Welcome back to Underrated Trek, where I take a special look at Star Trek episodes that I love…which may not be the most popular or even liked by most. I wanted to do something Halloween related, but I already did Catspaw. So what else can I check out? Looking at a list there are plenty of creepy Trek episodes which are perfect for the season.In fact each series has a handful. So for Halloween something a little different. Five Trek articles on scary episodes from each Trek series. I want to be clear, these are EPISODES that are creepy not just an episode that has a random creepy scene. Today we start with :
As I noted, I already did Catspaw. I also already covered The Man Trap, and no other Original Series episode come closer to being scary than this one. So what makes it scary? How about Jack the Ripper meets Star Trek!
On shore leave to help Scotty mend after an accident on the ship, Kirk and McCoy hear a scream and tun to find Scotty hovering over the body of a woman he had left the bar with..knifed to death!
Argelius is a pleasure planet with no law of their own so they bring in officials from other planets. This official named Hengist questions Scotty and despite Scotty protesting that he is innocent, the evidence seems to point to his guilt. Especially when another woman is killed when she is alone with him. After the prefect’s wife is killed, Kirk convinces everyone to carry on the investigation on the ship.
Before being killed the wife said the name redjac. A computer search reveals that to be a pseudonym for an unknown killer of women on a far planet. In fact the history goes all the way to Earth, and Redjac is another name for Jack the Ripper! Redjac is an entity which travels from planet to planet feeding on fear and terror. Hengist then tries to flee but Redjac gets into the computer and attempts to spread fear among the ship. Spock manages to trick the computer which drives Redjac out into a sedated person. Kirk then beams the being off the ship.
Hengust is played by John Fielder, a very popular character actor best known as the voice of Piglet. And it’s hysterical hearing Piglet’s voices threatening to kill them all! Also Jaris is played by the same actor who played Landru in the boring “Return of the Archons”.
I am not a big fan of Jack the Ripper stories. This is probably the only one I like, and it is really well done. How did someone kill all those women in the biggest city in the world and never get caught? The explanation offered here makes logical sense.
The first half of the episode is fantastic with setting up the mood. Scotty is accused of murder and the evidence really does point in his direction. The seance scene is well done and in fact the whole investigation is very well handled, not rushed like it is in some shows. It’s pretty good on the ship too, its a good murder mystery though the mood isn’t quite the same in the last part as it becomes more of a regular Trek episode.
We all know what Pi is, right? I love that it’s this simple equation which saves the day. After Redjac gets into the computer Spock needs to keep the machine occupied to it tells it to calculate the nearest digit the value of Pi. Of course, that’s impossible.
By the way thus episode set a record for the number of times McCoy would say the famous “He’s Dead Jim” line.
Spock barely appears for the first half, which is also kind of a downer.
Sexism is back. Scotty is on Argelius after an accident on the ship gave him a head injury. Ok I get the head injury to explain the possible aberrant behavior. But it turns out the accident was caused by a woman so McCoy thought it would be a good idea to bring him to the planet to cure his resentment toward women. What? Why would he resent the person who caused the accident, man or woman? This was so confusing to me I wrote a whole prequel story to explain it.
And the ending ruins the whole thing. When Redjac begins scaring the ship, McCoy pumps everyone full of sedatives to keep them happy. A little to happy, it gets a little ridiculous. And the resolution is basically Kirk beaming Redjac out into space..and that’s it. For an episode that set a great atmosphere, this ending didn’t work for me. Also all of the discussion with the other suspects becomes pointless when the truth is revealed, the characters basically disappear from the episode.
Not my favorite Scotty episode eben though he’s the focus. I only really like Scoty when he is professional mode as Chief Engineer.
Fast Forward Moment:
The opening teaser doesn’t really do much but set up the situation. Most what is set up becomes pointless later on.
Final Thoughts:Most people don’t realize this was also written by Robert Bloch (he wrote Catspaw) and it’s, ell, underrated! Next time a scary episode from Next Generation. Which one? Come back and find out.