In which we meet an old enemy for the first time, we learn a little bit about how the Enterprise actually works, and it is revealed that a little placebo effect can replace an entire costume and makeup department.
Today, we sing the praises of the great Harcourt Fenton Mudd, man’s man and entrepreneur’s entrepreneur (and you won’t believe how many times I tried to spell that before giving up) back in a time before the Federation has caught up with the lawless wilds of the colonial galaxy and met its nearest political neighbors. Uhura is now in command yellows, by the way. I thought you might want to know that.
It’s interesting that the deflector screens appear to be a different subsystem from the regular shields and burn out much more NOPE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THAT OUTFIT NOW, THANKS. And that accent. ‘Leo Walsh’ is dressed like a space pimp, and it’s not long until we find out why. The future will be filled with sparkly gowns and twisty mustaches. Sigh. It’s going to be a rough job finding screenshots of this episode that – oh dear. I don’t know if it was written that way but this just came off as an episode that’s actually about human trafficking instead of just an allegory.
Nope, it was definitely written that way. Suuuuuuper awkward. I’m not sure why, but what’s creepy in an oddly charming way in Mad Men just comes off as creepy in Trek.
Scotty is more concerned with the ship than the ladies, which is the privelege of engineers everywhere. Fortunately for ‘Leo’ Harry ‘Walsh,’ those security guards do not share Montgomery Scott’s devotion to duty, and are too busy eyeing gowns covered in the herpes of the art world to hear ‘Leo Walsh’ coaching his ‘cargo.’ I’m going to run out of scare quotes by the end of this episode.
So, Harry Mudd is recruiting mail-order brides for colonial settlers, which is slightly less creepy that the setup. If we are to believe Harry Mudd (and we should because the computer didn’t call him out on it, it’s not as if he’s a pathological liar or anything) they’re volunteers from planets without romantic prospects. This is actually a very good bit of worldbuilding – it gives us an image of a very very sparsely populated human corner of the galaxy. They’ve been building this image for a while, but it really comes into focus here, where you have mentions of farming planets run by automation. This also gives us insight into how the Federation can go to a mostly moneyless economy in just a century – money is only a way of rationing scarcity and if robots are doing most of or all of the basic food production needed to keep all the settled worlds going, why bother chasing bits of paper. Kirk’s Enterprise is literally laying the foundations of the actual utopia that Picard will preserve through diplomacy and Sisko will defend.
I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Star Trek, no matter how dated it gets, but this episode was really better when Firefly did it. Of course, Saffron didn’t make electronics flicker when she got agitated. Something so powerful that it can make a medical scanner activate when it’s off.
So, replicators haven’t been invented yet, because Harry is talking about diamonds and gold as if they’re actually worth something. Base carbon arranged in a simple lattice structure? What one has to wonder is how the Federation made the transition to a mostly moneyless economy. The lithium miners (the episode does not actually mention dilithium at all) are getting paid handsomely for their work. Presumably, since the Federation is actually a utopia instead of a dystopia, they’d get compensated for their work even if money was abolished tomorrow.
Of course, the miners are looking to barter engine crystals for chattel, and it’s 50-50 whether Kirk standing up to them is just Kirk not wanting to be bullied or him making a principled stand against chattel slavery. This is where the scotch comes in handy, unfortunately. There are some good episodes ahead. I promise.
Given the tone of this episode so far, I’m a little surprised that when the miner found his errant bride-to-be and brought her back to his rock hovel,he was content to sleep on the bench. We were pretty much at the nadir of humanity when suddenly, a hope spot. And then, just as suddenly, Star Trek teaches us that women are just naturally better at cooking and dishwashing. Way to go, the late ’60s. Way to go. The miner keeps mentioning he didn’t take advantage of the woman like we’re supposed to give him a medal for not being a rapist.
This is really hard to watch. They’re trying really, really hard to come up with some moral about the value of people being more than superficiality, and that anyone can be whoever and whatever they want to, but what it comes off as is “even if you’re an ugly woman, you can be
pretty if you really try, plus you can cook and clean so you have value as a person.”
There are some good ones on the way. I promise. It’s going to be almost as rough before Riker and Sisko grow their beards, too…