Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’. If that is the case, he may not have seen many wild animals, or found himself in a perilous survival situation. Perhaps his life was never in danger from the most treacherous of all creatures: another human being. It is possible that the situation does not matter as much as our attitude toward it. Roosevelt understood that a rational mind and calm approach is the best method to combat the irrational panic manifested by our fear. When threatened, our brains are only concerned with survival. Secondary processes, like reasoning and critical thinking, are of minor importance. This trait helped our ancient ancestors navigate the predator-strewn plains of Africa, but it did little to help Scotty and the rest of the Enterprise crew in this episode.
While taking shore leave on the exotic dancer planet Argelius II, the crew stumbles upon a murder mystery. It began when Scotty leaves with a dancer and is later found with a knife in his hand as the dancer slumps dead on the floor. Scotty does not know what happened. More women are murdered, and always the evidence points to Scotty. Although the situation is dire, Kirk and Spock refuse to give up on their friend. Their calm demeanour and relentless pursuit of the truth exposed the guilty culprit in the end. An immortal space entity possessed the bodies of unwilling victims and fed on their fear. Perhaps Scotty’s nervousness with the first girl attracted it, but then the sheer terror of what he thought he had done provided the creature with abundant fuel.
If fear was the creature’s greatest strength, the same was also its weakness when set against the calm and rational Enterprise crew. By placating everyone with tranquilizers, Kirk eliminated any source of energy the creature could use. The terror on which the entity relied was always within their ability to control. Renowned Sci-Fi writer Frank Herbert called fear the mind killer, and the root of all fear is our own suspension of reason.