Tonight’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery, titled "Choose Your Pain," brings back a classic antagonist from Star Trek: The Original Series, Harry Mudd, but will this younger Mudd be the same rascal fans grew to love in The Original Series?
Harry Mudd was played by Roger C. Carmel in Star Trek: The Original Series. Rather than a cosmic threat that could annihilate the Enterprise, like so many of the threats that Captain Kirk went up against in the original Star Trek series, Mudd was a scoundrel who simply knew how to cause trouble. He was a thief and a smuggler and seemingly always up to no good.
Mudd first appeared in the third episode of Star Trek: The Original series, titled “Mudd’s Women.” After leading the Enterprise on a chase, Mudd was finally beamed aboard. He brought three strikingly beautiful women with him, women he planned to sell to lonely miners on the Dilithium crystal mining planet of Rigel XII.
It turned out that the three women were taking Venus, an illegal drug that enhanced their attractiveness. Eventually, this was revealed to the miners, who, in an almost archaic display of progressiveness in sexual relationships, decided to stay with the women even after seeing what they actually looked like. Kirk and his crew got the Dilithium crystals they needed to power the Enterprise and brought Mudd to be imprisoned for his crimes.
Mudd proved to be a hit with the fans and returned for a season two episode titled “I, Mudd.” In this episode, a mysterious android brings the Enterprise to a planet populated by other androids who have made Mudd, who somehow escaped from prison, their king. Mudd had been selling bootleg alien technology, but when the Vulcans caught wind of his game, Mudd ended up on the android planet.
However, Mudd was as much captive as a king since the androids were using him to study humanity. Mudd planned to free himself by giving the androids the entire crew of the Enterprise to study in his place. Things didn’t work out for Mudd, as Kirk and company found a way to escape.
Kirk stuck it to Mudd a little extra by leaving him with 500 android copies of Stella Mudd, Harry’s stereotype of a nagging wife. The episode revealed that part of the reason Mudd took up a life of crime in outer space was simply to get away from Stella on Earth.
That was the last time that Harry Mudd appeared in live-action. He did also appear in an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series. The status of Star Trek: The Animated Series in canon is unclear, but Star Trek: Discovery referenced The Animated Series in last week’s episode, so we’ll assume the writers are treating the show as canon.
Mudd appeared in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “Mudd’s Passion.” In this episode, Mudd had somehow escaped the android planet and was running a new scheme selling love potions. He sells one to the Enterprise’s Nurse Chapel, who then uses it on Mr. Spock. Once everything was straightened out the Enterprise crew again took Mudd into custody.
That was the last anyone had heard of Mudd in the prime timeline, though the Kelvin timeline version of Mudd was at least referenced in the movie Star Trek Into Darkness. In the film, the Enterprise crew makes use of a K’normian trading ship which they say they procured during an event referred to as “The Mudd Incident.”
The line was meant simply as an Easter egg for fans, and the Kelvin timeline version of Harry Mudd has never appeared in the films. The film’s comic book prequel Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness revealed the ship did not belong to Harry Mudd, but to his half-Bajoran daughter simply called Mudd, who was supplying weapons to one side of a civil war taking place on a pre-warp world.
In Star Trek: Discovery, Harry Mudd will be played by Rainn Wilson, best known for his role as Dwight Schrute on The Office. As Discovery takes place ten years prior to Star Trek: The Original Series, this is the youngest Mudd will ever have appeared in Star Trek. This Mudd is said to be a bit more sinister and a bit less fun than his older self.
What we know about Discovery’s Mudd so far is simply that he is a prisoner of the Klingons and ends up on the same transport ship as the USS Discovery's Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and another Starfleet prisoner of war, and another new Discovery cast member, Lt. Ash Tyler, played by Shazad Latif. We should find out more in “Choose Your Pain” and possibly in future episodes of Discovery, as Wilson is supposed to be a recurring guest star.
New Star Trek: Discovery episodes become available to stream Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS All Access.