Harry Mudd’s escapades in the fourth and final Star Trek: Discovery minisode might have been the most delightful of the whole set — but aside from bringing some much-needed levity to the proceedings, for star Rainn Wilson, its climax represented a new challenge.
“The Escape Artist” spends most of its runtime with Harry Mudd recalling multiple times he’s been caught by hunters attempting to claim a bounty reward from the Federation on the man who, well, once tried to get the entire crew of one of its most important vessels murdered because its Captain was a bit of a douchebag.
But in the end, it’s revealed that Mudd has been tricking bounty hunters across the stars into splitting a finder’s fee on himself—and letting them capture android Mudd duplicates to turn in to Federation starships that now seemingly have whatever the Starfleet equivalent of a broom cupboard is, packed with Mudds babbling on about sipping jibbers on a beach somewhere.
It’s a great moment, but for Wilson—who didn’t just star in the short, but directed it—it was a huge teaching moment as one of the first times he dealt with VFX work as a director.
“It was really challenging,” Wilson told Gizmodo. “I learned a ton. Learning about, ‘oh, how do we do a plate shot that includes five or six different versions of me?’ There was a lot of aspects to it. I loved the dastardly implications of dozens of dastardly Mudds spread throughout the galaxy, and I learned a ton about how visual effects work, and what you can do. And what you can’t do!”
Prior to his work on Short Treks, Wilson had directed several episodes of The Office—but working on something as FX-driven as Star Trek meant a whole new toolkit for him to play around with. “But that’s the thing—I don’t know what the budget was on this short,” Wilson continued.
“But because I was part of the Star Trek machinery, it makes it look like a hundred-billion-dollar movie, you know? Because they have their props department and their costume department and the visual effects and stuff. So it was an incredible bounty to play within that toolbox.”
“The Escape Artist” and the rest of this season of Star Trek: Short Treks are not available in Australia as of yet, but Star Trek: Discovery returns for a second season of Spock-filled adventure on January 17.