The Conscience of the King (TOS) (Review)

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The episode starts with a dagger being dramatically raised. Kirk is watching a production of Macbeth. Star Trek references Shakespeare on many occasions – and here is where it started. I have a complicated relationship with Shakespeare – I really want to like his plays but half the the time I understand where Blackadder was coming from when he decks the bard!

Maybe I am just an uncultured so-and-so.

Captain Kirk is watching the play with Dr Thomas Leighton. Leighton is convinced that the man playing Macbeth, Anton Karidian, is Kodos the Executioner. We have no context for who that is but we have a possible secret identify and with this, and a name like Kodos the Executioner, the episode demands to be watched.

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After the credits we learn that Leighton has a disfigurement. Half his face is covered in what looks to be a stiff fabric. I am unclear what it is supposed to be. My guess is it is some sort of bandage or reconstructive surgery – this is a 1960s show it isn’t going to look perfect. Kodos is implied to have done this to him.

Here is the summery from Memory Alpha:

Kodos is notorious because he seized control of the doomed Earth Colony Tarsus IV in 2246 and ordered the execution of half its population of 8,000. Of the 4,000 survivors, only nine, including the young Kirk and Leighton, ever saw the face of the revolutionary governor.

Here is where we get into a bit of problem. Kirk is able to compare Kodos to Karidian via photograph. The whole plot hinges on so few people being able to identify him but this scene shows that anyone could do it. I am willing to overlook this though. The rest of the episode is well done and little plot holes are understandable. That said the plot could have been adjusted to them being witness and not corroborating identity. These days we would talk about DNA too but that kind of testing wasn’t around in the 1960s. (At least that is what I can glean from a 30 second Googling!)

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Kirk attends a cocktail party at Leighton’s home and we meet Anton Karidian’s daughter, Lenore, who is named after a fabric softener for some reason.

Kirk talks to her because…well he is Kirk… but also he wishes to use her to learn about her father. The two of them go for a walk, almost kiss, and discover a dead body. These are all normal events in the life of Captain Kirk.

The body is that of Leighton. This begins to convince Kirk, and Leighton’s wife, that there might be something to his suspicions.

Kirk arranges for the Astral Queen to not pick up the Karidian players. This has the effect he hoped for – it manoeuvres Lenore into requesting a lift which Kirk grants.

Meanwhile Kirk discovers out that Lieutenant Kevin Riley was also one of the people able to identify Kodos. Kirk has Riley sent back to engineering. This is apparently a demotion. Kirk’s reasoning seems to be that if Riley is on the lower decks he is safe from Karidian (Kodos).

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Spock begins to have suspicions and so goes to see McCoy. This may not be the best idea. McCoy is drinking in sickbay – it is possibly the middle of the day and he might be on duty. Spock doesn’t say anything about it. There is also a weird line in this scene referring to Vulcan having been conquered – it is an evolving show so who can say – but McCoy could also be drunk and Spock doesn’t care enough to correct him.

More weird 1960s references to women comes into play when McCoy refers to Lenore as ‘a pretty exciting creature’ – Spock dismisses Lenore as the cause of Kirk’s odd behaviour. And Spock is right. Kirk would not risk his command for something that trivial.

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Meanwhile Kirk is with Lenore on the observation deck to share some weird dialogue.

Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman always remains a woman.

Captain Kirk (Star Trek: The Original Series – The Conscience of the King)

Lenore also compares the power of the Enterprise to Kirk himself – since she uses the word throbbing in that qustion I would rather not think about it.

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Someone attempts to poison Riley. Fortunately he was listing to Uhura sing over the com so he is rushed to sickbay. Spock and McCoy go to confront Kirk about Kodos.

I don’t like anyone meddling in my private affairs, not even my second in command.

Captain Kirk (Star Trek: The Original Series: The Conscious of the King)

What I like about this scene is that McCoy comes to Spock’s defence. The trio is what makes TOS work. Spock is logical, McCoy is emotional and Kirk has to find his way between the two extremes.

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An awkward scene break and it is just Spock and Kirk. They hear the low hum of a phaser on overload. They find it behind the plastic of the red alert light. Kirk sends it down a disposal shoot, the ship shakes, but no serious damage is sustained.

Enough is enough for Kirk. He goes to confront Koridian to make absolutely certain that he is Kodos. He takes with him a copy of the speech Kodos gave before the executions.

The revolution is successful, but survival depends on drastic measures. Your continued existence represents a threat to the well-being of society. (stops looking at the paper) Your lives means slow death to the more valued members of the colony. Therefore I have no alternative but to sentence you to death. Your execution is so ordered. Signed, Kodos, governor of Tarsus Four.

Koridian (Kodos) (Star Trek: The original Series: The Conscious of the King)

Koridian hardly glancing at the paper convinces Kirk he is Kodos.

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So we come to the final curtain. Please forgive the cliché but in this case there is a literal curtain. The performance is going ahead.

Meanwhile McCoy shows us why dictating a log might not be the best idea. He mentions Kodos within earshot of Riley – who takes a phaser and heads for the theatre.

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Kirk convinces Riley to return to the sickbay. What is strange about this ending is that there still seems to be doubt whether or not Kordian is Kodos – even though we saw photographic evidence at the start of the show and Spock said as much – frankly if Spock is certain that is surely good enough for an arrest.

And here we get the big reveal. It isn’t Koridian who has been killing the nine witnesses but Lenore. She grabs a phaser from one of the guards and fires at Kirk. Koridian gets in the way and she kills him instead.

We can argue stun settings but Koridian may have had a heart condition for all we know. I have been watching Bones lately and one thing that comes up again and again is how easy death can happen – even if a weapon is supposed to be non-lethal.

One final quote from Hamlet, curtesy of Lenore over her father’s body, and we get to the end of the episode.

Lenore remembers nothing and is institutionalised. Kirk refuses to answer the question of whether or not he really cared for her.

The Enterprise heads off for its next assignment.

This is one of the best episodes of the original series. As mentioned the plot does have a bit of a hole in it but that is a small quibble as the rest of it is so well done. We get a good look into Kirk’s character as he tries to balance his need for vengeance and his need for justice.

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

I have a Patreon page. I hope you will consider supporting this blog: https://www.patreon.com/unstableorbit

To help with the quotes used in this review I used: http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/

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