Maggie Thrett, who played Ruth in “Mudd’s Women,” has died.
Fans of Star Trek: The Original Series received sad news last week. Actor and singer Maggie Thrett, who guest starred as Ruth in the1966 episode “Mudd’s Women,” died on Sunday, December 18 of complications from an infection. Thrett was 76 years old.
Thrett’s appearance in “Mudd’s Women” marked her only turn on Star Trek, in any of the franchise’s series or films. Her IMDB filmography shows her as only having been active in film and television until 1974.
The Hollywood Reporter mentions that, apart from “Mudd’s Women,” Maggie Thrett was best known for playing a flower child in the 1968 “sex revenge romp” Three in the Attic, a role and film that makes a background appearance on a television in one scene of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). (A still featuring Maggie Thrett in Three in the Attic is at the top of this article.)
It’s nice to know Thrett was so recently in the public eye, if only indirectly. Certainly, fans of the original Star Trek series have been holding her in their mind’s eye for more than half a century.
Maggie Thrett was a classic “triple threat”
Maggie Thrett was born as Diane Pine in New York City on November 18, 1946. She attended the elebrated High School for the Performing Arts in Manhattan (setting of the film and TV series Fame). She made her off-Broadway debut at age 15 in 1962.
By age 18, Thrett was dancing regularly—still as Daine Pine—at Trude Heller’s go-go club in Greenwich Village. Some outlets have reported she appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar for January 1965. But that issue’s cover is a color ink sketch of Donyale Luna, the first African American supermodel. Thrett does appear to have been photographed and mentioned for an article inside the issue, which called her “hugely talented.”
In 1964, Thrett broke into music as a singer with her first single, “Lucky Girl.” The next year, Bob Crewe, who also produced several of The Four Seasons’ Top 10 singles, produced her song “Soupy” and told her to adopt her “Maggie Thrett” moniker as a with-the-times, British-sounding name. I can’t help but wonder whether Crewe also thought the name “Thrett” might signal his client’s status as the classic performing arts “triple threat’: an actor, a dancer, and a singer.
According to Sonichits.com, journalist Aaron Sternfield reviewed one of Maggie Thrett’s live singing performances for Billboard. Sternfield wrote Thrett “has a magnificent range, her phrasing and timing are near perfect, and she blends the right combination of sex and satire.”
Beyond her roles in Star Trek and Three in the Attic, Thrett also appeared in a 1966 science fiction movie called Dimension 5 and in a handful of television episodes, including an episode of I Dream of Jeannie. Her last movie role was a prostitute in Cover Me Babe (1970). She left the industry in 1974, working for years after as a hospital telephone operator.
In announcing his aunt’s death, her nephew Chris Pine (not the actor who plays Captain Kirk in the Kelvin timeline) wrote on Facebook that he recalled telling her “Soupy” “had become a regularly sampled song in hip-hop” and about her fleeting appearance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He says “she was not impressed” in either case: “Being unimpressed was her default mode.”
Maggie Thrett steals the show in “Mudd’s Women”
Given that, as her nephew wrote, Maggie Thrett left Hollywood because “she had become disenchanted by the industry and how it treated women,” I find it ironic and somewhat sad that her Star Trek episode is one centered around, if not the outright mistreatment of women, at least the overt objectification of women.
Although Gene Roddenberry offered up the story as a possible Star Trek pilot episode, by no stretch of the imagination does “Mudd’s Women” embody the best the series has to offer. Ostensibly, its morals are about believing in oneself and about marriage partners treating each other as equals—excellent lessons. But they are all but lost in the relentless ogling of Mudd’s “cargo,” and Roger C. Carmel’s charmingly roguish performance obscures the fact that Mudd he is a pill-pusher and, arguably, a pimp.
Of course, none of these episode’s problems are the fault of Maggie Thrett. For my quatloos, she steals the show as Ruth, because she gets to play this wickedly funny scene in Sickbay with DeForest Kelley:
Maggie Thrett plays these moments with seemingly effortless grace and delightful wit. She also gives us a glimpse of Ruth’s mind at work as she registers McCoy’s comment about “all three” lithium miners. Whether this woman is willingly traveling with Harry Mudd, as he claims, or not, Ruth is clearly a survivor, doing what she feels she must to build a life for herself.
“Being unimpressed” may have been Maggie Thrett’s default mode. But Star Trek fans are fortunate to have her excellent performance in “Mudd’s Women.” We have been impressed with her for more than fifty years and will continue to be impressed with her for decades to come.