Fifty years ago, Gene Roddenberry’s first “wagon train to the stars” began airing on NBC. Star Trek featured a cast of many nationalities, had people of color in important roles, it commented on the social problems of the day disguised in science fiction, and it was the first time we’d seen humanity out in the stars in a ship meant to not only get us to them, but to explore. It was a show about hope for the future, a future that we continue to ape from today with our cellphones, video conferencing communications, and even equipment you can carry around that will tell you the current and future weather conditions.
Was Star Trek perfect? No. Between all the series that they put out from the ’60s, to the reintroduction of the show again with Next Generation in the ’80s, and up through Star Trek Enterprise, there were some episodes that didn’t work, weren’t necessarily poignant, and some that were just not good sci-fi. I’ve seen a number of articles out there listing the great episodes. There are several guides on how to get through the shows as quickly as possible so you get the most for your streaming buck. These guides don’t necessarily go into much detail, though. They list them, but they don’t rate them or give you much info on them. Star Trek Essentials aims to be a little different. I’m going to go over two episodes twice a week, review them, and talk about what makes them special.
My romp through the second season continues with a pair of episodes that are borderline comedy routines, but still work as fun sci-fi. First up, the conman known as Harry Mudd returns to trip things up for Kirk and company, followed by a grain crisis made even worse by a Klingon presence while the ship gets overrun with things cute and cuddly.
As a note, I’m not going with broadcast order on these, but rather production order, although for simplicity’s sake I’ve got the episode number as they appear on Netflix for those that want to watch these.
I, Mudd (Season 2, Episode 8)
The Enterprise is chugging along, exploring the galaxy, when one of the crewman seems to go insane and takes over the ship. He ends up revealing himself on the bridge as an android, and that the crew is headed to a planet. When they arrive they find that Harry Mudd has taken over a planet of androids, and they were looking to branch out into the universe so Mudd offered up the Enterprise. Things aren’t going well at all, and Kirk and crew need to figure out how to get back the ship from an army of thousands of androids, and around Mudd’s crazy scheme.
Along with some great comedic moments provided by Roger C. Carmel, who reprises his role as Mudd, the rest of the regular cast gets in on the action here as well, and after a few more serious episodes, we get a lot of fun here despite the circumstances they’re under. Along with that, they do some nice optical effects work, coupled with hiring actual twins to portray the massive number of androids that Mudd has created to try and please him over the months he’s been on the planet. There are a lot of great moments, but by far some of the best are Mudd interacting with the android based off his ex-wife, Stella, played by Kay Elliot. Much better than Mudd’s first interaction with the crew, and worth sitting through Mudd’s Women to get an idea of what Harry Mudd is all about. If you want more Mudd, he shows up in a number of comics, and an animated series episode called Mudd’s Passion.
The Trouble With Tribbles (Season 2, Episode 15)
The Enterprise is diverted to Deep Space K-7 to help guard a shipment of high yield experimental grain that’s to be deployed on Sherman’s Planet, a disputed planet by the Klingons that can go to whichever side can develop sustainability there first. The Klingons have decided to take a shore leave break on K-7 to bring more problems to Kirk and company, but on top of that, a new species called a Tribble – a cute cuddly ball of fur that purrs and coos when you pet it – has been multiplying all over the station and the Enterprise rapidly. With tensions between the Klingons heating up, and a planet’s claim hanging in the balance, Kirk has to mange things carefully before it all falls apart.
If I, Mudd flirted with comedy, Trouble with Tribbles, much like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, completely embraces the opportunity to take what could have been a totally serious and lackluster episode, and makes it shine. While there are some serious things going on, we get some rather ridiculous situations throughout the episode, and some fantastic lines. This is one of the favorites among most Trek fans, and is definitely high on my list. The fact that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine revisited this episode as a throwback to the original series on the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek twenty years ago now with Trials and Tribble-ations speaks volumes to this episode. I actually recommend watching these back to back if you get a chance as they work really well together, even if you’re not entirely familiar with Deep Space Nine or the Next Generation cast. There’s also an animated series sequel to this titled More Trouble, More Tribbles.