Stardate: 3614.9 (2267)
Original Air Date: December 22, 1967
Writer: Robert Bloch
Director: Joseph Pevney
“The entity would be as a hungry wolf in that fold.”
For this unusual adventure, we open with an odd and uncomfortable scene –Kirk, Bones, and Scotty are enjoying a risqué belly dancer while on “therapeutic shore leave” on the “hedonistic” planet of Argelius II. Scotty, “an old Aberdeen pub crawler” walks off with one of the dancers named Kara (Tanya Lemani). However, moments later Kara is found stabbed to death in an alleyway while Scotty stands nearby against a wall with the bloody knife in his hand.
Since Argelius II is poorly managed, it has no investigators available and so an administrator from Rigel IV is introduced named Hengist (John Fiedler). In addition, we meet the Prefect of Argelius II, Jaris (Charles Macaulay) whose wife Sybo (Pilar Seurat) performs an empathic contact ritual ceremony to determine if Scott is actually guilty of murder. However, a scientist named Lt. Karen Tracy beams down from the Enterprise and she is suddenly killed while in a room alone with Scott, and the same thing happens to the Prefect’s wife Sybo. In each case, Scott is the prime suspect with, quite literally, blood on his hands. Before Sybo died, she shouted a string of strange occult remark –“a monstrous, terrible evil” and “a hunger that never dies” and “Redjac” among other things.
We then meet Kara’s jealous fiancé, Morla (Charles Dierkop), as well as her father, Tark (Joseph Bernard). Naturally, both men do not see eye-to-eye and we have no shortage of murder suspects. Scott is then examined by the Enterprise computer’s “accuracy scan” and Morla is examined, as well. However, the crew soon comes to the conclusion that an evil entity which once embodied the true Jack the Ripper is at work, and Hengist is the prime suspect. Hengist attacks the crew and the entity leaves his body to inhabit the ship’s computer, causing pure havoc.
The Enterprise crew works quickly to manually override his power, while crewmen like Sulu succumb to strange fits of laughter. Spock gives a top priority order to the ship’s computer to compute pi to the last digit, an unending command. This compels the evil entity to exit the computer and begin inhabiting various bodies on the Enterprise before returning to Hengist who is captured and then beamed into outer space where the entity will remain floating, pieces of its power lingering for many years to come before it ultimately dies. In the end, the “hedonistic” shore leave can continue, and Kirk makes note of how “happy” the crew will be.
While not one of the finer moments for the Enterprise crew, “Wolf In The Field” offers a gripping little science fiction murder mystery, albeit with any number of dated tropes. Are the Enterprise crewmen really visiting strip clubs on Argelius II in order to meet loose women? Are women really more easily terrified than men, as Spock notes in this episode? Even after a triple, are they really going to continue pursuing scandalous women on Argelius II? The answer to these three questions is unfortunately “yes” according to the episode. There is much to raise an eyebrow at here, but I would have preferred if this episode was more of a true noir-esque murder mystery perhaps involving Kara’s father or fiancé (amidst the foggy streets of Argelius II), rather than a supernatural all-powerful evil being called “Red Jack” –the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper is a bit of a silly conclusion in my view.
On another note, I was dismayed with the way Scotty’s moral character seems to be impugned in this episode. I had always envisioned him as more of the respectful, gentlemanly type, rather than a vulgar, lusty bachelor on the run through a red light district.
Still, there is an interesting theory of evil propounded in this episode wherein evil is exemplified in a separate being that simply inhabits people from time to time and forces them to commit wayward acts. Often, we wish evil was something other than human, a foreign entity like “Red Jack.” At any rate, casting the soft-spoken unsuspecting John Fiedler as Hengist was a terrific selection! At first, we hardly suspect a thing from the famous character actor known for portraying Piglet on Winnie The Pooh among other classic characters.
Writer Robert Bloch (1917-1994) was a legendary science-fiction and horror writer. He was a Hugo Award winner, and is perhaps best remembered as the author of Psycho (1959) which later became the classic Hitchcock movie. This is his third and final contribution to Star Trek.
Director Joseph Pevney (1911-2008) is tied with Marc Daniels for most TOS episodes directed.
Star Trek Trivia:
- This episode was based on Robert Bloch’s short story, Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper. This was his third and final contribution to Star Trek.
- Dr. McCoy says his famous line several times in this episode –“He’s/She’s dead, Jim.”
- The opening scene of this episode is reminiscent of the slave girl scene as featured in “The Menagerie” and “The Cage.” Even the same Middle Eastern-themed music is apparently the same.
- Several other items were recycled for this episode including Nancy Crater’s scream from the Season 1 episode “The Man Trap.”
- The censors removed a scene which featured the crew drinking multi-colored beverages at the beginning. With each drink their personalities would change, however this was deemed too complex and the censors worried it might appear as if they were using drugs.
- This episode was released at the same time that Leonard Nimoy received an Emmy nomination for his performance as Spock. It led to considerable conflict between Shatner and Nimoy. This episode was an attempt to offer Shatner center stage rather Nimoy.
- This is one of the few second season episodes to feature music by Alexander Courage (at the time, Gene Roddenberry and Alexander Courage were in a heated dispute).