Episode: 13Title: The Conscience Of The KingStar Date: 2817.6Writer: Barry TriversFirst Shown: 8th December 1966
When I saw this as a child it was the first Star Trek story I just didn’t get, and that seemed to be aimed much more squarely at adults. The Conscience Of The King is one of Trek‘s first attempts to give itself more kudos by referencing the classics, in this case the whole story is a Greek tragedy, and the staging of Hamlet is central to the plot. Ironically, it’s got the same start as the previous story where Kirk is lured somewhere on a false pretence. Except this time it’s an old colleague, Dr. Thomas Leighton, who invites him to Planet Q with the promise of a scientific breakthrough.
Except when he gets there he finds out that it’s really all about an actor, Anton Karidian, who Leighton thinks is a presumed to be dead mass murderer called Kodos “the Executioner”. Insert dramatic music here.
From this point onwards the show becomes a straight detective mystery, as Leighton is killed and it soon becomes apparent that the few people who could identify Kodos are being systematically eliminated.
Karidian is played by veteran film and TV actor Arnold Moss, who delivers a mercurial persona of a man entirely immersed in all the roles he plays. But Kirk’s interest in him deviates substantially when he encounters his beautiful daughter, Lenore Karidian. She is the subject of much romantic attention from the Captain and soft focus from the cameramen. Rather foolishly he invites the acting troupe onboard the Enterprise, given that there are two people onboard who once met Kodos – himself and Lt. Riley.
But it’s Lenore that Kirk really digs, and Barbara Anderson who played her was an accomplished actress who went on to have character roles in Mission Impossible and throughout Ironside.
The story seems to originate from an era when the exact fate of many Nazis war criminals was being brought into question, with the suspicion that some of them might have faked their deaths and escaped justice.
Where it’s quite clever is that it allows Spock to use his detective-like powers of deduction to confirm the identity of Anton Karidian, but that isn’t the real resolution of the story. Kirk guesses who Kodos is, but Karidian won’t admit that he was once that man. The twist is that he has nothing to do with the deaths and attempted killings of potential witnesses. That’s Lenore who turns into a full-on bunny boiler in front of our eyes. Just how crazy she is becomes apparent when she insists on completing the play they’re performing even though her father is a mass-murderer and she’s admitted to killing seven people. Her final performance is to try and kill Kirk, and instead she shoots her own father. She gets the best care, Bones tells us in the bridge epilogue.
In the end it’s a slightly unsatisfactory episode that never quite delivers what it might have presented in the script. It’s hard to pinpoint where it goes wrong, but there is a little too much quoting of Shakespeare and not enough warp drive for my personal liking.
It was the last Trek outing for Lt. Riley, although they didn’t actually kill him off even if he was poisoned in the story. And it’s also the last time in the production run that Grace Lee Whitney was Yeoman Rand, although due to the odd sequence of screening in this season, she’s actually in the next one shown. Her abrupt exit was quite noticeable because she got plenty of screen time in earlier stories. This episode is also only one of two stories where the observation deck above the hanger bay is ever seen.
This is the only Trek story that Barry Trivers wrote, and only one of two stories directed by Gerd Oswald.
Next up we meet a curiously familiar Romulan Commander in Balance Of Terror.