Saturday, November 05, 2016
Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle: "Tarzan and the City of the Gold" (September 11, 1976)
“The jungle. Here I was born. And here my parents died when I was but an infant. I would have soon perished too had I not been found by a kindly she-ape named Kala, who adopted me as her own. And taught me the ways of the wild.
Now I share the friendship and trust of all jungle animals. The jungle is filled with beauty…this is my domain…for I am Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle.” - The opening narration to Filmation’s Tarzan (1976).
Commencing in the fall of 1976, Filmation began airing on Saturday mornings an animated series called Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle. Although from its second year forward, the Tarzan show was part of an omnibus hour, the first season consisted of sixteen half-hour episodes devoted totally to the Lord of the Jungle. In total, Filmation produced 36 episodes involving Tarzan.
Remarkably, Filmation’s version of the material was one of the most faithful ever produced and even developed plot-lines direct from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ literary series.
Tarzan himself was the educated, well-spoken man imagined by Burroughs, and did not follow in the semi-articulate manner of the early Weismuller Tarzans.
Jane did not appear as a regular on this series, and Tarzan’s most frequent on-screen companion is a tiny monkey named N’Kima, a character also taken from the literary adventures.
The Animated Series features an opening montage that recounts Tarzan’s origin (excerpted above), depicting his burned-out jungle home (where his parents died) and his rescue at the hands of a friendly she-ape, Kala.
Because animation allows a writer to travel almost literally anywhere, the Filmation Tarzan is rich in the “lost civilization” or “lost cities” Tarzan trope, taking the characters to a gold metropolis and to a kingdom of Vikings, among other exotic locations. It's a very busy, very populated jungle.
Throughout the series, Tarzan is a steadfast voice for the persecuted, standing up to Queens and other rulers, and always fighting for the weak, or champion-less.
He also has a special technique when facing hostile animals. He fights against them for a bit, and then tells them, in friendly terms, to surrender…to leave. They always obey his entreaties, realizing they have picked the wrong battle.
The series’ first episode, aired on September 11, 1976, is titled “Tarzan and the City of Gold” and is an adaptation of sorts of the Burroughs book of the same name, first published in April of 1932. The book is the sixteenth in the original Tarzan continuity and involves Tarzan’s encounter with a gold city, and its tyrannical ruler, Queen Nemone.
In the episode, that gold city is named Zandor, and Tarzan first encounters it while on a trek to take home a lost maiden, Thia, from the neighboring city of Athne.
Once captured in Zandor, Tarzan is forced to fight in the gladiatorial games against a warrior named Phobeg (Ted Cassidy).
Tarzan refuses to kill Phobeg in the arena, and so Phobeg befriends him. This turn of events qualifies the episode as a “My Enemy, My Ally”-type story, which I have written about in regards to Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Enemy”), and Planet of the Apes (“The Trap”) to name just two variations of the tale. In narratives of this type, the most committed of enemies become friends, or at least work together towards common cause.
The episode culminates with Tarzan and Thia escaping custody -- with Phobeg’s help -- on a chariot. Thia is then returned home to Athne, and Tarzan returns to his jungle, where N’Kima awaits.
I’ve been watching a number of Filmation animated series from the late seventies and early eighties recently (namely season two of Flash Gordon and Blackstar), and it is a delight to report that Tarzan is pitched at a higher level, and seems a bit less slapdash.
First, there’s the commitment to creating Tarzan and his world as Burroughs envisioned it, even if some of the details are altered slightly.
And secondly, the art work is rendered well. There are some beautiful vistas here, both of the jungle and various fantasy domains.
This doesn’t feel like a cheap attempt to strip mine a popular brand, but a legitimate attempt to introduce a new generation to the adventures of Tarzan. Not all the episodes are great, and there's a fair amount of moralizing (a constant in 1970s Saturday morning television), but many of the stories are exciting and well-rendered.
In “The Past is Not Forever,” The Elders contact Mentor (Les Tremayne) and Billy (Michael Gray) and warn Batson of a vulnerable spot he may have; a vulnerability not of the body, but of the mind.
Meanwhile, in a nearby town, a boy named Jackie (Greg Mabrey) who once committed a robbery is accused of robbing a gas station. In fact, he has been framed by his girlfriend’s (Carol Anne Selflinger) brother, Vinnie (Jack McCulloch).
Billy and Mentor attempt to clear Jackie’s name, but Vinnie is determined for the young man to be sent to jail. He arranges for Jackie’s fingerprints to get on the stolen lock-box.
Fortunately, Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick) arrives to save the day, as a fire starts. Vinnie is apprehended by the police, but Mentor and Billy decide to hang around in town for a while, just in case anything bad happens.
“The Past is Not Forever” sets up a two-part arc culminating in the story “The Gang’s All Here.” The narrative involves someone with a criminal record who cannot live down that record. Every time there is a crime, Jackie is suspected of being guilty. In other words, Jackie can’t get a fair shake.
This story points out the necessity of giving people a second chance, and not assuming the worst of people just because of past history.
In truth, Vinnie is a horrible guy, and he’s out to hurt Mellie, and Jackie. There are a couple of moments in the episode where Billy and Mentor are menaced by Vinnie and his gang, and these interludes feel, oddly, pretty suspenseful. Most episodes of Shazam! are pretty innocuous, but this one actually feels a little disturbing because Vinnie is so malevolent. He isn’t even really bothered by the presence of Captain Marvel. He's a sociopath. Ya dig?
The "You dig" joke there arises from the episode's dialogue. Vinnie uses the phrase to silence his enemies, and then Captain Marvel uses it, when blocking Vinnie from attacking Jackie.
This episode (and the last one too…) have also featured a bit more comedic bantering between Billy and Mentor, and certainly, the back-and-forth makes the narrative feel a little less preachy.
Here, Billy and Mentor fight over what to watch on TV. Billy wants to watch a movie. Mentor wants to watch a baseball game. When Billy turns into Captain Marvel -- the first time we have seen him undertake this transformation on a whim, or for a joke – the argument is settled.
A superhero always wins, right?
Next week: "The Gang's All Here."
Friday, November 04, 2016
The final Irwin Allen sci-fi TV initiative of the 1960s, Land of the Giant (1968 - 1970) ran for two seasons and fifty-one hour-long episodes on ABC, and involved a group of desperate castaways trapped on a dangerous world of gigantic humanoids and other over-sized threats.
The first episode of Land of the Giants, written by Anthony Wilson and directed by Irwin Allen, "Crash" commences on the far future date of June 12, 1983.
A sub-orbital ship, The Spindrift, encounters "solar turbulence" upon final sub-orbital approach to London. Before long, the small vessel crashes on a strange world, and the crew and passengers encounter the peculiar dangers of this planet, namely giant spiders, cats, lizards...and (apparently) humans.
The Spindrift crew contingent includes Gary Conway as Captain Steve Burton (Gary Conway), co-pilot Dan Erickson (Don Marshall), and Betty (Heather Young), the stewardess or flight attendant.
The passengers include the Dr. Smith-like trouble-maker, Alexander Fitzhugh (Kurt Kaszner), a young boy, Barry (Stefan Arngrim), the beautiful Valerie (Deanna Lund), and an impatient businessman, Mark Wilson (Don Matheson).
The passengers include the Dr. Smith-like trouble-maker, Alexander Fitzhugh (Kurt Kaszner), a young boy, Barry (Stefan Arngrim), the beautiful Valerie (Deanna Lund), and an impatient businessman, Mark Wilson (Don Matheson).
In "Crash," Steve and Valerie are captured while exploring the jungle surrounding the downed Spindrift and abducted to a laboratory inside a scientist's (Dan Watters) insect specimen container.
The alien scientist -- a dead ringer for a young George Lucas -- discovers his unusual trophies, and straps the helpless captives to specimen slides, where he prods the helpless humans with scalpel and pencil.
In short order, Dan and Mark engineer a rescue, exploding a gas line in the giant's laboratory as a distraction.
All together once more, the Spindrift team takes refuge in a garbage dump, even as an angry dog nears...
Like much of Irwin Allen's work in cult television, Land of the Giants is long on production values and action, and short on inventive character development or social commentary. Here, in the premiere episode, the same existential threat repeats again and again. In "The Crash," our heroes are endangered by one gigantic creature after another, which leaves the women screaming in terror.
It gets a bit old before even the first hour is over...
Despite the relative emptiness of the narrative in terms of stock characters and villains, "Crash" remains quite an accomplishment in terms of special effects and production design. The mist-enshrouded jungle studio set, for example, is colossal, and more-than-convincing for its day.
Additionally, it's important to recall that Land of the Giants was crafted well before the age of CGI and digital effects, so the over-sized sets and props all had to be constructed, and then meticulously matched with "regular"-sized live-action footage. By and large, the special effects haven't aged very much at all, and are still incredibly effective. This is as it should be: each episode of Land of the Giants was budgeted at a then-whopping $250,000 dollars.
Sometimes, the strong effects actually do create high drama. Good tension arises in "Crash," for instance, when the George Lucas lookalike giant pursues the escaping Earthers to a small gutter, and then stretches his arm into the tunnel after them, shouting "come back." The scene represents a dazzling and effective blend of viewpoints and effect techniques.
In terms of the continuing series, "Crash" also sets the tenor for Land of the Giants. Here, Steve and Valerie quickly debate about whether or not they should attempt peaceful communication with the planet's giants. Valerie wants to try, but Steve insists they will merely be treated as "six inch tall" freaks.
Very rapidly, it is Steve's view of things that legitimized by the events of the episode, since even a scientist is not inclined to treat the tiny people very well.
By episode's end, the castaways from the Spindrift, including Barry's dog, Chipper, end up at "the bottom of the barrel," a garbage dump, and encounter a vicious dog there. Already the die is cast: this is a world of danger, and the giants are to be treated as enemies.
Over the course of two years, Land of the Giants presented much information (some of it contradictory, if memory serves) about the planet of the Giants. The Giants, for instance, had an awareness of Earth's existence and were also conscious that transit between the two worlds was possible. Yet, at the same time, the giants did not seem to be as technologically-advanced as Earth of 1983. Various episodes of the series saw the castaways either attempting to repair their ship and leave the dangerous planet, or effect change on the planet itself, which seemed to be ruled by a repressive totalitarian state.
I grew up watching Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space, but not The Time Tunnel or Land of the Giants. Accordingly, I find the latter two programs a bit difficult to "get into" today, and even a bit empty in terms of ideas, characters and situations. In short, I admire how Land of the Giants looks in terms of design and execution, but that isn't enough to keep me tuned in for the full fifty-one hours.
Rather, I see Land of the Giants as intriguing because it fits entirely Allen's basic formula in science fiction television: showcasing, essentially, how technology can go wrong, stranding people in time, outer space, or other hostile environmental domains.
In at least three of Allen's programs -- excluding Voyage -- the technologically-superior people end up forsaking the advanced tools of technology to "live off the land," more or less, and embrace a more primitive, pioneer life-style. I suspect Allen's TV work looks this way, in part, because of the popularity of the Western genre on television in the 1960s.
But also, as you can detect in many Star Trek episodes of the day ("The Ultimate Computer," for instance), there existed a general distrust of technological progress in the late 1960s, mainly in the form of computers and automation. I submit that Lost in Space, Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants all key off both the rampant techno-phobia of the decade while also hoping, contrarily, to tap the "Camelot"-styled optimism of the age as well. These two opposing impulses make Allen's series somewhat schizophrenic, but also damn interesting, at least on a broad, analytical level.
Thursday, November 03, 2016
I had an English teacher in high school -- a very long time ago -- who insisted that my sophomore class read classic short-story after classic short-story.
That teacher, Mrs. Pfaus, introduced me to Carl Stephenson’s classic work “Leiningen vs. The Ants,” and so today, some thirty years later, I want to officially thank her for that. It’s one of my all-time favorite tales. I have never forgotten it, and I have read the story many times in the years since I was a student.
As you may know, the story of “Leiningen vs. The Ants” is an adventurous one set in the Brazilian rain forest at the turn of the last century.
There, a resourceful if inscrutable plantation owner named Leiningen must use his intelligence and cunning to defeat a swarm of army ants bound for his land. Much of the story focuses on the chess game between man and insect, as each vies for supremacy.
The short story, first published in Esquire in 1938, was adapted to film by sci-fi producer George Pal and director Byron Haskin as The Naked Jungle in 1954. Like the short story, the movie is (rightfully) considered something of a classic too. I introduced my eight year old son Joel to it this week because it has always been a personal favorite.
Unlike the literary tale,the George Pal film adds personal dimension to this remarkable man vs. nature narrative. The main protagonist becomes not snarly, difficult Leiningen (Charlton Heston), but rather a sincere, independent mail order bride, Joanna Selby (Eleanor Parker), who comes to live with the plantation owner on his land. During the course of the film, she must contend with a whole new world, a grave threat, and a man very much set in his ways.
The shift in the story’s focus might sound questionable to some, but it actually works wonders in terms of improving and illuminating the source material. Although readers of the story may miss the meticulous details of Leiningen’s brilliant counter-punches against the ants (using decoys, bridges, and moats, for example), they gain something else entirely: a movie-long comparison between human and insect intelligence.
The late movie critic, Bosley Crowther (1905 – 1981) -- writing in the New York Times -- observed that the film actually features two wars: Leiningen vs. the Ants, and Leiningen vs. his Vanity. This insight helps one understand well the value of the central love story. Leiningen is a man and leader who -- through his rigid determination -- has actually re-shaped the harsh and dangerous landscape to his desires and specifications.
Yet, despite this accomplishment, he is bound by human flaws such as insecurity, and an inferiority complex. He can't overcome his own biases and foibles. His stubborn nature, his single-mindedness makes him unfit to adapt. It doesn't serve him in a way that makes him happy.
The ants -- working as a relentless, perfectly coordinated army -- have no time or energy for such personal crises. They eat and march, eat and march, and afford no wasted movement for concepts such as self or individuality. They succeed by their single-mindedness and their communal goals, whereas humans can't say the same.
In the end, The Naked Jungle observes, the ants may be relentless and coordinated, but a human who loves, -- and who is inspired -- can still find the wherewithal to defeat them.
“In the jungle, man is just another animal.”
In the year 1901, Joanna Selby (Parker) of New Orleans agrees to be the bride of a plantation owner Christopher Leiningen (Heston) in the South American jungle.
“A long way from civilization,” Leiningen has spent his entire adulthood beating back nature, creating a world where he wields “the power of a king.” He has over 400 laborers on his estate, and answers to no one.
But he’s lonely and isolated, hence his decision to marry.
Joanna’s first meeting with Christopher does not go well, however. He is surly and demanding, and is alarmed to discover that Joanna is a widow…meaning that she has been with another man. Refusing to take “used” or “second-hand” goods, he orders Joanna to return to America on the next available boat.
But before she can do so, a local commissioner (William Conrad) reports to Leiningen of a terror headed directly toward the plantation: soldier ants, or Marabunta.
It has been twenty-seven years since these insects last went on the march, and the commissioner describes the invading troops as “forty square miles of agonizing death.”
Although others plan to evacuate and flee the ants, Leiningen plans instead for war, to defend the land he carved out of the wild.
And he finds, to his surprise, that he needs Joanna at his side.
Not just to convince his laborers that they must remain and fight, but to advise him and provide counsel as he takes on the battle of his life.
“The jungle is corrosive. It swallows up everything.”
The first factor, perhaps, to understand about The Naked Jungle is that it doesn’t mirror modern socio-political or cultural viewpoints. It is a product of its time, and, furthermore, it depicts a period in history that isn't exactly known for its sense of social justice.
In particular, The Naked Jungle is historically accurate in the sense that it concerns a Western white man of 1901 using indigenous people as laborers on his South American plantation. The workers aren’t exactly slaves, but they aren’t exactly free men, either. The movie makes no effort to argue for or against this colonial social set-up. So I suppose some contemporary viewers might take offense at the depiction of the natives as frightened, superstitious people in need of rescue by a white, messianic, paternal figure (the perfectly-cast Heston).
But I would argue, in this case, however, it is not necessary to apply modern belief systems to a story set in a period when colonialism was, for better or worse, a part of human life.
In terms of modern appeal, The Naked Jungle does much better with its understanding of sex issues, and sex roles. The main character -- the first character we meet -- is Joanna, and she is a fully-dimensional, heroic character.
Because the film commences with her first visit to South America, we identify with Joanna. Like her, we have never traveled these rivers, walked these lands, seen these plantations, or met the local people. It is all new to us, and like her, we experience both culture shock and empathy. She thus functions strongly as the audience's surrogate, helping us to understand how things work in Leinengen's world.
Importantly, Joanna is no shrinking violet, and throughout the film she goes toe-to-toe with Leiningen without ever seeming mean or hostile. Indeed, the audience is firmly on her side from moment one. For example, Joanna defines herself as an explorer on a search or quest. After the death of her husband, she wanted something different from life, and so undertook this adventure to another continent. In doing so, she has been forthright, honest, courageous, and determined.
But she meets a man who, because of his own failings, can’t accept her or these particular qualities. The movie tip-toes around the issue in a 1950s sort-of-way, but The Naked Jungle is very much about a man who has no experience with women.
Leiningen is a virgin -- and Joanna is not -- and so he can’t stand the fact that his would-be wife has more experience than he does. In short, he is fearful and suspicious because Joanna knows more about love-making. She has an advantage over him, in this terrain. He may know the Rio Negro, or the lands of South America, but she understands male-female interaction. She understands something he does not.
Importantly, Joanna does nothing to make Leiningen feel bad or inadequate about this issue. It’s his own problem, his own vanity, that causes the character crisis. He can’t accept that anyone -- even a spouse -- could know more about something than he might. Thus the naked jungle of the title is the one that the ants devour and leave bare, but also the naked jungle of sexual relationships. Leinengen feels inadequate, and he has nowhere he can hide that feeling. He takes out his anger on Joanna.
Christopher couches his insecurities in discussions, insultingly, of "used goods." He has a piano, for instance, that he brought up the river and was never played before Joanna touched it. He wants a wife like that. One who arrives…unused.
But as we scratch the surface of Leiningen’s fears, we see that what truly scares him is the possibility that he might not know as much about sex as his wife does. How can he be the big man -- the king of the jungle -- when he knows so little?
The movie makes us ponder Leiningen’s stubbornness. For years -- decades perhaps -- this stubbornness has been the very thing that has kept him alive. It has been the thing that has kept him going when sane, normal men would have abandoned the land. But Leinengen was stubborn and obtuse, and he has built an Empire because of those qualities.
Of course, it would benefit Leinengen immensely to give up his stubbornness -- the strong tree bends, rather than breaking, after all -- since Joanna is a remarkable person, and someone who is his equal in terms of intelligence and determination. He is sad and feels empty not because he is strong...but because he is lonely. He needs a companion. But The Naked Jungle’s point is that stubbornness, and indeed vanity, are human traits; ones that may not always benefit us in the long run.
And in strong contrast to the humans in the film loom the ants, the Marabunta.
With them, it’s all for one, and one for all. When they cannot cross a river, for example, they team up and carry leaves to the river's edge, using the plants as transportation, as rafts. And when they decide on a goal or a path, nothing can stand in their way. There is no contemplation of a single ant's needs, or individual flaws.
Oppositely, it’s clear that Leiningen -- at least in matters of the heart -- stands in his own way. His own stubbornness makes it impossible for him to see Joanna for the remarkable individual that she is. He is, at times, dangerously close to becoming a fool.
But the lesson Leiningen learns from Joanna is that he must not be trapped by an all-or-nothing world view. For example: either Joanna is how he imagined she would be, or she is worthless. Leiningen comes to see this is not so; that the world need not be reduced to such a binary choice. And in the last hour of the war with the ants, he realizes that he can still beat them, but that he must give up the valley that he reclaimed from the river to do so.
He floods the river, destroys his crop, but still has a base upon which to rebuild. "I'm giving back everything I took," he declares. "Now, we fight."
The Naked Jungle is only about 95 minutes long. The first hour or so is all character-building as Joanna and Leiningen dance suspiciously around each other. But the last 30 minutes consists of non-stop ant attacks and a special effect showcase (using matte paintings and other tools of the 1950s) to depict the onslaught of the insects.
For me, the mix is not antiquated or old fashioned, as you might expect, but just about right on a human scale. By the time that we reach the last act and the pitched battle with the soldier ants, you will feel completely invested in the outcome. The movie features characters you care about.
And the action scenes don’t disappoint, either, unless you’ve become accustomed to CGI impossibilities. Furthermore, the film develops an escalating sense of suspense a little at a time. For a long while, the ants aren't seen at all. Then, we see their handiwork, in terms of corpses and strip-mined fields.
But the creepiest scene of all involves no ants on screen at all...only silence. Leiningen and Joanna emerge from a tent in the jungle because it has gone creepily, totally silent outside. All the wild life is gone.
The Marabunta are on the march, and the silence of the jungle is downright unsettling.
In turns romantic, scary, and spectacular, The Naked Jungle is one of those great classic (old?) Hollywood movies that more people should seek out.
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
Tuesday, November 01, 2016
An android named Norman (Richard Tatru) -- who is masquerading as a crewman -- takes over the Enterprise and sends it into orbit of a distant planet.
On the surface, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and his landing party encounter criminal and scoundrel Harcourt Fenton Mudd (Roger C. Carmel) there. Harry is now the absolute ruler of a planet of 200,000 humanoid androids, all obligated to obey his every whim.
Mudd plots to bring the Enterprise crew to the surface and steal Kirk’s ship.
Captain Kirk has other plans, however, and along with Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Bones (DeForest Kelley), Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Scotty (James Doohan) and Chekov (Walter Koenig) launches a campaign of “illogic” against the androids, hoping to short-circuit them.
I suppose there’s nothing wrong with getting a little silly now and again, and “I, Mudd” must surely qualify as one of the silliest Star Trek episodes of all-time.
The regular cast members get to cut-loose and have fun here, doing shtick and playing out games of illogic. It’s campy fun, and that means that the tongue is knowingly planted firmly-in-cheek. The actors seem to have a good time with the off-kilter, atypical material.
And “I, Mudd” also features a genuinely great character moment for Uhura.
At one point, she appears to betray Captain Kirk so she can benefit from an android body and attain immortality. The moment is played perfectly by Nichols, and, of course, just a ruse on Uhura’s part.
But it’s a delicious one.
I love the moment wherein Kirk seems to get angry at Uhura, and then embraces her instead. I wish the original series had more good moments like this one for both Uhura and Nichols.
Other than that memorable moment, I would argue that “I, Mudd” is not a great episode of Star Trek. It’s a lark -- and fine on that basis -- but this surely isn’t one of the top twenty (or top fifty?) episodes I’d recommend to someone setting out to watch the show for the first time today.
For one thing, I’m not a big fan of Harry Mudd, or his style of villainy/comedy. He's over-the-top, two-dimensional, and cartoony.
And I tire of stories in which human emotions are deployed to short circuit confused computers or androids.
Why do we get so many tales of this type in Star Trek?
I suppose we like to feel that we are superior to machines, and this episode suggests that by acting irrationally, we can actually defeat them. Human nature beats robot nature.
Yet an episode like “By Any Other Name” covers pretty much the same plot (human emotions overpower aliens!) and does it with much funnier moments. Scotty drinks a Kelvan under the table in that episode, and Kirk gets to seduce an alien beauty. Those moments seem more like character-based jokes than anything we get in “I, Mudd.”
I also hate the sub-plot involving Stella, Harry’s wife. She’s portrayed as a hideous shrew, and a soul-sucking nag, and -- let’s face it -- this portrayal captures the sexism of the 1960s perfectly. She’s the hectoring, strident wife who has driven her husband to the stars, literally. Forget the fact that he's a criminal, a scoundrel, and a drunk. She's the problem, for trying to getting him to act responsibly.
I guess some people might think the portrayal of Stella is amusing, but I agree with her stance: Harry is a pain in the ass. Funny how we are encouraged to laugh at him and forgive him his crimes, while a life with Stella is considered the equivalent of Hell on Earth.
Some of the episode's visuals also haven't aged well. Norman's belly-button circuit box leaps to mind, as does the sight of smoke emanating from his ears, once he's short-circuited. Devoid of a serious story, a clever plot-line, meaningful social commentary, or tension, "I, Mudd" shows much of the program's "seams."
I do often enjoy “funny” Star Trek, particularly the interlude on Earth of 1986 in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, or the gangster planet in “A Piece of the Action.” Typically, however, those stories find laughs from a kind of fish-out-of-water situation. The crew doesn’t understand another culture, and tries its (inadequate) best to fit in.
"I Mudd” isn’t quite in that league, I would submit.
Oh sure, it’s amusing and light, and mostly harmless..,but also instantly forgettable.
It’s hard for me to decide which Mudd episode I like less, actually. I suppose “Mudd’s Women,” at least, had the benefit of that gritty final act on the Rigel mining colony. There, were saw how pioneers of the 23rd century live.
“I, Mudd” doesn’t have anything nearly as interesting as that, though at least Harry isn’t a pimp in this episode, either.
Occasionally, things on the original Star Trek just get a bit too cartoonish for my tastes, and "I, Mudd" is probably the best example of that tendency.
Finally, I find it intriguing that this episode introduces 200,000 humanoid androids and a world of scientific wonders to theuniverse, but that no Trek spin ever returns to these characters or settings.
Even if "I, Mudd" is funny at times, it's clearly a dead end in the franchise.
Next week: "Metamorphosis."