Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 6
Original Air Date: October 13, 1966
|via Memory Alpha|
I think it's fair to say that sexual politics were complicated in the mid-to-late 1960s. Contemporary pop cultural efforts to address the matter can feel quite awkward in 2013. In "Mudd's Women," the crew encounters Harry Mudd, a career criminal, and his three glamorous female companions. In time, it becomes apparent that Mudd is marketing the women as wives for lonely men in deep space outposts. Naturally, all of the men aboard the Enterprise are enchanted by the women. Eventually, the crew discover that the women are taking a drug which enhances their feminine charms.
Here's where things get tricky from the broader, cross-generational perspective. Without the drug, the women aren't so much ugly as ordinary looking and it would seem the men around them can imagine nothing more horrible. In the end, one of the women, Eve, is given a placebo but is able to project the same beauty by virtue of her own self-assurance. That's a little better, I suppose, but the whole concept left me feeling icky. So, not a big fan of this particular episode.
Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) was born Grace Dell Nichols on December 28, 1932 in Robbins, Illinois. A triple threat - actor, singer and dancer, Nichols got her big break on Broadway, appearing in the 1961 musical Kicks and Co. As a musician, she toured with both Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton. Her film debut came as an uncredited extra in a 1959 production of Porgy and Bess. Her first television appearance was on Gene Roddenberry's first series, The Lieutenant. In her autobiography, Nichols admitted to a long affair with Roddenberry during the 1960s.
Nichols was a genuine television pioneer, one of the first African American women cast in a major television series as someone other than a servant. Apparently, she was tempted to leave Trek during the first season in order to get back to her stage career. None other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., evidently a fan of the show, talked her into staying. He convinced her of her importance as a role model.
One of my favorite Trek scenes from my current stroll was in "Charlie X," I believe. In a high stress moment, Kirk snaps at Uhura and she snaps right back. In the midst of the crisis, the two of them stare at each other for a beat, then both apologize, quite sincerely. It is a wonderfully genuine, tender, human exchange - the sort of moment that provides yet another clue as to the enduring appeal of Star Trek.