Mar 12, 2018
Star Trek (TAS) “Mudd's Passion” (part 2 of 7)
Now comes the fun part of picking apart a TV show I’ve never recapped before: Getting to make fun of the opening credits! Unlike every other Star Trek series, the animated series doesn’t start with a teaser of any kind. It’s straight to the opening credits, which is more or less the norm for kid’s cartoons, even today.
Actually, there’s not a whole lot to bash here. The animated credits are a pretty faithful recreation of the TOS credits, except in cartoon form. There’s a brand new recitation by William Shatner of the “space, the final frontier” speech, followed by the Enterprise swooping across the screen while we get the customary credits for Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley (the only difference being a “STARRING THE VOICES OF” title before this). See? The credits are so faithful, they’ve even faithfully marginalized the contributions of Doohan, Nichols, and all the rest.
Well, come to think of it, there is one change that probably bears mentioning: The opening theme is totally different. Yeah, I guess I should probably talk about that, huh? We get the standard fanfare that sounds pretty much like the fanfare that opened episodes of TOS (and TNG). But then Shatner finishes his speech, and bam, a completely brand new theme song kicks in.
I have no idea why they couldn’t secure the rights to Alexander Courage’s theme song from TOS. I mean, other than the most likely explanation, which is that they couldn’t afford them. (Or that Courage told Roddenberry to piss off for writing those idiotic lyrics to the TOS theme song, and thus taking half the royalties.) So instead, they have this disco-esque orchestration that sounds like the TOS theme played sideways. But all things considered, it doesn’t date quite as badly as the actual TOS theme. I mean, at least it doesn’t have bongos in it. Hear the TAS theme by clicking here!
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And you’ve really got to love how the Cartoon Enterprise almost scoots across the screen in these credits. The animators, I assume, were trying to show it flying towards us, and flying away from us, but they don’t adjust at all for perspective. So it just looks like the Enterprise is cruising sideways across the galaxy.
Anyway, the final deviation from the TOS credits comes at the end, where we get a title card that shows the Enterprise orbiting a blue planet covered in craters, with the title Star Trek below it. Meanwhile, the horns of the Filmation Philharmonic go bwaaaah bwaaah bwaaaaah!!
Then, in true Saturday morning cartoon fashion, we get the title card for this episode, which—just like every other TAS episode—is shown in front of that same blue-cratered planet. The episode begins with Kirk’s log (“Stardate: 4978.5”). He reveals that the Enterprise is on its way to the “Arcadian star system” in order “to locate an old friend”.
Meanwhile, the animators show a slow zoom-in on an orange and yellow orb with a flaming corona. At first, I assumed this was a star, but I guess it’s a planet, because Cartoon Kirk asks Cartoon Spock if he thinks Harry Mudd is down there.
Cartoon Spock, seemingly every bit as anal retentive as Live-Action Spock, says, “The probability of his presence on Motherlode [??] is eight one percent [sic], plus or minus point five three.” Motherlode? Somebody actually named a planet that? If I discover a planet, I’m going to call it Sick-Ass Hizzy. By the way, the Spock we know is usually pretty exact, so I’m not sure what he means by “eight one percent”. Is it 81 percent? Or 8.1 percent? Or just sloppy writing?
Cartoon McCoy is also on the bridge, and quite uselessly milling about. Hey, just like the live-action McCoy! He grumbles, “Why can’t you just say, ‘Mudd’s probably there’?” Why, the better to banter with you, Doctor.
Spock snaps back, “I just did, Doctor!” Hah! Personally, my assumption has always been that Kirk, for his own personal amusement, has McCoy loiter around the bridge purely for exchanges like this. I mean, Kirk probably comes up with all kinds of lame pretenses like hangnails, or split lips, or whatever, to get McCoy up on the bridge, just so he can watch him and Spock go at it. That interpretation, by the way, is also part of my personal canon.
Anyway, the helmsman, who is very much not Chekhov, pipes up to say that they’re approaching “parking orbit” [?]. That’s an odd expression. Do we need to get validated?
NotChekhov was introduced in a previous episode of TAS, and his name is Lt. Arex. There are a couple of things you might notice about Lt. Arex right away.
First is that he speaks in James Doohan’s voice. Well, you might not really notice that, because Doohan was pretty skilled with doing different voices, and half the time I’m watching TAS I don’t know if it’s him or not. (Of course, half the time I’m watching TAS, it is Doohan doing the voice. Well, either him or Majel.) And just in case there’s anyone left alive who doesn’t know this, I’ll point out again that James Doohan didn’t have a Scottish accent; It was just a voice he put on to play Scotty. The fact that this was unknown for so long is a pretty good testament to Doohan’s vocal abilities.
The next thing you might notice about Lt. Arex is that he isn’t human. He looks kind of like a cross between a turkey and Q-Bert, with his orange skin and long neck. But he’s actually a Triaxian. And it’s difficult to see it in this shot, but that fold in the front of his shirt is the third arm coming out of his chest [!]. And not only that, but he also happens to have three legs [!], too.
See, this is one of those uniquely goofy TAS things that I love. Because this was a cartoon, the producers were free to do all kinds of stuff that was impossible on the original series because of budget constraints. So, hell, why not have a crewman with three arms? I’m all for it. Lt. Arex definitely deserves more love, not only for his appearances on TAS, but also for inspiring Judd Nelson’s performance in The Dark Backward.
As they enter “parking orbit”, Kirk declares they’re about to see how “close” Spock’s “eight one” percentage is. And since he’s reminding me about that, I’m starting to wonder exactly which factors went into constructing a calculation concerning the whereabouts of Harry Mudd. What were the coefficients in that equation, I wonder? Was it (amount of pretty, docile girls in the area) times (lack of Starfleet law) divided by the square root of (gullible citizens)?
But it appears Spock was correct (presuming he meant 81%, of course), because we cut to a spire-filled cityscape on Motherlode, and there’s Cartoon Harry Mudd up on a stage.
He’s addressing a group made up of several different species, calling them “heavy metal minors”. Bitchin’! They don’t look that young, though.
Oh. I guess he means “heavy metal miners“. Which would explain all the mining helmets, and why the planet’s called “Motherlode”. Yeah, it’s probably that second thing. So pardon me while, with a heavy heart, I put away my Iron Maiden muscle T-shirt.
Sure enough, there are random shots of aliens in hard hats, including a male-female couple that look like bears. Wow. Stephen Colbert is right. Bears are a major threat to the American way of life. I mean, if we let bears become miners, what’s next? Will they demand equal rights? Are you ready to let a bear marry your daughter?
Close-up on Harry Mudd. In a rare occurrence for the animated series, they actually brought back the guest actor from the original series to reprise his role. In this case, that actor is Roger C. Carmel, who not only played Harry Mudd on TOS, but also had an unfortunate cameo in Myra Breckinridge as a therapist-dentist (yes, you read that right). Unfortunate, because it makes him the Agony Booth’s latest Repeat Offender.
It turns out Harry is selling the miners special love potion crystals. He holds up a handful of crystals and declares, “With this magical liquid, no person of the opposite sex can resist you!” Hey, come on now. I bet that’s already true of Heavy Metal Miner Bear out there.
Kirk and Spock beam in just in time to hear Mudd say the crystals work even if you’re “repugnant”, and yeah, if you put it that way, sign me up! When the male bear hears this, he starts growling at Mudd. Okay, someone’s a little sensitive about being repugnant. The female bear actually has to restrain Pissed-Off Bear, and Mudd quickly adds, “Nothing personal, gentle beans!” Beans? No idea.
Female Bear demands proof of the love potion’s efficacy, so Harry extends a hand, and suddenly a blonde chick is up on stage with him. In Majel Barett’s voice, she purrs, “Harry, darling. I was lonely for you.” Yeah, this is total proof. I’m a believer. No, I mean that in all sincerity. There’s no way Harry could even pay a woman to act horny for him.
He loudly declares that he put “a single drop of this miracle substance on meself [sic],” and touched the blonde chick, and voila, she’s dangerously in love with Harry Mudd.
This appears to be all the proof the miners need, because one guy uses Wolfman Jack’s voice to call out, “How much?” Harry holds up three fingers to demand 300 credits, calling it a “bargain”.
Suddenly, he notices Kirk and Spock standing at the side of the stage. He loudly welcomes them to Motherlode, especially the “ineluctable Mr. Spock”. Wow, somebody shelled out the big bucks for a thesaurus, huh? From the American Heritage Dictionary, “ineluctable” means “Not to be avoided or escaped; inevitable”. So there’s your word for the day. When you win that spelling bee next month, I expect to be thanked. With cold, hard cash.
Harry asks if they’re interested in his love potion. Kirk says, “We’re interested in you, Harry.” Wow. Captain, I had no idea. But specifically, they’re interested in Harry due to his “fraud, illegal drug manufacture, and swindling!” Swindling? Is there really a Federation law against swindling? Might there also be statutes against swashbuckling, swaggering, or double-dipping?
Harry snidely re-welcomes them to Motherlode, just so he can point out the planet doesn’t recognize Federation law. So Wolfman Jack Hardhat pipes up again, and tells Kirk and Spock to shove it, and tells Harry he’s got a deal. Spock, however, is out to tap dance on Harry’s nutsack and piss on his parade, so he immediately declares the love potion effects to be an illusion. He fires his phaser at the blonde chick who’s horny for Harry, and she immediately transforms into a six-legged pink lizard [!!] that quietly shuffles away.
“The so-called ‘girl’,” Spock says, “is a Rigellian hypnoid projecting a simple illusion!” Wow. That sounds so much simpler than just finding a real girl and paying her to hang all over Harry Mudd. Or maybe it is simpler. Who knows?
Kirk admits they can’t arrest Harry, because Motherlode isn’t a Federation planet, but he gives Harry the option of giving himself up. Harry refuses. Sure enough, in the very next shot, the miners have worked themselves up into a violent lather of outrage, and are now pelting Harry with rocks [!]. What? It’s not like they had a chance to actually give him money yet, right? So I don’t know what they’re so pissed off about. I guess when you’re a Heavy Metal Miner, you don’t need an excuse to start up a good old-fashioned stoning.
Predictably, Harry immediately surrenders to Kirk and Spock. So Spock fires his phaser at the ground, and in a really rough sequence of animation frames, it appears to create a deep chasm, separating the miners from Harry. And then a few moments later, they beam out. Okay, first of all… hello, rocks? Unless I’m mistaken, they can still be thrown over a chasm. Second of all, why didn’t they just beam out in the first place? I’m all for a little random destruction every now and then, but this is kind of pushing it.
Anyway, they’re back on the Enterprise. In the transporter room, Harry is outraged at this “meeching trick”, whatever that might mean. He screams that they just cost him everything he owns, including his ship and his love crystals. “I may just sue you!” Wow, our first indication of a litigious Federation society. I wonder if anyone else ever tried to sue Kirk? Because I can think of at least two wrongful death suits that could result from redshirts being left on a planet called Troyaikman.
Kirk says, “Fine, I’ll see you in court, Harry.” He’s been through this before, I see. Multiple paternity suits, perhaps?