Over the weekend I caught an episode of Star Trek on G4. It was Mudd’s Women from the original Star Trek series. In this episode, we meet instellar rogue Harry Mudd who, it turns out, is essentially selling women to be the wives of rich men. This is an old favorite of mine because Mudd is an interesting scoundrel and the episode is dripping with 60’s-ish sex appeal, provided you see the uncut episode. I’ve seen this one probably dozens of times, but this weekend’s showing presented me with something new to think about.
It suddenly occured to me that the episode was framing marriage as a way to claim ownership of women. The thought struck me in the scene where Kirk tells one the miners that his buddies have already married the two other women, who it turns out are a lot more fun than Eve, the one he just rescued. He’s actually pissed for two reasons, one the women’s looks are fake, the result of an illegal drug, and two, his buddies have already claimed the best ones! Marriage as a way to claim women is such an old fashioned and quaint notion, that I can’t help but wonder if this was a part of the original script. I mean really, would a bunch of coarse, wealthy dilithium miners in the boonies really think it necessary to marry a bunch of obvious gold diggers in order to have a good time with them? Probably not. But was this something that the network censors forced on them, or was it really part of the message of the episode concerning the plight of women in contemporary times. All of the women came from relatively desperate situations, but surely 300 years from now there would be better options than marrying wealthly men. In the present time, nearly 40 years removed from the original broadcast of Mudd’s Women, things are better for women in the developed countries, but in much of the world opportunities for women continue to be elusive. And in many societies, including the U.S., the debate continues over exactly what rights women should have at all. Something as fundamental as women’s rights should not be the subject of debate, nevertheless from abortion and contraception, to breast ironing and declining birthrates in Europe and Japan, the story is not yet over.