This week the Enterprise encounters an interstellar trader with some most unusual cargo:
But first, as promised...
The Written Adaptation (of last week’s episode):
Last week I didn’t have time to get James Blish’s adaptation read before posting my recap, so let’s get my thoughts on that out of the way now, shall we?
For the most part, this was a fairly faithful adaptation of what we saw on the television. It wasn’t as horribly condensed as some of the other ones that there’d been thus far. Indeed, it added nicely some inner monologue of Kirk’s thoughts about what was happening to him and what he was going through. Indeed, while on the surface, it is still a bit of a bad choice for Kirk to have interviewed Rand himself after she was attacked, knowing what was going on in his own head softened that a bit. (The adaptation didn’t really soften what Spock said to her at the episode’s conclusion, however!)
There are a few changes. The planet gets even colder at night, going to -250° rather then the televised episode’s stated temperature of -120°. Rather than using that interesting pinching move on Evil Kirk’s neck, Spock just straight up punches him, landing a “hammerlike” blow on Evil Kirk’s chin. And finally, during the two Kirks’ final confrontation, rather than Good Kirk giving a rational yet emotional plea to his other self, he just stuns him with a phaser. A bit less dramatic, but them’s the breaks, I suppose.
A few additional details the adaptation added: Rand’s age is given as 20. Her quarters are on deck 12, a detail that come to think of it may have been in the televised episode, but I may have missed that. Related to that, however, is that Kirk’s quarters are stated as being on a lower deck than hers. Speaking of Kirk, his middle initial is given as T. Of course, that doesn’t match with information presented in a previous episode, and so I must take that as an error here. The engineering decks are stated to include nuclear energizers to power the ship. I’d previously wondered (in the same episode linked to just now) if the Enterprise used nuclear power when it was stated that the ship needed lithium.
Finally, just as a stylistic choice, it is interesting to note that the narrative uses the pronoun “it” when referring to Evil Kirk.
And now, on with this week’s episode!
The episode opens with the Enterprise in pursuit of an unregistered ship. A small “class J” cargo ship. The engines of the other ship overheat from the pursuit, and the ship drifts into an asteroid belt. Kirk orders the Enterprise’s own deflector screens extended to cover the other ship, but that will put a strain on Enterprise’s own power systems with the distance between the two ships. Indeed, power quickly starts fluctuating, and Sulu comments on the lithium circuits failing.
Although not responding directly to Enterprise’s hails, the other ship does send out a distress signal. In the transporter room, Scotty is trying to beam the other ship’s crew over before it is too late. On the platform one man materializes: Captain Leo Walsh.
Walsh seems affable enough, and apologizes for his earlier behavior, saying he couldn’t know for sure if Enterprise was a friendly ship. He says there are three more on his ship, and now that he knows it is safe they can come over. Scotty has trouble for a bit, at this point three lithium crystals are gone and it is having an effect on the transporter’s ability. Walsh’s ship is hit by an asteroid and destroyed, but just in the nick of time Scotty managed to get the rest aboard.
Scotty and McCoy are left dumbfounded as three beautiful women appear. (Spock just seems bemused at his fellows’ reaction.) Spock asks if Walsh is certain that was everyone on his crew. Walsh assures him that was everyone, but as far as them actually being the crew... He trails off before finishing, and Spock tells him he can explain himself to Captain Kirk.
As the women leave, Mr. Scott gives off a wistful sigh. “Amen to that, Scotty,” is all McCoy can say to that. As Walsh, Spock, and the women walk through the ship’s corridors, the women certainly garner a lot of attention from the male members of the crew, attention Walsh comments on. He notes, however, that Spock is part Vulcanian, and that Spock would therefore not let such things effect him unless he wanted to let it. One of the women, Eve, attempts to apologize to Spock for Walsh’s behavior, but he cuts her off, telling her he will handle the conversation.
Kirk meets Walsh and the women. Kirk asks Walsh if this is his crew, and we finally learn what he didn’t quite say in the transporter room. Of the women, he says, “This is me cargo.”
Kirk promises an annoyed Walsh that there will be an investigation into what he was up to. Meanwhile, on the bridge, Sulu and Farrell arrive. Farrell is barely able to walk and seems a bit light headed. Pardon the crudeness, but it seems that seeing the women has caused all of his blood to rush elsewhere, if you catch my drift. Sulu says he’s certainly taken notice of them as well. Scotty, alas, has other concerns, as he confers with Mr. Spock. They’ve only one lithium crystal left, and that one has a hairline fracture at the base. They need to find a replacement. The closest option is a mining operation on Rigel XII, less than two days travel away.
Leo Walsh meets with his “cargo,” tells them to answer any questions honestly... but nervously (as there are Enterprise guards present) mentions that, being so healthy, surely there is no need for any medical examinations. The girls are upset, asking Harry what they will do, with no ship of their own and Enterprise traveling in the wrong direction. Wait a moment, who is Harry? “Leo!” Walsh reminds the women emphatically. “Leo Walsh is my name, darling.”
Kirk convenes the hearing into Walsh’s activities. As the first order of business, they ask him to state his name for the record. “Leo Francis Walsh,” he says. Francis?
“Incorrect,” the ship’s computer insists, however. Spock asks again. “Walsh” sighs. “Harry Mudd,” he finally says. “Incorrect,” the computer says again. “Harcourt Fenton Mudd.”
Fenton? Well, I suppose at least he won’t have any red-suited masked vigilantes after him.
Spock asks him to state any past offenses for the record. “I am simply an honest business man,” Mudd insists. “Incorrect,” the computer intones! Damn, that is one handy machine, although Mudd is not impressed. It then displays Mudd’s data on its screen:
That certainly doesn’t paint a pretty picture for our alleged “honest businessman.” But, more importantly than that, “Future Police?” Is that a record code for police use in the future, or are we really going with calling law enforcement in Star Trek the “Future Police”? Logic tells me it is probably the former, but it tickles me to assume the latter.
In trouble? Quick! Call the Future Police!
Ahem... Where was I? Ah, yes... Kirk goes on to charge him with galaxy travel without a flight plan or an identification beam, failure to answer a starship’s signal, thus becoming a menace to navigation, and operating a vessel without a master’s license. Mudd protests that last one, but once again the computer contradicts him and reads off the date that his license was revoked.
Mudd starts spinning a tale. Kirk has none of it, and asks Mudd his destination and the purpose of his journey. Mudd tells him Ophiucus III, and “wiving settlers.” Kirk seems a bit taken aback by this concept. He then asks the computer for data on the women, but the computer has none. Kirk asks the computer for sensor probe on them, and if there are any unusual readings. The computer says there is nothing decipherable, but then volunteers some unrequested but amusing information: Males present in the room are giving off some unusual readings. High respiration, perspiration rates up, heart beat rapid, blood pressure higher than normal. (Kirk asks Spock to strike that last bit from the record.)
Kirk demands to know if the women are there voluntarily, and Mudd insists they are. Eve is most vocal in backing up that claim. Kirk tells her that the only charges are against Mudd, but that doesn’t change that they are traveling in the wrong direction for where the women wanted to go. At that point, the last lithium crystal finally goes, and a report comes to Kirk that life support is now on battery power. Kirk tells Spock to contact the miners, they’ll need the replacement crystals immediately upon arrival!
After Kirk and the other officers leave, Mudd is elated. Lithium miners! Lonely, isolated, overworked, and most importantly, rich lithium miners! The perfect husbands, especially for Mudd’s profits.
Meanwhile, Mudd’s women continue to have an inexpiable effect on the male members of the crew. One of them, Ruth, visits McCoy in sickbay and McCoy is captivated, even ordering another male present to find somewhere else to be so he can be alone with her. But something else soon diverts McCoy’s attention. When Ruth stands near one of McCoy’s medical scanners and it starts acting strangely in her presence, he wants to know why. Ruth is more interested in knowing if the miners are in good health, however. McCoy says yes, all three of them are. Ruth is quite excited to hear that there are three... one for each of the women! McCoy, however, is still perplexed as to the strange way his equipment was acting.
One of the other women, Magda, mages to use her charms to get a communications device and get more information about the miners. Eve, meanwhile, appears in Kirk’s quarters and at first seems as if she is trying to seduce him... but then apologizes, saying that she does like him, but she can’t do this. She then goes back to Mudd and tells him she doesn’t like him, or herself very much for that matter. She then starts to not feel well. “It’s time,” she says. Time for what?
The women start turning ugly. Mudd frantically is searching his things. He finally finds some pills, and gives one to each woman. Eve initially doesn’t want it, saying they are a cheat, but even she takes one in the end. Their appearance snaps back to impossibly alluring. Curiouser and curiouser.
To cut a long story short, Enterprise arrives at Rigel XII, but the miners refuse to hand over the lithium crystals. Mudd had managed to get in contact with them before Enterprise arrived, and they want to deal with him. They will only be able to sustain their orbit for three days, which would be enough time if the miners weren’t insisting that they will only trade the crystals for Mudd’s women. And charges dropped against Harry Mudd. Kirk says no deal, but the miners are insistent.
Kirk eventually acquiesces. He has no choice. He then asks for the crystals, but the miners are now more interested in getting to know the ladies. The miners and Ruth and Magda are more interested in carousing, but Eve starts getting upset and runs out into Rigel XII’s inhospitable, stormy atmosphere. Kirk goes after her, as does lead miner Ben Childress. Kirk has no luck, and returns to the ship to try and use the ship’s sensors. The search has drained the ship’s power even quicker, and only five hours remain.
Childress has better luck and brings her to his abode. Exhausted, he falls asleep. More time passes, and now barely three quarters of an hour remain. Enterprise’s sensors finally have a hit, detecting the life signs in Childress’s home. Kirk prepares to beam down with Mudd.
Childress awakes to find Eve cooking and the place cleaned up a bit. He grumpily complains that he had things the way he wanted them. Eve explains that she had some of his food, so she paid for it with some chores. He is dubious about her cooking and cleaning. She protests that he’s tasting some of his own cooking now. His pots, pans, and dishes are so dirty she couldn’t get them completely clean. How is he supposed to clean them properly without sufficient water, he asks? She counters with an ingenious idea: hang them outside, and let the sand-filled heavy winds blast them clean.
This genuinely impresses Childress and after eating he goes outside to try it. When he comes back in, he notices her appearance has begun to change. He gets upset by her homely appearance, and starts to get angry. But just then, Kirk and Harry Mudd enter the scene. And Kirk insists that Harry tell Childress something. Mudd is hesitant, so Kirk insists. “The Venus drug, Harry.”
Mudd grudgingly explains. The highly illegal Venus drug enhances what someone already have. It makes men more masculine and aggressive, or women more soft and feminine. Childress is upset at being conned. Eve is not the woman he had been led to believe she was, nor were the other women who are with the other miners.
“You don’t want wives,” Eve protests, grabbing some of the pills from Harry. “This is what you want! But it’s not real!” And she swallows the pills. Moments later, Eve is back to her glamorous self. “Is this what you want, then? Not someone to help you? Not a wife to cook, sew, cry, and need? This kind. Selfish, vain, useless. Is this what you really want? All right then, here it is.”
Childress protests. It is a fake, he says, made by the drug. Kirk then reveals that this time, Eve took no drug. They had confiscated Harry’s drugs and replaced them with a placebo. How can this be? Kirk sums it up. “There’s only one kind of woman.” (“Or man, for that matter,” Harry adds.) “You either believe in yourself, or you don’t.”
Kirk then insists on the lithium crystals immediately. A contrite Childress agrees. When Kirk then orders the Enterprise to bring them back up, Spock asks how many. At that, Childress says that Eve will stay, for today at least. They have a lot to talk about.
Mudd asks Kirk if he could possibly arrange to “accidentally” leave him behind on this planet. Surely that would be punishment enough? No can do, Kirk says. But he does offer to appear as a character witness at Mudd’s trial. Mudd’s face falls at that, as he observes, “They’ll throw away the key!”
And with that, and with Enterprise repaired, they prepare to depart for their next mission.
This was an entertaining adventure, but I am a bit disturbed by the apparent shoehorning of people into defined gender rolls. Yes, we have Uhura in a professional position on the ship, but for Eve, Ruth, and Magda, while they are there willingly, it seems very clear that they have little to look forward to than finding men to get married to, and in the process had to turn themselves into a commodity to be sold or traded.
The episode seems to make some effort at going to show that a woman with practical ability would be more desirable then a woman who’s only asset was her glamour, but that is undercut by two things. First, the only practical abilities that seem to be of any merit are those of the homemaker. Not to say being a housewife isn’t a valid choice, but it shouldn’t be the only choice. Second, Childress still seemed ready to reject her, even though her “homely” appearance was objectively not much worse than her glamorous one, until she managed to regain the glamour without the aid of a drug.
The ability of Eve to regain her looks on sheer willpower after taking a placebo deserves a bit of scrutiny. After all, while I said that Eve wasn’t objectively that different, with Ruth the difference in looks was rather more dramatic. So my guess is that perhaps past exposure to the drug built it up in their systems, and they’d gotten to a point that one big push of will made the change permanent? Undercutting Kirk’s “believe in yourself” message just a tiny bit! If it is just the power of self belief, I suppose I could buy it with Eve. But Ruth may have a bit more explaining to do with whichever chauvinistic miner she ended up with!
Honestly, if they did have to go with this “wives for settlers” plot in the first place, I wish in the end they’d perhaps had Eve make her speech about, “Is this what you want?” before swallowing the drug (or placebo thereof), and end her speech with her going to swallow it, only to be stopped by Childress who then would go on to say they had things to talk about.
Harry Mudd was a fun character, though. Kind of a rougish scoundrel, although without the redeeming qualities that you find in a “Han Solo” type.
Overall, this is still a fun show, I think. But this episode combined with Rand’s treatment in last week’s does make me a bit concerned. I shall continue to stick with it for now, though, and see where next week leads us!
Farrell from last week’s episode returned this week, along with Sulu once again manning the two stations towards the front of the bridge that seem responsible for steering the ship. With two weeks in a row now, can we expect that Farrell will be becoming a regular?
Uhura sported one of the yellow uniforms this week rather than the red she had previously been seen wearing. I wonder what exactly these colors mean? Blue seems to largely be worn by science or medical staff. Red seems to be worn by engineers, technicians, and security personnel — the “support staff” kind of people. Yellow is worn by Kirk, Sulu, and Farrell in this episode, along with the newly yellow Uhura. What sort of role to they all have in common?
Uhura would have been safer staying in red, of course, if the in-show crew deaths are any indication. But no one died for the second week in a row, with the death count staying steady at 4 Blue, 3 Yellow, and 0 Red. Is it worth maintaining this count?
I wonder how different a full blooded Vulcanian looks from Mr. Spock? After all, Mudd knew on sight that Spock was of mixed blood. So it stands to reason that his physical appearance must be somewhere between the two races. After all, with his ears, eyebrows, and greenish complexion, no one would mistake him for a human. But if he looked fully Vulcanian, Mudd would have no reason to suspect mixed parentage. On the subject of Spock and Vulcanian biology, we learn that in the case of at least Spock’s mixed biology, his heart is located on his side, somewhere around where we keep our spleens.
The Enterprise has deflector screens that can be extended around other objects, but doing so causes considerable energy strain. Lithium makes a return from Where No Man Has Gone Before, and here we learn that in its power systems, Enterprise uses the element in a crystalline form.
Apparently the Enterprise weighs about a million gross tons. If this weight is only the ship itself, or also includes the cargo and crew, I couldn’t say.
The computer’s uncanny ability causes one of the women to worry that it can read their minds! Not to worry, though, folks, no psychic computers here. Mudd points out that it only knows what is in his records. Still, there seems to be an impressive amount of information available, and the computer is able to call upon it pretty instantaneously.
Humans are definitely settling other planets, since Mudd’s cargo were intended for men engaged in such an activity.
Also, don’t forget: there are Future Police!
The Written Adaptation:
This week’s installment was written by J. A. Lawrence, rather than the usual James Blish. Did they change authors? Or did Blish go on vacation or something, and having to crank these things out on a weekly basis, someone else had to step in on this one?*
In the adaptation, the lithium crystals are instead refered to as dilithium crystals. Did lithium not sound science fiction-y enough, and Lawrence felt the need to punch things up a notch with the fictional dilithium? The dilithium crystals did still come from a lithium mine, so the two must be related.
Mention is made that there was once a fourth miner, Charley Shorr, who just a month prior to current events stepped outside into a storm similar to the one going on durring this episode and was never heard from again. Probably a good way, in the book, to get across the severity of the danger of the storm in a medium where we can’t just see it for ourselves, serving to heighten the danger before Eve goes out in it herself and Kirk and Childress peruse her into it.
* Note: putting on my “reality hat” for a moment, the real world explanation is that these adaptations were not written on a weekly basis, but in novel-sized groupings, in an almost random order, over a number of years. The two Hary Mudd stories were saved for last (and published along with an third and original Harry Mudd tale), but alas by this time James Blish had passed away, and these tales had to be adapted by Blish’s widow and fellow author Judy Lawrence. Now off with the “reality hat,” and back to our regularly scheduled delusions!
That brings us to the end of this week’s episode. See you next week as Kirk becomes the prisoner of a doctor who has made some interesting discoveries. Until then!
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