Star Trek Guide

Did Star Trek: Year Five Just Diss a Beloved TOS Actor?

Gene Roddenberry’s expansive Star Trek media franchise began as a low budget science fiction television program. Star Trek: the Original Series, the show that started it all, was unceremoniously cancelled after only three seasons of its historic “five year mission.” Thankfully, off-network syndication resurrected Star Trek faster than a Vulcan on the Genesis planet. Still, long-time Trek fans have often wondered what the final two seasons of the Original Series might have looked like, and IDW Publishing’s Star Trek: Year Four and Star Trek: Year Five comic book series have attempted to answer these questions. The original Enterprise and her faithful crew are depicted in all their campy 1960’s glory. Recently, however, IDW has come under phaser fire for seemingly dissing a beloved TOS actor.

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Star Trek: Year Five logs the last days of the USS Enterprise’s five year mission. Captain Kirk and crew have been sent to Andoria to investigate the Originalists, a political movement that believes that the Federation’s five original member planets should be given preferential treatment over more recent inductees. This fledgling faction has made inroads among conservative constituents and has reportedly chosen a mysterious, yet-to-be-named candidate to run for president of the Federation. Kirk and company must discover who this new candidate is, and if the Originalists really have any chance at winning the Federation’s highest office. Kirk and Scotty beam down to the planet and immediately discover that the Originalist’s surprise presidential pick is none other than the notorious criminal, Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

Harry Mudd is one of Star Trek: the Original Series’ most memorable antagonists. Mudd was portrayed by accomplished character actor Roger C. Carmel. Carmel appeared as Mudd in the TOS episodes, “Mudd's Women,” and “I, Mudd,”and later lent his voice to the Star Trek: the Animated Series episode, “Mudd's Passion.” Reportedly, Carmel had agreed to reprise the role in Star Trek: the Next Generation in 1986, but passed away before filming. Roger C. Carmel has been elevated to icon status among Star Trek devotees. Thus, readers were astonished when IDW Publishing’s depiction of Harry Mudd was not modeled after the beloved Carmel, but rather the actor who most recently played the part, Star Trek: Discovery’s Rainn Wilson.

Star Trek: Year Five #16 was written by Jody Houser, with art by Silvia Califano and Charlie Kirchoff, and has been praised for its faithful continuation of a groundbreaking television series too soon cut short, making this discrepancy feels all the more significant. Califano’s pencils capture the essence of a young Shatner, Nimoy, et al. with unexpected accuracy. Houser’s strong writing is less surprising, however, as she has previously adapted popular properties to the comic book medium, including Star Wars and Stranger Things.

So has IDW Publishing abandoned the beloved Roger C. Carmel? The short answer is no. At least, not without reason. Further investigation reveals that securing the rights to Carmel’s likeness became near-impossible after his death. In Kevin Smith’s classic TV crossover series, Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet, Carmel’s villainous Colonel Gumm had to be redesigned because the rights couldn’t be obtained. He also doesn’t appear in the Star Trek Timelines mobile game for the same reason. Rest assured that IDW used Rainn Wilson’s likeness for legal reasons, not out of disrespect for Carmel’s tremendous work on Star Trek.

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