The Original Series
Disc No :
First Aired :
13 Oct 1966
An editing error in this episode shows McCoy in sick bay at the same time that he's meant to be in the transporter room.
Great Moment :
Ruth's speech to Gossett about what he should really want in a woman.
Body Count :
Although a lithium cracking station is shown in "Where No Man Has Gone Before", this episode is the first to show that the ship uses "lithium" crystals in its engines. These would later be replaced by the famous "dilithium" crystals.
The episode was to contain a scene in which Harry tries to convince Uhura to take the Venus drug. It was thought too long and wordy and was dropped.
The Enterprise is in pursuit of an unregistered J cargo ship. The ship overheats its engines trying to flee, and heads into an asteroid field. Kirk extends the Enterprise shields around the ship to prevent it from being destroyed, but the massive power drain shatters three of the crucial lithium crystal circuits. They just about manage to beam four people off the cargo ship before an asteroid smashes into it.
The four rescued crew comprise a man, Leo Francis Walsh, and three young, very attractive women - Eve McHuron, Magda Kovacs, and Ruth Bonaventure. Wlash states that the women are being transported to a mining planet as wives for the male miners there. He blames the Enterprise and Kirk for the loss of his vessel, stating that he only ran out of fear that they were hostile. Kirk confines him to quarters pending a hearing.
Scotty reports that they have a single lithium crystal remaining, and even that one has a hairline crack and might give out at any moment. Replacements are needed urgently, so the ship heads to the nearby mining colony on Rigel XII. In his quarters Walsh advises the three women not to lie when asked questions, but not to submit to any medical examination aboard the ship. At the inquiry they volunteer that they were bound for the mine on Ophiucus III, each having left a world where the prospects for marriage are slim. Walsh himself proves to be lying about his identity, as his name is really Harcourt Fenton Mudd - a known criminal who has convictions for smuggling, transporting stolen goods, and purchasing of a space vessel with counterfeit currency. Psychiatric treatment was ineffective in curing his criminal ways. Since he has no ship's master's license Kirk decides to detain him until he can be handed to the authorities.
The final lithium crystal gives out. Harry learns of the Rigel XII destination and muses that the men there will also need wives, which will work to their benefit given the wealth lithium miners are known for. It might even net enough money for Harry to buy his way out of trouble.
The women use their beauty to learn some details about the miners, and are able to secure a communicator to contact them. But when visiting Harry in his quarters, all three women begin to suddenly lose their looks and youth. Harry gives each woman a small pill which rapidly restores their appearance.
The ship arrives at the planet only to find the miners demanding to Mudd's women and all charges against him dropped as the price for their crystals. Kirk is furious, but he appears to have no choice - the ship will become a dead hulk within hours unless he can secure the crystals. Everybody beams down, but the miners seem in no hurry to pass the crystals over - they are too busy enjoying the company of the women. Ruth and Magda are very popular, leaving Eve - the oldest of the three - feeling left out. She becomes angry and flees onto the harsh surface of the planet. The miner Childress goes to find her, as the officers return to the ship.
Childress returns to his dwelling with Eve, and the two begin to bond. When her looks once more begin to fade Childress is amazed; as Kirk and Spock arrive she confesses that Harry has been giving them a drug which makes them more beautiful, albeit temporarily. Childress is angry at the deception but Eve angrily points out that there is more to a real relationship than physical attraction, before taking the pill and becoming beautiful once more, asking bitterly if this is what Childress really wants. Kirk reveals that he switched Eve's pills for a placebo, and she is only perceived as more beautiful because of the self confidence it gave her. Childress and Eve decide to stay together and he gives Kirk the crystals the Enterprise needs to continue operating.
Bit of a mixed bag, this one. On the one hand, it's not unusual for frontier societies to generate areas with odd demographics - serious imbalance between young and old, male and female, etc. Historically it is known for people to do things like import women into heavily male communities, so that strand of the episode is indeed defensible. Why not, if it's what all involved want? However, in a modern context it comes across as horribly sexist. It paints a picture of Eve and the others as being so desperate for husbands that they are willing to uproot and move to find one - and that any
husband will do.
Further, this isn't something they can arrange for themselves. Rather, they are transported by a man who sells them pretty much as one might sell inanimate cargo. He even refers
to them as cargo, right in front of them!
Again, it's not that there's really anything inherently wrong with taking a woman to find a husband in principle... if a woman wants
desperately to be married that's a perfectly valid desire, but the episode doesn't really present this as just something they could do or not do, as they please. Rather it's implied that if they don't do it they will be unfulfilled, incomplete. Are husbands not so much desired as required
in this society? And there's nothing wrong with somebody acting as an agent to hook up hopeful men with hopeful women, either - there are any number of people who do just that today via websites of one sort or another. But again, it's more how the idea is used than anything, with the implication being that this is only a step or so short of slavery. Just imagine a dating website that arranged your travel and got you half way there only to say "Hey, I can't get you all the way there, but here's a random rich guy now - marry him instead!"
It all comes across as very much the kind of story that looked bad even in the 60s, and looked at through the lens of today's standards it can be quite awkward to watch.
That said, kudos goes to the episode for having Eve standing up for the idea that looks aren't the important thing. Her impassioned speech towards the end is at least part right, and a welcome note to the episode. However, one can't help but notice that even here she puts forth the idea of a gorgeous wife as being somebody who is "Selfish, vain, useless." whilst a plain wife can be somebody who can "cook and sew and cry and need". Um, where does it follow that a beautiful woman must be selfish, vain and useless? Or that a plain or even ugly woman must not be? Admittedly one can argue that a woman who spent all her time on her looks must be pretty vain to do so, and would be less useful for the time so spent, but even so, what kind of argument is that? Take... oh, Angelina Jolie. Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, if not the most beautiful. And yet she donates considerable time and money as a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, along with being active in various other humanitarian causes. She's more recently become a Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner António Guterres, working to facilitate long-term solutions for people displaced by large-scale crises, such as Afghanistan and Somalia. Oh, and she's also adopted children out of the third world to make them part of her own family. Could you get any further away from being selfish, vain and useless?
Eve talks a good game in some ways, but in reality she's promoting the exact same stereotype that everyone else is using, just from the opposite side. It's especially strange as Eve is talking about herself both times - is she saying that she
will automatically become selfish and useless if she takes the pill? Or that her normal caring and loving personality is a direct result of her not being beautiful? Surely this is just nonsensical!
Regarding the Venus drug... well, what can we say? It's a rather absurd idea that couldn't really work, but at the end of the day it's a plot device that you just have to accept and move on. However, whilst no doubt a beautiful woman can turn heads, can we really believe that one can leave a man as a gormless idiot the way we see it here? They're practically drooling on the floor!
It falls down even worse with the idea that, having accepted that a magic pill can make a woman look so gorgeous, simply having self confidence can do the same. This is clumsy and rather absurd - self confidence can't radically change your physical appearance! It would have been subtler to keep the women looking the same throughout, but just claim that the drug made them feel a lot sexier themselves, or emit an aura that made men go ga-ga with lust or something. Put the change in the mental sphere rather than physical, so that the pill or the confidence make the woman attractive despite the wrinkles, rather than erasing them - then the conclusion can follow. As it is, that idea they go with just looks kind of trite.