Star Trek TOS: Early Use of the Machines to Catch Killers
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2, Episode 14
Wolf in the Fold
Wolf in the Fold commenced with a woman in a revealing outfit gyrating to Egyptian music, a sound that developed in Season 2 and was used throughout. Kirk and his council looked on. McCoy, who was assuredly enjoying the show, joked the display was ‘hedonistic.’ Regardless of the doctor’s duality on the topic, the shimmy by the woman was pretty risque for the era. Star Trek — pushing the envelope. Scott even “went upstairs” with the dancer. Boom.
It should be noted: No context was given for why Kirk, McCoy, and Scott were looking at tail. The first few minutes really just felt like a few spacemen trying to get laid.
Then, a woman screamed. She was stabbed a dozen times per Kirk’s snap assessment.
And guess who did the stabbing? Scott. Here we go.
Scott was under immediate investigation on Argelius II by the bald, high-pitch-voiced Mr. Hengist. An Argelian named Jaris intervened, claiming his wife could determine what happened to the slain woman through meditation. On the whole, despite Scott’s fingerprints on the murder weapon, the inhabitants of Argelius II gave Scott the benefit of the doubt — a surprise because they could easily be bloodthirsty about the happenings.
Before the beginning of the meditation for truth, the group searched for the murder weapon, an odd thing to misplace after a gruesome murder. They found it. But it was utilized in another murder with — you guessed it — Scott implicated yet again. The aforementioned benefit of the doubt evaporated quickly. Again, Scott claimed he passed out due to a head injury.
Interestingly, it took Spock 20 minutes to make an appearance in the episode, a rarity.
Another tally hit the body count as Jaris’ wife was killed.
We’ve got a spree killer on Star Trek.
It was quite obvious Scott was innocent, but there was no smoking gun pertaining to the real culprit.
In The Deadly Years, two episodes before this one, Kirk was on trial. This time, Scott faced a trial, too, back on Enterprise. More of Star Trek’s legal system in action.
Before Jaris’ wife was murdered, Spock warned Kirk her meditative gathering of truth was not a sound way to adjudicate man’s life or death. This was a testament to Spock’s belief in facts and evidence rather than circumstantial corroboration. The statement was also an affirmation the criminal justice system only works with concrete proof — like DNA in modern death penalty cases.
The jurists referenced Jack the Ripper and his killings of women back on “Old Earth.” Mention of Jack the Ripper prompted Kirk to use the computer present at trial like Google. Kirk asked the computer for mass murders since Jack the Ripper because they theorized some sort of holdover spirit or voodoo from Old Earth.
Turned out the man with a high-pitched voice was the focal point of the whodunnit — and Star Trek’s version of Google helped bring the truth to life. Score one for late-1960s Google. The killer was Hentgis, and he flipped out when positively identified. He keeled over and died while the presence or demon causing him to murder hopped into Enterprise’s technological mainframe. Never a dull moment.
Spock daggered the demon when it entered the computer by asking it to calculate the mathematical amount of pi. Brilliant. The demon hopped back into Hentgis, and Kirk beamed him off the ship, presumably to the purgatory of outer space.
The takeaway from Wolf in the Fold was Star Trek’s commitment to justice through evidentiary means. Computers can be a tremendous tool for good if used properly with checks and balances. They can either stifle killers like Jack the Ripper — something we know now in the 21st Century but was new-ish 55 years ago.
Themes: Use of Technology for Law Enforcement