Star Trek: The Original Series, & VR ~ Mudd's Women
The episode opens on the Enterprise chasing a small, unregistered cargo ship. They had tried to flag down the ship to query its lack of registry, and the cargo carrier had bolted, trying to flee. The cargo ship dives into a highly unstable asteroid field, where its engines overheat and fail. Kirk orders deflector shields extended round it, and the Enterprise's dilithium crystals shatter under the strain.
Chief engineer Scott manages to beam the four crew aboard, before an asteroid
punches through the drained shields and strikes the cargo ship dead centre,
Still insisting his name is Walsh, the captain tries to blame Kirk for the accident. With one dilithium crystal left intact to power the ship, Walsh is confined to quarters, whilst Enterprise limps towards a dilithium mining colony.
Before the ship's hearing, "Walsh" meets with the women and coaches them on what to say, advising them not to lie, but at the same time, ordering them to refuse a medical exam.
At the hearing, it is found the women were to be wed off to settlers on Ophiucus III; each voluntarily leaving a situation where her chances of a good mate were slim or non-existent. Leo Walsh's real identity, wanted smuggler Harcourt Fenton Mudd, also comes out, and his Irish brogue vanishes without a trace.
Toward the end of the hearing, the final dilithium crystal fails, leaving Enterprise on emergency power. Harry overhears Kirk's orders to contact the miners on Rigel XII, and schemes to get free. The women can work their charms on the "lonely, isolated, overworked, rich lithium miners," and get a much better deal for themselves.
Using their allure, the women learn about the miners from the crew. Three male miners; the only inhabitants of the planet. During the attempt to learn more, one of the women inadvertently lets herself be scanned by Dr McCoy, and her signs set off medical alerts. Meanwhile, one of the others steals comms equipment, which Harry uses to contact the miners ahead of time to set up a deal.
Back in Harry's quarters, the women begin deteriorating, their bodies rapidly ageing and deforming. Harry has a box of pills hidden about his person; opening it, he gives a 'Venus Pill' to each, which when swallowed, restores their bodies to perfection.
Upon arrival, the miners will only exchange dilithium for the women - no other offers are acceptable. They also demand Harry's good name cleared. Kirk has no choice as backup power is starting to die.
Kirk, Spock, and Harry beam down to the forbidding surface of the planet, Rigel XII, where the miners take to the women instantly. The head miner, Childress keeps Kirk waiting for the crystals, and the miners start fighting over Ruth and Magda. Eve, already conscience-stricken about the deception, runs out into a storm. Childress goes out to find her.
Childress finds Eve and brings her back to his quarters. Enterprise locates them through the heat of a stove in his cavern where Eve cooking for the exhausted Childress. The two, both prickly, start to warm to one another. However, Eve's looks start deteriorating again, and Harry still has the Venus pills. As they start fighting over Eve's true appearance, Kirk and (a reluctant) Harry beam in. They explain about the Venus drug, which Childress had heard of but thought a legend.
Two of the miners have already married Mudd's women. Childress is furious, and Eve berates him for being more interested in the pill than in a real woman. She grabs Harry's pillbox and swallows a pill, becoming radiant with beauty again; although all present are aware its just fake.
Then, Kirk reveals he had emptied the pillbox before beaming down, replacing the Venus pills with crystalline sugar. Eve swallowed a placebo, nothing more. Her beauty is the result of her own self-confidence. Childress asks her to stay and talk. Kirk and Harry beam back up, and Kirk turns down Harry's request to let him go.
Can any of us truly say we haven't wished to just be able to take a pill, and become instantly young ad beautiful? More beautiful than we ever were physically? The Venus drug's allure is strong, yet at the same time, it can be described as a meme for both augmented, and virtual reality, each in a different way.
Augmented Reality Venus Pill
The Venus pill works by altering perceived reality, replacing the sensory vision of an older, decrepit form, with that of a younger, vigorous form, as beautiful as it could possibly be. It takes the features of a person that physically define them, and drays from them, a new form to cover the old. This is the nature of augmented reality.
Whilst the pill is in effect, changing reality, as a drug is wont to do, rather t6han just adding to it, the effect is essentially the same. The visage is the part of the person changed, along with (very likely) enhanced pheromone production.
Now, in theory, augmented reality could be achieved without a display system added to the wearer, by attuning to the same frequency of electrical impulses as the optic nerve, and essentially broadcasting a signal which is attuned to the familiar object signal for a given individual, assuming said signal is the same across individuals for an object that looks the same - i.e. a person.
However, that is extremely remote technology at best. Whether it would actually work, is a very good question. Whether it would be safe in effect on the affected individuals is an even better question.
Failing that, an AR version of the Venus Pill would have to be opt-in, via consent to wear the display system that allows sight override. Even then, there is no guarantee the viewing person would choose to see you as the form you project and not something of their own choice.
Virtual Reality Venus Pill
A virtual reality Venus Pill makes much more sense. In essence, the Venus pill is exactly what we are using, each time we make or select an avatar that looks better than our physical bodies.
A disabled individual donning a beautiful avatar has their corrupt body untwisted, and made into something that better fits who and what they are. An elderly individual recaptures their youth, undoes a bent back, or simply erases pervasive odours.
Like with the Venus Pill, the effect is transitory, if not maintained. As soon as you step away from the VR, the old form returns, feeling twenty times worse, as its 'wrongness' just hits that much harder each time.
In this way too, the VR is like a drug, as each reinsertion brings with it a flow of endorphins, as the wonderful body the person feels they truly are, returns.
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS, built up one by one in chronological order, regardless of the strength of their connection to VR & AR. Set included for the sake of completeness.
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS which reference virtual reality, alternate lives, AI, ir augmented reality. They are built up one by one in chronological order.