I watched “Mudd’s Women” twice.
Why be coy, right? I was a bit offended on the first go. Perhaps, because this was the late ’60s, I was waiting for the story of three hauntingly beautiful women that seem to mesmerize the male crew of the Enterprise to offend me. While jaws dropped and shots focused on female asses, I was turned right off. But there’s a bigger story here, right? The ladies are “hypnotic” and mysterious, so all is not what it seems. This is Star Trek after all.
But as the episode unraveled, there only seemed to be more babbling males and Vaseline-smeared closeups. And then the reveal that these women were “cargo” for lonely minors. Sure, the titular Mudd is charismatic and a joy to watch, but this episode was shaping up to be a study on the woman-as-whore archetype; or at the very least, woman as manipulative downfall of man.
So fine, Mudd is manipulative too. All four visitors on the Enterprise are out for themselves, and Eve (Karen Steele) has a crisis of faith that subverts her predatory inclinations. This ends up being the most interesting aspect of the episode. It’s almost as if the plot is so aware of its stereotypical, and potentially offensive, nature that it begins to morph into something else entirely.
The woman are taking pills. They are as obsessed with their looks as the men seem to be. This, and Eve’s revelation in the final scenes, effectively turn this icky outing into something closer to a meditation on confidence, physical comeliness, and beauty as currency. When viewed through this lens, “Mudd’s Women” starts to look more like “Eye of the Beholder,” “Number 12 Looks Just Like You,” and other Twilight Zone episodes of the same ilk. This is easily the most fascinating entry to date.