HARRY MUDD – thief, swindler, con-man, liar, rogue…and SOCIOPATHIC MASS MURDERER??? (editorial review)

I really enjoyed the seventh episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY

…until I didn’t.

Perhaps the title “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” forgives Harry Mudd’s descent into a bloodlust resulting in the repeated serial killing of Captain Lorca and the rest of the Discovery crew while stuck in a repeating time-loop.

Perhaps having that kind of “cosmic undo” power made Harry snap and become someone other than the lovable but conniving scoundrel we’d come to know and laugh at over the past 50 years.  And maybe that insanity was, in fact, only temporary—and ten years later, Mudd will return to just being, as Kirk said, a thief, swindler, con-man, liar, and rogue…and no longer a mass murderer.

As I watched this week’s episode, I actually thought it was a lot of fun.  As countless other fans noted, it was like the movie Groundhog Day, only told through the perspective of the other residents of the quiet hamlet of Punxsutawney, and where Bill Murray is replaced by a malevolent sadist who is out to kill all the townspeople and destroy the town itself.  And of course, the parallels to TNG‘s wonderful fifth season episode “Cause and Effect” are also pretty evident…except that the spatial anomaly is replaced by a homicidal lunatic who is out to murder the crew and obliterate the Enterprise-D.

But really, it was fun watching and re-watching and re-re-watching Lorca get murdered and the Discovery blow up time and again.  I’m not sure what that says about me—or about the writers on the show who came up with a script that included such scenes!—but perhaps because we all knew it was a time-loop and that nobody would die at the end, that makes it all okay, right?


As I thought more about the episode, though, I began to wonder…

It’s not like Star Trek didn’t have its fair share of detestable megalomaniacs and mass murderers over the past 50 years.  Gary Mitchell, Charlie Evens, Dr. Tristan Adams, Lenore Karidian, and of course, Khaaannnnnn…and that’s just from season 1 of TOS.  Sure, Star Trek had villains that you loved to hate, but Harry Mudd was never one of them.  You loved to love him and probably even felt a little bad that he would have to deal with 500 android Stellas yelling at him for the rest of his life.

But that was 1967.  This is 2017.  Things are different.  TV is different (you now have to pay six bucks a month to watch Star Trek!).  And the villains you love to love just won’t make sense in a dark show like Discovery.

The more I thought about this episode, the more things about it began to bother me.  And I can trace most of them back to one thing: bringing comedy to a war-based TV show.

Oh, I realize that war and comedy are hardly mutually exclusive.   Look at movies like Good Morning, Vietnam and Dr. Strangelove, or TV shows like Hogan’s Heroes and of course, M*A*S*H.  Each of those (and many more) managed to combine the two elements successfully and very effectively.

But those films and series I just named all began with their roots planted firmly in the genre of comedy or satire.  They were, at their core, intended to be funny first.  (Heck, M*A*S*H even started out in its earliest seasons with a laugh track).  So when these shows and movies went into dark places, there was a comedic “safety net” that allowed them to either go more deeply into emotional intensity or emerge from it.  In short, these productions could walk in both worlds: comedy and war.

But now imagine the min-series Band of Bothers having a “light and comedic” episode, or the last third of Saving Private Ryan or Platoon suddenly becoming funny…like the last third of Good Morning, Vietnam did in the reverse direction when it shifted from comedy to deadly serious.

To quote Spock from the TOS episode “Mirror, Mirror”—“It was far easier for you as civilized men to behave like barbarians, than it was for them as barbarians to behave like civilized men.”  In the same way, it is far easier for a comedy to shift into dark war drama than it is for a dark war drama to shift into comedy.

(You can argue that Deep Space Nine, a series whose final four seasons were set amidst the backdrop of an interstellar war, had its comedic romps like “Treachery, Faith, and the Great River,” “The Magnificent Ferengi,” and “One Little Ship.”  But remember that DS9 did not begin as a war drama.  It could build on a rich foundation that included comic relief elements like Quark and Nog and even Bashir.  Likewise, TOS had a few of its own comedy episodes, but that series wasn’t starting out dark and intense like Discovery is.)

As I watched Discovery‘s latest episode, I noticed that I wasn’t really laughing.  I wasn’t sure what to think about Harry Mudd’s repeated assassinations of Lorca and the entire crew, and his blasé attitude about it all.  But leaving all of that aside, as I thought about it more, what bothered me the most about the episode was actually the ending.

Oh, sure, it was a hoot finally meeting the infamous Stella.  And having Harry go off with his future wife (and nagging battleaxe) was certainly intended as an “Well, he had it coming!  Good riddance!” moment.

But here’s the problem…

The crew has now let Harry Mudd go free with knowledge of their ship, its secret spore drive, its crew, its inner workings, and countless ways to get on board and quickly take control.  His memory was never wiped, was it?  All they did was tell Stella and her daddy to make sure Mudd stays out of Starfleet’s way.  Yeah, that inspires confidence in me!

What’s to stop this greedy, nefarious scoundrel from sneaking off to contact the Klingons when Stella and daddy aren’t looking and sell this information to Starfleet’s enemies?  Or maybe he just does it for revenge.  Either way, Harry Mudd is now out there, one transmission away from costing the Federation the war!

Why the hell did they let him go????

Just because his father-in-law-to-be is rich?  I guarantee you Starfleet has a card that trumps that.  Is the ship’s brig out of order?  C’mon!  Harry Mudd needs to be kept in custody at least until after the war is over.  And even if he didn’t actually kill anyone in the final time-loop scenario, breaking onto a starship, threatening the crew and trying to take it over, and attempted treason against the United Federation of Planets have got to be criminal acts, right?  This man needs to be put on trial, not handed over to his fiancee and her rich dad!

But of course, that’s the problem with suddenly writing Discovery as a comedy.  In order to have a lighthearted and funny ending, they ultimately needed to have an unbelievable one.  And the more I think about it, the less believable it becomes.

It’s a shame, really, because the episode truly was inspired in its fresh takes on the oh-so-familiar sci-fi concept of an infinite time-loop.  But in the end, it just left a bad taste in my mouth, a hangover after a night of drunken merriment when things not making sense didn’t seem to matter.  The day after, they suddenly do matter.

This series is asking me to accept a lot of things—spore drive, petulant Starfleet officers, weird-looking Klignons—and in order to enjoy it, my mind must accept all of these while I view the episodes.  And so I have granted them their reality of “this is what Starfleet looks like in the midst of a devastating war.”  But if they’re going to get that acceptance from me, then they need to stick to their stated reality.  If Starfleet is going to court-martial Burnham and work hard to keep the USS Discovery a secret, then they’ve shown us that there is a criminal justice system in place and a desire to hide the existence of Starfleet’s greatest asset and weapon.

If so, then don’t end the episode by letting Harry Mudd go.

Just don’t.

42 thoughts on “HARRY MUDD – thief, swindler, con-man, liar, rogue…and SOCIOPATHIC MASS MURDERER??? (editorial review)”

  1. So glad I gave up on Disco just before this episode, reading your review just makes my skin crawl. It was also the ending of the last episode, you want to keep the ship a secret, then you just let the Admiral who knows all about the spore drive, Starfleet’s “greatest asset and weapon”, and lots more besides, to just get captured and interrogated?

    Oh, and I love “Good Morning Vietnam”, one of my favourite movies of all time, you have excellent taste there :).

  2. And ooh, just checked Rotten Tomatoes, on Sept 26th I wrote that that audience score had it at:
    65% for Disco compared with 89% for The Orville.

    Now just over a month later, that stands at:
    57% for Disco compared with 93% for The Orville.

  3. I think the Sehlat’s already out of the bag on that one. I do happen to agree with you on the gross mischaracterozation. Just because he got a big reset button doesn’t mean those things didn’t happen over and over. And let’s say for a sec things had gone his way what then.

    1. Even in the final timeline, he still tried to commander a starship, and trying to sell it to the Klingons would count as attempted treason…which is still a crime.

      1. Both Orville and Discovery have writing problems… But why do I see things in the Orville episodes that most of you don’t. If it happens once then I can let it ride but if it happens over and over then I can’t. In the Blue Dude Episode the Blue Dude has the power to sexually turn on whoever he wants to… and because of this power you have the breakup of the Captain and his Wife when they were husband and wife. Now fast forward… it happens again…. but this time they realise why it is happening so they use the blue guys power/ability to end an intergalactic conflict that was looming on the horizon now in reality lets say I have that power… oh what fun I would have at parties. You say it’s not possible… I say it is… but not by aroma or pheromones etc… But by pill. Drop a pill in her wine and she’ll feel fine. The date rape pill and that is no joke especially to young girls at parties. Again the writers could have sent a clear message by adding a few lines to the end. Instead they played the joke ending. Ask a girl or boy or even an Adult that had this happen to them and I guarantee hey will not tell you it was a fun experience. What I got out of this episode is that that the Blue Guy and the Date Rape Pill amount to the same deal. In the Mudd episode the portrayal of Harry Mudd was not much better… however if his name was George Mudd… Harry’s big brother then it would have been fine… Harry still has 10-15 years to develop until he meets Kirk… and become the Harry we know.

        1. I suppose if you want to see the ramifications of this power on its victims, you could always watch season one of “Jessica Jones.” I still enjoyed the episode of The Orville, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. It seems surprising that a species with this kind of effect on other species is allowed to travel freely during “that time of year.” And it’s not the kind of ability a species can reasonably keep secret for very long…as demonstrated this episode.

  4. I thought it was the best episode yet with disco lights and music on the DISCO. It delved into the personalities of the characters and even made Lorca look a bit lessself serving by offering up Burnhem and Discovery for the lives of the crew. Well slap me in the face and call me Spacey, but Lt Stamis even seemed a little more likable. I can’t wait for the next episode!

    1. Stamets is high on mushrooms and being one with the universe. Once he’s no longer “plugged in,” I suspect he’ll go back to being a schmuck. We’ll see.

    2. I don’t think they’d be listening to rap & Otis Redding 300 years in the future. I’m not knocking Otis Redding.

  5. I agree, but you know of course that Mudd HAD to be let go to even pretend to be following/in the original time line. Otherwise, Mudd would be *unavailable* in a decade to be the scoundrel that appears in TOS.

    Of course, as you noted, there is *NO* way these two depictions of Harcourt Fenton Mudd are the same individual. There was absolutely no cruelty in the Mudd that was shown in TOS. The exact opposite in true of Mudd in ST:D. And with that level of hatred associated with Starfleet (with the direct point of his hatred aimed at Lorca), you would have to belief that meeting up with Kirk and the Enterprise would have resulted in a *war* of its own.

    I continue to say that ST:D makes middlin Sci-Fi, but lousy Star Trek; and Orville is much more “light-hearted” (man do we all need that, IMO) Sci-Fi that leaves you feeling good (for a change) after a TV show.

    1. Speaking of ORVILLE, I can absolutely positively guarantee DISCOVERY will NOT feature quarreling kids anytime soon!!! It was a good episode.

  6. A more whimsical episode, to be sure, if not highly derivative. Perhaps that’s what the show needed.

    As for Mudd’s more psychopathic tendencies, this leads me back to my pet theory that Disco is in fact still in the Kelvin timeline, despite producers’ claims to the contrary. If Disco is set 10 years before the adventures of Kirk & Spock, then Kirk is alive. And his (and everyone else’s) destiny was changed on the day of his birth when the Kelvin was destroyed and the eponymous timeline began. And Mudd was very briefly referenced in one of the JJA reboots (can’t remember which…).

    As for other theories – I do like the idea of Admiral Cornwell becoming Lethe from the TOS episode, and I can certainly buy into the idea of Lt Tyler being an augment version of Voq. However, I’m not sure about Lorca being a mirror-captain. His actions haven’t been persistently evil enough; instead, I think he’s just plain paranoid/unstable, which makes for a far more interesting character.

      1. Jonathan,
        I agree with much of the problems that Discovery is having. I believe all is growing pains. The scripts were written and shooting took place long ago and there is much trial and error. Had the script been written and shot today much would be different. They now know the pulse of the audience they are trying to reach. The writing even with the flaws is far superior to Orville… and the acting as well. I hated the most recent Orville… why did I hate it… would you put a gun in the hands of your child??? and it’s used to kill… maybe stun… at the least. What I got out of it was that video games are the same as real life and Life and death is just like winning and losing that video game. It’s only a TV show but the message I got from it is clear. Kill or be killed. They want kids to watch and that’s the message they are sending? I have enjoyed most of the Orville… but when it is bad it’s very bad…

        1. Hello Xman, I do not understand how you can come to the conclusions that you did, I just watched this episode myself and again like all the other episodes it felt extremely trek to me, like a drop-in replacement for TNG, where value and respect for life is high, and everything you blathered about is the exact opposite of what I got out of the episode.

          I just don’t get it man, but if you can’t handle it, don’t watch it. Personally, this is the best Star Trek I’ve seen in such a long time.

          1. You had me until you said “blathered.” While not a name-calling insult, it did seem somewhat disrespectful. XMAN is allowed to react the way he chooses to The Orville. And you’re allowed to disagree with him.

            Personally, now that I’ve watched it, I also thought it was a very strong episode. It developed the character of the doctor in some wonderful ways (although it was a bit of a shock to discover that she’s had two young sons with her on board this whole time–that kinda came out of nowhere). But the boys had their character arc during the episode, and so did Isaac. Like many episodes of TNG, this was more about the characters themselves than about what was happening TO the characters. It was very entertaining and, yes, it felt like a leftover episode of TNG from the late 1980s…except for the Barry Mannilow musical interlude. That was just TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!

          2. First off I do enjoy both Discovery and Orville. However both shows are very different. Orville is much more suited for the whole family probably a PG rating and Discovery is unsuitable for children. Into the Fold I disliked because I believe that guns and other weapons should not be in the hands of children and by having a young child use a gun it sets a poor example. Killing in a video game is much different than killing for real. If it was that important to the plot that a young boy kills by using a gun then so be it. It’s my choice to let my children (not my children since they are all grown up) watch it or not. The writers of Into the Fold at the end of the episode could have had a scene with the Doctor or even the Captain explaining to the children how using deadly weapons is normally not the way to go. They could even have told them that this was the exception to the rule. I still wouldn’t have liked having a young boy kill or stun a bad guy but the reasoning and a proper explanation about weapons would have made people like me happier. In fact a good ending would have been the Captain giving a Holodeck lesson about weapons and an explanation to all Children on the Orville. As far as the best Star Trek… my vote is for Star Trek Continues.

          3. I think the scene where Isaac gives the older child a gun as a matter-of-fact gesture was intended to show Isaac’s character, not to make a statement about children and firearms. Indeed, the boy’s shocked reaction to being handed a deadly weapon mirrored the viewers’ (well, at least those in blue states). But for Isaac, it was a simple equation. Isaac needs to go off alone, the children need protecting, therefore give the older boy a gun, make sure he knows how to fire it, and head off to find their mother (or the ore–I can’t remember which he went off looking for).

            As for firing the weapon, note that the boy doesn’t fire it the first time; Isaac does. The boy hesitates because it’s real life now and he’s frightened. And when he is finally forced to fire his weapon, that’s when his mother tells him to set it for stun because they still value life. If our own bullet-firing guns in today’s world could be set for stun and not kill, I’d be much more accepting of them. Unfortunately, we don’t have that choice when we discharge a firearm. On The Orville, they do.

  7. Ok, I have one question that I would like to hear an answer for:

    What exactly does Discovery need to do (beside getting canceled) to satisfy you people? First I hear that the show is too dark and that ‘your’ Star Trek wasn’t dark. Then I hear that the technology of a show made in 2017 doesn’t match that made in 1966 and therefore it isn’t ‘your’ Star Trek. Then I hear that Discovery used the word f*uck (I only wrote that to shut up people who would have complained about my using the whole word) twice in one episode and therefore it wasn’t good for children and wasn’t ‘your’ Star Trek (I’m not sure how old you people think your kids are when they have heard the word, but I guarantee it’s before 6) Then I hear that having gay characters also makes the show un-kidfriendly and also isn’t ‘your’ Star Trek. Now it seems that a fun comedic episode doesn’t belong in a series that takes place in a darker war series and therefore it isn’t ‘your’ Star Trek.

    I’m just wondering if it would be possible to read something that isn’t 90% negative? I admit that not everything in Discovery works perfectly but how hard would it be to concentrate on the positive about something that we all claim to love?

    1. I’ve said very complimentary things about Discovery in my previous blogs, and I even said some nice things in this latest one, Edward. But yes, I have complaints. I’m allowed to have complaints, right? You’re not trying to force anyone to fall in love with this show and say only good things…’cause I don’t think that I can do that for you, dude.

    2. They did foul language better in STIV. That was truly funny. I’ve never associated the f-word with STAR TREK. I’ve had other fans get really upset if I use the f-word in a fanfic.

  8. No Jonathan, I’m not trying to stop anyone for having any opinion they like however it still doesn’t seem unfair to me to ask for a more positive outlook. I’m not only talking about you I hope you realise but the comments I hear in general. It seems to be just a pure hate situation rather than a discussion of what is liked and what is disliked. I realise that many people are hating on Discovery not because of the show itself but because of Axanar, CBS, All Access and several other reasons. Just as an example…I hated the new Ghost Busters movie but not because they used woman but rather because ‘in my opinion’ it wasn’t a good movie

    1. “however it still doesn’t seem unfair to me to ask for a more positive outlook.”

      Well, then it wouldn’t be unfair of me to ask you to be more critical of and negative about Discovery, would it? But I won’t do that because everyone is entitled to an opinion. And if I think that Kirk is a Denebian slime devil, well, that’s my opinion, too. 🙂

      I do realize that some people are hating on Discovery just because they’ve got a chip on their shoulder or an ax to grind. I refuse to do that. My criticisms are specific and carefully considered/explained. Others might not agree, but at least they can argue point by point with me. Bring it on. I love a good debate.

      And as far as I’m concerned, I have every right to be this critical because I’ve actually paid to see this series. I refuse to pirate it, and while I began watching at a friend’s house, I now give $5.99 each month to CBS Interactive…at least for the next nine days or so. And that, Edward, makes me not only a viewer but also a customer. And customers are allowed to complain about the food, the service, the decor, or even the bathrooms. 🙂

    2. Ed,
      Don’t forget, however, that by attaching a well known brand name to the series a certain expectation is set into the minds of the customer. If the show had been called “Journey to the center of the Stars” everyone would have come in with an open mind. But they didn’t. They called it “Trek,” most likely to get their subscription service started.

      This also happened years ago with Ron Moore’s BSG reboot. A lot of fans from the original show were disappointed, but there were far more of us who latched onto the series and stuck it out from beginning to end. Sounds like this is what’s happening with you and Disco. And that’s fine.

      But to some of us, our expectations are not being met, hence the comments.

      1. I think what allowed fans of BSG to more easily embrace the reboot (a much smaller percentage were resentful of it than seems to be the case with Discovery) is specifically because it was a reboot. Ron Moore made no pretense that he was starting over completely. Starbuck and Boomer were now both women. The Cylons had models that looked like humans and believed in one almighty God. Baltar was in hiding among the fleet. Apollo’s real name was Lee. The list goes on. But at no point did the producers try to make fans believe that this new incarnation of BSG had anything whatsoever to do with the beloved original series from the 1970s. They shared a title, some common character names, and a general similarity in the essential plot. But from there, everything about the reboot was, in fact, a reboot. With Discovery, it’s not a reboot. This is supposed to be Star Trek happening in the same universe as when Pike was visiting Talos IV. In fact, Pike is still out there on the Enterprise with Number One, Mr. Spock, Dr. Boyce, and the rest of the crew…probably fighting this war. In fact, Kirk is probably fighting it, too, assigned to the USS Farragut.

  9. Agreed, but did your complaining only start when you became a paying customer? Hummm…I’m pretty sure it didn’t. You ARE entitled to your opinion but don’t hide behind the “paying customer “ idea.

  10. Ok Jonathan but, except for you, expressing your dislike of a show means having to yell loudly and call people that like it “not true Star Trek fans” or ‘ignorant’ or ‘sheep’ Or “dumb” or any other words I’ve been called for over 1 year ever since Discovery was announced?

    Time to watch last weeks episode with daughter in law. I told her she needed to see it.

    1. I can’t speak for others, only for myself. That said, not everyone who likes or dislikes Discovery is yelling loudly at other people or calling them ignorant, etc. Many people on both sides are conversing quite civilly.

  11. You seem to be the only other person who sees the huge problems with this Discovery installment. I enjoyed the episode until it became cringeworthy. I read in many other reviews how much “fun” this story was, but I fail to see that “fun”. The old Mudd was a charming con man that wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, the new one is a mad mass murderer. One who is exonerated against all reason in the perhaps most contrived ending of any Star Trek episode, for the sake of comedy and of saving what’s left of Discovery’s continuity with the rest of Star Trek.

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