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'Star Trek: Discovery' reveals an origin for Harry Mudd

One of Star Trek's most memorable characters returns. But is Starfleet to blame for the criminal ways of Harcourt Fenton Mudd?

Entrepreneur or crook? Harry Mudd, played by Rainn Wilson.

Michael Gibson

He's the biggest thief, swindler and con man in the Star Trek galaxy, and it's all Starfleet's fault. At least that's the way Harry Mudd sees it in the latest episode of "Star Trek: Discovery".

Colourful crook Harcourt Fenton "Harry" Mudd is one of the earliest and most memorable characters in Star Trek history, appearing in two episodes of The Original Series and one animated episode. In this week's episode "Choose Your Pain" of prequel series "Discovery", we meet a younger, angrier Mudd and get a glimpse into his roguish past.

"I used to have a life... a good one," Mudd tells Discovery's Captain Lorca when they meet in the bowels of a Klingon jail. According to Mudd, played by Rainn Wilson from "The Office", he was a respectable businessman until the war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire blew it up.

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Harry Mudd, played by Rainn Wilson, blames Starfleet for his turn to dodgy dealings.

CBS

A bitter Mudd blames "Starfleet arrogance" for provoking the Klingons, asking if Lorca has "ever bothered looking out of your spaceship at the little guys below" who are "sick and tired of getting in your crossfire".

In keeping with Trek's long history of using sci-fi to examine the problems we face today, Mudd gives us the perspective of the galaxy's ordinary citizens outside of the rarefied atmosphere of Starfleet, and his speech could be read as a look at western interventionist foreign policy. Boldly going into other nations and meddling with their problems can impact the lives of ordinary people like Mudd and could even radicalise and provoke, as with the Klingons.

Of course, Mudd's definition of a reputable business might not look quite so upright and above board to the rest of us, and it's more than possible he's lying to Lorca -- and perhaps even himself. Still, it's an interesting glimpse into the way Mudd sees himself as he charts a course to become the loveable rogue we met in The Original Series.

The flamboyantly-dressed and ornately moustachioed Mudd first appeared in the third episode of Star Trek, played by Roger C. Carmel. By then Mudd is married to his wife Stella, and in "Discovery" we learn how he won over Stella and her disapproving family: by buying her a moon. If only he'd kept up on the back payments.

Wilson is set to play Mudd in more instalments of "Discovery" on CBS All Access in the US and Netflix elsewhere (Disclosure: CBS is CNET's parent company). But first he has to get out of that Klingon jail cell...

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