The world of “Star Trek” was created by the mind of Gene Roddenberry. The ‘Creator’ of the franchise had a few rules, which he laid out in the various series bibles or technical handbooks, which the writers had to adhere to.
Among the more famous of Roddenberry’s rules was that humanity had evolved beyond the need for religion. This rule would be challenged repeatedly, and after the Creator’s death, the most religious of all the Trek shows, “Deep Space Nine,” aired for seven successful seasons. This seemed to be fine, though, as it was the Bajorans who worshipped the Wormhole Aliens and not the Starfleet officers.
One of his other and perhaps lesser-known rules was that he wanted no space pirates. This rule was broken many times in many series. “The Next Generation” featured a pirate episode — “The Outrageous Okona,” which starred Billy Campbell. That was the episode that also featured actress Teri Hatcher. Okona was obviously a pirate and appeared as a DJ on the animated “Star Trek: Lower Decks.”
Dredd Pirate Mudd
But perhaps the most famous space smuggler of them all appeared twice on “The Original Series.” Harcourt Fenton Mudd, as played by actor Roger C. Carmel, teased, lied, and tortured Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and the rest of the Enterprise crew. These episodes, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd,” are classics by all accounts.
The character of Mudd was created by writer Stephen Kandel. According to Memory Alpha, he said that Mudd was modeled after Profesor Marvel — the traveling salesman seen at the start of “The Wizard of Oz” — according to Memory Alpha.
Mudd was so beloved that Kandel was invited by D.C. Fontana to write another episode with the character. This was a bit different, as it would be for “The Animated Series.” For “Mudd’s Passion,” the rogue smuggler used a love potion to wreak havoc.
Carmel died in 1986, and the character was recast for “Star Trek: Discovery.” This time, Mudd was portrayed by Rainn Wilson, known worldwide as Dwight K. Schrute from the American version of “The Office” television series.
Wilson’s version of Mudd appeared in two episodes of “Discovery” and one episode of “Star Trek: Short Treks.”
Walter Koenig enjoyed ‘Mudd’ episodes
“The Original Series” alumnus Walter Koenig, who played Ensign Pavel Chekov, said that he especially enjoyed the Mudd episodes. In a video made in 1996 for a release of TOS on VHS cassette, Koenig recalled that “I, Mudd” allowed Chekov to show off his humorous side.
“‘I, Mudd’ was one of the four episodes I most enjoyed doing,” said Koenig for the video. “It was the first time that Chekov was invested with a sense of humor, and it was great fun to play the swooning ensign in the presence of so many gorgeous android ladies.”
“It was a particular delight to be working with Roger C. Carmel, who was Mudd,” said Koenig. “He was one of those larger-than-life people who was always ‘switched on.’ So entertaining to have around.”
Koenig also said that there was talk of the Mudd spin-off series.
“As it happened with the previous season’s Harry Mudd episode, audience reaction was very good,” said Koenig. “Network NBC wanted him to be seen again, not just in another Mudd episode, but a spin-off featuring Harry Mudd in a television show all of his own.”
“They wanted Gene to develop the lovable interstellar rouge and bring the series outline to them,” Koenig said on the video. “At the time, Gene was so busy with ‘Star Trek’ and several other projects that he could not find the time to play with the premise. Reluctantly, he let the series idea die.”
Carmel on the Mudd Show
A funny thing happened after the show folded. There was a party at the studio because Herb Solow was leaving Desilu. He’s a very nice fellow, one of the few big TV and film executives I’ve ever felt really warmly toward. They were giving him a going-away party, and I went to it.
Gene Roddenberry was there, and we started talking, and Gene said, “It’s a shame that series thing for you never worked out.”
I said, “What series thing?”
He said, “Oh, didn’t you know? Well, after the successful Harry Mudd episodes, NBC wanted to know if I would develop a spin-off series for you starring the Harry Mudd character. A space pirate, intergalactic con-man kind of thing.”
“My God, Gene, I didn’t know anything about that! What happened?”
He said, “Well, the artists didn’t have enough time to develop it.”
And of course, you couldn’t blame Gene; he didn’t want to let somebody take it off in a direction he didn’t approve of. Since he didn’t have time to handle it all, the Mudd series project died. But it was a real blow to me because that was the first time I had heard of it. But what a great chance that would have been for me to star in my own spin-off series.