(written from a Production point of view)
Con artist and thief Harry Mudd, in chains and at the mercy of a bounty hunter, tries every trick at his disposal to keep from being turned over to the authorities.
A masked woman brings Harry Mudd as a prisoner to a Tellarite bounty hunter. The Tellarite purchases him from her. Harry first tries a fear-based approach to get out of the situation by exclaiming: “How dare you put your hands on me, you filth! When my associates get word of this brutality, you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of a disintegration beam!” When that doesn’t get a response he tries to bargain with her saying he’ll double whatever the Tellarite’s paying her if she’ll let him go. She disregards this comment entirely and beams away. The Tellarite takes his Phaser and whips Harry across the face with it asking: “I bet you never thought you’d see this face again, did you?” Harry agrees because he doesn’t remember ever meeting the Tellarite. He introduces himself as Tevrin Krit and explains they met some time ago when Harry slept with his sister and stole their family’s sacred Cudgel.
Harry remains firm in his stance that none of that happened and says he doesn’t even know what a cudgel is. Tevrin explains that a cudgel is a hand weapon used in close quarters combat. Harry says he’s never seen one and then begins his swindler routine about being a gentleman of the highest caliber. Tevrin shuts him up by showing him the bounty advertisement with Harry’s mugshot front and center. The advertisement says he’s wanted on 30 counts of smuggling, 20 counts of attempted homicide, 1 count of attempted regicide, several counts of transportation of stolen goods, and 1 count of “penetrating a space whale.” Harry finds most of these charges to be outrageous but says “you had to be there” for the count about space whales. Tevrin explains that there’s 100,000 Credit bounty on his head and he’s so glad that he’ll be the one profiting from Harry’s downfall. Harry realizes he’s in danger and goes right back into his swindler routine. Tevrin says “I’m sure you’re used to worming your way out of situations like this, but not today!” Harry assures him that he’s never been in a situation like this before… but that triggers a few memories for him.
He thinks about a time when he was captured by a Klingon bounty hunter and tells the Klingon exactly what he told the masked woman: “How dare you put your hands on me, you filth! When my associates get word of this brutality….” a pattern of behavior begins to emerge. So Harry decides to concede a few things to Tevrin by saying he may have been falsely accused once or twice in the past but the accusations really are all false and he surely hasn’t been in a situation as serious as this one. Tevrin kicks him in the face and puts the ship into warp. Harry sees that he’s in serious trouble now so he decides to concede a few more things by saying a distant memory is bubbling up to the surface of his consciousness and that he vaguely remembers a Tellarite named Tevrin Krit. He calls the romantic encounter he had with Tevrin’s sister as a “forbidden tryst” and admits he does remember stealing the cudgel to keep as a memento of their secret love but unfortunately has since sold it. Therefore, handing Harry over to Starfleet will not get him the cudgel back since there’s no way of knowing where it is now. Tevrin doubles down on his resolve to turn him in so Harry goes into his “poor unfortunate soul” routine explaining he had to sell it because he was poor. He calls himself a resistance fighter against the Federation. He believes the Federation is trying to consolidate power in order to create a total hegemonic supremacy. Tevrin pretends to be interested in this resistance. Harry's buying it so leans in to the bit by saying he and Tevrin aren’t so different after all. They’ve both been forced to fight for scraps on the fringes, so perhaps there is a way for them to work together. Pool their resources and take control of their destiny. Tevrin finally decides to pull the rug out from beneath him by asking “Has that line ever worked on anyone?” Harry tries to keep going by saying their kindred spirits but that triggers another memory.
It takes him back to a time where an alien female bounty hunter who was unusually small but also unusually strong was dragging Harry by a chain wrapped around his neck. Harry, of course, doesn’t miss a beat and keeps trying to bargain with her by calling them “kindred spirits” and how they’re both “forced to fight for scraps on the fringes.” He proposes working together to “control their destiny;” the pattern emerges yet again. But the bit about working together catches her ear and she agrees that forming a Coalition would give them more leverage against the Federation. There’s only one thing holding her back and that’s her distrust of him. He says he has no reason to lie but she disagrees, lying in his nature because he’s driven by insatiable greed. Harry tells her she’s absolutely right which is why they should turn a bad situation into good business. She hisses and begins pulling him by the chain around his neck while looking in every direction for something. He asks her if she can’t remember where she parked her ship and she denies it. They begin arguing loudly until Harry realizes he can take advantage of her lost ship situation to get out of here. So he begins complimenting her and even trying to seduce her but she is having none of it. Harry finished recounting the story to Tevrin and compliments him on being a better captor than her. Tevrin says he thought he was supposed to be rich to which Harry explains that his wealth is a common misconception. Any wealth he had has been “liberated” by the Federation “tax man.” He even adds that if he had any money he’d be sipping Jippers on a beach somewhere instead of here. Tevrin isn’t buying and says he bets Harry stashed away a little something over the years.
Harry assures him that he’s the poorest man Tevrin will ever meet, but that seems to trigger another memory for him. He thinks of a time where was held hostage by a couple of Orions and is bargaining with a male guard. Harry tells him he’s the richest man he’ll ever meet and he’ll give him a lifetime’s worth of money if he lets him go. The guard is buying it and begins to fantasize about his life as a rich man. A female guard walks into the jail cell and tells the male guard they’ve got a camera in here and have heard everything the two of them have said. She relieves him and takes over guard duty. Harry tries to seduce her but she doesn’t respond to anything he says. She then electrocutes him.
That brings Harry out of the memory and he realizes Tevrin’s ship has dropped out of warp. They’ve arrived at the Federation starship De Milo and they’re ready to take the prisoner off Tevrin’s hands. Harry gets desperate and starts to beg. Tevrin laughs and says he can see Harry reaching for the knife he has stashed in his boot and even jokes this is his last chance to use it. Harry throws the knife to the side and gets down on his hands knees to beg and grovel, whimpering and all. He promises that if Tevrin doesn’t turn him over he’ll come back to his house and become a domestic worker bound to clean the lavatories and braid his beard. Tevrin makes it seem like he’s buying it right up until the end when he calls the ship De Milo and requests two to beam over. Harry loses it saying he curses the day he ever met his “pig-faced sister.” The transporter operator greets them and asks what he can do for them until he sees Harry and Tevrin asks about the bounty. The officer utters a disappointed sigh and asks both of them to follow him.
As they walk the corridors of the ship, the officer asks Tevrin if he bought Mr. Mudd off a tall female bounty hunter. Tevrin said he had but because they made a deal, the bounty is all his. The officer says he’s not refuting that, but his transaction with the female bounty hunter means this isn’t the real Harcourt Fenton Mudd. Tevrin refutes that claim because his Bio-scanner confirmed as much. The officer explains that what they’re looking at is an Android of Harry, thinly covered in replicated DNA, and programmed to distract Tevrin or any bounty hunter until it’s too late to demand a refund. Bounty hunters have been showing up to the starship De Milo all week with these androids. He opens a door to a small cargo hold where at least seven Mudd androids are talking incessant nonsense to one another. Tevrin is deeply upset; he wants his bounty money. So he points his phaser at the Mudd android he came with and demands Mudd tell the Starfleet officer that he’s real. Harry isn’t sure what to do when Tevrin rips his arm off revealing all the wires and circuitry inside. Tevrin is shocked and devastated. But Harry is now malfunctioning from having some of his wires ripped out and begins glitching out and repeating: “If I had any money I’d be sipping jippers on a beach somewhere.” That causes the other Mudd androids in the room to start repeating it too while Tevrin watches in disbelief.
We then see the real Harry Mudd’s ship in an unknown location. The entire place is running with androids all completing different tasks. One brings a beverage to the tall female bounty hunter and she takes off her mask and wig revealing she is the real Harry Mudd in disguise. We realize the beverage the android just brought to him is a jipper as the real Harry takes a big sip from it and sighs in contentment. He then gets an audio only Hail from an unknown person. He answers it using a voice modulator to disguise his voice and tells the caller he knows they’re looking for Harry Mudd and is willing to hand Mudd over to the caller for 50,000 credits. This reveals Harry’s entire operation as a way to make money off his own bounty and imprisonment. The caller takes the offer and they decide to meet up. But before Harry ends the call, he asks the caller if they're interested in a “slightly used cudgel.”
"Your enemies will be positively green with envy... greenER... so to speak."
- - Harry Mudd, to the Orion guard
"If I had any money, I'd be sipping jippers on a beach somewhere!"
- - Harry Mudd, multiple times
- The episode's title, synopsis, and airdate were announced on 20 September 2018. 
- The usual main title theme, as played in the opening credits sequence, and end credits theme were altered for their inclusion in this episode. They were subsequently released in the soundtrack collection Star Trek: Discovery - Season 2 (subtitled the "Disco Version" and "Lounge Version" respectively), along with a musical cue from this installment. Entitled "Many Mudds", this cue can be heard when Tevrin Krit (and the episode's audience) realizes there are numerous Mudd androids.
- One of the Mudd androids collected aboard the De Milo is wearing a similar blue jacket with gold epaulets to the one he wears in TOS: "I, Mudd".
- This is the third Tellarite Harry Judge has played. He had previously played the Tellarite Admiral Gorch and his mirror counterpart in several episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.
- Regarding whether the audience had ever seen the real Mudd, Mudd actor and short director Rainn Wilson told SyFy.com: "I think we've been seeing the real Harry Mudd throughout. We certainly see him at the end of this episode. But I think it would be fun to have future episodes where you don't know if you’re seeing Mudd or a duplicate Mudd running around the universe. That would be really interesting." 
- The accusation of "penetrating a space whale" appears to place the events of the short after DIS: "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad" (assuming that unlike the time crystal trick, Mudd had not used the gormagander gambit before). An Andorian space helmet identical to the one used by Mudd in that episode is also present on his ship.
- This episode marks the first mention of latinum chronologically (excluding time-traveling Ferengi), and the only time it is seen used by the Federation internally: a Tellarite bounty hunter hoping to receive a bounty in latinum from a Starfleet ship.
- This episode was the first official Star Trek production written by long-time fan Mike McMahan, who would later go on to create and produce Star Trek: Lower Decks. Prior to this installment, he wrote the satirical reference book Star Trek: The Next Generation - Warped.
- The trailer for this episode featured the Blues Saraceno song "Bad Man."
Links and references
- Dan Abramovici as Guard
- Harry Judge as Tevrin Krit
- Barbara Mamabolo as Bounty Hunter
- Myrthin Stagg as New Guard
- Jonathan Watton as Federation Officer
- Carson Manning as stunt double for Rainn Wilson
android; bat'leth; beach; bounty hunter; camera; close quarters combat; code of conduct; cruiser; cudgel; D-756; disguise; disintegration beam; DNA; De Milo, USS; duke; durf; Federation credit; "God damnit"; gormagander; hand weapon; homicide; homunculus; jipper; kindred spirit; The Kiss; kitchen implement; Klingon; latinum; lavatory; lime; moon; Mona Lisa; mopping; Mudd's ship; Nataraja; Orion; Orion language; overkill; pig; regicide; replicant; resistance; scanner; Shiva; slept with; smuggling; space whale; Starfleet; targ; Tartus IV; tax; Tellarite; Tellarite merchant ship; Tevrin Krit's sister; Tevrin Krit's son; treasure ship; United Federation of Planets
- "The Escape Artist" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Escape Artist" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
"The Brightest Star"
|Star Trek: Short Treks