Star Trek Rewatch

Star Trek Re-Watch: “Wolf in the Fold”

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“Wolf in the Fold”
Written by Robert Bloch
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Season 2, Episode 14
Production episode: 2×07
Original air date: December 22, 1967
Star date: 3614.9

Mission Summary

We begin, as many fine things do, in a den of iniquity. No, it’s not Risa—that was last week—it’s Argelius II, a “completely hedonistic society,” as McCoy puts it. (He takes us to all the best places.) Mr. Scott apparently suffered a head injury due to a female crewman, and the men are there to make sure he “recovers” from his “resentment towards women.” Let’s assume this is just a flimsy excuse to go to the hedonism planet and not actually an indication of baffling shallowness on Mr. Scott’s part. There, assumed.

In a Middle Eastern-style club that more closely resembles a low-end porn palace, Kirk, McCoy, and Mr. Scott are seated on cushions watching a belly dancer gyrate and shimmy as musicians play in the background.

KIRK: Do you like her, Scotty?
SCOTT: Aye. Why shouldn’t I?
KIRK: Good. I’ve invited her to join us at the table. I thought you might like to meet her.
SCOTT: Now that’s what I call a real Captain. Always thinking of his men.

His “men.” Yeah.

Mr. Scott uses a stereotypical Scottish pick-up line about the Aberdeen fog, and the dancer, Kara, claims she’s “dying to learn.” Dun dun dun. At this point a young man at a neighboring table swishes his cape (his cape!) angrily and leaves. Not suspicious at all.

They exit for their walk through the fogs that are mysteriously native to this planet, and Kirk invites McCoy to a place downtown “where the women—” McCoy cuts him off with a knowing “Yes!” but as they exit the club into the aforementioned fog, they hear a woman’s scream.

They discover Kara, dead, with multiple stab wounds, and Scotty clutching a bloodied knife. Worst date ever!

An investigation into the murder begins, led by Mr. Hengist, a squirrely, high-pitched little man who is Argelius II’s chief city administrator (he’s a native of Rigel IV, and has been imported for his bureaucratic talents). He interrogates Mr. Scott, who says he does not remember what happened. Kirk believes him, but Hengist isn’t so sure—he says the outlook for Scotty is “grim,” because no matter what the Federation thinks, the crime was committed on Argelian soil and thus he’s under the jurisdiction of the Argelians. They can do whatever they want to do with him.

KIRK: What’s the law in these cases?
JARIS: The law of Argelius is love.

Enter Jaris and his wife Sybo. Jaris is the prefect of Argelius II, and volunteers his wife to assist in the investigation. She is descended from the ancient priestesses who were gifted with “empathic contact,” i.e. psychic magic or something. Kirk seems a little suspicious of this (what, ancestral magic seems dubious?) and suggests that while they wait for Sybo to prepare for the contact, he beam down a psycho-tricorder, which “will give us a detailed account of everything that’s happened to Mr. Scott in the last twenty four hours.”

We need to stop for a minute.

Psycho-tricorder?

Seriously? All this time they’ve had a piece of technology that reads and records memories, and they’ve been using these archaic court martials? Why ever investigate anything? This is easily the most ridiculous invention-of-the-week that Star Trek has thrown out there so far. Thanks, Robert Bloch.

Back to the episode. Jaris agrees, and Spock beams down a pretty young lieutenant with her psycho-tricorder. Since they need “privacy” for it to be effective, Scotty and the lieutenant go off to a dark room, alone. What could possibly go wrong! Meanwhile, Sybo returns and asks for the murder weapon to see if she can glean any psychic impressions off of it. (So when do Mulder and Scully show up?)

Wouldn’t you know it, the knife’s gone! And a moment later we hear another woman’s scream. They rush to the chamber and find the pretty young lieutenant face down on the floor, stabbed to death. Mr. Scotty is slumped over in a nearby chair, seemingly unconscious. Using an “Argelian stimulant” (raise your hand if you’re surprised they’ve got those…), they’re able to bring Scotty back to his senses. Kirk tells him that the lieutenant is dead, and Scotty can barely hold it together. He says again he doesn’t remember anything, he has no idea what happened, and he didn’t kill her.

Hengist enters with two more suspects: men in the club the night that Kara was murdered. But neither were nearby when the second murder happened. The first, Tark, was a musician in the club and Kara’s father. The second, Morla, is an angry-looking young man that we learn was Kara’s fiancé. Tark tells us that Morla was violently jealous, and the two fought constantly about her flirtations with other men. Yet Mr. Scott is the only one at both crime scenes.

They decide to begin the séance, and learn once and for all what really happened (according to psychic ancestral magic knowledge). Mr. Scott in particular is nervous about this: “You mean my neck is going to have to depend on some spooky mumbo-jumbo?” Yes it is! Kirk doesn’t like it either, but he must abide by their customs. They all sit in a circle around a table, holding hands, and Sybo begins channeling. She immediately makes contact with something:

SYBO: Yes, there is something here. Something terrible. I feel its presence. Fear, anger, hatred. Anger feeds the flame. Oh! Oh! There is evil here. Monstrous, terrible evil. Consuming hunger. Hatred of all that lives. Hatred of women. A hunger that never dies. It is strong, overpowering. An ancient terror. It has a name. Beratis, Kesla, Redjac! Devouring all life, all light. A hunger that will never die! Redjac! Redjac!

Suddenly the lights turn off and we hear another woman’s scream. When the lights come back on, Scotty is holding Sybo, and she slumps over with a knife plunged into her back.

Looking terrified, Scott feels certain of his own doom at this point. Hengist believes he’s found his killer and is ready to wrap up the case right there. But Kirk pleads with Jarvis to take everyone aboard the Enterprise, where his advanced computer systems (indistinguishable at this point from ancestral magic) can discover the truth. Jarvis agrees to at least try it, but warns that if he’s found guilty the punishment will be the “ancient” one: death by slow torture. Yeeeesh. No wonder they preferred the hedonistic society thing.

In a hearing room aboard the Enterprise, a lie detector is set up on a table and witnesses sit in a special chair with a hand plate that measures their biological reactions. The first witness is Mr. Scott, who takes the stand sweating bullets. He says that he doesn’t remember what happened, but he didn’t kill those women. The computer verifies that he’s telling the truth. He goes on to say that he didn’t blank out when Sybo was killed—he tried to reach for her, but something was in the way:

SCOTT: Cold, it was, like a stinking draught out of a slaughterhouse, but it wasn’t really there. Like it… If you know what I mean.

The computer again verifies what he’s saying, but Hengist thinks he just doesn’t remember killing them. Kirk still wants a psycho-tricorder reading, which Jarvis agrees to, and Morla takes the stand next. He, too, denies killing the women, and this is verified by the machine. He says he loved her. This seems to be true.

At a dead end, Spock suggests a different approach: only now does anyone think to check the computer database for the names that Sybo screamed out before she died. The first, Redjac, turns up one result: “Red Jack,” the 19th-century London serial killer of women better know as “Jack the Ripper.”

But how could it be him? That was hundreds of years ago! Though Jarvis notes that all men die, Spock suggests that maybe it’s not really a man, but some other near-immortal life form. Life forms can feed on emotions—there is a “drella” on Alpha Carinae V that feeds on love—so couldn’t there be one that feeds on death?

SPOCK: And I suspect preys on women because women are more easily and more deeply terrified, generating more sheer horror than the male of the species.

…We’ll come back to that. They then query the computer for a list of all unsolved serial killers in the past few hundred years that have targeted women specifically. The list they get is telling: each location is between this system and Earth, implying that the creature, whatever it is, has been traveling across the galaxy for centuries. The most recent entry was for a string of murders on Rigel IV, just one year ago.

All eyes turn on Hengrist.

KIRK: You come from Rigel IV.
HENGIST: Well, many people do. It’s not a crime.
KIRK: No, but what we’re investigating is. Would you mind taking the stand, Mr. Hengist?

He absolutely flat-out refuses, begging Jarvis to intervene. He starts freaking out a little, and Spock presses him:

SPOCK: An entity which feeds on fear and terror would find a perfect hunting ground on Argelius, a planet without violence, where the inhabitants are as peaceful as sheep. The entity would be as a hungry wolf in that fold.

He continues to deny it, but they get a note from the computer that the blade has been analyzed: its hilt is from Rigel IV.

Hengrist tries to run for it, but they catch and hold him. Suddenly, enraged, he attacks Kirk. He kicks him in the chest in a really nice move, but Kirk lands a punch on him and he falls to the floor. The lights go out and then come back on. McCoy pronounces Hengrist dead, but that’s impossible, isn’t it? Suddenly maniacal laughter comes from the ship’s P.A. system. The creature has inhabited the ship! Spock can’t regain control, and he fears that life support will be the first system to go.

Kirk tells the crew to stay calm, because the creature feeds on fear. To counteract that he asks McCoy if he has any sedatives that will help relax the crew:

MCCOY: I’ve got some stuff that would tranquillize an active volcano.

He’s a good friend to have. Kirk tells him to get to it, and manufacture enough for the whole crew. The bridge crew switches everything to manual override. Eventually a nurse enters with the tranquilizer, which she administers to everyone on the bridge except for Kirk and Spock. This “sedative” is clearly some kind of really sweet drug, and everyone becomes relaxed, loopy, and smiling.

The voice continues to threaten them, but Kirk points out that if Jack were to destroy the ship, Jack would die along with it:

JACK (VOICE): I am without ending. I have existed from the dawn of time, and I shall I live beyond its end! In the meantime, I shall feed, and this time I do not need a knife. You will all die horribly in searing pain!

No one cares. They are doing just fine with whatever crazy shit McCoy cooked up in his lab. Now is their chance to distract the computer. Spock has a plan:

SPOCK: Computer, this is a Class A compulsory directive. Compute to the last digit the value of pi.
JACK (VOICE): No, no, no, no! No, no!
SPOCK: As we know, the value of pi is a transcendental figure without resolution. The computer banks will work on this problem to the exclusion of all else until we order it to stop.

It works! The entity is forced out of the computer, but Kirk’s concerned it will re-take corporeal form:

KIRK: Bones, what would happen if that thing entered a tranquillized body?
MCCOY: Well, it might take up knitting, but nothing more violent than that.

That’s good enough for Kirk: He tells McCoy to inject himself and Jaris, while he and Spock will take their chances. McCoy reluctantly injects himself but before he can get to Jaris the entity has possessed him. He tries to attack but Spock nerve-pinches him unconscious. Jack then re-possesses Hengrist’s body, and he grabs a nearby yeoman as a hostage:

HENGIST: Everybody keep back or I’ll kill her! I’ll kill her! Keep back!
MCCOY: You’d better be careful. You’re going to hurt somebody with that thing.

He shoves her at McCoy and tries to attack Kirk, but is easily subdued and tranquilized. He moans that everyone will die, but the tranquilizer has worked as advertised and he’s harmless. They rush him to the transporter room and Kirk orders Spock to beam him into deep space at full power, “wide dispersion.” He won’t die immediately, but eventually the problem will sort itself out:

SPOCK: Its consciousness may continue for some time, consisting of billions of separate bits of energy, floating forever in space, powerless.

Done and done. Kirk asks McCoy how long this tranquilizer is going to work, and he says “five or six hours.” Spock suggests that Kirk take advantage of his sojourn on Argelius Two while the crew is indisposed—an invitation that McCoy and Scotty are more than enthusiastic to accept on his behalf. But Kirk is a spoilsport:

KIRK: You, gentlemen? In your condition? Don’t be ridiculous.

They respond with just shy of a “But Moooooooom!” Kirk tries to invite Spock instead: “Mister Spock, this cafe has women that are so—No, I guess not. Alone?

This time he’ll have to go it without his bros. The poor thing.

Analysis:

I knew from the start this was going to be awful from the offensive orientalist set pieces and the references to “therapeutic shore leave” for men only. The Argelians’ floor cushions, drapery, exotic colors, drugged out placidity, and heavy implications of “open” sexuality (specifically as a draw for male outworlder tourists) are classic orientalist trappings, and utterly repulsive in this context. For a show so much about racial egalitarianism, it should be dispelling, not embracing, such exploitative representations like this.

Then we’ve got what could have been an interesting new take on the idea of Jack the Ripper, that instead feels (and was…) a total rehash of a story meant for an entirely different market. I like the idea that men, in colonizing space, take the bad things along with them in addition to the good—but instead of exploring that idea, or making it particularly sci-fi, we get psychobabble and magic. Technology here doesn’t do anything but verify that the men are telling the truth—something we could have assumed—and all the revelations are gleaned from Sybo’s channeling. The “psycho-tricorder,” the most absurd device ever, doesn’t even appear! And the leap from conjecture to conjecture is dizzying, forced, and stupifying.

Then, of course, we have the underlying assumption posited by Spock: that women are targets “because women are more easily and more deeply terrified, generating more sheer horror than the male of the species.” What the hell is this, an 18th-century gothic novel? Seriously? The gothic heroine trope disappeared just about the time of this airing with the beginnings of social (and sexual) independence. Something about girls getting sexually violated by mysterious spirits, being alone and scared and not knowing who to trust, doesn’t work once women are out there working and voting and having sex sometimes and not screaming all the time. Women aren’t murdered because, say, this man or creature has a deep resentment towards women, because something about him is broken—no, it’s women’s fault for being easily and deeply scared and that’s just part of their nature, you see? How shallow and offensive.

Also, the ship on drugs? Yeah, that didn’t need to happen.

There were some things I liked: it’s nice to see Scotty front-and-center, and his abject terror at what’s happening to him and crying over feeling powerless and dangerous were moving. I liked the humor—there are a lot of good one-liners (particularly McCoy’s line about having drugs that could tranquilize an active volcano). I like the idea of a murder mystery in the Star Trek universe, and I think it sets up an intriguing hypothesis that this is too gruesome somehow to be human, so it can’t be. But that denies part of our nature—there are dangerous, horrifying aberrations in the species and that’s part of our human condition. There are indeed psychopaths. And to, in the end, explain it all away as a weakness of women: way to utterly deny the complexities of a culture deeply imbued with a history of misogyny and violence against women.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 2 (on a scale of 1-6)

Eugene Myers: Oh boy. I had fond memories of “Wolf in the Fold,” but I have no idea why. This is a terrible episode. I suppose I might have had a good impression of it because it’s a rare Scotty-centric episode, or because of the Jack the Ripper reveal—which must have seemed like a cool twist to my thirteen-year-old self, but now seems fairly tired and ridiculous.

Still, it has a promising enough setup. I liked the idea of a classic murder mystery with Star Trek characters, complete with a locked room murder where the lights go out and someone screams. I also appreciated that Kirk was willing to honor Argelian laws and customs, unable (at least initially) to draw on the resources of Starfleet’s advanced technology, or say, a Vulcan mind-meld, to prove his crew member’s innocence. However, things took a turn for the worse as soon as they mentioned the “psycho-tricorder,” one of those gimmicks that never comes up again and in fact, doesn’t even really appear in this episode.

The idea of Sybo using her empathic abilities to determine the engineer’s guilt was intriguing, until the “spooky mumbo-jumbo” turned out to be just that; the ancient power was just a clichéd séance, of all things. It all descends into badness from there—we have an evil spirit that takes over Enterprise’s computers, long scenes of wild conjecture about the possibility of said evil being traveling from planet to planet stabbing women so it can feed on their fear, and the crew (especially Sulu) acting high because of the “sedatives” used to calm them down. What a mess.

I just couldn’t help picking apart everything else while I waited for the episode to end, including the pseudo-science of the psycho-tricorder and the ship’s glorified lie detector, and the oddly Middle Eastern trappings (with gratuitous belly dancing!) of the Argelian culture. However, I was really into the table lights used to show appreciation for a good performance, an interesting detail of an alien culture that was sadly lacking for the rest of the episode.

Finally, as compelling as it was to put Scotty on the hot seat, the fact that the prompt for his supposed mental breakdown all happened before this episode began was off-putting; for a while, I even tried to fit this into the production continuity of the series, since Scotty has often been blasted across a room, and at least once it happened because of a woman. So, in the context of the series this is entirely plausible, but it seems strained and out of place when it happens off-screen and mentioned in exposition. Perhaps I also didn’t like the implication that Scotty could have developed a deep hatred for women from the accident, even with his admittedly bad luck with ladies, not to mention the idea that “women are more easily and more deeply horrified” than men.

When you get down to it, this episode feels like someone took some other plot and shoehorned Star Trek characters into it, which is pretty much what happened. I enjoyed some of the setting, especially the brief look at the foggy Argelian streets (purposefully evocative of Whitechapel?). And I like John Fiedler, who played Hengist. Those are the only things saving this episode from a pitiful Warp 1 rating.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 2

Best Line: SULU: “This is the first time I’ve heard a malfunction threaten us.”

Syndication Edits: Bits of Kara’s dance sequence in the beginning; Kirk and McCoy leaving the “club” or whatever it is; Jaris giving Scotty the weird stimulant drink; Jaris wondering aloud how a man could do such a monstrous thing; the first captain’s log; Jaris swearing his wife was a psychic, really!; the Ripper trying to slam the door on Spock (real mature, ageless demon); part of the scene on the bridge as Spock tries to restore life support; and Kirk listening to some of the Ripper’s threats and taunting.

Trivia: Charles Macaulay, who plays Jaris (the leader), was Landru in “Return of the Archons.”

Though John Fiedler (Hengist) had over 200 film credits, it’s his voice that may sound familiar: from 1966 onward he was the voice of Piglet in Winnie the Pooh (up to and including the Kingdom Hearts game). Very, very weird.

The music during Kara’s dance and the music from the séance are recycled from “The Cage”/ “The Menagerie” (Kara’s dance music is also Vina’s Orion slavegirl dance music) while other bits are taken from “Catspaw.”

Other Notes: Robert Bloch basically recycled his short story  “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” which had been adapted into an episode of the TV series Thriller just a few years prior. In the story, Jack has begun killing again, this time in contemporary (1960s) America. The Ripper is some kind of near-immortal demon, with the world as his playground. In the end his human form is revealed to be the Scotland Yard inspector investigating the case. Sound familiar?

Bloch is most famous for penning Psycho, but contributed both “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw” to the Star Trek canon.


Stay tuned next week for Tribbles Week! (That’s an order, Ensigns.)

Next episode: Season 2, Episode 15 – “The Trouble With Tribbles.” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.

Check the Star Trek Re-Watch Index for a complete list of posts in this series.


Torie Atkinson kind of wants to see the episode starring the creature that feeds on love.

Eugene Myers briefly switched to the Kirk side of the perennial Captain Kirk vs. Captain Picard debate for the duration of this episode, since Kirk deferred to Argelian laws even though Scott might be put to death, whereas Picard wouldn’t let the Edos kill Wesley Crusher for walking on their grass. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, and I’m back in the Picard camp. I think Wesley and Scotty would have gotten along, don’t you?

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