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Star Trek TOS - Season 1 - Episode 13

Star Trek TOS - 1x13 - The Conscience of the King

Originally Aired: 1966-12-8

Kirk suspects Shakespearean actor Anton Karidian as a mass murderer. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 5

Fan Rating Average - 5.24

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Filler Quotient: 2, filler, but an enjoyable episode nevertheless. You can skip this one, but you'd miss out on some fun.
- There's no essential plot or exposition in this episode that renders it unskippable, but it's a decent episode, even though it could have been better.

- Uhura's song was quite obviously dubbed over her performance. In the last scene she's shown singing in her mouth isn't even open!

- The episode title is a reference to Hamlet, Act II: "The play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."
- This episode establishes that the Vulcan people cannot get drunk. McCoy also makes a statement about Vulcan having been "conquered," though we're not told by who. His statement probably jokingly referred to Vulcan being "conquered" by Earth, as Spock is working on a ship full of humans.
- This episode establishes that about twenty years ago, Kirk lived on Earth colony Tarsus IV where he and Riley were two of only nine surviving witnesses to the massacre of 4000 colonists by governor Kodos.

Remarkable Scenes
- Spock: "How could you know this lady is coming aboard?" Kirk: "I'm the captain."
- Spock and McCoy discussing Kirk's behavior.
- Riley calling the rec room.
- Uhura's singing performance.
- Spock and McCoy confronting Kirk.
- Kirk confronting Karidian.
- Karidian's daughter revealing that she is the real murderer.
- Karidian's death, defending Kirk.

My Review
A murder investigation is a delightfully original plot for Star Trek to tackle at this stage and the question of whether or not Karidian could actually be Kodos is intriguing and well plotted. What doesn't work quite as well is Karidian's / Kodos' daughter who as a consequence of both bad writing and bad acting is insufferable to watch. I'm not sure which was worse, her bad romance with Kirk or her incessant quoting of Shakespeare. Likewise I find it a little odd that a simple medical scan couldn't have been used to determine Karidian's true identity, but perhaps Kirk was unable to employ that option due to his desire for a stealthy investigation.

What works best in this episode is the Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic which is not unusual. Watching Kirk give unusual orders followed by Spock attempting to unravel their true purpose and then McCoy blindly justifying Kirk's actions to Spock is a lot of fun. It was also nice to see the episode reuse the previously established character of Riley, giving us some backstory on him which he shares with Kirk. In the end you've really got to feel bad for Karidian / Kodos because it's clear that all he really wanted to accomplish was to give his daughter a nice life by hiding the true nature of his past. But unfortunately for him his daughter was just smart enough to figure out his true past without being smart enough to realize why her father was hiding it from her in the first place.

Annoyingly, the episode concludes on a note of rather poorly-earned joy when McCoy says that Karidian's / Kodos' daughter will have her memory messed with so that she thinks her father is still alive, allowing her to recover from her sanity issues and in all likelihood rejoin civilian life. This is a rather unforgivable detail in my opinion. You can't just wipe a criminal's memory of their criminal act and release them back into society as if nothing happened. Even if this could be made to seem like a plausible policy, the episode would have had to spend more time substantiating this idea rather than tossing it in a throw away line at the end of the episode. In fact exploring the idea of the implications of such a technology and policy would be far more interesting than most of this entire episode!

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From CAlexander on 2011-04-18 at 1:21pm:
    I liked the general plot and concept of the show, hunting down Kodos the Executioner, Kodos' reactions, and the whole thing ending in tragedy. I wasn't as interested in the part about Captain Kirk's erratic behavior, or the inclusion of Keven Riley. And I think you hit the nail on the head with Lenore – she is indeed painful to watch.

    - I wish I knew the story about Kodos and how he managed to seize power while only leaving a small handful of witnesses, with the ones we see having been quite young at the time. But perhaps it is an artistic choice to leave it to our imaginations.
    - Genetic testing, of course, was not around in the '60's, so the writer didn't foresee it existing in the 23rd century. I'd file it in the same category as other 60's anachronisms on the Enterprise.
    - I believe you misunderstood McCoy's final statement. Lenore's conversation during the final confrontation indicates that she is psychologically disturbed and at least partially delusional. McCoy is just saying that after the trauma of killing her father, she has retreated into her own fantasy world where her father is still alive. She is now getting psychological treatment to cure her "insanity". The wording is confusing because we never hear McCoy diagnose her as mentally ill, and he says something like "She is getting the best available treatment. She doesn't remember anything." But these are just two separate facts he is offering in hopes of comforting Captain Kirk – that she is getting the best medical care, and that she is no longer hysterical with guilt. The whole thing is a rather 60's view of mental illness, but straightforward in that context.
  • From Mike Meares on 2012-03-07 at 10:04am:
    The Conscience of the King is an interesting episode, but I am forced to agree with the review here as I don’t rate this one higher than a 5 either.

    I find myself still enjoy watching this episode, mainly because of the interaction of the three main characters; Kirk, Spock and McCoy. And the acting of Arnold Moss playing the role of Anton Karidian. I thought he was very good.

    But the episode is flawed in many, many, many ways. I thought there was way too many mistakes in the writing that should have been corrected before this episode was even filmed.

    Looking back on the series as a whole I just found it really distracting that the Captain had this many love interests. Kirk just seems to fall in love at the drop of a hat. I find this unbearable to watch.

    And is it just me or does the age thing between Lenore and Kirk bother anyone else? Lenore can not be more than 19 ( and since the events of Tarsus IV took place twenty years prior she may even be younger than that! ) and Kirk is 33 years old. He is almost twice her age!

    And Riley, who could not have been more than five years old when he saw Kodos, couldn’t have possibly remembered his face nor his voice.

    The way in which Lenore is able to go around killing people seemed a little odd to me.

    After killing Dr. Leighton, Lenore and Kirk take a walk together all alone down a path. Now Lenore could have possibly directed Kirk anywhere on their walk, but they end up right at the body of Dr. Leighton! Really? It is almost as if she wanted Kirk to find the body! But why? And she was on the path with Kirk alone. Why doesn’t she kill Kirk right then and there?

    Afterwards Kirk invites Lenore and her acting company to come aboard the Enterprise. If Captain Kirk doesn’t do this how in God’s name is Lenore ever, EVER going to get to Kirk and Riley to kill them?

    And if Kodos wanted to hide his identity from people, why does he become an actor where the whole universe can see his face?

    The story doesn’t make sense!

    And Lenore gets her hands on a Phaser! Really? When Riley takes a Phaser security knows about it in an instant! But Lenore takes one and nobody knows? Really?

    Lenore places the Phaser in Kirk’s cabin and sets it on overload! Really? How in the hell does she do that? How does she even get a Phaser? And how can she possible know how to make it overload?

    We saw in The Cage when Number One sets her Phaser to overload. Number One sets it manually and it starts overloading quickly. But Lenore does this while Kirk and Spock are in the Captain’s cabin talking! And they don’t see her enter the cabin, set the Phaser to overload, hide the Phaser and leave the room? Give me a break!

    And while we are on the Phaser…..

    We have seen people use a Phaser to zap people out of existence! Why doesn’t Lenore do this to Kirk and Riley? And really why not to all her victims? Their bodies would never be found! Lenore is alone (AGAIN!) with Kirk on the Hanger Deck and could zap him easily (And Riley in the engineering room too). But she doesn’t! Why not you ask? Good question.

    All in all a very average episode for Star Trek!
  • From John on 2012-12-04 at 4:18pm:
    One of the most memorable scenes was Lenore Karidian dressed in what amounted to a furry barrel. Definite fashion ticket!
  • From happydude on 2013-04-16 at 1:26am:
    You have completely misinterpreted McCoy's line at the end. He says, and I quote, "She'll receive the best of care, Jim. She remembers nothing. She even thinks her father is still alive giving performances in front of cheering crowds." What he's saying is that the event of her unintentionally murdering her own father was so traumatic for her that she has blocked it from her memory. No where in there does McCoy say, hint or even imply that her memory was intentionally wiped.

    Tell me, at the end of Sacrifice of Angels over on DS9, when Dukat was in his cell imagining himself talking to Ziyal, did you assume that it was because the Feds messed with his mind to make her think she was still alive? Or did you assume that he had become unhinged was unable to accept his daughter's death?
  • From Alan Feldman on 2013-06-26 at 1:05am:
    "The Conscience of the King"

    I like the surprise twist that it was Kodos's daughter, Lenore, who was killing the witnesses, not Kodos himself. Spock, despite being so sure of himself, missed this fascinating detail.

    Why is Lenore interested in Kirk when she wants him dead? And she accuses him of using _her_ as a tool?!

    Yes, the Kirk/Spock/McCoy dynamic is great. In fact, that's one of the few reasons to watch the lesser episodes (except, perhaps, the very worst of the bunch).

    The Double Red Alert scene with the phaser on overload was intense. But what's with the Pressure Vent Disposal contraption? A little too convenient, I would say. How does it work? Also, there's barely enough time for a TV viewer of the time to be able to read the label.

    I, too, like Calexander, would like to know more about what happened when Kodos seized power. On the other hand, that would take some of the mystery out of it, and perhaps make it too easy to figure out if Karidian is really Kodos.

    Re Mike Meares comments:

    Kirk does not fall in love at the drop of a hat. He wasn't hot for any of Mudd's women, or Andrea, Miri, Mea 3, Sylvia (in "Catspaw"), Marta (in "Whom Gods Destroy"), Nancy Hedford, and many other women he came across. Actually, not even this episode. Kirk only fell for Lenore _after_ he courted her for a while. That's the drop of at least a _few_ hats!

    Lenore _was_ 19. The computer told this to Kirk.

    Yes, trying to hide your past by taking on the role an actor in a troupe is, well, kind of dumb.

    Where did Lenore get the phaser? She must have had one before boarding the Enterprise. Or maybe she bribed a guard.

    How does she know how to make it overload? She obviously watched the tutorial on YouTube! :)

    About the slow overload: You can't compare the phasers. "The Cage" happened thirteen years prior. The phasers don't even look alike and are therefore different models. So she set the phaser on time-delay slow-overload mode, giving her plenty of time to plant the thing and leave. But I'm surprised that Kirk and Spock had so much difficulty finding it, esp. Spock with his super-duper Vulcan hearing. Apparently she forgot to put it in silent mode, if it even has such thing.

    About zapping people out of existence: this violates the Law of Conservation of Energy (energy in the form of mass). Both Kodos and the salt monster were not vaporized out of existence when killed by a phaser. (Actually the salt monster took a direct hit [with the phaser set to kill, I assume] and was merely stunned. It took a second hit to kill it. So maybe a third hit would make it vanish.) Maybe it depends on how high the phaser is set, or the type of phaser or the model number. Kind of scary if it would be so ridiculously easy and quick for a murderer to dispose of his victim!

    Imagine the horror of accidentally killing a loved one!

    Speaking of accidents, what if you use your phaser intending to stun someone, only to find out that you killed him because you actually had it set to kill?!

    AEF, a.k.a. betaneptune
  • From Alan Feldman on 2014-05-31 at 12:37pm:
    More on "The Conscience of the King":

    How would Lenore know when Kirk would be in his quarters so that she could correctly set the timer on the phaser? How did she get in there in the first place? It seems that quite often in the series anyone can just open the door to anyone else's room!
  • From Rick on 2015-02-28 at 5:12am:
    I thought Barbara Anderson did a fantastic job playing Lenore. She would go on to win an Emmy a few years later for Ironside. Very good actress.

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