“Wolf in the Fold” is a murder mystery and courtroom drama with a twist. It’s not a Fair Play Whodunnit, but rather a Clueless Mystery, in that the viewer really has no chance to work out what is happening before our heroes do. In fact, the answer is completely unexpected and bizarre. In hindsight, there are certainly hints, but nothing that would actually let you reach the right conclusion without some astounding insight.
It opens on a close up of a belly dancer, who pulls back to reveal an Arabian-styled room in which Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty are enjoying the dancing show. Dialogue reveals that Scotty is on medical recreation leave on the planet Argelius II, enforced by McCoy after an accident aboard ship gave him a head injury. They mention explicitly that the accident was caused by a female crew member, and they need to eliminate Scotty’s resulting “total resentment towards women.” This is a dubious statement which might have trouble flying in such a straight manner on TV produced today. But it’s necessary to build towards the mystery.
Kirk has invited the belly dancer to their table, and introduces her to Scotty, then suggests they take a walk outside in the fog. The implication is that the society is extremely sexually permissive, and that Kara’s “attentions” will “cure” Scotty. Kirk and McCoy head out to a place where the women are… not described as the statement is cut off, but again the implication is pretty clear. They never arrive, as the fog is pierced by a scream and Scotty is found looming over the dead Kara with a bloody knife in his hand.
Scotty is the obvious suspect, and the Argelian prefect Jaris begins an investigation with the help of the Rigellian off-worlder Hengist. (The native Argelians hire off-worlders as bureaucrats since they are far too hedonistic to do such work themselves.) Scotty can’t remember what happened. Kirk gets a Lieutenant Karen Tracy to beam down with a device capable of reading his memories of the past 24 hours. However, when left alone with Scotty she ends up dead too, with Scotty again holding the bloody knife. Again he can’t remember what happened.
Jaris’s wife Sybo has empathic powers and holds a seance-like ceremony to read psychic impressions. We are treated to a cool overhead shot of the ceremony. During it, Sybo goes into a trance and declares that an evil force is present, calling it a series of names: “Beratis”, “Kesla”, “Redjac”. The lights go off briefly, and when they come back on Sybo falls dead with the knife in her back, Scotty standing right behind her. Jaris takes this remarkably well, and agrees to let Kirk hold a hearing on the Enterprise with a computer lie detector (we saw this back in “Mudd’s Women“, although Kirk seems to have forgotten about it when it would have been useful in “The Alternative Factor“). Scotty passes when he says he doesn’t remember killing anyone.
Kirk asks the computer to look up the name “Redjac”, and it comes up with it as a homonym for “Red Jack”, another name for Jack the Ripper, who notoriously murdered several women in 19th century London. Kirk accepts this rather bizarre link at face value far too readily, showing no scepticism whatsoever. He quickly has the computer list similar murder sprees, and discovers they extend off Earth, in a straight line towards Argelius, with the most recent murders occurring a few years ago on Rigel – where Hengist comes from. Hengist tries to escape, but is knocked out by Kirk. Hengist’s body is dead, but the evil entity inhabiting it moves into the Enterprise‘s computer system, taking control of the ship.
Spock speculates that the entity feeds on fear, and targets women because “women are more easily terrified than men” – another interesting piece of 1960s logic that would be questioned today. Another unfortunate implication that is glossed over is that Jack the Ripper targeted prostitutes specifically – which would imply something about the victims so far. Kara maybe, but Lieutenant Tracy?! And Sybo, the prefect’s wife??! Spock sets the computer the task of computing the last digit of pi, which eventually consumes all of its processing power, rendering Redjac harmless. Redjac returns to Hengist’s body, but Kirk has it bundled into the transporter and beamed into space on “maximum dispersion”, which should spread it widely enough to destroy it.
All up, a pretty good episode. The mystery aspect is certainly engrossing, keeping you wondering both how they’re going to prove Scotty is innocent, and how the murders were committed. Hengist is a little obvious as the culprit, because he keeps protesting in his whiny voice about everything Kirk does, but until the reveal it’s completely impossible to figure out how. The Ripper connection is surprising at first, but is worked into the story reasonably well. It’s now you realise that the fog in the opening scenes is significant, evoking Victorian London. The more you think about it, the more clever this episode becomes. Not one of the greats, but a very acceptable instalment.
Tropes: Courtroom Episode, Clueless Mystery, Belly Dancer, Ominous Fog, Hired To Hunt Yourself, Frameup, Spooky Seance, I Have Many Names, Lights off Somebody Dies, Never One Murder, Orgy Of Evidence, Clear Their Name, Lie Detector, Jack The Ripper, Beethoven Was An Alien Spy, Regularly Scheduled Evil, Puppeteer Parasite, Haunted Technology, Emotion Eater, Hysterical Woman, Logic Bomb, Body Surf, Softspoken Sadist.
Body count: The dancer Kara, Lt Tracy, the prefect’s wife Sybo. All stabbed.