Tuesday, January 3, 2017
STAR TREK: "WOLF IN THE FOLD" (1967)
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *cosmological, psychological*
Though TREK was fairly even-handed about portraying both males and females as possible sources of evil, the show followed conventional tendencies to represent female evil in the form of *froda,* "persuasion," and male evil in the form of *forza,* "force." I tend to think that scripters of the period were aware on some level that Gene Roddenberry proved susceptible to pitches about stories with strong men who might have the shadow of rape in their hearts, which was perhaps thought of as covalent with male nature. The act wasn't sanctioned as such, but in Roddenberry's world females are often seen dwelling on the fantasy of rape or rape-like submisson a bit excessively, as evinced in "Shore Leave," "Space Seed," and, most significantly, "The Enemy Within," which depicts the series' central hero as capable of getting down and dirty without his yeoman's free consent.
'Wolf in the Fold," though, is not called forth by any woman's fantasy, though the knife-wielding opponent of the story acts a bit like the rough-trade "Don Juan" summoned up by Yeoman Barrows in "Shore Leave." Only male crewmen, including McCoy, Kirk, and Scott, are seen in the opening scene, which takes place on Argelius II, a planet devoted to hedonism. Whether or not there are places on this planet where men gratify the fantasies of women is not attested: all we see is a belly-dancer displaying her wares for the male audience. As a pluralist critic I don't condemn such sexually-oriented fantasies out of hand, but there's not much question that this is indeed a male-oriented fantasy, in which women are put in peril by a male entity and rescued by men.
Scott walks out of the establishment with the belly-dancer, and moments later, he's found with her dead, knifed body, and with no memory of what transpired. Despite being a peaceful civilization, the prefect of Argelius seeks justice, invoking the help of Hengist, a non-Argelian imported to the planet as an administrator (it's baldly stated that the Argelians, being hedonists, are not very organized and need outsiders to administer their business affairs). Hengist insists that Mister Scott is the only suspect and thus must be guilty of the murder, while the prefect invokes ancient Argelian law to divine the guilty party. However, under mysterious circumstances Scott apparently murders two more women, both the prefect's wife and a yeoman from the Enterprise.
Finally, Kirk-- who never for a moment doubts that his engineer is blameless of the weird crimes-- persuades Hengist and the prefect to go aboard the Enterprise and investigate Scott's reactions with the use of the ship's computer. The Enterprise computer, a distant ancestor of the Internet, eventually provides the crewmen with enough information that they realize that there's an inhuman creature that has not just committed these murders, but which has been killing females on various planets since its earliest days on Earth-- when it was the mad killer Jack the Ripper.
Kirk and Co. also realize that the creature can inhabit the bodies of human beings, and that like a medieval demon it's somehow lodged in the body of Hengist. The creature flees the administrator's body, possesses other bodies, threatens other women, and eventually possessed the Enterprise itself, until Spock exorcises it with a scientific stratagem. The crewmen also minimize the creature's attempts to generate fear in them-- such emotions provide it with food, they belatedly deduce-- by dosing themselves with "happy juice." But they aren't too jovial to take care of the Ripper-monster when it jumps back into Hengist. The heroes disperse Hengist's atoms with the transporter, and then everything's back to normal, even though three women have been brutally murdered.
Robert Bloch's script is so full of arresting incidents that one doesn't immediately catch many of its flaws. Why was it necessary for Bloch to claim that the creature had pursued a linear path through space leading from Earth to Argelius, given that this idea was a silly one back when it appeared in "Operation Annihilate?" Why is there no thought given to the possibility that Hengist-- who is presumably another possessed mortal-- may need rescuing, rather than simply killing him and the entity within him via transporter-execution? (Maybe it's unconscious tit-for-tat, since he was so mean about condemning the innocent Scotty.) And why, without any debate on the creature's nature or powers, are the heroes instantly sure that the creature will be dispersed just because the atoms of its host are? When I first viewed the episode, I assumed that Hengist was the corporeal form of the creature, but since the creature leaves the body behind while jumping around to other entities, this doesn't seem to track. Perhaps such was Bloch's intention, but he was too busy with the script's horror-tropes-- among which is the idea that women are more easily terrified than men. It's an entertaining episode overall, but "Wolf" lacks the intricate construction of the better TREK scripts.