The Great Star Trek TAS Rewatch: Mudd’s Passion

Harry Mudd proffers a love crystal

The Enterprise catches up with interstellar con man Harry Mudd, who is currently peddling a new brand of “love crystal”. Determined to escape Federation custody once again, Harry offers a crystal to Christine Chapel, hoping to bank on her unrequited love for Spock.

I think I’ve made it clear by now that I don’t like Harry Mudd. His TOS appearances were pretty painful to watch, and this episode is no different. It’s another showcase of terrible tropes that seems painfully outdated and cringeworthy when viewed with modern sensibilities.

The old “love potion” trope makes its umpteenth appearance here, as part of Mudd’s latest con. He thinks he’s just selling a placebo, but when it turns out that the love potion really works, chaos ensues.

It all begins when Mudd convinces Chapel that a love crystal might be the key to finally getting Spock to like her. Because Chapel is a woman in a 1970s TV show, she does not act like the consummate professional she actually is, but makes the mistake of actually using the crystal. At the same time, the rest of the crystals get sucked into the Enterprise ventilation system, ensuring that the rest of the crew also gets a hefty dose. Before too long, we have Spock pining for his beloved Christine, Scotty and M’Ress snuggling on the bridge, and McCoy pulling some random crew member. Of course, this is an entirely heteronormative love potion which is supposed to only engender “friendship” in same-sex pairings, but I have to say that, based on its effect on Kirk and Spock, “friendship” is merely a euphemism.

Kirk and Spock with arms around each other

Friendship between men.

Let’s take a moment to briefly cover all the other awful tropes that appear in this episode:

  • There are major consent issues with any love potion story. Only Christine consented to taking it – everyone else was an unwilling participant.
    As an aside, I get that Christine is meant to have a painfully unrequited love for Spock which she knows will never amount to anything under normal circumstances, but I still don’t think she would resort to a love potion. Much as she might want Spock to miraculously love her, I don’t think she could live with knowing his feelings for her were the result of a trick.
  • Pretty much the only thing the female characters get to do is be vectors and victims for the love potion. Poor M’Ress hasn’t even been given much of a personality or anything to do thus far, and now her big moment is temporarily getting together with Scotty?! Poor cat.
    Fortunately, Uhura escapes the madness by not appearing in the episode.

Other points

Kirk does a forward roll

Kirk escapes a boulder by doing a fancy forward roll, when running away would have been simpler.

  • Once again, the Enterprise shows an appalling lack of security, as Mudd is able to steal Christine’s ID, replace her photo with his own, and then successfully use it to take a shuttle. Is there no two-factor authentication or biometric identification in the 23rd century?
  • Spock claims that the probability of finding Mudd on planet Motherlode is “eight-one percent, plus or minus .53”, which is something no real scientist would say. First off, who says “eight-one” instead of eighty-one? Is the 0.53 a percentage or is it a probability expressed in the range 0 to 1, as is common? Then there’s the whole mess of precision and significant figures.

Summary – Mudd’s Passion: Another tiresome Mudd episode.

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