Thursday, 10 November 2016

Star Trek - His Name Is Mudd

Written by Joe Pranevich

Harry Mudd!

Last week, we conquered another episode in the saga that is Star Trek: 25th Anniversary. Thus far, we’ve rescued Federation colonists from fake-demons, saved a hijacked vessel from space pirates, and prevented a genocidal war with the Romulans. I am having a ton of fun so far, even as the interface and puzzles are clunkier than I was expecting. The game loves its source material and as a Star Trek fan I appreciate all of the little details they are getting right. Would a non-fan like the game as much? I don’t know. It’s a wonderful anniversary tribute so far.

This episode begins with Kirk receiving orders to travel to the Harlequin system to rescue a scout ship being harassed by Elasi pirates. I knew they would be back! The library computer tells me the system is a war zone with two inhabited planets, one Elasi-controlled and one Federation-controlled. We head there and provide just enough distraction to enable the scout ship to warp away but that leaves two attackers closing in on the Enterprise. It’s time for the obligatory combat sequence!

Boom! That has to sting.

Unfortunately, the pirates kick my ass over and over again. The strategies that I discussed last week fail against two nimble ships that pound the Enterprise from all sides. When I attack one, the other gets a clean shot on my flank. We can tell the ships apart on the scanner because the dots are different colors, I struggle to keep either of them individually in my sights for very long. They are fast! This episode reinforces my assertion that the Enterprise is ill-suited for dogfights. I die a lot.

After many false-starts, I revise my strategy by flying backwards. The ships are fast, but they do not have have our caliber of weapons or shields. If I fly backwards when they take a run at me, I can trade blows with them easily. I take a ton of damage, but also get in some good hits. I believe that I destroyed one ship that way (but I do not recall getting a message about it) and eventually the second one gives up and runs away. Not my finest hour, but I hope my score is not penalized too much.

A man of mystery and challenging likeness rights

Once the Elasi are gone, we receive a weak message from an old friend: Harry Mudd! He explains that he was having a misunderstanding with the pirates over the sale of some “Mudd’s Miracle Degrimers”. He should know better than to cross pirates! Kirk is none too happy to see his old friend… er… nemesis. Mudd informs us, and Spock agrees, that under Federation law we must assist him as he is a registered trader. During the melee, he fled to the Harrapa system so we set course for there. I check the library computer again and learn that Chameleon, the main planet of the Harrapa system, is under pirate control but trying to break away. That could be fun!

What the heck is that thing?

When we arrive, we discover that the binary star system is affecting our scans. Spock is able to track Mudd to a derelict adrift nearby. The ship is huge and split into six separate areas, but Spock detects only limited life support. Mudd informs us that he had been doing a salvage operation on the derelict under Federation law, although Spock retorts that Mudd filed with the Federation authorities that there was nothing of value on the ship. Harry corrects him to say that he did not believe there was anything of value at the time he filed the paperwork. Kirk decides to beam over to see what the conman is really up to.

And you have been terrible trouble to us...

We arrive in a cargo hold and find Mudd going through some boxes. While doing salvage here, he claims, he discovered devices that can be used to clean the walls. They floated the dirt right off! Naturally he marketed the mysterious devices as industrial degreasers. Not long after he sold some to the pirates, they started tracking him everywhere. I’m suspicious of this story, especially as Mr. Mudd has been moving from one Elasi system to another. Of course, if there is a civil war going on locally, that could make it difficult to find a rogue trader. Mudd also informs us that under Federation law we are not permitted to remove anything from the ship we may find. Everything belongs to him under his salvage rights. I’m sure that won’t come up at all.

Now that the prologue is out of the way, we can explore. The room we are in contains a box of dodecahedrons (which I’m just going to call “spheres” from here on out because that word is easier to type) which Spock identifies as being memory modules of some kind. We also find the “degrimers” that Mudd was pawning and some thumbnail-sized lenses on the ground. The lenses fit the tool perfectly and I can use it to cause random electronics in the room to explode. Neat! I have no idea what that will be useful for, but making random things on the ceiling explode is fun. Kirk says that he now understands why the pirates wanted the degrimers, but I don’t. Are they weapons? That seems like it, but then why were the pirates trying to kill the guy instead of capturing him?

Hey look! More dodec… er… spheres.

With nothing else to do and Harry sifting through his salvage, I head south to find another strange area of the ship. Just as in the previous room, there is a claw on the ceiling and the major motif seems to be giant orange soccer balls. Off to the left, we can see where Mudd’s scout ship has penetrated the hull and installed a temporary airlock. Next to that, a portable life support system chugs away to let the landing party breathe. Spock comments that it is not a particularly good life support system. These spheres, unlike the ones in the hold, appear to be matter/antimatter engines that are reminiscent of those of the ”Hoopooin of Seginus IV”. No, I have no idea what that means, either. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough power to activate anything. Will I have to find a way to turn the power back on?

I mistakenly exit and re-enter the room because I wandered too close to the door and on my return I get a brief cutscene with Mr. Mudd. He appears outside his hatch and tells Kirk that he has to “er… fix something”. He wants to know if we’ve seen a “multipurpose doover” around since he left it someplace. We haven’t, but we have a dialog choice anyway: I can either tell him that I do not know or that I wouldn’t give it to him anyway. I select the latter and Mudd returns to his ship. Of course, just then the life support system starts to shake. I have Spock scan it and he says that it’s about to fail-- we’d better fix it soon. I think I know what the “doover” is for!

I feel like I’m in one of those claw machines.

To find the doover, I have to explore north. The next room we discover is a weapons area. There’s a control panel on the left with triangle buttons that seems like it needs power. Spock believes that the weapons here are similar to phasers and photon torpedoes, but there are also canisters on the ground which he calls “power boosters”. They can be used to boost the range of photon torpedos. Will those come in handy? I find neither a repair tool nor anything I can play with so I keep pushing north.

I’m not sure those beds look very comfortable.

The next room is a medical bay with a monitoring station and dispensary in the center. McCoy gives it a once over but says that he cannot operate the equipment until we learn more about the aliens. Aliens!? What aliens? I have to assume that is a script bug because we haven’t found any aliens yet, but the ship must have been built by someone.

In all this dawdling and exploring, Spock lets us know that life support is down to 75%. Still plenty of time...

Is that a doohickey I see before me?

The final room is apparently the bridge. The viewscreen is closed and chairs are arranged around more triangle-button panels. I do not need to explore for more than a few seconds because Mudd’s repair tool is sitting right on the console. I grab it and beeline back to the life support system. Spock repairs it with plenty of time left. Whew! Once it is fixed, Mudd appears out of his ship, acts like nothing happened, and heads back in again. Pretty pointless. I head back to the bridge to continue exploring.

That sounds like a good idea, actually...

On our way back, we are interrupted by Mr. Mudd once again. He has been exploring the medical bay and fiddling around with the central console. He drops a canister of green liquid and is surrounded by a puff of vapor. Moments later, he is acting even crazier than usual, spouts conspiracy theories, and somehow manages to spin his head 360 degrees. I try to get Doctor McCoy to cure him, but he needs to get him to one of the beds first. I try a bunch of things to calm him down, but in the end it’s an old Star Trek stalwart: I click to “use” Spock on him and he delivers a vulcan nerve pinch. Problem solved! Even once Mudd is in a bed, McCoy remains stuck: he needs to learn more about the aliens before Mudd can be cured.

How can I learn more about the aliens? Let’s try using my memory module! I explore the ship to find somewhere to plug it in-- starting with the bridge. While there, Spock discovers that the two consoles are configured differently. I’m not sure why that is a surprise since Sulu and Chekhov also have different consoles on the Enterprise, but whatever. He also believes that the aliens are fixated on the number six, as well as numbers related to it, especially threes and twelves. Although all of that is fascinating, none of it helps me find a place to plug in my sphere. I keep looking.

Stupid exits.

I’m not going to bore you with the stupid and repetitive task of exploring the whole ship again (and again), clicking on everything, trying to use the sphere on everything, and not finding anything new or interesting to do. It takes me some time, but I eventually realize the “obvious”: there was an exit that I missed. Both from the bridge and the weapons room, you can click off the the side to find a new room. Considering every other room on the station was in a straight line, this hardly seems fair. Go back up and look at those screenshots. Do YOU see a passage west? I sure as heck don’t.

The library has a giant memory sphere and a data screen, currently black. I still can’t plug in my sphere anywhere, but Spock seems to think we can use the power of threes and the tricorders to decipher the data in the spheres… somehow. Honestly, I’m sure exactly what is happening. We learn that the universal translation is offline because the Enterprise is out of range due to interference; that is why we can’t read their language already. I eventually work out that if we use both the medical tricorder and the science tricorder, we are able to work out the basics of the language. (I have no idea what the “three” there is that Spock was referring to earlier.) Now that we know the language, we can use the ship’s controls! But… isn’t the reason we couldn’t use them before a lack of power? Spock also tells us that we should donate these memory spheres to the Kornephoros Life Sciences University for further study.

Searching the library further, we learn that almost all functions except weapons can be managed from the bridge. The power boosters, called “whyos”, increase the range of their weapons but not their strength. Spock is also able to discover that the ship was created by a race called the L’Shaians, lizard people with three pairs of eyes and twelve fingers. That explains their fascination with threes, sixes, and twelves!

Is it a hexclops?

Now that we can read the language, Dr. McCoy can use the medical console. With just a bit of effort, he modifies the drugs to work on humans instead of l’shaians and gives it to Mr. Mudd. That isn’t quite the end of it, but we can use the medical kit on him and he’s cured the rest of the way.

Once Mudd is fine, I head back to the bridge to finish exploring now that I can read the language. There are two consoles, one that I can use as Kirk and another that I can use as Spock. On Kirk’s, we can access the communications or viewscreen. The latter just opens the window but doesn’t show anything unexpected. Communications is similarly a bust as we still have too much interference to reach the Enterprise. Spock has access to sensors, navigation, and engineering controls. Looking at the sensors reveals the next big surprise: the Enterprise is locked in battle with more pirates! While we’ve been exploring, they’ve been fighting and there was no way for us to know. We do have partial engineering function because the pods are gathering energy now, but no navigation. We are dead in the water with no way to aid our comrades… unless I happen to have crazy long-range weapons lying around.

I head back to the weapons room and Spock is able to use the console to load a torpedo into one of the firing mechanisms-- this finally lets us use one of the cranes that have been on the ceiling in every room. Unfortunately, my plan ends before it begins because the main battery has been destroyed; there is no way to fire the weapon. Spock recommends taking it back to the Enterprise but that hardly seems helpful in the circumstances. I get a dialog option where I can either agree with him, disagree, or try to hail the ship. None of them seem to drive the plot forward and hailing fails because of the continuing interference.

I do another round of re-exploring the ship and for some reason-- I have no idea why-- we are able to hail the Enterprise from the bridge. We learn that they have successfully defeated the pirates and everything is going to be okay. We get an option whether or not we want to beam out or talk to Mudd first so I choose to talk. After a few dialog options, Kirk accuses Harry of selling weapons to terrorists and convinces him to donate half of everything to the university that Spock liked. Mudd reluctantly agrees and everyone is happy. We beam out.

He’s always blinking.

Back on the bridge, we engage in some post-mission banter. Uhura has somehow arranged for Mudd’s wife to visit him on a starbase-- he’ll love that! And then we get our call from the admiral and find that we got 100% and 4 commendations! Wow.

I mean “wow” because I have no idea what happened here. Did I just completely misunderstand the plot of the mission? We didn’t help the Enterprise defeat the pirates, we didn’t use the weapon they hinted at since the beginning, and I never found a use for either the memory sphere or the degrimer that I picked up. The hints in the library computer seem to be for another game entirely. When was I supposed to learn that the ship was under attack? Did they not finish coding this mission? All in all, it feels incomplete and to still get 100%... I don’t even know what to say. Loved seeing Harry Mudd, but this was a mess.

Name those references!

Star Trek Trivia
  • Mudd was the only returning villain of the original series. He was in “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd” and references to both can be found here. I was unable to find any references to the animated episode, “Mudd’s Passion”.
  • Stella Mudd was Harry’s strong-willed wife and was never truly seen on the original series, only android replicas on “Mudd’s Women”
  • Starbase 7 was never seen on the original series but can be implied as the Enterprise twice visited the higher-numbered Starbase 11. (It did appear in novels and comics however.)
  • The “universal translator” largely went unmentioned in TOS (it is explored more fully in the spinoffs) but a version was featured in “Metamorphosis”. The fact that the Enterprise needs to be nearby is unusual.
  • The Vulcan neck pinch used on Mr. Mudd was Spock’s signature move and was used several times on the original series (and more sparingly on later shows).
  • When discussing other adventures that must be worse than Harry Mudd, the redshirted security officer references salt vampires (“The Man Trap”), deranged computers (“The Return of the Archons”, “The Changeling”, “The Ultimate Computer”, “That Which Survives”), blood-draining clouds (“Obsession”), cell imploding sirens, and Greek gods (“Who Mourns For Adonais”). Of those I can figure them all out except the sirens. Is that a reference to the animated episode, “The Lorelei Signal”? If so, that’s the first episode of the animated series to be referenced. Kirk replies that he’d rather have dealt with any of those instead of Harry Mudd.


If this episode does take place after an animated one, that puts the whole timeline in a bit of as bind. Both this game and TAS appear to take place in the 4th year of Kirk’s 5-year mission, but the animated show replaced Chekhov with two animated-only characters: M’Ress and Arex. Since our Russian friend is still here, it can’t be later. We should just shrug and not take this stuff so seriously!

Sounds vaguely biblical?

Next episode: The Feathered Serpent.

Time played: 3 hr 15 min
Total time: 10 hr 50 min

15 comments:

  1. I had a lot of trouble with the title for this post. Any better Mudd puns?

    "Dragged Through the Mudd"
    "Clear as Mudd"
    "Mudd in Your Eye"

    Any better suggestions?

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    1. Mudd-ied Waters, Wading through the Mudd, Mudd-led Memories...
      I think that the first post name fits best though.

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  2. While Mudd is an entertaining and unconventional adversary, this episode was pretty terrible in my opinion. Not helped by the bugs that I experienced.

    The first problem is, as you pointed out, the lack of direction. We "have" to help him, even though he's causing trouble, and so to do that we kill a bunch of Elasi.

    Then, we go to the alien ship to investigate, but there's not really anything we should be doing (since it's his salvage, and supposedly we shouldn't take anything).

    The mission ends when the Enterprise has dealt with the Elasi that are harrassing the area, and nothing really happens to Mudd. It's all a bit of a let-down.

    In my attempt, I got duplicate versions of Mudd, and this being Star Trek it took me a little while to realise that I wasn't supposed to be seeing double. The Mudd in the initial area (looking through junk) stayed there throughout the episode, and gave the same dialogue throughout. As I walked through the rest of the ship, only two of the scripted events occurred. Firstly, Mudd was in need of medical attention, and once he was rendered unconscious by Spock I had to search for hints to find out what the hell I was supposed to do (it was at this point I had two Mudds).

    Later on, I had the encounter with Mudd in the data/computer chamber, but couldn't really do anything about him taking the data (as far as I'm aware anyway, because I don't think I was allowed to shoot him). I never had a problem with life support though.

    I also managed to load the alien weapon (and then have no idea what else to do), and when asked I tried to contact the ship. At the end, Scotty mentioned that it would upgrade our photon torpedoes, so I guess we took it.

    I didn't get such a high score, I think it was about 80% and 3 commendation points.

    The next episode is a bit better!

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    1. That is... strange. I never found Mudd in the computer room so never had to stop him from stealing data.

      Honestly, the hardest part of this one was finding the library and just randomly wandering around until I won. And 100%! This has certainly been the weakest episode so far. Technically, it is the most sophisticated with a lot of cut scenes and more "plot progression" than in the previous episodes.

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    2. I had the same issue with multiple Mudds. The real issue of this was finding the library for everyone who played this methinks.

      The fact that the progression is meted out strangely hurts. If there was a clue or two to hint at the actual means of progress this would have been inordinately more simple to play through.. but such is as it is.

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    3. Harry Mudd is one of the better "villains" of the original series. While some of the jokes ring out as sexist today, Roger Carmel absolutely owned the character. Every one of his interactions with the Enterprise crew, especially William Shatner, was well done. I read somewhere that it was hoped he would cameo on TNG, but that was not to be. This episode, for all its technical flaws, was pretty well-written. The jokes were spot on and the use of the "humor" musical cues really helped put it all together.

      I am a HUGE TOS fan, but after Mudd there are only two members of the guest cast that I can immediately name: Mark Leonard's Sarek (and he was even better as the one-off Romulan captain in "Balance of Terror") and Diana Muldaur who had two one-off appearances but later starred in Season 2 of TNG as Dr. Pulaski.

      Although there were no recurring villains, there were a handful of secondary characters that reappeared in small crew roles over the course of the series. This was in large part because they had some of the same actors available every week so tended to use them. Most famous of these was Lt. Leslie (played by Eddie Paskey) who appeared in more than 50 episodes but only hand speaking roles in a handful, and Lt. Kyle (played by John Winston) who appeared in eleven episodes. I'm pretty sure the transporter operator in this game is intended to be Kyle, but I haven't seen Leslie pop up yet.

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    4. Shouldn't Leslie be dead at the moment? (OK, he came back to life after his death, but still.)

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    5. And as for the guest cast: surely you should also remember John Colicos, William Campbell and Michael Ansara, the three Klingons who returned in DS9.

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    6. True! I had not forgotten them but didn't quite put them in the same category. John Colicos is one of my favorite actors for his work in BSG. Another original series cast member to return later was Charlie Brill who played Darvin in both TOS and DS9.

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    7. Like most of us, I had major problems finding the library (even worse was a walkthrough kept telling me to use a sphere and I tried circles in every room not knowing there was even a library)

      I also had the second Mudd while one was sleeping in another room. It's particularly bad in this game where each mission only has a handful of rooms to explore.

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  3. Finally made it to the last mission today, and after a couple of missions that I thought were pretty good this one is a real headache. My troubles are compounded by what I think is another bug, caused by doing something out of order (it seems there's a couple of things that you have to do in a specific time or it prevents you from proceeding). Frustrating.

    I may have to return to a previous save (at the end of the previous episode!) in order to continue. I wish I'd saved more often, but I'm at the point where every time I need to save I have to delete old ones.

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    1. I ran out of saves quickly, especially since I rely on old saves to check up on things while writing.

      What I ended up doing is creating a different save folder per episode and manually move the save files in there at the end of each episode as a backup, then just deleting the ones I needed next time.

      I just made it to the last mission and I assume you are playing the enhanced version? The adventure portion of the final episode in the original is very short.

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  4. I did not realize there was another room to the south of the room you start in, so I didn't have to deal with the whole life support thing :0 I guess that's where I ended up losing points, I think I got 97% / 3 commendations.

    At some point there's an option to take the upgraded torpedo system with you, which I did; hopefully that will make subsequent space combats easier in some way.

    Mission 5 was interesting - you can complete it very quickly and easily with a bad score, but there's actually quite a lot to see and do, and multiple endings. I'm not even sure which is really correct! Needless to say, I did not get full points on Mission 5, either.

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    1. I've completed Mission 5 as well and it should be up on the site shortly, but before then I'll have a Dungeon post. I have PLENTY of thoughts on EP5 and I look forward to sharing. :)

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    2. I also checked south much later in the game and didn't have a problem with life support (maybe because Mudd was unconscious when I checked that room, though that didn't stop him from also appearing in the previous room)

      I also never saw the hexclops so must have not explored the library full, and I didn't speak to Mudd again so couldn't accuse him of anything.

      Missing those things is probably why I ended with 77% and 2 commendations.

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