Since this is an episode where our fair ship stumbles, for the second time, across Harcourt Fenton Mudd, you might not expect a lot of substance. And sure enough, this is an episode where our crew finds (and by “finds” we of course mean “are hijacked there by a robot”) Harry Mudd set up on a planet of cheerfully servile robots… most of whom were constructed to his “personal specifications” and he is definitely sexing up on the regular.
I sort of understand ONE sexbot, but 500 seems excessive.
What you might not expect is that this is an episode written and aired during the golden age of artificial intelligence: a time when governments were pouring money into research, robots were in every sci-fi story that made it to the mainstream, and everyone in the know was sure we’d see the AI singularity by the 1980s.
That didn’t happen, of course (OR DID IT???), but the fact remains that this episode is chock-full of seriously fascinating nods to its era and the history of AI and robotics, both in sci-fi and in the real world. It’s a particular homage to all things Asimov, from the very title of the episode to Mudd’s many android co-stars’ faithful adherence to the Three Laws of Robotics, as well as the Zeroth Law.
The cover of 1950’s I, Robot collection illustrated the short story Runaround, originally published in 1942.
Not what you’d expect from an episode that might as well be subtitled Harry Mudd And The Planet of the Sexbots, but what the hell. Harry Mudd is still a contemptible trashbag of a human being, but if you’re at all interested in the way AI and robotics has been played out in popular culture, watch this one with an interested eye; I promise it’s worth it at least once.
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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]
An afternoon researching the 1967-1968 state of discourse on AI and robotics? NOT WASTED.
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