Star Trek: The Original Series
"The Conscience of the King"
Air date: 12/8/1966
Written by Barry Trivers
Directed by Gerd Oswald
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
When Kirk discovers that a stage actor named Anton Karidian (Arnold Moss) may really be the believed-dead "Kodos the Executioner," known for executing 4,000 innocent people in the midst of a social crisis, the captain launches a search for the truth. In hopes of learning more, he manipulates Karidian's daughter Lenore (Barbara Anderson) into coming aboard the Enterprise, and finds himself beginning to fall for her.
"The Conscience of the King" is like a stage play brought onto a starship, featuring the classic elements of a Shakespearean tragedy rolled into an episode of Trek. The storyline is accomplished through an ingenious device that is wondrous in the way it threatens to bring down the "fourth wall" separating audience and television production, forcing us to consider the connections between classic literature and now-classic popular culture. It's very creative in its use of archetypes, and Moss and Anderson throw themselves into their roles with the exuberance of, well, stage actors.
Unfortunately, this otherwise stellar episode is almost completely undermined by its inappropriate ending, in which a single line of dialog uttered by McCoy obliterates the tragic realization that played out just moments before. Are we supposed to believe that a woman who has murdered seven people will be set free just because she has suffered a great deal? And that she can be released from her tragic burden through some vague but apparent memory alteration? What kind of authority does Kirk have? And how in the world can you have a tragedy that tries to lighten the mood with a cheat ending?
Previous episode: The Menagerie
Next episode: Balance of Terror
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93 comments on this post
Tue, Feb 16, 2010, 5:29am (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 19, 2010, 10:56pm (UTC -5)
I don't think one ambiguous line deserves to knock down an otherwise great episode.
Thu, Apr 28, 2011, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
Tue, May 22, 2012, 7:47pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 19, 2012, 10:17am (UTC -5)
Anyway, this was a good episode, and I like how when there are concerns about any one in the triad, the other two get together to help him (though it's sometimes in the form of opposition). I love seeing Spock bait and insult McCoy in one scene, then go to him for advice in the next. McCoy does the same thing with Spock--teases him about his logical mindset, then trusts heavily in Spock's intellect.
The relationship of both with the captain is good in this. McCoy defends the captain to Spock and Spock to the captain. Spock is all in Jim's face, and Jim is all, "Stay out of my personal business," but somehow Spock knows when to push, and as he usually does, Jim (after his initial emotional response) acknowledges that both men are right in their concern.
I also love that Spock considers Jim's attraction to the daughter as a motivating force for Jim, but then discards it. Spock knows all about Kirk and the ladies.
Some truly golden Big 3 relationship moments in this one.
Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 5, 2013, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
This is one of the very best episodes of "Star Trek". In terms of dramatic structure it's one of the most sophisticated episodes of the series; in fact it seems to be years ahead of its time, anticipating the character-based dramas of the '90s and afterward (most television of the '60s was more purely plot-driven). Gerd Oswald created a very pensive atmosphere with intimate and subtle camerawork that was rarely seen again on TOS. Joseph Mullendore's score mostly eschewed the musical "stingers" that ended TOS scenes or acts, further enhancing the atmosphere.
Ron Moore has said that "The Conscience of the King" is his favorite episode of TOS, and it's not hard to see why. Its themes of personal obsession, and dark characters willing to do morally ambiguous things, suggest much of what Moore would later do on DS9 and BSG.
Fri, Apr 5, 2013, 8:17pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 4:20am (UTC -5)
I didn't enjoy this episode. Karidian wasn't a credible character for me. I didn't really feel that he felt any great guilt about what he did. Also not a fan of the dramatic over-acting.
However, what a classic piece of dialogue:
Lenore Karidian to Kirk: "And this ship. All this power, surging and throbbing, yet under control. Are you like that, Captain?" :))
Wed, Sep 18, 2013, 9:08am (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
Though certain plotholes I found there as well, things I would have changed would I have written this.
*A fellow victem of a said crime has expressed clear suspicion.. and than not only trows a party to invite everybody inside the house (knowing that alone is way to risky), but also goes out on a walk ALONE during such a risky endevour. thats insane.
It would be more logically for this person to be PRESENT at that party, make sure he is never alone in a rome and have hired private security (I know I would have) to keep an eye out, as well as install recording devises in the whole place just to be sure.
-> he would still be dead, as that daughter would not have been suspicious and might as well have poisened him, but his dead would be more publicly seen.
*I know this series whas made in the '60s but still I keep hearing the word "DNA TEST" in my head. At te very least fingerprints (easely obtainable), bloodtype and dental data, would have been on record.
=> some medical excuse would have been need to made up to scan him.
(and given that people were dead at 7 locations where they went, I'd say a scan would be needed)
The captain just locates a person out of ways harm, without informing him? sorry not very logically. At least he should have placed guards near him. This would prevent any poisening of him. To allow for storyline, guards give us some privacy, a date and some poison lipstick may be used, or she "I'll bring him his meal, since he can't attent our play tonight".
The attempt on kirk's life was WAY over the top.
Since when does 1 lousy phaser-pistol blow up a whole deck.
they don't in star-trek-enterprise, and they don't do in next generation. Not unless they were placed right next to some very important plasma pipeline or something.
It would have sufficed, to just blow up the captains room. No need to evacuate the whole deck.
Just have spock and kirk dive out the room and close the doors, while the thing explodes, wrekking kirk's room, but thats it.
The way Karidian speaks I agree with him.
There was only food for 4000, and there were 8000 people. I find his case to select the 4000 best options (an he picked the children and the smartests as option) and kill of the rest, so halve may life, compelling and correct.
Better halve lives, than all die, and indeed does kirk not makes this kind of decicions all the time?
And jail is to REHABILITATE, not to VENGENCE a crime. We don't lock up a murderder to have the dead sleep more easy, we lock him up to prevent future dead. If there is no such risk, we should not even put such a person 1 day in jail. If there is no change of the person doing the same crime ever again, a person should not go to jail what so ever.
In reverse even an innocent person that have not done a crime, but has a high profile change to doing one, should be locked up preventively, even though he/she did not do the deed yet.
Had there not been 7 people dead under suspicious
situations kirk SHOULD have forgotten the issue.
So after this scene kirk should focus on finding who did the 7 murders, not if he is who he is.
The ending was weak.. with her killing her father.
There were like 50 crew members in the audience watching at her back. one should have stunned her before she even got a change to shoot.
(leaving her alive and proving she did the murdering, and she will go to jail)
might use this scene to have her shot kill of that luitenant whats his name (the other witness) giving kirk the complete power to let Karidian go or not as the last witness.
giving a different endscene with kirk and Karidian drinking coffee and having a talk.
Where Karidian pleas to let her free, and takes the blame for what happend, willing to take her place in jail. Just tell them who I am, and let her "escape" nobody would care if the small fish escape did they?
Kirk repeating : can't she killed 7 people, and if she has the change she will kill more tomorrow, without remorse.
Karidian than saying well can you make sure we al least have a shared cell?
Kirk than asking, surely you don't want me to tell the goverment of .... who you are?
As far as I'm concerned you made a mistake but are no risk to society what so ever now, besides who will keep life acting alife, otherwise?
Kiridian saying than : I have been given her and a new life after my mistake, least I can do is give her the last years of my life after hers.
Kirk : I understand, i'll use my influence to make sure you will share the same prison.
Kiridian : one more thing, if it is not to much to ask..
Kirk : you'll say it!
Kiridian : can you make sure we get a prison with a theather stage?
Kirk : I'll try, but why, you can't be especting much audience?
Kiridian : I'll always have the other inmates, and the guards. But the real reason is : Acting has learned me to forget the past, and give back to the society I was forced to hurt so badly, I hope to learn my daughter this spirit too, and who know a few other inmates as well.
Kirk : Well as long as you make sure at least one seat is empty in case I wish to drop by.
Kiridian : I'll make sure of it.
(something like this would make a far better episode)
Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 12:44pm (UTC -5)
a poster mentioned reilly in only 2 episodes then gone. Never noticed that before. Also these two eps showed reilly at an eng console ive not seen anytime else, while someone was singing over the intercom system. I wonder if these episodes were shot within the same week so they only had to pay reilly actor once? Seems chekov took his spot seas2 on.
anyone who has the dvd check out the part where lenore is exiting the bridge and the look yeoman rand gives her in passing. Classic.
2.5 star about right but I also wouldnt say as good as bal of terror.
Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
Btw you really believe a murderer should not spend one day in jail so long as they never do it again? Your 1st name isnt lenore is it? ;)
Wed, May 28, 2014, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 9, 2014, 3:58am (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 9, 2014, 9:19am (UTC -5)
What more justice do you want?
Sat, Nov 29, 2014, 4:20am (UTC -5)
Also, as an aside: The innocent, but potentially criminal, should be locked up? What happened to "Innocent until proven guilty"? We don't need no Minority Report, thanks.
Anyway, re: the actual episode: I'm surprised that the rating is 2.5 stars and not 3, all because of assumptions made about the ending, which don't seem warranted. (But I'll forgive you, Jammer, since this review is 16 years old now, and maybe you weren't watching this episode as closely back then). I didn't read McCoy's words as "her memory was wiped", and I didn't read any snideness in Kirk's "answer" to McCoy's question as to whether he cared a lot for her. All he has to do is give him a look, because despite all that's happen, and all the pain and confusion of prior events, he does still care for her, and his feelings for her were real.
Well, I look forward to getting to Balance of Terror now. I'll be surprised if I turn to the next page and the rating isn't 4 stars!
Sun, Dec 14, 2014, 12:42am (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 27, 2014, 1:51am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 11, 2015, 3:39pm (UTC -5)
Wasn't a nineteen-year-old a little young for Kirk? Just asking.
Sun, Mar 22, 2015, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 7, 2015, 2:46am (UTC -5)
The story is confusing. Some critical, unresolved plot points stood out awkwardly. First, Kirk's decisions are curious. Why keep the information regarding Kodos from his first officer? Why not attempt to safeguard Riley from an attempt on his life? Second, there was confusion about the daughter's motives. Did she know who Kirk was in relation to her father when they first met? It would have been helpful to have some clarification about her intentions with Kirk. Third, there was no resolution to the plight of the Riley character. We don't know enough about his character to give his actions purpose. Further, his character is given no chance to evolve in concert with the story. He appears like a lifeless tool of the narrative.
Anyway, too bad because I thought the ideas behind the story had potential.
Fri, Jul 24, 2015, 3:32am (UTC -5)
This episode was a flop for me because it was way too sloppy. Too many shortcuts taken just to advance the plot -- they've all been mentioned, no need to retread that ground. Having said that, the chemistry among Kirk, Spock, and Bones was great, and Yeoman Rand's glare at Lenore was, indeed, classic. An interesting glimpse at Kirk's past is another redeeming feature, but still, 2.5 stars is a bit generous.
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 9:23pm (UTC -5)
"Conscience of the King" is where this reaches its peak. ST-TOS isn't necessarily trying to DO Shakespeare...but it clearly wants to partake of its quality and reputation for excellence; it wants the comparison between Shakespeare and 1960s TV SF to not be a ridiculous one.
The episode has a number of (previously stated) flaws. Why does Kirk feel the need to hide his search? Why doesn't he put a guard on Riley? Why are the eyewitnesses so important, when presumably there is technology to figure out Kodos' identity? How does Lenore just wander the ship, getting access to phasers and poisonous material? These problems ALMOST ruin the episode, and I imagine they may well ruin it for some.
However, the Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic is exceptional. The Spock-McCoy scenes as good as they come in the series. And Shatner, belying his hammy reputation, allows the Kodos actor to chew the scenery, and does a pretty damn fine acting job.
Thu, Apr 14, 2016, 12:03pm (UTC -5)
I don't want to use that rather-adult phrase for when a potential romantic encounter is interrupted, but I think this is the first time Kirk's amorous attempt gets blocked. Looks like it was a good thing, too, because I don't trust that woman!
Okay--now Kirk checks out a list of people, suspects something is hinky, and sends Riley down to engineering alone? As bait? What the hell? Did Kirk really just get this guy killed to prove a hunch?
Okay, I'll go watch the rest now. I hope he's not really dead.
Fri, Aug 19, 2016, 1:13pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 16, 2016, 1:26am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 3:25pm (UTC -5)
Very creative idea overlaying Hamlet with a who-dunnit onboard the Enterprise. I thought the acting was solid. Lenore initially is blinded by her need to protect her father - she's already insane and she completely loses it at the end after killing her father - the close-up of her eyes at the end is chilling.
I liked the Spock/McCoy dynamic in taking initially opposing sides to what Kirk is up to. There are some holes in Kirk's decision making though - like demoting Riley and not trying to protect him.
Overall, I thought it was a very intelligent episode that brought a new element to TOS. I can't really compare it with any others for obvious similarities off the top of my head.
For me, I give it 3.5/4 stars.
Sun, Sep 24, 2017, 10:54pm (UTC -5)
It's not just the background we learn about Kirk here that makes this one a great ensemble piece for the main cast minus Sulu and Scotty, who don't appear. This is also the first episode where the main cast just seems to have really settled comfortably into their characters and perhaps the first character-focused (it feels like a soap opera at points much like later Trek series) episode rather than plot-driven episode. The McCoy-Spock-Kirk scenes showing their growing bond of friendship are truly excellent and among the best in the series, as we understand exactly where each is coming from and how they're trying to help one another. It's nice to see Uhura singing again, reminding us of what a good communicator (no pun intended) she is for the crew, who evidently respect her as a sort of voice of the ship in more ways than one -- she's clearly a morale booster with her singing and great favorite of the crew throughout the series. The guest stars are great, from the early scenes with the face patch-wearing witness and his family to Kodos and Lenore. And Lt. Riley, who I find grating in "The Naked Time" if I catch it in the wrong mood, comes across much more likeable and plot-relevant in this episode.
But seriously, Jammer, what the heck? Your reviews are not holy writ. Given that many of us are seeing the same thing, can you *possibly* admit you're wrong and re-review this episode as you do on some later Trek shows? Having just watched it again, I'm 100% metaphysically certain that you misheard the McCoy line and/or took it out of context. Lenore is clearly going to a maximum security psychiatric facility due to her psychotic break. You can watch it with English subtitles and play it a million times, but the ending is quite objectively not what you heard -- and it's quite clear, not ambiguous at all. To base your rating on a misunderstanding is unjust.
The structure of a Shakespeare tragedy makes this story-within-a-story rather unique in TOS and perhaps even in the franchise, creating a true allegory rather than Holodeck homage ala later Trek. It gives us insight into Kirk, whose desire for justice to both the deceased and to the actor accused of being Kodos outweighs his personal interests in romance and revenge -- hardly like the Chris Pine reboot Kirk, incidentally, who seems to be pure ID. And the psychological profile of a dutiful child driving herself crazy in a hopeless effort to defend the indefensible in her father, due to her utter inability to cope realistically with the crushing impact of her family's shameful secret, seems particularly well-presented: The fact that Lenore and her father have sought refuge in fantasy as actors in order to avoid coming to terms with his public actions, as there doesn't seem to be any happy place for them in the real world, feels spot-on to me. "The Conscience of the King" remains for me one of the most sensitive, nuanced, psychologically correct, and well-characterized episodes in the whole Star Trek franchise. There's a faint whisp of melodrama, and there's no real action to speak of as in most other TOS outings, but this one lingers for those who can appreciate its tragic female lead and almost despairing search for justice.
Mon, Sep 25, 2017, 1:28am (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 9, 2017, 10:21pm (UTC -5)
Sorry Jam Man, you misheard McCoy's final line. The criminal's still in jail, but remembers none of her crimes and so has a clear conscience, just like her father, who blocks out the memories of his war crimes. Hence the implication of the episode's title: the clear consciences of kings.
Personally I think this is a four star episode, but it takes a few viewings to really appreciate it (I hated it when I was younger). Watched the remastered cut today and loved the ambiance.
Mon, Jan 22, 2018, 5:19pm (UTC -5)
Gotta love the look Rand gives Lenore when she crosses her on the bridge -- instant jealousy right there.
The closeup of the insane Lenore's eyes when she's pointing a phaser at Kirk -- far scarier than any blood/gore from DSC.
And then Kirk not responding to McCoy's question at the very end about how he really loved Lenore -- less is more acting at its best right here.
Just a beautiful episode with one of the best musical scores (courtesy Joseph Mullendore, not one of the regular composers) -- the Baroque parts are delightful.
Wed, Jan 24, 2018, 2:19am (UTC -5)
Several people have questioned why Kirk so blithely places Reilly in danger by sending him off to Engineering. Kirk underestimates the peril for Reilly because he hasn't realised that the witnesses are being hunted down systematically. He presumably assumes that his friend on Planet Q was murdered because he openly confronted Kodos (and has avoided making the same mistake). It's Spock who figures out (after Reilly's assignment) that seven witnesses have died in suspicious circumstances and that the acting company was nearby each time.
Thu, Mar 8, 2018, 3:15pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 15, 2018, 7:15am (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 10:05am (UTC -5)
1. Refuses to believe his friend who thinks Karidian is Kodos. Kirk
almost turns hostile in that first scene.
2. Refuses to investigate the possibility that Kodos may be alive.
This is something that Kirk ought to take seriously as a senior
officer of Starfleet / the Federation.
3. Does not include anyone, even his senior officers in his investigation.
4. Declares an investigation into a possible large scale genocide is a
5. Gets irritated with Spock and Bones.
6. Moves Reilly to engineering without giving a reason, without
putting a security detail on him.
In the view of many commentators on this thread, the above "plot
holes" make this a bad episode. They don't. The above aren't plot
holes. They are central to the plot. In fact they are the plot.
Put yourself in the shoes of the 16 year old Kirk on Tarsus IV. You
hear that Kodos will kill half the people in your colony so that the
other half may survive. What will be your first thought? Was Kirk's
first thought "I hope I am one of the survivors"? When he actually
turns out to be a survivor, what will he think of himself for as long
as he is alive? Does just wishing himself to be a survivor somehow
make him complicit in the murder of 4,000 people? Did he rationalize
it at the time? Did he actually take any steps to prove to Kodos that
he deserved to be one of the survivors? Would that make him more
complicit in the murder of 4,000 people? If the ration ships had not
arrived early, it would have turned out that Kodos had actually saved
Kirk's life. Just because the ships arrived early and it turned out
that the death of 4,000 was not needed, can we just turn Kodos the
saviour into Kodos the executioner? For all we know, Kirk or others
may have died in the time between the executions and the early arrival
of the ships.
These are the terrible questions Kirk has been running away from all
his life. He wants to blame Kodos. But does blaming Kodos absolve
Kirk? Is Kirk's conscience clear? You can now see point by point how
Kirk's out-of-character behaviour emanates from this conflict running
in his mind throughout the episode.
Finally, who is "the King" in the title of this episode? Of course,
directly it is Kodos, the King who had to decide which of his subjects
deserved to live, while others deserved to die. But, the real king
whose conscience we are requested to reflect upon is not Kodos. It is
Kirk. (That Kirk is a powerful king is established through wonderful
lines of dialogue delivered by Lenore on the observation deck.) Should
the new king punish the old king for a crime that if it had not been
committed, the new king would not have been a king in the first place?
This is Shakespearean tragedy at its ironic best. And Shatner is a
brilliant actor. This episode deserves five stars.
Wed, Aug 29, 2018, 8:29am (UTC -5)
Fri, Feb 1, 2019, 6:44pm (UTC -5)
- Kirk is a key witness in a murder, but the Enterprise has places to be and can't stick around. Same for the actors. Investigating the murder requires manufacturing a pretense.
- Kirk has some serious suspicions, but he can't talk about them with anyone (friends, police, security personnel). This is a personal matter.
- Kodos committed the murder of thousands of innocent people (numbers on par with the recent ISIS genocides of Yazidis and Shias), and is apparently responsible for a string of recent murders, but investigating him is kind of mean and vengeful. It was 20 years ago, after all.
- After some brief romantic interactions with a teenage girl (*cough*problematic*cough*), Kirk is personally invested in her happiness, and conflicted about whether to cause harm to her father.
It might have worked if everything wasn't so hyperbolic? Like, maybe make Kodos responsible for some white collar crimes, and Kirk and Lenore childhood friends?
Sun, Feb 24, 2019, 11:59am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 13, 2019, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 20, 2019, 7:03am (UTC -5)
Nimoy and Kelly are just so great together. They make the show.
Lenore talks about the "surging, throbbing" power of the ship and asks Jim if he's the same way. Subtle.
Nichelle Nichols' performances are force fit, but she is a beautiful, talented lady.
"Even in this corner of the Galaxy, two plus two equals four." Good line from Spock.
I enjoyed it. Above average.
Mon, Jul 1, 2019, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
The ending with McCoy is admittedly a little lax on punishment, but I suppose they didn't want to keep killing people (by capital punishment) in what was already a bloody and tragic situation. Karidian's efforts to remake then sacrifice himself for the peace-promoting arts are probably worth sparing his daughter's life, the way I see it.
Thu, Jul 25, 2019, 8:23am (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 11, 2019, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
It didn't sound like Lenore was going to be released, rather that she was going to exist in some kind of facility where she believed that her father was still alive. ("She'll receive the best of care.") If anything, his description made her sound delusional - not generally the kind of thing that leads to being released after seven murders.
Lenore most likely met the criteria for "not guilty by reason of mental defect," which usually leads to secure commitment, and meshes with the line quoted above. I rewatched the ending again, just to see if I could find what might have prompted your reaction, but I don't see it.
There were a few heavy-handed moments in the first acts, which can probably be chalked up to it being an early episode where character patterns hadn't yet been established. Those knock it down a little, but still eminently watchable. A solid three, if not three and a half stars.
Mon, Mar 16, 2020, 4:06pm (UTC -5)
"Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman always remains a woman."
It makes me always smile when I rewatch it.
Mon, Mar 16, 2020, 4:15pm (UTC -5)
You might also like the lyrics to Uhura's song "Beyond Antares".
I think they're wonderful lyrics for a love song in the context of outer space.
Mon, Mar 16, 2020, 4:59pm (UTC -5)
I really have no idea what that quote means, other than on face value it's dumb and blatantly untrue, but you're probably right that it's classic Kirk. I wonder if whoever wrote this line would also say a man always remains a man?
Tue, Mar 17, 2020, 12:53am (UTC -5)
You got the point. That's what I meant when I said that I always smile watching the scene: We all love Star Trek for so many reasons, but this stupid 60's miniskirt machismo of TOS is undoubtedly part of the Saga, too.
I hope there's no need to seriously discuss about it any more - I consider scenes like these simply as unintentionally funny.
Tue, Mar 17, 2020, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
LENORE: You haven't answered my question about the women.
KIRK: What would you like to know?
LENORE: Has the machine changed them? Made them just people instead of women?
KIRK: Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman always remains a woman.
Now, this might offend some people still if they're under the school of thought that women and men should have no differences and to suggest otherwise is sexist. However, from what psychology I've taken, I know female and male brains work differently, and the perception of love and attraction is different in the genders. There are millions of books on the subject. There's nothing inherently wrong with being a woman, so why try to twist the dialogue into some sort of insult?
Anyway, I think the line is kind of sweet and it really does work best when it's coming from a good guy like Kirk.
Tue, Mar 17, 2020, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
I don't see anything sexist about Kirk's "woman always remains a woman" line either. He genuinely is falling in love with Lenore, a beautiful woman, in an old fashioned way and acts as a gentleman. I like the quote as well. The dialog is well written as are a number of solid dialogs in this terrific episode.
Of course, we know TOS portrays Kirk as quite the ladies man and that is very much product of that era.
But in today's world (and this goes to comments from Soji/Hirsch) of various sexual orientations and gender-bending, the quote comes across as out of touch. So now if you want to compliment a beautiful woman, you'd have to ascertain a few things... Times were much simpler back in the 60s.
Tue, Mar 17, 2020, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 17, 2020, 5:47pm (UTC -5)
So even without the sexism aspect (which you are projecting onto others comments - no one mentioned it until you did) you still think it's a true statement? A galaxy, which lasts billions of years, is somehow more transient than a woman, who lives a century at most and yet Kirk says is eternal? It's possible to make a compliment like "woman are awesome" and not come across as a blabbering idiot. Now obviously, such a compliment had nothing to do with the episode and the scriptwriters wanted something "profound", so they gave Kirk this moronic line. Par for the course for 60s Hollywood, sure, but that doesn't mean I have to lap it up.
Tue, Mar 17, 2020, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
"A galaxy, which lasts billions of years, is somehow more transient than a woman, who lives a century at most and yet Kirk says is eternal?"
I think you're taking the line much too literally. It's poetry, so Kirk is speaking in a figurative sense. His meaning is something along the lines of "even as technology and the world changes, the charm that makes a woman a woman will remain". I'm not saying one has to like it, and I can understand why one might find it corny, it's just that there's no malicious intent to the line.
Tue, Mar 17, 2020, 8:20pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 17, 2020, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
This great episode - the TOS equivalent of DS9's "Duet" - in no way suggests that Kirk is sexist.
One must remember that it's Lenore, the female character, AND DAUGHTER TO A EUGENICIST, who is being chauvinistic. She repeatedly likens the "throbbing machines and tools of the Enterprise" to Kirk's power and masculinity. After assigning the domain of tools to men, she then worries that too many machines makes a man less a man. Then she worries that Federation women, because of their access to similar "masculine technology", stop being women.
Kirk has no interest in any of this gender essentialism. The dude just wants info on her father, a man who murdered people based on mere physical traits. To shut her up, he agrees with her and feeds her the line to appease her: "Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman always remains a woman."
The line as Kirk says it is fine. Women, he means, are always beautiful and never mere dehumanized machines. What's insulting is Lenore's implication that Federation women aren't women, and that it's a woman's only job to be beautiful.
But remember, Lenore's a daddy's girl who knows her role and is submissive to her father. Daddy himself, in the episode, likens acting and actors to "mere tools, like this ship of yours" and likens Kirk repeatedly to a machine ("You are mechanised, electronicised, and not very human."), a viewpoint which obviously rubbed off on his daughter. Later Lenore will say: "I was a tool, wasn't I? A tool to use against my father!" and "You are like your ship, powerful, and not human. There is no mercy in you."
So you've got a father and daughter seeing everyone, including their co-stars as tools, using and discarding people as tools, and projecting this onto the cold, sterile Federation. They're running around the galaxy committing all the murders, they have a history of eugenics, but somehow it is Kirk who is constantly getting blamed for being cold and inhuman.
This little sub-theme closes with the final scene...
MCCOY: You really cared for her, didn't you?
SPOCK: Ready to leave Benecia orbit, Captain.
KIRK: Stand by, Mister Leslie. All channels cleared, Uhura?
UHURA: All channels clear, sir.
KIRK: Whenever you're ready, Mister Leslie.
LESLIE: Leaving orbit, sir.
MCCOY: You're not going to answer my question, are you Jim?
KIRK: Ahead warp factor one, Mister Leslie.
MCCOY: That's an answer.
...where you're asked to ponder whether Kirk's really as cold and dismissive and dehumanizing as some claim, or a heartfelt person, and mourning romantic.
Wed, Mar 18, 2020, 10:46am (UTC -5)
Thu, May 28, 2020, 7:02pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 13, 2020, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
Riley was 1. used as bait by Kirk and 2. he didn't even get protection.
McCoy files a verbal report sensitive to Riley in Riley's earshot.
Redshirt lets Lady Macbeth disarm him like nothing.
Lazy writing in multiple places basically. And Lady Macbeth's overacting was a shame.
Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 5:12pm (UTC -5)
KIRK: You'll never get off the ship.
LENORE: It will become a floating tomb, drifting through space with the soul of the great Karidian giving performances at every star he touches.
It sounds like she has done something to harm the Enterprise, but then this is not mentioned again.
Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
Who knows ... Lenore is completely bonkers insane
Sat, Aug 29, 2020, 2:32pm (UTC -5)
I always interpreted it as a sign of his egomania and his fondness for adulation. He thinks that once he's dead, the ship, his current stage, will have no value.
He thinks himself the center of the universe, and things only come alive when he or his soul is giving a performance.
Tue, Nov 10, 2020, 5:04am (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 18, 2020, 10:11pm (UTC -5)
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ.
I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle:
I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course.
The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape;
yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this:
the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
- Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2.
I watched Star Trek season 1 episode 13 “The Conscious of the King” last night after a few years, and I was absolutely riveted. For 50 minutes I couldn’t peal myself away for even a moment. The episode had all the gravity and pull of great theater. As @Rahul says, “The Conscious of the King” is easily the best episode of Star Trek up to this point in the show.
3 1/2 stars (out of 4)
A classic, in the old sense of the term. Like the grand plays and myths of old. Like a fine wine ("Mister Spock, if you won't join me, don't disapprove of me. At least not until you've tried it”). This one get better with age.
Why not 4 stars? Because it is not a crowd pleaser. This ain’t a story that is “guaranteed to satisfy the whole family.” This is a slow and brooding monster, building up to madness that will destroy a man, or maybe already did long ago.
The story is quite straight forward.
Kirk and his old friend go out for a play because Kirk’s buddy is absolutely convinced that one actor is a Thanos-like a super-villian who took a colony of 8,000 people, and culled half the population in order to save the other half from starvation. This is madness, Kirk says, for Thanos died 20 years ago. But Kirk’s buddy is murdered soon after making the accusation, so Kirk very reluctantly takes up an investigation.
The episode aired a few years after Jewish Nazi hunters tracked down and captured Adolf Eichmann, who had been living in hiding in Argentina. One of the problems the Israeli spies working for Mossad had was there weren’t any current pictures of Eichmann available. And Adolf and his brother Otto looked very similar. Who was to say who was who. You either needed a living witness, or you needed something to trigger the conscious of a killer or someone around him.
With Eichmann, the daughter of one of the hunters starting dating Adolf’s son. And the son went on and on about his father’s time as Nazi. And that’s one of the most important ways they confirmed that Adolf was Adolf. And they snatched Adolf up off the streets of Buenos Aires, took him back to Israel, and put him on trial.
Eichmann’s trial is one of the most famous trials in all of human history. He famously claimed to be only following orders. Hannah Arendt attended the proceedings, and she wrote of a “banality of evil.”
Eichmann was hanged in 1962. “The Conscious of the King” aired in 1966.
The episode brilliantly weaves together the problem of finding ex-Nazis in hiding and confirming their identity and guilt, with Hamlet’s solution to find out if his uncle really did murder his father. The play’s the thing, wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
What is incredible about the episode, watching it today, is how careful Kirk is. He does not to let his suspicions leak out - he does not make any public allegation - any accusation - that the thespian may be a Nazi, even to Spock, his most trusted confidant.
What William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Gene Roddenberry - jews all - must have felt on a visceral level, is that Nazis weren’t just people you didn’t like, or people you didn’t agree with. To call someone a Nazi is one of the gravest responsibilities anyone could have, because they were one of the greatest villains this world had ever seen. You have to be absolutely sure.
Riley’s role in the episode is key. He’s an amiable chap, loves singing, has good friends. As I wrote in my review of The Naked Time, he and Sulu seemed to be having a gay old time.
Kirk very cleverly transfers Riley to engineering - the most secure section of the ship, certainly far more secure than communications. The murderer still takes a shot at him, but in the end, Riley survives. Riley is a survivor. Riley is a holocaust survivor. His family was murdered by the ex-Nazi thespian. And from the time he was just a child, this sweet, happy Irish bloke, has harbored somewhere deep down inside him, a need for vengeance.
But even with all that, with a phaser in Riley's hand, Kirk tells Riley,
KIRK: Riley, get back to the Sickbay.
RILEY: He murdered my father, and my mother.
KIRK: You could be wrong. Don't throw away your life on a mistake.
RILEY: I'm not wrong. I know that voice, that face, I know it. I saw it. He murdered them.
KIRK: It's an order. Give me the weapon.
(Kirk takes the phaser from Riley)
KIRK: Now get back to Sickbay. Go on.
Imagine that discipline. Imagine the self-control. Imagine the devotion to duty, honor, due-process. Devotion to Justice.
We never hear from Riley again. Good night sweet prince.
You don’t just go around accusing people of being a Nazi unless you are absolutely sure. It’s too big a thing. Gene, Shatner and Nimoy knew that. They knew that at Eichmann’s trial there had been 14 living witnesses. Raw data and cold documents were not enough for something this big.
Recall in the episode that Spock is convinced, but Kirk needs more:
KIRK: I'm not sure. I wish I was. I've done things I've never done before. I've placed my command in jeopardy. From here on I've got to determine whether or not Karidian is Kodos.
SPOCK: He is.
KIRK: You sound certain. I wish I could be. Before I accuse a man of that, I've got to be. I saw him once, twenty years ago. Men change. Memory changes. Look at him now, he's an actor. He can change his appearance. No. Logic is not enough.
Years later, Voyager would explore the importance of a Living Witness in a four-star episode towards the end of season 4. It is my favorite Voyager episode. And TNG would explore the dangers of throwing around accusations in The Drumhead, perhaps my favorite episode in all of Star Trek. Some topics are timeless and go to the very heart of Star Trek - back through 65 years of this incredible show. And the seeds and fertile soil for that fantastic moral journey of courage & conviction, starts with “The Conscious of the King”.
By the end of “The Conscious of the King”, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, and the daughter has suffered a complete nervous breakdown after causing the death and downfall of a father she consider like unto a god. She is committed to a psychiatric facility, no handle on reality, no longer able to function enough to even stand trial.
McCoy asks Kirk, "You really cared for her, didn't you?” Kirk only stares blankly, giving the final order to leave orbit. The rest is silence.
Wed, Nov 18, 2020, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
Terrific write-up. Been really enjoying your TOS S1 ruminations.
One thing I've always felt actually is that I found it a head-scratcher as to why Kirk transfers Riley to engineering. Aside from it appearing to be a demotion, I would think if he wanted to protect the Irishman, he'd keep him in a position where he is not isolated. Maybe there is a carry-over from "The Naked Time" and Kirk's still pissed off at him and so Riley's not going to be working on the bridge anytime soon. Nevertheless, I found this move by Kirk puzzling.
When I think of this episode I realize that one of the great pleasures I've had with TOS is the soundtracks and this one by Mullendore is among the best. It's a real credit to TOS that they could come up with such diverse musical scores depending on the type of episode it is.
Just one correction -- (people may disagree with me on this one), I have "Dagger of the Mind" as ever so slightly superior to this episode.
Look forward to more of your TOS thoughts and analysis.
Wed, Nov 18, 2020, 11:36pm (UTC -5)
As a kid I hated this one because I thought it was boring. The last time I watched it was maybe 5 years ago so I'll need to watch it again, hopefully soon, to see how well it's aged for me. I suspect I will find some meta-narrative about changing one's appearance as an actor being akin to the changeable nature of one's own thoughts and memories. If you can don a mask and costume and really believe you are someone new - are you? And if a person who at one time committed an atrocity has somehow transformed himself, even to the point of doubting what he himself had done - is this the same individual anymore? Of course maybe the episode just uses the theatrical setting in order to couple up the Hamlet story with the Nazi throughline as Mal suggests. But maybe it is saying something about how even monsters could be thought of as just actors playing a part, where on some level the atrocity is done 'in character' like a role, almost divorced from your conception of who you think you are. The chilling thought isn't that "just following orders" is banal; it's that perhaps that what we would like to think of as a monster is just a regular dude. That would mean anyone could do that under the right circumstances. In Hamlet the prince himself avoids taking violent revenge, even until the end when it begins to be clear that he doesn't know what he will do. That he kills is brought about by circumstances (orchestrated by Claudius himself) that he did not anticipate, and that sent him into a killing frenzy. Is Hamlet a "murderer", or was he merely subjected to the whimsy of fate, made a regicide out of sheer dumb luck?
Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 1:36pm (UTC -5)
I noticed you used the word ruminations. Do you follow LoreRunner on Youtube? If you don't know him, he does a review series called "Ruminations" unless it's a really bad episode in which case it's called "Lamentations".
Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
Never heard of LoreRunner ... actually came up with "ruminations" on my own so I guess it's a bit of a coincidence.
I'm just glad I can categorize Mal's takes on TOS S1 as ruminations and not lamentations!
Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 4:08pm (UTC -5)
But it has been something like a decade since I had the time to sit down and watch the whole thing all the way through. For whatever reason, whenever I do a re-watch, it is a show that was heavily serialized, like DS9 or B5.
One of the real benefits of this whole locked-down era we are living through is the chance to re-watch more episodic shows like TNG, VOY, and now finally, TOS.
And it is so much fun. Plus, I've never read @Jammer's reviews of TOS before.
So while I will be grumpy from time to time on episode that maybe didn't live up to spec, by and large ruminations will be the name of the game.
By the way, I've really enjoyed @Rahul, @Peter G., @Skeptical, @William B, @Beth, and some of the other regulars. I hope I can expect to see your comments as I work my way through the next two-and-a-half years of episodes!
Wed, Dec 16, 2020, 8:47am (UTC -5)
But considering Lenore can get poison, a phaser and plant the phaser IN KIRK’S QUARTER’S, that does go a long way in explaining how everybody in the Galactica world seems freely able to get plastic explosives and what not.
Personally, I think it’s a terrible episode. Like, 1 star. It’s boring, and frankly, Kirk was behaving irrationally. He damn near caused severe damage to the ship because he wants to play detective. “I suspect this guy is murdering people, better stage a situation to get him on board the ship. And I won’t share any of this with my trusted top officers and friends. I won’t consider talking to Riley about this, because though he’s an officer, obviously he’ll flip out and instantly become obsessed with revenge. This is my personal crusade, nobody else will understand it. It’s not like Spock will put the 2+2 pieces together in five minutes.”
The ending to me suggests that Bones is actually doing his job. He’s fishing to see if Kirk is still obsessed. He, in effect, is suggesting Lenore will get off lightly. He’s probing when he asks Kirk if he really cared for Lenore. Because Kirk obviously was just using her.
Riley: IIRC, despite the appearance of seeming to invest a lot in this character, then completely drop him, the Riley character wasn’t meant to be recurring. They simply cast the same actor again, and he reminded them he was on the show before, so they adjusted the script to reflect that.
FYI, a great site for Trek transcripts: http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/13.htm
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 5:45am (UTC -5)
It is an early-ish episode, and the Kirk/Spock/McCoy interplay is great.
Kirk’s actions are so reckless here that he should lose his command. It feels more like he’s playing a sick game then trying to find justice. He and Spock become remarkably obtuse when it’s clear as a bell that there’s a murderer and the murderer is now on the Enterprise.
How in the world does Lenore even find Riley after he’s been transferred to the bowels of engineering?
Lenore’s endless final scene is just eye glazingly endless. I’m glad the screenwriter loves Shakespeare, but this isn’t Shakespeare.
Still, this episode is one those that leave things in my head. So, it’s memorable. Karidian talking about being grateful for senility and his “I am tired!”
Lenore’s heart felt non-sequitur “they were not innocent! They were dangerous!”
Thu, Mar 11, 2021, 2:28am (UTC -5)
First, this isn’t really a Trek story. It would have made a good TV drama- the Shakespearian coming off-stage into real life with performances to match. Those elements were well done as long as we ignored the starship setting.
However some things were really bad. Some of the acting was overwrought and melodramatic. The part where the doctor was “coming back to his cocktail party from ‘town’” yet we see that the planet is “typical Trek “, all styrofoam rocks and stage lighting. (Why is there never an industrialised place? Jeez, even the silent movie. ‘Metropolis’ managed THAT!) The characterisation of Engineering as a desolate place to work - all red sets to match the uniforms, flashing consoles, and no company.
I enjoyed the drama but it was not a convincing Trek story. Scott and Sulu didn’t miss anything by their absence!
Thu, Mar 11, 2021, 9:44am (UTC -5)
A weekly tv series is very different than a movie. Metropolis was one of the most expensive movies ever made at that point and it took over a year to film.
It would be difficult to create an industrialized city on a tv budget that didn't look even less realistic than those Styrofoam rocks you mentioned. And on top of that, you'd have to be able to store all those set pieces because you can be damn sure that they would be recycled at every opportunity for the rest of the show's run.
There is an interview with Michael Pillar on one of the TNG blu ray disks where he talks about his first experience writing for the show. He wrote a script with a lot of extras and a big phaser battle. He quickly learned that this was out of the question. He says that a show that has, say, a 1.5 million dollar budget really only has of 1 or 2 hundred thousand. Why? Because a huge portion of the budget has already been allocated to salaries for the actors, crew, producers and all of the other expenses that must be met before you can even begin an episode. He said that instead of getting the 150 phaser blasts he wanted, he got 12. Because each blast cost $2,500 dollars to produce. He also learned that extras that said "yes, sir" to Picard cost a lot more than an actor who simply nodded.
Now imagine how much penny pinching went on on TOS where they couldn't rely on cost saving computers. Oh, and another thing to keep in mind: sci-fi props and sets only had limited use. It isn't like you could reuse those props on Gunsmoke or something.
p.s. Yeah, Jammer totally missed what McCoy was talking about at the end of the episode.
Mon, Jul 26, 2021, 10:22pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 4, 2021, 10:31am (UTC -5)
For example you have the explicit references to Shakespeare and stageplays, which allows the episode to indulge in Trek's fondness for a certain theatricality.
Then you have another "genocidal" villain, though one that's more highbrow, classy and better written than most. For me he's one of Trek's best mass-murdering bad guys, right up there with Khan and the "villain" in "Duet".
Then you have Kirk's unique masculinity in full display. The guy's a smooth operator in this episode, tough, tender, cheesy, classy, confident, conflicted, dangerously obsessed, and all in a plunging V-neck. All the "Kirk cliches" are here, but done well.
Then you have the obligatory love interest, but she's done well here, and IMO the best Kirk love interest outside "City at the Edge of Forever". Their night-shift conversation in a low-lit corridor is particularly good. She never feels like a throw-away sex object, and gets under Kirk's skin in a way only Edith Keeler ever does.
And while commenters like Tidd above complain about the alien planet - all styrofoam rocks and stage lighting he says (which is true) - I've always thought it was cool and dripping with atmosphere. It's so 1960s, so retro but chilled out, these neon-lit dapper space men in their suave uniforms chatting up settler babes and listening to trippy space tunes in their zany, eyeball popping alien bachelor pads.
I also like the little details in the episode; the idea of a troupe of actors traveling from colony to colony performing for locals, for example. Or the constant tug-of-war between metal and flesh (machines, science, rationalism, cold space, on one hand, the threatre, planetfall, human intimacy on the other), epitomized by Kodos, who's so shocked by his own "rational", "calculating" past (he "logically" executed men to preserve the well being of a colony), that he resents Kirk for what he perceives to be the same ("Captain, you stand, the perfect symbol of our technical society. Mechanised, electronicised, and not very human!").
This tension, of course, typifies Trek as a whole; the warmth and humanism on one hand, and the aloof, sterility of space on the other.
So while I wouldn't argue "Conscience" is the best TOS episode, or flawless, for me there's always been something special about it. I've seen it about four times now, and it always seems to capture a certain Trek essence (insofar as that can be said to exist).
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 20, 2022, 9:12pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 21, 2022, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
>Wasn't a nineteen-year-old a little young for Kirk? Just asking.
What are you trying to imply about our good captain?
Sat, Apr 2, 2022, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 19, 2022, 2:07pm (UTC -5)
The comments here are fascinating. I’m glad I’m not the only one who watched Kirk’s friend’s spitting accusations against Kodos at the beginning of the show and thought, “It’s like a Jewish person post-World II suddenly realizing he may have just spotted a Nazi in hiding.” Then I also made the same connection that since this was the 1960’s, this issue was likely at the top of a lot of people’s minds at the time. If you haven’t read through all these comments yet, definitely check out Rahul’s, Peter G's and Mal’s above. Then study the Holocaust or at least watch the HBO film “Conspiracy” to see why nabbing Adolf Eichmann was such an important undertaking.
To DutchStudent82 (just in case they end up reading this) -- I was glad that Kodos died. He was no hero, he was an evil mass-murdering maniac. You don't murder half your subjects because of a food shortage (what an obnoxiously extreme example that was anyways!), you let nature take its course. And most people interpret justice as "Vengeance for Victims." Rehabilitation may still occur in jails and prisons, sure, but the reasons for the inmates being there in the first place is absolutely punitive (I'm not getting into the unjustly imprisoned; that's another discussion). To your point about the need for a system that will lock away *potential* offenders before they can actually commit a crime, all I have to say is, please stay in the Netherlands/Belgium.
I liked the episode's obvious metaphor of acting as “hiding.” You can hide from your own conscience while taking on the life of a brand-new character. Sure, “The play’s the thing”--unless you’re dealing with observing a true sociopath while trying to catch him in this way--but the more accurate point here is probably the equally Shakespearean “All the world’s a stage,” the people in it merely players.
I also agree with those who think the ending was fine--I think it’s clear that Lenore is headed for some sort of mental institution. “Not guilty by reason of insanity” doesn’t exactly mean release. The culprit avoids prison, sure, but there are many people, articles, books, and other sources that affectively convey the reality that most asylums for the criminally insane are actually pretty fucking terrifying places to be.
“The Conscience of the King” is awfully melodramatic, yes, but in this case, it amusingly fits the story being told. It’s solid while not exciting, good but not great. I loved Uhura's singing, by the way. Nichelle Nichols is lovely. What a nice callback.
McCoy -- “In the long history of medicine, no doctor has ever caught the first few minutes of a play.”
My Grade: B-
Tue, Apr 19, 2022, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
Kodos was presented with a standard trolley problem: throw over half the population, or watch all of them die in misery. Let's put aside how you might stand in that situation, and just accept that a governor's job goes beyond what you might personally do, but involves the assigned duty to protect as many people in the colony as possible. That might well change the calculus on whether such as action is permissible or not. Kodos went ahead and did it. It was a sort of trick of fate that supplies came shortly after, making his choice especially regrettable, but if they hadn't what would the result have been? Would he be judged any differently?
This episode tackles not only the trolley proble, but something far more: it asks whether it's proper for *anyone* to have the power and authority to decide the fate of millions. Lenore may be crazy - a poor decision IMO to insert at the end - but her arguments through the episode are very pointed: Kirk is this powerful man commanding an instrument of potential massive destruction. Should anyone have such power? Lenore and Kodos would argue not, which is why they set their plays in an era prior to industrial technology. It's not just Desilu studios using props and costumes they have lying around (although it's that too) but Kodos making a statement about how much easier it was in an era where no one even had the option to kill countless people with the touch of a button. It was much harder back then, although massacres still did happen. But nothing on the scale of the 20th century, and not with such ease. So the points made about both technology and authority - both of which Governor Kodos had - are made especially salient coming from someone who was in a similar position to Kirk and who chose a solution that he appears to rue. It's not that he made a mistake, but rather it's a mistake that people are in a position to make that choice at all. He seems in a way to defend his action; after all, was the other choice any better? I think he at any rate makes the argument that he wasn't a monster, even though he did a mostrous thing. Lenore, on the other hand...she is the one who actually deserves censure, killing for selfish reasons. Kodos at least seems to believe he was trying to achieve the greatest good. This point is complicted somewhat by the fact that he used eugenics to decide who would live and who would die. But I find this point something of a red herring: once you're killing half the population on a colony, perhaps it does make sense at that point to minimize the cultural and political damage being done. Does it really have to be a coin flip like Thanos did? Is that not possibly more cruel? It seems like all possible options here are cruel, including doing nothing. Kodos was damned either way, which makes it especially fitting that he retired into performing Shakespeare tragedies. Also almost like he's making a statement about his own life and how fate destroyed him.
Another really nice feature in the episode is Lenore and Kirk playing each other like counter-intelligence agents. The romance is real, and yet a ploy, at the same time, and for both of them. She is playing him to maneuver him away from Kodos, and he's playing her to get to Kodos.
What does not work about this episode is the mystery angle goes on for far too long when the chance that he's really not Kodos isn't explored. The story needs him to be Kodos for there to be a story. Also we never really have a chance to sympathize with Kodos the way I think we should. His pitiable choice gives us the chance to see beyond his action, but that never happens. Instead we just see a villain die, which is not what this scenario calls for. There's too much meat to the story for us to conclude that he was just a bad guy, but that's how it plays on screen. Lenore being a maniac further compounds this problem, and even though Kodos regrets her demented actions it does little to make us realize how right he is in defending himself and in warning us against having too much power at our fingertips. In the end this screenplay ends up too overwrought with tension and drama and not containing enough story and understanding. The lesson is lost in the mix, as is any sense of the story moving along. As a final nail in its coffin, the title doesn't even end up being appropriate, since neither the Hamlet production nor any plot of Kirk's ends up unmasking Kodos through his guilt. He is really unmasked much earlier, and he makes little effort to hide it. In fact even his guilt is in question. So the attempt at a pithy title ends up creating confusion rather than helping us see the point of the story. It's also a pretty boring title anyhow.
Tue, Apr 19, 2022, 3:32pm (UTC -5)
I hadn't thought of that, but yes. I think that would have made for a far more compelling story. There was never any *doubt* or nuance to the investigation; his identity and guilt was telegraphed early and the episode never allowed us to consider that Kirk's friend, or Kirk himself, just might be wrong. Or maybe a story more akin to "The Man in the Glass Booth," where you think you have the right guy but it turns out you don't.
I liked your earlier write-up in the above comments--very thoughtful. Even monsters are people, indeed.
Tue, Apr 19, 2022, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
@Proud Capitalist Pig
Re. there being no doubt about Kodos' guilt upfront -- I think that would be telling a different story, albeit more appropriate for the title, to be honest! But what I see this episode about is really what's going on in Kirk's mind -- this is a Kirk episode primarily, as it's written. It puts him in a mental grinder, caught between a genuine love for Lenore and trying to get to the bottom of the massacre.
He rapidly develops feelings for Lenore, and they play each other. But there's also the aspect of his obsessive nature, which is revisited in a couple of subsequent episodes. Spock/McCoy spend their time analyzing Kirk's behavior, as their suspicion is aroused. In the end McCoy asks Kirk about Lenore and he gives the less-is-more treatment. What's great about this episode is the number of layers there are to it.
Thu, Apr 21, 2022, 11:43pm (UTC -5)
We can assume this house was just on a nice spread and ... they just happen to have a styrofoam rock garden.
Fri, Apr 22, 2022, 12:39am (UTC -5)
This guy LOOKS like Kodos, is the right age, has a suspicious history that matches Kodos changing his identity, sounds so much like Kodos that Spock thinks the voice print matches.
Meanwhile, Kirk's buddy that suspected he was Kodos was murdered.
Riley-- the other witness-- is poisoned, an attempt is made to murder Kirk that could easily have killed dozens of others
Kirk CONFRONTS Kiridian and Kiridian hems and haws, practically admitting his guilt.
Yet Kirk is still waffling when he and Spock review the voice print test.
Was Kirk planning on just shooting Kiridian if he decided he was Kodos?
Because I don't get what he was planning. He sure as hell needed to get them off the ship and to the proper authorities. He certainly had enough circumstantial evidence to confine this acting troupe to quarters.
Fri, Apr 22, 2022, 1:04am (UTC -5)
Shouldn't Kirk shift his attention to the attempted bombing?
And wouldn't there be an immediate lock down of non critical personnell? Would the play really still occur?
I mean BLEH.
Fri, Apr 22, 2022, 9:00am (UTC -5)
Great points, Silly. See this is why I think the choice to make Kodos'/Karidian's guilt so obvious, and telegraphed early, hurts the episode somewhat. I think that if it had been treated more like a slow-burning mystery there wouldn't have been as many holes, and Kirk wouldn't have had to look like an idiot.
I will say that even with Kodos' history, mannerisms and actions being truly like a red neon sign flashing, "EVIL! EVIL! EVIL!" whenever you see him, Kirk still hadn't caught him red-handed with iron-clad proof--only suspicion and circumstantial evidence. As others have mentioned, that's the whole point of him putting the moves on Lenore, seducing her so that she'll hopefully spill her family secrets.
But the criticisms of the failure of security on the ship, just to serve the story? Absolutely correct.
Sat, May 21, 2022, 12:09am (UTC -5)
Kirk has his own personal experience on which to base his suspicion of Karidian but instead of the screenwriter doing the obvious thing of having Kirk huddle with Spock and McCoy to ruminate over his suspicion like you'd expect, Kirk instead goes over-the-top pursuing Lenore. But instead of Kirk just being his typical horn-dog self - although that's how it looks - it seems like he's working an angle about Karidian. Spock does his own investigation and we see how passionate Spock can get about matters of justice (we saw this elsewhere in "Space Seed") when he buttonholes McCoy to tell him what he's found out. Kirk apparently feels like he's going out on a limb suspecting Karidian and doesn't want to involve Spock or McCoy; Spock seems to realize this. It was an interesting writing decision.
Fri, Jul 15, 2022, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Noticed that in Spock’s line to Kirk around the 7:09 mark - “We are ready to leave orbit”, you can catch Nimoy ever so slightly dropping the Spock diction and ending the sentence with a tone that might be called upbeat or “chipper”.
Unclear whether it was intentional, because coming from a human, that tone could indicate the refocusing of a conversation after a tangent, as if to say “uhh, anyway!”. Coming from Spock, it really jumped out as odd.
Sun, Jul 31, 2022, 3:03pm (UTC -5)
She contributed so much to Trek and was such a role model, breaking barriers etc. My words can't do her justice.
But one of my favourite things about Uhura on TOS was listening to her sing "Beyond Antares" -- just wonderful.
Mon, Nov 7, 2022, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
Lenore’s chilling “I know how to use this, Captain!” has already been mentioned, but I was also impressed by Dr Leighton. There is a great shot of him when he says: “I remember him. That voice. The bloody thing he did.” At first we see his profile, and his face looks hard, in line with the hatred and bitterness in his voice – and then he turns his head to look at Kirk and in the wink of an eye, his expression changes completely to one of pain and sorrow, and when he asks Kirk to help him, it’s in an almost pleading tone.
And, of course, there is Kirk who tries his best to appear strong and poised and determined, but every now and then, his body language and facial expressions reveal how deeply the whole matter afflicts him. He’s tried to put the past behind him, to convince himself that Kodos’ death is satisfaction enough, as he tells Leighton… but it’s obvious that he didn’t get over it any more than his friend. In the following scene, when he does some research and listens to the information the computer is giving on the events on Tarsus IV, he turns away, his fingers start to twist and we can literally see all the memories coming back. The same goes for the confrontation in Karidian’s quarters, when Kirk makes him read out Kodos’ speech. In both cases, it's very subtle, almost understated, but very carefully elaborated, and there’s an intensity about it that really elevates the whole episode.
Another thing that struck me hard is the following dialogue:
Karidian: “(...) Kodos made a decision of life and death. Some had to die that others might live. You're a man of decision, Captain. You ought to understand that.”
Kirk: “All I understand is that four thousand people were needlessly butchered.”
Karidian: “In order to save four thousand others. And if the supply ships hadn't come earlier than expected, this Kodos of yours might have gone down in history as a great hero.”
Kirk: “But he didn't. And history has made its judgment.”
This makes my blood run cold. I can even kind of see the point Kodos is trying to make… that he, in a dire situation, thought he could save some of his people by sacrificing others… not that I approve of the idea, not to mention its implementation, by no means, but I can see how he got there, and I can also see why he points out that Kirk ought to understand his motives.
What’s more, this dialogue is saying something about our perception of historic events… it shows that we should be careful whenever history seems to have “made its judgment”. Just imagine the situation had turned out as Kodos describes, and the supply ships had arrived later, as scheduled. What judgment would history have made in that case? I fear that it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that it might indeed be different… not to make Kodos appear as a great hero, but to relativize his crime, to offset the executions against the survival of the other half of the population. Isn’t that appalling? Those 4,000 colonists are dead, their execution is at least a crime against humanity – that’s a stone-cold fact, condemning it as such should be an absolute, and I find it chilling that the perception of it might vary depending on some random element.
Thu, Nov 24, 2022, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
Possibly a good general point, but pedantically, Gene Roddenberry was not Jewish. I belive he grew up in a Baptist home to WASPy parents.
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 2:54pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 12:23pm (UTC -5)
It took me two seconds to google and find the actual script:
MCCOY: Medical report. (hands it over) She'll receive the best of care, Jim. She remembers nothing. She even thinks her father's still alive giving performances before cheering crowds. You really cared for her, didn't you?
SPOCK: Ready to leave Benecia orbit, Captain.
KIRK: Stand by, Mister Leslie. All channels cleared, Uhura?
UHURA: All channels clear, sir.
KIRK: Whenever you're ready, Mister Leslie.
LESLIE: Leaving orbit, sir.
MCCOY: You're not going to answer my question, are you?
KIRK: Ahead warp factor one, Mister Leslie.
MCCOY: That's an answer.
So please revise your rating for this episode!
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