Written by Robert Bloch and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Joseph Pevney
The legend of Jack the Ripper…. What if… What if it wasn’t a human who committed all of those horrible murders? What if it was some kind of energy that could be present at different times and places in the universe? This is one of those episodes that should have been better than it was. Some of the problem is looking back on it as we see it through the eyes of society all these years later. However, there are some things about the episode that are distressing even without those considerations.
The Enterprise is orbiting the planet Argelius Two. Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley), and Scotty (James Doohan) are on the planet enjoying some local entertainment in this hedonistic society. Scotty takes a walk with the dancer entertaining them. Kirk and McCoy start to leave to visit another place when they hear a scream. They find the dancer dead, and Scotty standing nearby with a bloody knife.
Crime is a rare occurrence on Argelius Two, and the City Administrator, Hengist, (John Fiedler) takes the lead in the investigation. Scotty can’t remember what happened. The Prefect, Jaris, (Charles Macaulay) arrives with his wife, Sybo, (Pilar Seurat) who is empathic. There is time before she will be ready to “read” Scotty, so Kirk and McCoy ask for a psycho-tricorder to be beamed down from the Enterprise. Scotty and the female technician move off to a private room to go through the process. Just as Sybo is ready to do her own analysis of the situation, they find the knife missing and hear a scream. The technician from the Enterprise is dead and Scotty is unconscious, nearby.
The episode is a murder mystery with Scotty at the center. There are other suspects among people who were also in attendance at the beginning with the dancer. Spock urges Kirk to beam Scotty up to the Enterprise, but Kirk says they must abide by Argelian law. When Sybo is murdered during her empathic session with the murder weapon, it once again seems that Scotty is the culprit. Just before she was killed, she was describing an intense hatred for women.
If you’re looking for scantily-clad women, this episode delivers that in spades. The women of Argelius seem to wear as little clothing as the censors would let them. They don’t seem to be considered much beyond that.
A problem is the cultural depiction. Right from the start we get the impression of the dancer being akin to the belly dancers of the middle-east. The music has that definite edge to it and the musicians are wearing turbans and appear Asian. I half expected a snake charmer to show up with a snake rising out of the basket.
There’s the misogyny exhibited which is typical of the 1960’s. As advanced as Star Trek was for its time, here Scotty is depicted as having survived an explosion “caused by” a woman, therefore he is now resentful of all women. Doctor McCoy’s prescription for him to be among scantily-clad women to solve the problem seems pretty idiotic, at best, these days. If the explosion had been caused by a man, would he send him to be among scantily-clad men?
This could have been the perfect tie-in to the future had they used Argelius as the origin of the empaths on Star Trek: The Next Generation instead of Betazed. The “psycho-tricorder” that is spoken of seems to be able to read minds yet we never have heard about it before and never hear about it again. It’s a plot device to get the technician down to the planet to be disposed of.
The premise of an evil entity being able to jump into people and being responsible for murder is interesting and as the mystery unfolds, there was a lot that could have been built on. The acting is decent, which saves this from being horrible. John Fiedler is a character actor I saw in many, many television shows growing up with a distinctive voice. He does really well here in this character, but with the lack of make-up and effects budgets at the time, it’s really just portraying a human in a different setting. I suspect the story worked much better in the 1960’s setting.
There is also the issue of these stories needing to be wrapped up in a one-hour episode with no consequences down the road. You’d think there would be some consequences with Scotty after having been accused of three murders and maybe even with the Federation in regard to the solution of the problem, which is essentially murdering the most recent man possessed by the entity by scattering his atoms in space. It’s kind of a brutal use of the transporter as a tool of death.
Wolf in the Fold is still quite watchable, if there are some cringe-worthy moments. The mystery and premise are actually pretty good. The shortcomings have more to do with what’s happened in the ensuing years.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Obsession
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Trouble With Tribbles