The Conscience of the King
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
8 Dec 1966
Season Ep :
When McCoy offers Spock a drink he refuses, saying his ancestors were spared it's effects. McCoy claims that this is probably why they where conquered. However, we hear in "The Immunity Syndrome" that the Vulcans have never been conquered.
Great Moment :
Arnold Moss does a wonderful job as Karidian, depicting the character's tortured weariness very well.
Body Count :
This episode marks the beginning of Star Treks use of Shakespeare extracts, which will continue throughout TNG. The title is from Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2 : "The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King."
The overloading phaser incident calls for a "Double Red Alert", something never again mentioned.
This was the last episode Grace Lee Whitney filmed. She recalls that she went out and bought a bottle of wine afterwards, bringing it back and getting drunk in her dressing room. Unfortunately she would go on to struggle with drug and alcohol problems for years afterwards.
Riley was not originally scripted to be in this episode. But when the same actor was cast as a different character, the discrepancy was noticed and the script quickly rewritten to make it the same character, too.
Ronald D. Moore has said that this is his favourite episode of TOS. He named a ship in his Battlestar Galactica series the Astral Queen as a homage to the civilian ship mentioned in this one.
The Enterprise diverts off of its scheduled course to Planet Q, chasing a report of a new synthetic food which could be used to ease food shortages on Cygnia Minor. On arrival Kirk finds that Doctor Thomas Leighton has actually falsified the report in order to lure Kirk to the planet. He accuses a member of a travelling theatre group, Anton Karidian, of being the infamous Kodos the Executioner. Kodos was the governor of the Earth Colony Tarsus IV when a disaster struck it in 2246. With supplies due to run out before any relief arrived, Kodos executed 4000 of his own people in order to give the rest a chance of survival. The horrific plan backfired on him when the relief arrived early, making the deaths as unnecessary as they were unjustified. Leighton was a survivor of the incident, as was Kirk, and is obsessed by the idea that Karidian is Kodos. Though Kirk is unconvinced he agrees to take a look at Karidian and see if there is anything to it. He meets Lenore Karidian, the man's daughter, at a party and takes her for an evening walk. They stumble across Leighton's body, prompting Kirk to become more suspicious.
Kirk asks the Captain of the Astral Queen, the ship that had been transporting the Karidian group, to depart early without notifying them. Thus stranded, Lenore asks Kirk for assistance and he agrees to transport the group on the Enterprise. His research shows that Lieutenant Kevin Riley , a member of the Enterprise crew, is also a witness to the Tarsus massacre. Kirk orders him demoted to the engineering decks to keep him away from any danger, prompting curiosity on the part of the Enterprise officers. Spock discusses the incident with McCoy, and becomes suspicious as he does his own research in the records. He finds that of the nine people who might be able to identify Kodos, all but two are now dead. Even worse, all the deaths happened when the Karidian players were in the immediate vicinity.
As Riley sits a watch in engineering his drink is poisoned, and only quick medical intervention saves him. As he slowly recovers, Spock ponders that Kirk must surely be a target himself now. Whilst the First Officer is convinced that Karidian must be Kodos, Kirk remains uncertain. Whilst they talk, however, he hears a phaser building to an overload. They quickly search and locate the hidden weapon, just in time to dump it overboard before it explodes. Kirk goes to confront Karidian, challenging him directly on his identity. Kodos doesn't confirm it but doesn't quite deny it either. Kirk has him recite the speech Kodos made so that a voice analysis can be performed, but the analysis is not wholly conclusive.
In sickbay, Riley overhears McCoy mentioning the suspicion about Karidian's true identity. As the Karidian players begin a performance of Hamlet for the crew Riley arrives with a phaser. McCoy warns Kirk that he is gone, and the Captain catches and confronts Riley, convincing him to put the poser down. Karidian overhears them and the truth slowly emerges - he is Kodos, a fact his daughter was fully aware of. But it is she who has been murdering the witnesses, determined to keep her father's secret. Kodos is shattered by the news that the one good thing remaining in his life has produced yet more death, more blood on his hands. It becomes clear that Lenore is insane, as she rambles on about how she had to kill them and begins to recite Shakespeare to justify her actions. As security take them into custody Lenore snatches a phaser and fires at Kirk, the last witness. Kodos steps in the way of the shot and is killed. Being responsible for her father's death destroys Lenore, and she collapses completely into a fantasy world in which Kodos is still alive, performing to cheering crowds.