Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: Wolf in the Fold

The Original Series, Season 2
"Wolf in the Fold"
Airdate: December 22, 1967
37 of 80 produced
43 of 80 aired
Click here to watch on CBS.com


While on shore leave on the peaceful planet Argelius, a series of women are brutally murdered and the only suspect is Scotty. Kirk is trying to find a way to exonerate his friend and not upset diplomatic relations with Argelius while grappling with growing fear that Scotty may be guilty.

Sooo... this isn't one of those "multiply the estimate by 4" times, is it?


Kevin: The possession story here is more fantasy/horror than sci-fi, but there are enough science fiction peripherals to make up for it and the result is a really good episode that is by turns affecting and chilling. The strongest part of the story is certainly watching Kirk and Scotty himself grapple with the possibility that Scotty is, in fact guilty. The off-screen concussion that would be responsible for the murderous blackouts is a little convenient, but in the end, I am okay with it, because its the only way to come close to credibly making Scotty a suspect without some severe character assassination. Also, the idea that you could be responsible for these things and not know it would be horrifying.

Matthew: I found the notion that Scotty would have a hatred of all women because a woman caused an explosion to be frankly ludicrous. Junk psychology at its worst, which makes even more painful when it is coming from McCoy. I wish it had been relegated to a theory of the prosecution during the hearing scene.

Kevin: The idea of the psycho tricorder was an interesting one. It goes further than the previously seen lie detectors. This can detect not just truth, but context. It will know not only if Scotty is telling the truth, but if that truth is objectively correct. I can certainly understand the notion that a repressed memory will manifest in a detectable physical way differently than a real one. In practice, though, it still seems somewhat deus ex machina to me, especially since that kind of analysis is never mentioned again in the franchise.

Matthew: It's clearly there to exonerate Scotty, for the purposes of the plot. Is he lying? Of course not, the psycho-tricorder said so! I like to think that in future series, the PT was dismissed as pseudo-science or something, sort of how lie detectors today likely will be.

Kevin: As I said above, I find the possession idea somewhat more fantastical than science fiction. Setting that aside, I am actually bothered that humanity is getting a pass on the Ripper murders. There's an interview with Gene Rodenberry where he comments that he is annoyed when people suggest an extraterrestrial origin for the Pyramids; he felt humanity capable of great feats and that we should take credit for them. As odd as it may sound, I think the same applies to our worst traits as it does to our best. I think it diminished your humanist message if there are mythic creatures to take the blame and not just the credit.

Matthew: I could see it as having elements of both. They offer the very sciencey notion of the murderous entity traveling outward with man's expansion into space, and there are explanations of how it feeds on fear, etc. (something picked up again at various points, including "Time's Arrow"). In fact, they talk about "ghosts and goblins" in a pejorative sense - so it's pretty clear they are dismissing fantasy and trying only to discuss the phenomenon rationally.

Kevin: I also found the solution to be a bit of a cop-out. The drama from this episode is mined from the conflict of Kirk and even Scotty doubting Scotty's innocence. I think it would have been much more haunting and interesting if Scotty were physically, but not mentally responsible for at least the first two murders. Would it soothe the conscience to know that it was not your brain and just your hand that did the deed? I don't think it would, and it would have been interesting to see it play out. It would have also prevented the need to provide an extraordinary explination of how Hengist achieved the first two murders.

Matthew: Agreed. I wish they had established that it was actually Scotty holding the knife and performing the stabbings. Much more creepy, that way. A golden opportunity was lost plot-wise, probably due to Roddenberry's insistence that the heroes never be truly sullied. Which part of the solution was the cop-out, anyway? Ruining the computer by having it calculate pi, or exonerating Scotty physically from the murders? Seems like a double cop-out to me...


Kevin: Everyone here does at least an above average job. It's nice to see a Scotty-centered episode. Doohan certainly has the chops to do more than comic relief. His anguish is credible and affecting. His self-doubt is more damning that Kirk or Spock's.

Matthew: Doohan exceeded what was on the page. They could have offered him some really interesting dialogue that crystallized that doubt. Instead, Doohan had to do it on his own. He succeeded.

Kevin: The secondary cast was well done as well. Hengist plays a perfect disinterested policeman suddenly come into a bit of power and responsibilty. He makes a good counterpoint to Kirk's credulity. He shouldn't emotionally dismiss Scotty as a suspect and he doesn't, and it makes the drama better and the character more credible. I thought the shrieking after his corpse was reanimated a little much, but that's as much writing as acting. Overall, good job.

Matthew: Although I found the Argelian prime minister to be a good actor, every other Argelian was off to me. So are they some sort of weird Turks, but they have some white natives, but they are sybarites, I dunno. They were a mess, and the acting didn't really pull it up for me.

Kevin: Poor Lieutenant Tracy did a pitch perfect job of playing the sympathetic attractive blond that practically screams serial-killer-bait in the finest horror tradition. She gets added kudos for at least seeming like a competent Enterprise officer and not just an attractive blond.

Matthew: Wait, what? I was staring at her thighs. Sorry. I must have missed the competent officer part. OK, just kidding. Not about the thighs though. Another in a long, illustrious line of smoking hot Trek babes.

Production Values

Kevin: On the one hand, I found Argelius sets to be expansive and visually interesting. The club, the streets, and the house with several rooms all serve to make the planet feel like a real place. The decor also felt like people actually lived there. Not a lot of time was spent on the Enterprise and its to the design team's credit that the absence is not distracting.

Matthew: Yeah, this fits the mold of the "bottle plus backlot" show. No sets were standout, but nothing failed, either. Purely average.

Kevin: On the other hand, the fog was a bit much. They talk about it, and that ameliorates it a touch, but still...There's intersting set design, then there's Hounds of the Baskervilles.


Kevin: The story is interesting and, overall, well executed, even if it falls short the philosophical discussions and ballsier solution that could have made it great. The acting was good to great all around and made sure that a potentially hokey possession story stayed on focus, and the set design was lush and expansive, if not on occasion fog-happy. It gets a 4 from me. The pulled punches in the writing keeps this from perfection, but there's enough here that is both novel, for the series, and engaging, that I think it merits a high score.

Matthew: I'm going with a 2. I found the acting and production values average, and the concept, though containing the germ of an interesting story, to be severely flawed. Murderous emotion-eating entity? Sure, I'm on board. Psycho-tricorders and deep seated hatred of all women? Lame. Absent the really illuminating character development that could have, but didn't, occur, this one is on the unhappy side of the curve for me. That gives us a total of 6, and our biggest disagreement to date.


  1. I've been racking my brain trying to remember the episode, but I don't even know what season it was, but it was the first episode I saw where I realized Scotty can be a little creepy sometimes. The Hot Female Crew Member OTW was getting psychic premonitions, or something like it, and none of the male senior staff were convinced, but Scotty was definitely at the front of the "Don't you worry your pretty little head!" brigade. This wouldn't have been creepy in and of itself but the combo of 'this chick is probably going space-crazy', the camera positioning itself JUST SO while she's lying on a medical exam table, and Scotty putting the moves on her while patting her condescendingly on the head was a perfect storm of skeeviness. It made me think about the range of stuff Doohan can get away with just for being so charming.

    The other side of that quality though, is that I don't think the idea that Scotty being indirectly responsible for the murders would be a better ending holds up. The trick of this episode seems to be making the unbelievable (Scotty is a psycho-killer) temporarily considerable, but having him be the one wielding the knife is a big ending that would be too much of a shock to the show's system. For a challenging ending like that, you have to commit to it permanently; Scotty has to change as a character enough to give up that charming harmlessness, people have to react to him differently, and Star Trek (a show where Kirk casually walks away from cultures he completely upended for their own good and they are never spoken of again) is not good at that kind of continuity. It's a bit of a cop-out to let Scotty off completely, but I find it much less disturbing than everybody immediately forgetting Scotty technically stabbed a bunch of people by the time the next episode rolls around. And while Doohan would probably have managed it (drinking/brooding in the background a little more) it would have torpedoed Scotty's charm, and made scenes like the aforementioned have a truly unpleasant background creepiness.

  2. Perhaps "The Lights Of Zetar" with Lt. Mira Romaine?

    It would be an interesting exercise to determine which Star Trek character has the creepiest relationships.

    Reginald Barclay
    Harry Kim

  3. I find it interesting that you listed all men. Crusher and Troi had some creepy relationships too. For that matter, so did Janeway (Michael Sullivan...). I would add Paris to the list too (Alice, the chick who accused him or murdering her husband, Janeway as lizard).

  4. I think relationships of any stripe have always been a weak spot for the franchise. Part of it is the constraint of episodic television, where you can't overburden your story with the need for prior knowledge of the characters.

    Part of it is also the portrayal of women as either scantily clad objects of fantasy or completely non-sexual. It's a rare treat for a decent balance to be struck. Relationships thus get depicted with a downright creepy luridness or as overly chaste.

    Beyond that, absent the tireless efforts of your DC Fontanas and your Jeri Taylors, there can be problems developing characters that are emotionally three dimensional enough to sustain a credible relationship.

    I always wondered if it were the result of the lingering awkwardness your average nerd feels around members of the opposite sex. It's not hard to see inexperience or discomfort on the part of the writers leaping off the screen.

    Even the relationships that did work could arguably attribute the success more to the actors than the scripts. Kassidy and Sisko were never my favorite couple per se, but at least the actors had some basic chemistry and could play a scene like they actually dated. Riker and Troi did what they could with what little they were given. Torres and Paris worked well, but the execution always felt a little uneven, like the writers forgot to write in relationship subtext to scenes with them when the episode wasn't explicitly about their relationship. Worf and Dax probably has the best written relationship, at least the most fleshed out on paper, but even then, I think the chemistry between the actors really sold it.

    As for the other end of the spectrum, it's Barclay. Hands down. The man is an emotional and sexual cripple. If he lived today, he'd own a Real Doll. Possibly more than one. There's shyness and then there's psychosis. Even the actor who played Sigmund Freud in Phantasms could diagnose him with mommy issues.

  5. I find it hard to accuse any of the female characters of creepy relationships. It seems like kicking while down (being written by mostly nerdy men and all).

    Janeway's thing with Michael Sullivan made total sense. I wish they had gone further with it. It seemed like they were hinting in that direction earlier in the show with Lord Burliegh.

    Troi made poor choices to be sure (the soul sucking diplomat, the mind rapist). But these seemed more like acts of desperation than disfunction (stupid Riker stringing her along...)

    I suppose Bev/Ronin is creepy any way you dice it. I don't hate that episode as much as some, though. Any time Bev got some, I was happy, because someone needed to stick it to old baldy for stringing her along.

    If anything, that's the worst indictment of Trek relationships - the string along. Both for the characters and the viewers.