Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Out and About with The Escape Artist


The Short Treks have reached their end with the return of one Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

Now I never "got" the character back when he was played by Roger C Carmel thanks to the poor attempt at humour that surrounded the two episodes in which he appeared but the reinvention of the role from Rainn Wilson has been eye-opening and fantastically watchable in every way. 

To be graced with 15 minutes purely on this individual is more than welcome in a story directed by Wilson himself and written by future Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan. It's absolutely spot on, giving us a much lighter instalment and spinning off in a new direction. If there's something to be said for these bites of Trek its that each one has had a very distinct identity with, ironically the two featuring characters away from the main cast probably being the strongest.  

Captured by a Tellarite - yep, we’ve delved into The Original Series canon again - Harry Mudd is on his way into the hands of Starfleet for a substantial bounty. As the story develops we see how he has used the approach several times on other parties with, you would guess, some modicum of success.  Fortunately the more humorous aspect of the narrative is subtlety downplayed and there's a noticeable absence of comedy incidental music which usually confounded an event in a Mudd episode. Wilson is just as loud and cunning as before in the role with the Tellarite captain, a Klingon, the Orions (rather shocking!) and another undetermined alien bounty hunter all playing supporting roles as we explore his murky past and difficult situations. 

The script is rather sparkling and of the four this is the one which seems to have the most life and spring to its step. Wilson's energy as Mudd leaps off the screen reinforcing just why he was such a big part of season one and therefore deserved this return to the Star Trek universe. Gifted with a silver tongue he might be but it's pretty much the same routine every time!

The trouble with The Escape Artist doesn't come from the bulk of the story which works very well but from the ending. While it is a playful twist which does also tip the hat to I, Mudd, it all doesn’t make a whole heap of sense when you put it together. If these were androids given just enough programming to fool his captors for a short time where are these flashbacks coming from? Are they indeed flashbacks or are they instances of other replicas of Mudd being captured and taken to Starfleet? 

Either way it doesn’t quite compute. Sipping jippers or not, these recreations are just too advanced in some respects but then totally downplayed in their abilities by the conclusion. If you do step over this bit of the script its incredibly enjoyable and makes perfect sense that Mudd would want to divert attention away from himself to continue his nefarious activities.

Of the Short Treks this is probably number two in my list with Calypso still being the one to beat and also being one of Discovery's best moments to date. The news is that the Short Treks tag will be living on with the second animated show - but could it be used on all the new series to add in extra bits here and there and expand that galaxy we talked about the other day even more?

With Short Treks the Kurtzman stable can experiment with different characters, reuse sets (which they did in abundance with The Escape Artist, Calypso and Runaway) plus add new angles to existing characters, do things that can remain unconnected to the main shows but still be canon and, as demonstrated here, be successful and not be a Starfleet episode in almost any way.

Was The Escape Artist your sipping jipper or something else? Best of the four? Let us know below and if you've enjoyed the read, why not share us!!!

You can check out the other Short Trek reviews HERE

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