|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season One: Ep. 1.13 “The Conscience of the King” – (Original air date: Thursday, December 8, 1966)



Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “The Conscience of the King.”

  • On this day in history, the US and the USSR signed a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons in outer space. They were probably inspired by Star Trek.
  • The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” was finally the #1 song in the US. Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” is at #10, but that’s life. Over in the UK, Tom Jones’ “Green Green Grass of Home” was at the #1 spot.
  • Whatever audience this program had back in 1966 had to miss a week of Trek because there was no episode broadcast on December 1. This is the first episode to air since “The Menagerie, Part 2.”
  • The teaser for this episode is a very short one. Captain James T. Kirk is watching a performance of Macbeth with a friend who appears to have an eyepatch over his left eye. Kirk makes a comment about finding an “Arcturian” Macbeth interesting, whatever that means. We’re still persisting with the idea that Kirk is an intellectual. I’m not buying it.
  • There’s a lot of blood on Macbeth’s knife and hands. Since this was a stage play within the show itself, I guess that made it past standards and practices.
  • I wasn’t a big fan of Shakespeare as a child, so I’m guessing this was never one of my favorite episodes. I have no recollection of it.
  • I’m still not a big fan of Shakespeare. I suppose I’m not an intellectual either.
  • Kirk’s eyepatched theater companion, whose name we haven’t been given yet, looks enough like William Shatner to me to be his brother. He’s not. The character seems more interested in the actor than the play, however. He seems certain that the man on the stage is someone called Kodos the Executioner.
  • Cut to: Opening credit sequence, with the U.S.S. Enterprise swishing past the camera, Shatner monologuing, and the bouncy orchestral score.
  • The Captain’s Log tells us that the Enterprise was diverted from its scheduled course to confirm the discovery by Dr. Thomas Leighton of a new synthetic food which would end the threat of famine on Cygnia Minor, a nearby colony.
  • This tells me two things: Patch is probably Dr. Thomas Leighton; and, food replicators have not yet been perfected, or perhaps even invented. I thought we had already seen them on board the ship, but I suppose those were just microwave ovens in the break room.
  • Kirk is angry with Dr. Leighton because the whole synthetic food thing was apparently a ruse. Leighton just wants to accuse an actor of being Kodos.
  • I still don’t know who Kodos is supposed to be. But with a sobriquet like “the Executioner,” I’m guessing he’s not one of the good guys.
  • Leighton mentions that Kodos was responsible for 4,000 deaths. Kirk says the book was closed on Kodos long ago. Kodos is dead.
  • Leighton finally turns so that we can see the left side of his face in full for the first time. It’s not just an eyepatch. The entire left side of his face and head is covered in some sort of black material, like a protective pad or helmet-like device. By the dramatic reveal, we’re to assume that Kodos the Executioner was responsible for this as well. That’s why Dr. Leighton has such a hard-on for him.
  • Leighton mentions that there were only 8 or 9 of them who actually saw Kodos. Leighton and Kirk were two of the witnesses.
  • Leighton has invited the entire theater company to his home for a cocktail party that evening. He just has to be sure. Kirk says he’s returning to his ship to figure out how he’s going to enter all of this in his log.
  • At the very least, shouldn’t Dr. Leighton be arrested or cited for luring the ship under false pretenses? It seems like filing a false police report to me.
  • Back on the ship, in Captain Kirk’s Exposition Room, he pulls up the library computer files on former Governor Kodos of Tarsus IV, also known as Kodos the Executioner on the WWE wrestling circuit, and also the files on the actor Anton Karidian.
  • Kodos invoked martial law on Tarsus IV twenty years ago and slaughtered 50% of the population of that colony. His burned body was found when Earth forces arrived, but no positive identification was ever made.
  • There’s no record of the actor prior to twenty years ago. His company has been touring for the last nine years, and he has a nineteen year old daughter named Lenore. A rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.
  • Kirk compares photographs of Kodos and Karidian.
  • Kirk beams down to join the cocktail party. He meets Lenore and begins putting the moves on her. He finds out that Anton Karidian, her father, never attends parties.
  • Even though they just met, Kirk tells Lenore that he’d like to see her again. She says their touring company has to keep a schedule. Kirk says what about now? The two go for a walk outside and almost literally stumble over Dr. Thomas Leighton’s body. He’s been killed. Goodbye, Patch.
  • Kirk shares a brief but over-acted dramatic scene with Martha Leighton, who says at least her husband is at peace now. He never really had that before, you know.
  • Kirk has Uhura, in her role as Space Operator, place a call to Captain John Daley of the Astral Queen. That’s John Daley, the starship captain, not John Daly, the intoxicated golfer. Kirk calls in a favor and asks Daley not to pick up all the actors there at the Leighton home. Kirk says he’ll pick them up.
  • Kirk beams back to the ship. A while later, Lenore Karidian beams aboard and tells Kirk that they’ve been abandoned. Kirk agrees to take the troupe as passengers in exchange for a special performance for the crew.
  • Yeoman Janice Rand comes onto the bridge and gives Lenore a withering glance in passing. This episode is Rand’s penultimate appearance, in episode order, before she disappears from the series. Since the episodes aired out of order, this was actually the last thing she ever filmed for the series.
  • Kirk orders Spock to Benecia Colony. When Spock reminds him that’s 8 light-years off their course, Kirk snaps at him. It seems a little out of character, but I can forgive Kirk because he just lost a friend. A friend whose funeral apparently means nothing to him.
  • Kirk gets a list of people who can identify Kodos from the computer. There are nine. Kirk heads the list, followed by his late friend Leighton, and then, a couple of names later, Kevin Riley’s name comes up. Kirk calls him “Star Service” Lieutenant Kevin Riley. “Star Service” was one of the early names for Starfleet, so we’ll just whistle past that.
  • You remember Mr. Riley, don’t you? From “The Naked Time”? He of the thick Irish brogue and the song “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”? Yes, that Kevin Riley.
  • Since he commandeered engineering in that previous episode and nearly destroyed the Enterprise, he was promoted to communications. Kirk is transferring him back to engineering now. Again, he’s short with his First Officer Spock, who is concerned that Riley will see this as a disciplinary action.
  • Dr. McCoy is getting drunk in sick bay when Spock goes to tell the doctor of his concerns about the captain.
  • McCoy mixes metaphors along with his drink, something about “the man on top walks a lonely road” and “the chain of command is often a noose.”
  • The doctor also makes an offhand comment about Vulcans being a conquered race, which doesn’t jibe with what we know about Trek history. We could just chalk that one up to McCoy being drunk. Or ignore it the way we did “Star Service.”
  • Kirk and Lenore enter the Observation Deck through a coffin-shaped door. This is the first, perhaps only, appearance of an observation deck in the original series. Kirk indicates the flight deck below them outside the windows and points out shuttlecraft. Once again proving the existence of shuttles even prior to “The Galileo Seven.”
  • As Kirk and Lenore continue to flirt with each other, Kirk mentions that they try to replicate day and night as closely as possible on board the ship. I think this is the first time that’s ever mentioned.
  • Lenore kicks up the flirtation a notch when she asks Kirk if he’s like the ship, “surging and throbbing, yet under control.” Yet she’s evasive when Kirk asks about her father.
  • On the bridge, Spock uses the computer to find out what Kirk, Leighton, Riley and Karidian have in common.
  • Spock fills in a now-sober McCoy on his findings about Kodos. The ruthless governor apparently had his own theories about eugenics (not the first, according to McCoy, while this may be the first time this is discussed on the show), and he chose which members of the population of Tarsus IV to execute in order to save the rest from starvation. Spock says that Karidian’s history begins almost to the day when Kodos disappears from history. He also points out that Jim Kirk is one of the witnesses who can identify Kodos, and only he and Riley remain of the original nine who could identify Kodos. The rest all died when Karidian’s acting troupe was somewhere nearby.
  • Lt. Kevin Riley is back down in engineering and is despondent. He calls up to the rec room and has Uhura sing him a love song. While this musical interlude is taking place, someone sneaks in and slips poison into his giant glass of milk.
  • Nichelle Nichols has a lovely voice, but I hated this. Having Riley sing would have been worse, though.
  • Riley drinks his poison and loses consciousness. Next, we see him in sick bay. Spock says if he dies, only Kirk can identify Kodos.
  • The drink was poisoned with tetralubisol, which is a milky lubricant used in spaceships.
  • Spock and McCoy confront Kirk about the situation, and it really is confrontational. Kirk doesn’t like anyone messing around in his personal business. Spock says it’s his duty when it interferes with the operation of the ship. McCoy is playing referee during this sparring match.
  • When Kirk says he’s not inviting death, as Spock suggests, but is interested in justice, McCoy questions the statement. He thinks it may be vengeance that Kirk is after.
  • Spock is certain that Karidian is Kodos, but Kirk, who actually saw Kodos once, isn’t certain. And he won’t confront the man without proof.
  • While still trying to use logic to convince Kirk he’s in danger, both hear the humming of what sounds like a phaser set on overload. Kirk says if it blows it could take out the entire deck. Wow. That’s pretty explosive. Kirk calls for an evacuation and a double red alert. That’s twice as red as a red alert.
  • Kirk sends Spock out to block off the section while he continues to look for the phaser.
  • Kirk locates the phaser in the nick of time behind the red alert light panel. The irony is that he may not have found it if he hadn’t called his double red alert. He drops the phaser down a pressure waste disposal unit, where it explodes. Harmlessly, it seems.
  • Kirk finally confronts Karidian, and asks him if he’s Kodos. He does a voice recording of Karidian to compare to Kodos. Karidian doesn’t exactly admit to being Kodos, but he doesn’t deny it. Lenore overhears the conversation and is upset with Jim.
  • Riley, who has recovered but has been confined to sick bay, overhears McCoy filing his report in which he says Karidian is suspected of being Kodos, the man who killed Kevin’s family.
  • I’m thinking McCoy has been drinking again.
  • Riley, of course, makes an unauthorized departure from sick bay. He’s planning to assassinate Kodos.
  • The voice print evidence is close, but not an exact match. Even though the suspect is being kept under surveillance, with double guards strategically placed, the play is being performed as scheduled. Which, in hindsight, seems to have been a mistake.
  • McCoy notices Riley’s absence and lets Kirk know. The play is being performed even as all of this backstage drama is going on. Kirk confronts the phaser-wielding Riley, who says he knows that Karidian is Kodos.
  • During the play, Karidian learns that Lenore has been killing all of the witnesses, and now there are only two. This makes the actor over-dramatically angry. The acting is really broad in this scene. Kirk witnesses all of this.
  • Lenore is about to eliminate Kirk as well, but Kiridian, after confessing his crimes, takes the phaser shot meant for Kirk and dies. Justice has been served. I imagine that Lenore will get hers as well.
  • The Karidian/Kodos death scene is also over-acted and wordy. Lenore continues reciting Shakespeare and she loses what’s left of her mind.
  • In the outro scene, McCoy says Lenore will get the very best of care and that she thinks her father is still alive. Looney tunes. Kirk calls the helmsman Mr. Leslie, and I suddenly realize that I haven’t seen Mr. Sulu or Scotty at all in this episode.

I don’t have a whole lot to add to this. I still don’t like this episode. I understand that Ronald D. Moore said this was his favorite episode of the original series. While I respect Moore and his right to his opinion, I certainly don’t share it. There were some small things about the episode that I liked: McCoy getting drunk; Spock and McCoy confronting Kirk privately; the observation deck; the first (I think) mention of eugenics. Unfortunately, these things don’t tip my opinion in its favor.

I will try to avoid watching this one again. 2 out of 5 stars. And a double red alert from me.

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