Captain's Blog pt. 88: Wolf in the Fold

December 22, 1967
Script and Theme: (6.5 / 8) In reviewing this episode for Trekmovie, Jeff Bond writes, "If you’re planning on introducing your feminist girlfriend to Star Trek, “Wolf in the Fold” might not be the best starter episode—it’s equivalent to a slasher film in the way women are presented almost exclusively as victims for a marauding monster because, as Spock helpfully points out, “Women are more easily and deeply terrified” than the male of the species."

"When a man feels guilty about something, something too terrible to remember, he blots it out of his conscious memory."
"I wonder what it is we're not supposed to be afraid of?"
"She said something else. Words that didn't make any sense."
There's no doubt that the story presents women primarily as murder victims, shore leave hook-ups, exotics or peripheral agents of action taken by the male protagonists. And certain assumptions are presented (Spock's line about female terror, above, as one example) with little self-reflection. Those among you who have read From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell have an idea how a more thorough exploration of the themes of this part of the episode might look, but even bringing this sort of thing up in 1967 was a pretty progressive move. (Airing against it? On Hondo: "The Apache Kid escapes prison and seeks revenge." On Gomer Pyle: Gomer is assigned to pick up a general but gets sidetracked.)

"Don't forget, the explosion that threw Scotty against the bulkhead was caused by a woman," says McCoy. "Considerable psychological damage could have been caused. For example, his total resentment towards women."
It's dressed up in 1960s clothes, sure, but beyond all these familiar sexist tropes is the idea that a particular type of violent misogyny attached to Western culture ("when man moved out into the galaxy, that thing moved with it." Isn't this another way of saying we bring our blankets of ideological smallpox with us wherever we go? That those violent impulses we bury re-surface in the systems we build?) is some alien force that has piggybacked (and subverted) man's progress. The usual suspects (Handlen/ Atkinson) approach it in the predictable missionary way; so it goes, again and again.

I have no idea what Bloch's overlap with Scientologists was, if there even was any, but it's worth mentioning that this sort of thing had begun to be advanced by L. Ron Hubbard around this time. Our true nature has been hindered by alien events long ago and unchecked threaten not just ours but many planets.

"The law of Argelius... is Love."It's twenty times more likely L Ron saw this episode and hastily added its ideas to the latest mission briefing.
"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." (I guess here's as good a place as any to assign the Title its 2.25 points.)

Not all of misogyny can be blamed on the entity, of course, and I'm not saying that's what is asserted in this episode. Just a particular type of re-directed sexual anxiety. Argelius II is a pleasure planet. Whose pleasure? Men's, certainly. 

But women's too, just as certainly. Just because we see only what 3 hetero dudes on the prowl see doesn't mean that's how the whole planet is; we get every indication it is far more than that. It's an environment where the sexually uninhibited can fornicate to their heart's content, free from consequence or commitment, a planet-sized Plato's Retreat, the sort of sexually ambiguous "paradise" that's also explored in things like Looking For Mister Goodbar. (Which also explores the idea of a killer-of-women in a sexual-free-for-all zone; I guess that one's more palatable because it had Diane Keaton in it.)

Jealousy is the worst sin. That's interesting, and important. Enter our Enterprise snakes into that paradise, and it is from their (wounded, intrusive) point of view that we enter the story.

"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."

Bond also writes "All of Bloch’s Star Trek scripts threw classic horror tropes into the unfamiliar territory of science fiction in clever ways—he references “the Old Ones” a la H.P. Lovecraft in the android dehumanization tale “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and the traditions of ghost stories and Halloween in “Catspaw.” “Wolf in the Fold” adapts Bloch’s own story “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” and all three benefit from the creepy frisson of classic horror themes thrust into Trek’s sci fi setting. "

The locked-room murder mystery is set up pretty well, but it's completely undermined by the existence of the psycho-tricorder. Then again, as Bond notes, that was probably the intention, to wink at the conventions of such a thing and explode them with sci-fi. 

Ditto for the courtroom drama.
The drugged-out "Die! Die! Kill you all! hahahahaha" stuff is enjoyably demented.

Before moving on, it must be said that "You cannot reach me... your manual overrides are extremely limited in life" is a taunt that has never received its due. Just once I'd like to hear someone say that on Cops while being shoved into the back of the wagon.

Internal Logistics: (1.25) Beyond the psycho-tricorder stuff, the entity is a bit like Pennywise from Stephen King's It, lying low for long intervals, then awakens to feed in a mass killing spree. Another parallel is that it feeds not just on on death but the terror that accompanies it. So why can't there be a Stephen King's Space It? Or is that what The Tommyknockers is supposed to be?

Unless I'm misunderstanding, this Space It waits until Scotty is alone with a woman and then shoves him aside and kills her? Or possesses Scott and does the same? Yet also resides in Mr. Hengist? If it possesses the ability to flip between hosts as necessary, why doesn't it just leap into Kirk or Spock?

It doesn't matter, I know, I know. I know forever. But if it can even inhabit the computers... I mean, come on.

Visual Design: (2.25)
Redjac! Redjac!

Kirk and the Gang: (25) 
Shatner's pause in the doorway here, to strike this pose, is too funny.
"Freefall!" This is the perhaps the most pointless and quickly-disposed-of dangers Kirk and Spock face in TOS. Absolutely great, though.
Scotty kills a native woman and a co-worker while possessed by a monstrous alien terror of ancient evil origin. Not a bad one for the resume. He's anguished throughout, then drugged and happy at episode's end.
Guest: (4)
John Fiedler plays Mr. Hengist. He's been in loads of stuff, but he was all over my childhood. True Grit, The Odd Couple, and Winnie the Pooh were things I was pretty familiar with before I ever got to this episode.
Charles Dierkop as the Jealous Man. Fans of 80s slasher movies might remember him from Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Every line this guy delivers is fun. Especially when it keeps cutting to him for completely generic and unsolicited observations during the trial. "But all men die..." "A man couldn't survive all of these centuries?" etc. I was amused (though not at his expense or anything) to discover he opened a well-respected acting school in Las Vegas several years later.
And of course, Jaris is played by:

"For the good of the Body, obliteration... is necessary. It is a great sorrow." 
Memorability: (3) As mentioned here, "On the great list of things to watch while tripping your face off, you rarely see "Wolf in the Fold," which is a shame. If I was the director of a drug freakout clinic, I'd keep it (and "Metamorphosis") queued up at all times."

And beyond that, this was one episode I spent a considerable amount of time cutting up in the spring of 1998. Hovered over a 4-track in the last days of analog, with the laser disc player plugged into tracks one and two, looping it over suggestive 70s funk music (really just one particular instrumental from the Boogie Nights soundtrack.) I'm tempted to bump it up a point just for that. But I'll restrain myself.

Total Points Awarded: 52.25


  1. I can't be too tough on this episode. It first aired on my birthday.

    Still, it's pretty damned strange to hear things like, "Die! Die! Kill you all!" in Piglet's voice.

    1. Piglet the Ripper is one of the universe's wonderfully weird curveballs, to be sure.

      (And for those of you who didn't know, Joe's third novel, Dark Annie, just came out, available at Amazon and wherever fine books are sold. The "author" part of his blogger profile name is the real deal. Haven't picked it up yet, but it's in the queue automatically on the strength of the first two. Google 'em!)

    2. Jesus God Almighty, Hengist IS Piglet, isn't he?!? Oy...that's disturbing.

      I find myself with very little to say about this episode, except to point out that as far as "Jack the Ripper...IN SPACE!" episodes go, I'll take the one they did on Babylon 5 over this one. Which is not to say that "Wolf in the Fold" is bad. It isn't. Misogynist as hell, yes; but also fairly entertaining.

    3. I'm not sure I can agree that this episode is "misogynist as hell." I mean, Jack the Ripper is, sure. Some lines are rooted in 60s sexism. But I just can't go there.

      Never saw the Babylon 5 one, or any Babylon 5, actually. It is on the proverbial list.

    4. Any episode that can give Spock that line about women being more terrified than men -- thereby presenting that viewpoint as, literally, a logical conclusion -- is misogynist, in my book. Maybe Spock was still super-pissed about T'Pring.

      "Babylon 5" is well worth seeing for any sci-fi nerd. It's kind of shoddy at times, but it's also occasionally awesome.

    5. I think it's more "chauvinist." I don't mean to quibble, just misogyny is thrown around too easily these days.

      Jeff B, erstwhile commenter, champions Babylon 5. One of these days! Most definitely.

    6. That's a fine point; "chauvinist" really does fit better.

  2. This one has always been one of my favorites! I loved the sealed room murder trope and the horror aspect of it. I still remember seeing this one for the first time as a kid and being surprised it was Hengist.

    What I thought was highly misogynistic (and I think I use the term correctly) was the whole "Scotty got hurt by a woman, so he distrusts women" angle. That notion was old fashioned by even 1967 standards.

    But I really dug the whole Jack the Ripper thing. I'd heard of Jack the Ripper. But after seeing that episode, I looked him up in an encyclopedia. That encyclopedia entry was the most graphic thing I'd ever read up until that point in my life.

    1. I agree with you on the Scotty issue.

      You bring up an interesting idea, too: I wonder how many people over the years first heard of Jack the Ripper via this episode? I bet it was a large number. That's pretty cool. I just hope the same isn't true of Abraham Lincoln...

    2. Sexism and chauvinism are not the same thing as misogyny, though sadly they have become all too interchangeable. Further deterioration of the English language, alas.

  3. This is an ok story;except its a rewrite of Robert blocks story ""your truely:Jack the Ripper.Also it's an early pheudo science star trek story.why the tuck is rediscover feeding on fear?

    1. Have you read Bloch's "A Toy for Juliette" from Dangerous Visions by any chance?