The character is Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd, played originally by Roger C. Carmel and played in Star Trek: Discovery by Rainn Wilson. We’ve dug into Mudd’s history previously, but the Star Trek: Discovery episode “Magic to the Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” reveals more of Mudd’s history and puts what fans previously knew about the character into a new light.
In Star Trek: The Original Series, Harry Mudd was a scoundrel and a con man who infuriated Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew. Not much of Mudd’s past was known until his second appearance, in the episode “I, Mudd.” It was there that Mudd revealed he left Earth to get away from his wife Stella, who was depicted in android form as a stereotype of a nagging woman, which Mudd could no longer stand.
Star Trek: Discovery takes place a decade before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series. Mudd first appears in the series in the episode “Choose Your Pain,” when he is a prisoner on a Klingon ship, where he meets Starfleet Captain Gabriel Lorca and Lt. Ash Tyler.
“Choose Your Pain” immediately raises questions about Mudd’s stated history from “I, Mudd.” According to Mudd in "Choose Your Pain," he was madly in love with Stella and tried to win her father’s respect by buying Stella a moon. In order to do so, Mudd took out some unconventional loans and, when he fell behind on the payments, the lenders chased him into Klingon space, where he was captured and imprisoned.
Even if this story would true, it would show that Mudd was always a scoundrel even before he married Stella.
However, the story is not true. As revealed in “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” the truth was that Stella and her wealthy father, Barron Grimes, were Mudd’s targets.
Grimes was an arms dealer who had become wealthy after war broke out between the Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire and offered a sizable dowry for his daughter, a dowry that Mudd took and ran away with.
“Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” is the first time that Stella has appeared on Star Trek as herself rather than in android form. While Stella certainly seems to have a stern side, she actually comes off as quite sweet and dotes on Mudd.
Stella claims she’s always known what kind of a man Mudd is, and that she’s still in love and wants to marry him despite the fact that he’s been avoiding her for a year, and Grimes, described by Mudd as a “scary, scary man,” so dotes on his daughter that he agrees to the marriage and to keeping Mudd near Stella and out of Starfleet’s hair.
The episode both helps to illuminate the character of Harry Mudd and change our perception of the android Stella seen in “I, Mudd.”
The android Stella was an embarrassingly dated sexist stereotype. However, now knowing how different the real Stella is – or at least how different she was – it's reasonable to assume that this version of Stella was a reflection of Mudd’s own feeling towards her after being trapped in a marriage he was clearly checked out of before the vows were even said, rather than an accurate representation of the character.
In truth, Mudd was never fleeing a nagging wife, as the nagging wife was likely never a reality. Instead, he was fleeing what he perceived as a kind of house arrest on Earth under the thumb of Grimes, where he was forced to feign affection for Stella.
Mudd is every bit the scoundrel that he ever was, but Star Trek: Discovery has provided fans with much more context for understanding him.
New Star Trek: Discovery episodes become available to stream Sundays at 8:30 pm ET on CBS All Access.