Director: Gerd Oswald
Writer: Barry Trivers
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Arnold Moss, Barbara Anderson, DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, Nichelle Nichols, William Sargent, Natalie Norwick, David-Troy, Karl Bruck, Marc Adams, and Bruce Hyde
Air Date: 12/8/1966
Production #: 6149-13
After Dr. Thomas Leighton (William Sargent) identifies a Shakespearean performer named Anton Karidian (Arnold Moss) as the infamous executioner known as Kodos, Captain Kirk investigates the suspicious old man by seducing his daughter Lenore (Barbara Anderson). In the meantime, an unknown assailant tracks down the last survivors of the Tarsus IV colony who could potentially recognize Kodos, including Captain Kirk himself.
In contrast to most Star Trek episodes, “The Conscience of the King” follows the structure of a classic murder mystery and ends with a shocking twist. While this episode’s deviation from the usual science fiction/adventure formula makes for a unique offering, many fans will likely be disappointed over the lack of action sequences and humanistic philosophy to complement an otherwise intriguing story.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Although the series producers passed up a golden opportunity to incorporate William Shatner’s Shakespearean training into Gene Roddenberry’s story, it should be noted that Arnold Moss handled the role of a brilliant but tormented thespian most effectively. Notably, Karidian’s dramatic approach to every interaction, real or scripted, indicates that classical theatre offered him his only escape from past transgressions. Likewise, Barbara Anderson portrayed the Lenore character as an equally passionate performer who, like her father, finds herself driven to commit heinous crimes as a means of fighting for what she believes to be the greater good.
Sluggish pacing and a general lack of excitement hamper the mystery surrounding Karidian and his possible involvement in the Tarsus IV massacre. Aside from an intense scene where an overloading phaser nearly wipes out an entire Enterprise deck, Barry Trivers’ script fails to include any riveting elements that would prompt viewers to invest in his bizarre genre crossover.
Roddenberry’s philosophical approach to storytelling is also absent from this entry, leaving little room for in-depth analysis of its underlying themes. Given that Spock alludes to Kodos’ mass executions as a eugenics measure, perhaps certain parallels could have been drawn between this genocidal character and other murderous dictators of the 20th century. For instance, Kodos’ defense of his actions bears a striking similarity to the justifications put forth by the likes of Hitler and Stalin, which might’ve allowed Kirk the opportunity to present an ethically and logically grounded rebuttal. As it stands, however, modern audiences may find difficulty in connecting this episode’s subject matter with real-life issues of a cultural or political nature.
“The Conscience of the King” benefits from the talents of Moss and Anderson in their respective roles as Anton and Lenore Karidian. However, many Star Trek enthusiasts will likely derive little enjoyment from this episode due to its marginalization of science fiction and philosophical themes in favor of Shakespearean drama and mystery.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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