It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #12!
This week’s episode is “The Conscience of the King” and while it doesn’t do as much as it should, it’s still pretty good.
Like last week’s episode, this opens with a quick cut: Kirk is in an audience with his friend, Dr. Thomas Leighton (William Sargent), watching a theatre troop led by actor Anton Karidian, perform “Macbeth.” Anton (Arnold Moss), as the title character, performs the killing of King Duncan and then delivers the famous “Will Neptune’s great ocean wash this blood from my hands?” sollioquy while Leighton whispers to Kirk his suspicion that Karidian is really Kodos the Executioner.
After the theme song, we find out that the teaser was actually in media res. We back up to the ship arriving while Kirk records in his Captain’s Log that Leighton got them to deviate from their scheduled course by telling them of a new synthetic food source he had invented that could end famine. We then cut forward to Kirk berating Leighton for luring them there under false pretenses. But Leighton is convinced that Karidian is Kodos who, on the colony of Tarsus IV 20 years ago, after the colony’s food was destroyed by an alien fungus, rose up, took control of the government, declared martial law and wound up ordering the deaths of 4,000 people to ensure that the other more valued 4,000 would survive on what little food they had left. Kirk–who was stationed on Tarsus IV at the time–and Leighton were both among the survivors. But when relief ships from Earth arrived, they found a burned body that was thought to be Kodos’ and so the matter was closed. Until now, Leighton explains, because he recognizes Karidian’s voice as that of the man who killed thousands and left him horribly disfigured. He reminds Kirk that they are among the nine in total who ever saw Kodos’ face.
Kirk claims to not believe it but back on the ship, he does some digging through the library computers and finds that not only does any form of birth certificate exist for Karidian, there is no record of him at all until a year after the presumed death of Kodos. Intrigued, Kirk beams down to a cocktail party hosted at Leighton’s home for Karidian’s theatre troupe in hopes of meeting him in person. Instead, he winds up meeting with his daughter Lenore (Barbara Anderson) and is seemingly so smitten that he abandons the party to walk with her in the desert…where they find Leighton dead.
Kirk then, after being asked by Lenore, arranges to have the acting troupe journey on the Enterprise to their next stop. He then looks up the other eyewitnesses who saw Kodos and finds that crewman Lt. Kevin Riley (Bruce Hyde)–who famously commandeered the ship in “The Naked Time”–is one of them. He has Riley bumped down from communications to engineering; this and his dogged pursuit of Lenore raises Spock’s suspicions. And there’s even more going on with Lenore than anyone can guess…
If there’s any fault with this episode, it lies in the direction. Other than the striking opening, director Gerd Oswald doesn’t really play up the tension and drama of Barry Trivers’ script as much as he should; Trivers, as Memory Alpha points out on their page for this episode, makes some parallels between Hamlet and the story, but Oswald doesn’t go far enough to suggest that. Really, his setpieces are a little bland and, with a few exceptions, not very exciting.
The actors do rise above it though: Hyde does a great job giving us more dimension to Riley than previous, Anderson is enigmatic and interesting as Lenore and Moss is perhaps the most Shakespearean when having to play up the inner torment a man like Kodos must face. As for the regular cast, we get some nice repartee between Spock and McCoy and some more awesome non-verbal acting from Leonard Nimoy. As my roommate noted, “His raised eyebrow says so much, it’s great!” So a bit disappointing, but I’d still give it a shot.
Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.