At a certain point it’s an exercise in futility talking about why Star Trek: Discovery is disappointing, what it gets wrong, what it gets right, and why when it gets something right it can be more frustrating than when it gets something wrong, because you know it’s gonna eventually bungle the whole thing.
So bringing back the character of Harry Mudd is, well, complicated. It’s also not. The first appearance of Harry Mudd in the series was on a Klingon prison vessel, he was there running away from his crappy decisions. He’s skinnier, which makes sense, but yeah. He was slimy and looking out for himself, but that wasn’t exactly weird for the character. All-in-all, hey, it was sorta fun and harmless.
Then they brought him back again. This time he causes a time paradox to steal the Discovery where they repeat the same 30-minute loop, each time he learns another step in how to take over the vessel. The only problem is just how willing Harry Mudd, a character defined in his two appearances in The Original Series and one in the Animated Series, is to murder a lot of people to get his way.
While the original Harry Mudd was slimy and clearly a rogue, he also had enough charm and wit to where Kirk found himself having to rely on Harry Mudd to help clean up the messes that Mudd made. There was a begrudging respect that yeah, Harry Mudd was a piece of trash, but he was a cunning one with a broken moral compass, but one that still existed.
Rainn Wilson’s Harry Mudd was nothing more than yet another killer willing to do whatever it takes to get his way, which included feats of not just daring, but skillful infiltration that only a well-trained military vet could accomplish. He’s hiding in space creatures, starching people with phasers, setting off explosions that destroy the whole goddamned ship and all of it was so nonchalant.
The character that was established already would’ve absolutely seen a caper like stealing a Starfleet vessel as something within his grasp, especially while desperate, but he’d have some sort of miracle drug at his disposal to drug the crew to allow him to sneak by, or he’d have some gadget that made them forget that they saw him. He was cunning, not a guy that just ran out, guns a’blazing against innocent people.
Sure, further into his adventure, after a few cycles of killing the entirety of the Discovery and each and every time intentionally murdering Captain Lorca in cold blood, he was able to sneak through undetected, so in the final instance of this time loop he created he didn’t actually kill anyone. Still, he was so comfortable just killing folks that it sorta blinded out that they elaborated on this rather minor Star Trek character’s backstory just a bit further and found a way to give Rainn Wilson a recurring role in this series.
But it felt like further proof that the creators of the show just don’t understand the original feel or cultural ethos behind Star Trek. This darker, edgier Trek is just borderline obnoxious and canonically makes no sense. Here I am, at 34 years old, arguing about Star Trek canon. Look at what you’ve made me do, CBS.