through the streets on horseback before being imprisoned for life. This was followed by the famous Concordat of Worms which granted the German Emperor temporal authority over the conferring of lands, while spiritual authority was maintained by the bishopric and papacy. In turn, appointments would be made in the king’s presence and he would be granted the right of arbitration. It was a delicate balance between church and state which was all but sure to cause friction.

The Schism of Innocent II and Anacletus II

In the words of John Julius Norwich: “The Concordat of Worms marked the end of an important chapter in the long struggle between Church and empire. The pope had made concessions, which he recognized would be unpopular among the more inflexible of his stock (125). It was followed by further proclamations at the First Lateran Council in 1123 not long before the pope gave up the ghost. In Rome, the two chief feuding families of the day –Frangipani and Pierleoni– jockeyed for power of the papacy. Rome was effectively ruled by two rival gangster families in an ongoing feud. In the wake of the pope’s death, the Frangipani propped up Pope Honorius II, but his six brief six year reign was dogged by losses in Sicily and France. His death in 1130 brought a new succession crisis as two popes were declared: Innocent II and Anacletus II. Both sides had fierce defenders, and both made military gains in the city while bribing their way to the top. Anacletus eventually forced his way into the Lateran and effectively took control of Rome sending Innocent fleeing to France, however outside of Rome, Innocent was significantly more popular. He raised an army from the Saxon King Lothair in Germany which invaded Italy and in a repeat of the events of Gregory VII —“for the second time in half a century one putative pope had performed an imperial coronation while another had sat a mile or two away, impotent and fuming” (John Luis Norwich, 133). However, once pope Innocent II was announced as the true pope, King Lothair’s forces departed and the situation rapidly deteriorated. Innocent did not have the military might to defend himself. The King of Sicily hailed his forces in defense of Anacletus the antipope sending Innocent to flee by cover of nightfall to Pisa. Again, it was civil war. A united force of German kingdoms fought against the expanding empire in Sicily until Lothair was pushed back to the Alps where he quietly died in a peasant’s hut. However, as fortune would have it, he was followed in death a mere seven weeks later by the antipope, himself, Anacletus. Thus brought an end to yet another bloody schism in Christendom. With none left to dispute his papacy, Innocent II slowly made way for Rome, though he was now a tired old man in his seventies.

Innocent II died in 1143 leaving a fractured papacy behind. His frail, aging persona became the very image of the papacy. All throughout the region a movement toward republican forms of self-government took hold among the people. Naturally, the papacy and its allied court of aging aristocrats opposed all such efforts which were gaining momentum in cities and towns throughout Italy.

For this reading I used John Julius Norwich’s 2011 single volume history of the papacy Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy and Diarmaid MacCulloch’s 2009 work of popular history, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years.

On Rod Serling’s “The Fever”

Franklin Gibbs is a rather unimpressive malcontent from Elgin, Kansas –he is a bank teller who takes his cues from his local church and Kiwanis club. His wife Flora wins a write-in contest for “Aunt Martha’s Biscuits” which surprisingly lands the couple on a three-day paid vacation to Las Vegas over Memorial Day weekend. Franklin quickly and accidentally develops a penchant for the “one-armed bandit” –in other words, he becomes an overnight gambling addict.

He plays his first game and begins hearing a strange voice emanating from the casino –“Franklin!” He cannot stop himself. He spends all night on a binge of gambling until morning when he appears disheveled, unshaven, loose-tied, and nearly broke. In act, he loses $3,800 –“Franklin Gibb’s life was entirely funneled into the slot machine in front of him” (104).

Later that evening, Franklin is driven mad by the machine and it eventually sends him crashing through the hotel window onto the cold concrete floor beside the pool below. In this way, Rod Serling’s short story closely mirrors the episode. However, in the story there is a brief epilogue in which Flora lives a “silent, patient” life. thereon out except for one moment wherein a one-armed bandit is brought to a Women’s Alliance meeting which sends her into a shrieking terror.

This is another delightful bit of modern folklore from Rod Serling –it is a unique take on the predatory practices unleashed by casinos on good-natured, small-town Americans. It is as amusing as it is cautionary. Nevertheless, Rod Serling’s short story is impossible to divorce from the episode of The Twilight Zone.

Serling, Rod. Stories From The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling Books: 1960 (republished in 1990 by the Serling family), Paperback Edition.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

Click here to read my review of The Twilight Zone episode “The Fever”

On The Prescience of Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here

Sinclair Lewis’s early novels —Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, and Dodsworth— were blistering satires of American middle-class complacency, however his most notable later work, It Can’t Happen Here (1935), was distinct. It was written during a time of heightened anxiety with the rise of demagogues and tyrants around the world –Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco– and yet in the United States there was an oft repeated refrain: “It can’t happen here!” It Can’t Happen Here explores a satirical, historically-revisionist question: what if a fascist dictator rose to power in the United States? I was inspired to read this book, in part, after reading a few Sinclair Lewis novels from my survey of the Pulitzer Prize winners, but also I heard the historian Niall Ferguson recommend this book in light of recent political events in the United States. It serves as a cautionary tale, warning us about the appetites and excesses inherent within the democratic regime, along with the tendency of grass movements to elevate frivolous, self-serving demagogues to positions of power. Though It Can’t Happen Here was intended to be pure propaganda, Sinclair Lewis later noted: “it is propaganda for only one thing: American democracy.”

The milieu of It Can’t Happen Here is one of populism, the natural result of which is extremism, as the American fascist movement gains steam under the banner of the American Nazi party as well as the German-American Bund. Populists like Huey Long carve out their own power grabs, and Bishop Prang (based on Father Charles Coughlin) propounds a populist radio program promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories as well as wealth redistributionist policies in order to defy secret cabals of elites. His is a revolution that begins in Rotary Club meetings and halls of the American Legion –Sinclair Lewis clearly thought the fascist threat in America would emerge from the likes of country bumpkins and complacent middle class wasps like George Babbitt, Will Kennicott, and especially Reverend Elmer Gantry.

Our protagonist is Doremus Jessup, a cynical publisher of the Daily Informer. He is a competent businessman and earthy New Englander, while his paper is the bible of rural farmers in Fort Beulah, Vermont. Jessup is born in 1876 into a Unitarian family, and he lives in the hill country of Vermont, a land of stove-heated red brick homes.

In a crude parody of Willie Stark in All The King’s Men, the 1936 presidential election leads downtrodden Americans to elect Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip as the next President of the United States. Windrip is a folksy New England version of Huey Long, though he is every bit a threat to the political order as the dictatorial Kingfish of Louisiana. Windrip travels across small towns praising the “forgotten common man” while promising to restore America to its former greatness. He whips up paramilitary groups like the “Minutemen” (a reference to the famous Revolutionary War militia group) and in doing so, Windrip easily bulldozes all opposition –including Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is a fascinatingly prescient story. Consider the following observation of Windrip while on the campaign trail:

“Doremus Jessup, so inconspicuous an observer, watching Windrip from so humble a Boetia, could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store” (71).

And another quotation in which Doremus wonders how dangerous Buzz Windrip might be despite being such a comical figure:

“The hysteria can’t last; be patient, and wait and see, he counseled his readers… It was not that he was afraid of the authorities. He simply did not believe that this comic tyranny could endure. It can’t happen here, said even Doremus –even now… The one thing that perplexed him was that there could be a dictator seemingly so different from the fervent Hitlers and gesticulating Fascists and the Caesars with laurels round bald domes; a dictator with something of the earthy American sense of humor of a Mark Twain, a George Ade, a Will Rogers, an Artemus Ward.”

This “professional con man” and “prairie Demosthenes” is swept into the White House under an agenda of “Fifteen Points of Victory for the Forgotten Man” loosely based on Huey Long’s “Share-The-Wealth” campaign. The reforms call for centralized authority in the executive branch which apparently only Windrip can accomplish because of his popularity within the Democratic base. This temporary transfer of power to President Windrip is necessary in order to restore American greatness, or so he claims. He calls on all patriots to stand. up and support his cause. In the words of Samuel Johnson: “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” What does Windrip stand for? He is for the unions but against all strikes, he is for the bankers but against the banks, he is pro-freedom but anti-disloyalty. Above all, he supports himsef. Windrip is a mix of contradictions, hence why he appeals to such a wide swath of disaffected working class voters. While the ordinary worker says to himself, why am I struggling? Why is my life so difficult? The populist politician like Buzz Windrip comes along and says: Fear not! None of this is your fault. You have simply been made the victim of vile people, invading bands of immigrants, greedy Jews who are hoarding all the money, minorities who seek to replace you and your family, ivory tower elites who don’t care about you, and so on. The message is always the same: you have been betrayed, and I alone can fix it.

Abroad, Windrip pursues a policy of isolationism which actually winds up looking more like a praise of America’s greatest enemies: “‘I don’t altogether admire everything Germany and Italy have done, but you’ve got to hand it to ’em, they’ve been honest enough and realistic enough to say to the other nations, ‘Just tend to your own business, will you?'”

Despite overwhelming support for Buzz Windrip and his degradation of American culture, a resistance movement grows among educated classes and media figures like Jessup, but Windrip’s political enemies increasingly disappear. These people become mere roadblocks on the path toward American greatness, and so Jessup is imprisoned after he joins the Underground resistance movement. In time, Windrip’s authoritarianism draws anger from his own cabinet, especially when the fabled economic prosperity that he promised does not materialize, and it leads to high profile departures, some of his senior officials flee to Mexico and Canada. The Secretary of State leads a military separatist group against the President, and the ensuing factions lead to civil war as the military effectively claims power and begins running portions of the country. This then leads to a string of coup d’états. One General invades the White House forcing Windrip to flee to France, while another has plans to invade Mexico. The novel ends in questionable fashion as the country hangs in the balance, but Jessup begins working with the “New Underground” movement which has arisen. Thus ends a foreboding and eerily familiar glimpse of what happens when political farce becomes dangerous reality.

It Can’t Happen Here has continued to have a surprisingly powerful legacy. On October 3, 1937, nearly two years after the publication of this novel, more than 2,000 American Nazi stormtroopers rallied at Madison Square Garden and by 1939 that number grew to over 20,000 of the German-American Bund to hear Fritz Kuhn, the so-called “American Fuhrer.” Fascist inclinations continued for decades, and as I write these reflections, Republican politicians across the country are openly campaigning on efforts to overturn future elections in the hopes of disenfranchising American voters. Unsurprisingly, following the results of the 2016 United States presidential election, sales of It Can’t Happen Here surged and it became a bestseller for the first time in decades (for obvious reasons). While I have never been the biggest cheerleader for Sinclair Lewis, I thought It Can’t Happen Here was a starkly clear reminder that the renewed price of freedom is still eternal vigilance.

Lewis, Sinclair. It Can’t Happen Here. Penguin, Signet Classics. New York, 2014.

Click here to read my reflections on Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men