TOS “The Conscience of the King”
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 12
“The Conscience of the King”
What’s It About? Theatre actor might be war criminal
Should I Watch It? Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend this episode your ears (and eyes)
madness in great ones must not unwatched go
okay what does this episode have to—
HOLY SHIT KNIFE!
GUY WITH AN EYEPATCH!
Solid Snake helpfully tells us the silver fox currently playing Macbeth is Kodos the Executioner! Who is the reason this guy only has half a face!
Okay let’s slow down just a got damn minute. Twenty years ago Kirk and Half-Face witnessed to a terrible massacre by this Kodos guy. Kodos’s body was never firmly identified, it turns out, and this actor playing MacBeth, Anton Karidian, mysteriously appeared on the theatre circuit not long after Kodos supposedly died! Hmm, fuckier and fuckier!
So Kirk decides to take one for the team and attend a cocktail party, where he meets this beautiful young lady who has suffered an unfortunate accident with some floral decorations:
Anton’s daughter Lenore, as it turns out, who also played Lady Macbeth WOOP WOOP WOOP sorry my Freudian alarm went off for a sec there. Kirk, naturally, flirts hardcore because what better way to get revenge on Space Stalin than by poinking his daughter? Unfortunately Half-Face manages to posthumously cockblock the captain by turning up dead. Well, guess there’s always Mrs. Half-Face.
Kirk strengthens his chances at banging the Electra Complex out of Lenore by covertly redirecting the acting troupe’s transport, making Enterprise their only ride. Lenore is like “help Kirk we are stranded" and Kirk is all “you don’t say”
Also What in the bibbety-bobbety-fuck are you wearing Lenore?
After receiving several unusual orders from the captain with no explanation, Spock’s ears are twitching so he asks Bones if the doctor has noticed anything unusual. Bones says “I ain’t noticed shit, except this glass of brandy *HIC* now stop fussing and have a drink with me”
Kirk takes Lenore on a little sightseeing tour of Enterprise. She asks him if he is at all like his ship and explicitly uses the words “surging and throbbing”. Jim gives her a look that says she just spoke the magic words.
Then they make out.
Spock does some digging of his own and finds out not only are Kirk and Lt. Riley (remember him, from “Naked Time”?) the only witnesses to the massacre still alive, but Karidian’s company of players were suspiciously nearby when those others died. Things have reached maximum fuckiness.
Riley’s down in the engine room, bored and lonely, so he gets on the comm and pesters the rec room. Uhura is nice enough to sing him a song and while he listens a shadowy figure creeps up and… squirts Windex in his milk.
What the shit is he eating? Cubed melons?
Riley boy guzzles his milk down like a good boy for healthy and strong bones and ends up in a hospital bed. Spock logically concludes that Kirk is next, no matter how much Jim yells at him. Sure enough, an overloaded hand phaser shows up in Kirk’s quarters. Kirk quickly chucks it out the garbage disposal before the explosion takes out multiple decks
sweet buttery buddha on a bicycle, look at that tiny thing. Several decks? And Starfleet issues these things as sidearms. Kirk decides it’s high time to have a lil chat with Karidian.
Kirk: ayyyy are you Kodos
Anton: I’m just a really good actor. That’s why you think I’m Kodos. I don’t know who he is but he sounds like he was a really wise and handsome dude, had to make some tough decisions but all around a really great guy
Then Lenore comes in and tells him get off my dad’s dick
, that’s my job. Then she poetically compares him to his ship again, but in like, a mean way. Kirk is like “uuuuugh, actors”.
But he isn’t pissed enough to stop them from putting on a production of Hamlet. Lenore is playing Ophelia and Anton is, surprisingly, not playing Hamlet. Bones decides to loudly recap some exposition into his log about Kodos murdering Riley’s parents and Riley decides to shoot the guy while he delivers a monologue as Hamlet’s dead dad. It’s funny because he’s pretending to be a ghost, and soon he’s gonna be a ghost. Kirk talks Riley down before any dramatic death soliloquies can happen.
Anton rants to his daughter about his own ghosts and a voice haunting him from out of the past (actors, geeeeeez) but Lenore excitedly tells him no one will hurt him anymore while making a face that qualifies her for the Overly Attached Daughter meme
He realizes she’s been murdering everyone who could potentially identify him and rants about more blood on his hands (oh sure, he killed the first four thousand, but SEVEN MORE is just too much) and she replied that all the ghosts are dead, clearly not understanding how ghosts work. Kirk walks up and tells them the show is over, in both the literal and metaphorical sense, and orders a redshirt to arrest them. Because everyone on the Enterprise is terrible at their job, Lenore grabs his phaser and tries to shoot Kirk but whoops she killed her dad/lover. While crying over his corpse she quotes something profound that is probably Shakespeare (and includes the words “the conscience of the king”, title drop WHAT WHAT) but I’m an uneducated lout so I don’t recognize it. Jim learns an important lesson about not sticking it in the crazy.
though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t
Jim, Jim, Jim. Forever unlucky in love. Those who’ve developed feelings for him so far have been:
- his coworker / assistant
- a human trafficked mail-order bride on beauty drugs
- a salt vampire posing as his friend’s ex-wife
- a confused android
- a Romulan who subsequently blew himself up
- a psychologist who brainwashed him
- an unstable murderer whose dad is a war criminal
Otherwise, this episode is great. I made a lot of jokes about ACTORS being OVERDRAMATIC but it’s true and it works. It’s good actors playing good actors who are also good actors at pretending not to be murderers, and the whole thing plays out like some Shakespearean tragedy. Very meta.
Kodos’s whole situation is more complex than just “he’s evil”. Everyone was starving, so he figured by eliminating 4000 colonists he’d save 4000 more, in what Pratchett would probably call “the dreadful algebra of necessity”. He’s never portrayed as sympathetic but he’s not a one-dimensional mass murderer either.
SO MUCH DRAMA: +40
Kirk Backstory: +20
No Sulu: -15
McCoy’s Rampaging Alcoholism: +30
Title Drop: +10
TOTAL SCORE: 85 POINTS
“Do you play God? Carry his head through the corridors in triumph? That won’t bring back the dead, Jim!”
“No. But they may rest easier.”
—McCoy and Kirk, arguing over what to do with Anton
“Blood thins. The body fails. One is finally grateful for a failing memory.”
— Anton(Kodos?) to Kirk about the passage of time
…or really, any line from this episode, it’s that good
When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won, when I’ve watched the next episode: “The Galileo Seven”.