There was a point when Harry Mudd would have been a defining character in Star Trek lore. That point was lost some forty years ago, less if you're an inveterate fan of the original series and not the franchise as a whole. Since I'm approaching the franchise as a whole, I'm assuming, and rightly so I think, that Harry's time really has passed. "I, Mudd" may be his defining moment, if you care to have a look.
Unlike his previous appearance in "Mudd's Women," this one's a lot more about the character than the, ah, effect he has on people. It was rare enough to have a sequel at this point in television, much less franchise, history. To have one that delves more deeply into a guest character's life was rarer still. That, in a nutshell, was the significance of Harry Mudd to that point.
I'm not arguing that the character no longer has any worth. He has exactly the same amount as he always had, except now his legacy has been dwarfed by subsequent Star Trek history. Khan leaped ahead of him. He has no answer to the Borg. Well, anyway.
"I, Mudd" is the one with all the android women. Yes, Mr. Data in Next Generation is not unique. The original series had a surprising number of androids. The difference between them and Data is that the later was always considered (with an exclamation point in "The Measure of a Man") an autonomous individual capable of determining his own fate, considered in his own regard and not simply in relation to or as a pawn of others.
What Mudd does have in common with Data is a complicated relationship with family. He hates his wife. It might be said that his whole nefarious life is a reaction against her. That's what this episode ultimately pivots on.
The most notable legacy of the episode, other than the defining Mudd moment, is that in some ways it's a prototype for "The Trouble with Tribbles" seven episodes later, complete with the humorously ironic ending (one might almost have imagined Cyrano Jones from "Tribbles" as having originally been penciled in as Mudd). Taken in that context, "I, Mudd" is significant indeed.
|via Subspace Communique. Will the real Kirk please stand up?|
franchise * series * essential * character
Roger C. Carmel