“Wolf in the Fold” was on the list for our Most Sexist Trek Episode poll last month, and I couldn’t even remember seeing it (it was suggested by Trek Girls panel organizer, Mary Czerwinski, aka Televixen). Now that I’ve re-watched it, I feel safe saying I think it’s more unambiguously sexist than the poll winner, “Mudd’s Women”, and the premise it’s based on is equally bizarre.
Consider what we learn in the first scene:
- Scotty has experienced a head injury as the result of an error caused by a female crewmember
- Scotty has developed, according to McCoy, “total resentment towards women”
- The valid medical treatment for this resentment is for Kirk and McCoy to accompany Scotty to Argelius II, whose sexually-permissive women will surely help Scotty respect ladies more
So there they are, Kirk and his boys at the 23rd-century equivalent of a business meeting at the Playboy Club, helping Scotty build up some respect for the local Argelian belly dancer:
Kirk: Do you like her, Scotty?
Scotty: 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.
Um, I think there are several other things that actually come before that on the “What Makes a Real Captain?” list. But what do I know?
The dancer, Kara, comes over and Scotty asks her out for a walk in the fog. Kirk and McCoy pat each other on the back for helping their friend score and then make plans for themselves:
Kirk: Mission accomplished as far as Scotty is concerned. Bones, I know a little place across town where the women…
McCoy: Oh yes. I know the place. Let’s go.
They head out into the foggy street and almost immediately hear a woman’s scream. They run to the source of the noise and find Scotty standing over the body of the dancer, a bloody knife in his hand. Kirk announces the dancer has been “stabbed…a dozen times.”
The Chief City Administrator, Hengist, who himself is not an Argelian (though they all look human so it’s hard to know how you’d tell), begins Scotty’s interrogation back in the now-empty cafe.
Scotty claims not to remember what happened. McCoy and Kirk are sure Scotty isn’t guilty and Bones is appalled that Kirk would let Scotty go through the Argelian justice system. But Kirk says he has no choice – Scotty has to follow their laws.
As they’re talking, Prefect Jaris walks in with his wife, Sybo.
Jaris says it’s been a long time since there was a crime like this on the planet but back when there was, they Argelians used an “empathic contact” to find the truth. Sybo is “a descendant of the ancient priestesses of our land” and knows how to use the technique. Hengist isn’t super pleased about this but they agree to try.
Not long after she exits, Sybo declares she’s ready to begin the ritual, and asks for the knife to see if she can get a psychic impression from it. But…it’s gone!
Jaris seems remarkably chill about this whole thing and they decide to go ahead with the ritual. Two other men are brought in to join them: the dancer’s jealous fiance and her father, a musician at the cafe. Kirk totally grills the fiance, who admits he was jealous that Kara went over to the officers’ table but says he couldn’t have killed her.
Jaris calls him out on “desperately trying anything to save his friend” and shortly they begin the ritual.
They hold hands in a circle around the flame and Sybo begins channelling:
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 go out and Sybo screams. When the lights come on Scotty is holding her from behind. She falls forward, a knife in her back (if this is the same knife, I’m seriously unimpressed).
At the prefect’s house, Kirk asks if they can beam someone down with a “psycho-tricorder” to take readings of Scotty’s memories for the last 24 hours. Lieutenant Karen Tracy beams down and they set her and her equipment up alone in a room with Scotty. I have a hard time believing such a stupid idea and general lack of due diligence would ever get past Tuvok.
Yup, Karen Tracy is dead and Scotty is sorta slumped in a chair, unconscious. I am picturing Kirk in his transmission to her parents:
Mr. and Mrs. Tracy, I’m so sorry about your daughter. You see, Scotty couldn’t have done it, so I felt it was totally cool to order Karen to be alone with him. And sure, maybe we weren’t watching the knife very closely, but who could’ve predicted this? Anyway, as sorry as I am, I’m sure you’d agree with me and Doctor McCoy that the absolute most important thing we had to do was to prove Scotty’s innocence.
With evidence mounting against Scotty, who’s now been literally caught red-handed three times but whom almost everyone still seems willing to give the benefit of the doubt to, Kirk convinces Jaris to move the proceedings to the Enterprise. Jaris says if they find him guilty, he’ll have to face death by slow torture.
Some legal procedural stuff happens: they question Scotty and the dancer’s fiance and they use their fancy Enterprise lie-detector thing, which shows Scotty’s telling the truth about not being able to remember the attacks.
Kirk asks the computer to analyze the words Sybo said before she died. The computer declares the word “Redjac” is a synonym for Jack the Ripper. Spock hypothesizes, over the increasingly strong objections of Hengist, that the women on the planet were killed by an alien being that feeds on fear. He says it’s the same being that committed the crimes attributed to Jack the Ripper and was never seen because it used an hypnotic screen that made it invisible to everyone but the victim.
The creature’s apparent misogyny? Totally logical, says Spock:
Kirk: All right, Mister Spock, what do we have? A creature without form, that feeds on horror and fear, that must assume a physical shape to kill.
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.
The computer discovers dozens more stabbings of women on other planets, including a year ago on Rigel IV, which puts suspicion directly on Hengist.
There’s a struggle and then Hengist appears to die, but soon it’s clear the entity has taken over the ship. It intends to slowly destroy the ship while feeding off the crew’s fear.
Kirk orders McCoy to start sedating people so they aren’t afraid. Spock orders the computer to calculate the value of pi, hoping it will slow down the other things the entity is trying to use the computer to do.
Back in the briefing room the entity briefly goes into Jaris’ body, but then Spock neck-pinches him. He goes back into Hengist’s body and tries to hold the Yeoman hostage, but she just finds it funny because of the sedative.
Kirk easily schools him in a fight and Spock injects him with the sedative. They drag him to the transporter room and scatter his atoms into space.
With all that dealt with and everyone basically high on sedatives, it’s back to respecting women, Kirk-style:
Spock: Captain, since you came to Argelius to rest, I suggest you take advantage of the opportunity.
Kirk: That’s a splendid idea, Mister Spock. I know a cafe where the women are so…
McCoy: I know the place, Jim.
Scott: Let’s go see!
But they’re too doped-up and Kirk decides Spock wouldn’t have any fun, so they just share a good chuckle and stay on the ship.
What we learned from this episode:
- Women are innately more fearful than men
- If a man resents women, the best way to cure this is to encourage him to change his thinking by seeing them as sex objects
- Bros before hos – that is, defend your bro before being concerned with his alleged women victims, even when they’re a member of your own crew.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail