Friday, October 14, 2011

I, Mudd

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Ever thought the new guy was too good to be true?

McCoy's bugged by Norman: aboard for 72 hours and he never smiles or talks about his background. Bones complains to Spock when Norman ducks out of two appointments for his physical exam. Spock remains dubious. "He's probably terrified of your beads and rattles."

But in no time, Norman's taking over the ship and flashing the Captain!
He's got circuitry under his skin (blinking in the original, in motion under a nifty seamless hatch in the special edition).

Norman's hijacking brings them before his planet's ruler: Harry Mudd. Self-styled 'Mudd the First' of Planet Mudd! Surrounded by servile androids, mostly women, quelle surprise.
Mudd fled here after selling a fuel synthesizer to developing world Deneb V without paying royalties, which carries a death sentence there.
"Knowledge, sir, should be free to all!" (And pirated movies, too, Mudd.)

We hear a fun backstory for Mudd: he's fleeing his shrewish nag of a wife, Stella. "I think of her constantly, and every time I do, I go further out into space." He had a Robot Stella made to shut up on command.

Constructed to serve the Makers of the Andromeda galaxy, these androids far outlived them. They are very motivated to have purpose again in the service of human beings, and refuse to let them go. In fact, they empty the whole ship to study and serve.

Chekov knows what time it is. He's drinking on a throne in seconds flat! He wishes the Alice Series were "real girls".
"We are programmed to function as human females, lord." says Alice 118.
"This place is even better than Leningrad!"

Uhura asks the only relevant question and receives an extremely intriguing answer:
these android bodies last over 500,000 years and they have the know-how to put human brains into them.

This information is, of course, totally ignored and quickly abandoned. If they can manage immortality better than Korby's Old One machinery, why is Uhura the only one even slightly tempted? Kirk's strident "We don't belong here" fails to explore this culture or find a way to work with these beings and their strange new life. (I'm just saying. I wouldn't mind being around for 500,000 years with an option to upgrade to millions. Would you?)

Granted, Norman turns out to be a bit of a bossypants. "We cannot allow any race as greedy and corruptible as yours to have free run of the galaxy." Soon, everyone will depend upon robots, and then robots will be in charge. But...

"Androids and robots, well, they're just not capable of independent, creative thought." blurts Scotty, parochially. Sez who, buddy? They came up with this 'Galactic Cop' idea on their own, didn't they? Mudd sure as hell didn't program that. This really comes down to something Mudd says later: they don't believe androids have souls.

Spock determines that their Central Control Unit is Norman, and that they cannot function in troubling, illogical environments without him.

So, they confuse the androids into catatonia by being weird and spinning lies. They caper and cavort until their captors overload.

"...Dying and crying and lamenting over our burdens. Only in this way can we be happy." Scotty & McCoy say this to be illogical, but what's funniest to me is: THEY MEAN IT.

That's kind of the point today: they are fighting to be released from immortality and happiness, mostly because they don't like having robots all up in their business.

"Scotty's dead. He had too much happiness." Possibly there's a warning in here about hedonism leading to stagnation, which of course I completely agree with, unless it interferes with lying around in my underwear eating pie.

With the androids now their bitches instead of their bosses, Kirk puts them to work terraforming and has 500 Stellas manufactured to nag Harry until he stops being an irritant.

"I, Mudd" is cute fluff. Funny, too. But if the Andomedan Androids seemed more benign than Ruk, Landru, Nomad, Vaal and so forth, then maybe it's because they were. It's only a straw man argument- but with tin men. Why not work something out? You don't mind robots working on your Amusement Park Planet, you just have a problem with the uppity ones.

They may not be such pushovers forever.

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