You may have read that the closest thing to Shakespeare in this modern era is Star Trek. I have read that many times, and since I am familiar with Patrick Stewart’s history on the stage, I assumed that those who compared Trek to the bard were referencing that. But they were not. The episode that made the secure connection between the two “franchises” is “The Conscience of the King.”
We join Captain James Kirk as he is watching a performance of Macbeth with an old colleague. During the show, Dr. Thomas Leighton leaned to Kirk and told the captain that he was confident that the actor portraying Macbeth was a long-dead war criminal, known as Kodos the Executioner.
It turns out that Leighton told Kirk that the Enterprise needed to come to check out his development of new synthetic food, which could potentially end famine on Signia Minor, a nearby colony. This, unfortunately, was a ruse to the get Kirk and the ship to investigate the possibility that Kodos the Executioner was still alive.
Kirk met with Leighton, and his wife Martha, to try to understand what was going on. Leighton swore that the lead actor was Kodos, while Kirk maintained that the official record, which said Kodos perished in a fire nearly 20 years ago, was accurate.
Leighton swore that the voice of the actor, Anton Karidian, was Kodos, and he invited the entire company to his place for drinks after their evening performance. Oh, and Leighton, wore a Phantom of the Opera-style half-mask, to cover up some sort of injury that he received while Kodos was in charge.
Back on the Enterprise, Kirk used the ship’s computers to learn that Kodos and Anton Karidian. The computer told him that Kodos died 20 years ago, but there were no records of Karidian’s existence 20 years ago. Karidian’s daughter, Lenore, was born 19 years ago.
Spock asked how Kirk knew there would be passengers. Kirk said, “I’m the captain” and smirked.
After gathering these details, Kirk ordered that the Enterprise would remain in orbit. He beamed to the planet’s surface and went to Dr. Leighton’s party, where he met Lenore Karidian. Kirk told her that he wanted to meet her father, but she said to him that he did not meet people and that he was an “unusual person.”
Lenore told Kirk that they planned to go onto Benecia to put on two more shows. They have secured the vessel, the Astral Queen, to take them to Benecia. Kirk flattered Lenore and said that he’d like to see her again, but instead of waiting for another time, they decided to take a walk.
While on the walk, they found the dead body of Dr. Thomas Leighton. Kirk told Martha Leighton that he would find out what happened.
Kirk called Captain John Bailey of the Astral Queen not to pick up the actors. He told Bailey that the Enterprise would take them as his guests.
On the bridge, Spock told Kirk that the ship was ready to resume its mission. Kirk said that he thought they were due for a pickup. Spock asked what they were going to “pick up?” Uhura noted that “a Lenore Karidian” had just beamed aboard and was requesting to see the captain.
Spock asked how Kirk knew there would be passengers. Kirk said, “I’m the captain” and smirked.
Lenore appeared on the bridge and told Kirk that they needed transportation. She said that they would trade the performance of their show for transport. He agreed.
Spock pointed out that the Benecia colony was eight years off course. Kirk angrily told him to follow orders.
Kirk went back to the computer and asked it for information on the living survivors of Kodos’ terror. It gave the list, which included himself, Leighton, and Kevin Riley (yes that Riley) who served under Kirk on the Enterprise. Kirk then transferred Riley back to Engineering, from Communications. Spock questioned the move, but Kirk told him only to execute it.
Suspicious, Spock went to McCoy to ask the doctor’s opinion of Kirk’s recent behavior. McCoy said that he did not, and he offered Spock a drink. Spock noted that Vulcans were not affected by alcohol.
Spock said that bringing the company on board was illogical. McCoy noted that Kirk might have made this arrangement because he liked Lenore. Spock said that he had considered that thought as well, but dismissed it. He then questioned Riley’s transfer as well. McCoy said a starship captain could transfer who he liked. Spock crossed his arms.
Meanwhile, Kirk walked with Lenore in a ship’s corridor. They spoke in niceties and flirted with each other. She asked him if the women on the ship were part of the machine of the vessel. He said that a woman was always a woman — then they kissed (duh).
Spock followed up on Kirk’s research with the ship’s computer. He asked the computer to give him details on any situation where Kirk, Riley, and Kodos were together. He found what he was looking for.
Spock then went to McCoy and told him about what Kodos did on Tarsus IV, while he served as its governor. When the food supply was contaminated, Kodos declared martial law and began to separate the 8,000 colonists into two groups. One group received whatever food was left, while the others starved. This was based on Kodos’ particular brand of eugenics.
Families were destroyed; parents and children separated. Spock then revealed that Anton Karidian’s records begin as soon as Kodos’ end. Nine eyewitnesses had seen Kodos from the time of the massacres, and only Kirk and Riley are the only two who are still alive. Spock also proved that when each of the other seven survivors died, the company was close by.
Meanwhile, while Riley was working in engineering, he started whining about being lonely. He connected to the rec room, where he requested a song by Uhura. Wile she played and Riley listened, someone spiked Riley’s milk.
Riley took a sip and became violently ill. He was rushed to sickbay, where Dr. McCoy worked to save him. Tests indicated that he consumed “tetralubisol,” a milky substance that is used on ship as a lubricant. Spock told McCoy that someone is trying to kill Riley.
The two then went to Kirk’s cabin, who asked if Riley would survive. McCoy said that there was a good chance, but Spock said that the chances of Kirk’s survival was the same. Spock said that someone tried to kill Riley while McCoy said that it could have been an accident.
Spock admitted that he had been checking up behind Kirk and that he knew about the Kodos situation. Kirk said that he didn’t like anyone meddling in his private affairs. McCoy said that Spock was just doing his job. Kirk said that he needed to figure out if Karidian was Kodos.
Later, while Kirk and Spock were discussing the case in Kirk’s quarters, someone hid a phaser, set to overload. Kirk immediately called for a double red alert as he and Spock searched for the phaser. He eventually found it and threw it into a refuse shaft, where it exploded.
Kirk then marched to Karidian, who was brooding in his cabin. He laid down the circumstances of the near misses for him and Riley. He asked Karidian if he was Kodos. Karidian said that he had played many parts and that 20 years ago, he was just “much younger.”
The captain asked Karidian to read the words of Kodos into the computer, which would match his voice against Kodos’ voice. Karidian recited Kodos’ speech without looking at them.
Kirk noticed this, and asked Karidian if these were lines that he performed 20 years ago? Karidian said that Kodos might have gone down in history as a great hero. Kirk said that history does not see Kodos as a hero.
Karidian said that he no longer treasured life. He cried out and said that he was tired and that the past was a blank. From the shadows emerged the beautiful Lenore Karidian. She scolded Kirk for using her to get close to her father.
She said — “You are like your ship … powerful, not human … there is no mercy in you.”
Kirk said that if he was Kodos, then he has been shown more mercy than he deserves.
In the sickbay, McCoy spoke to the computer, stating for the record that Riley had recovered fully, but was being kept in the hospital so that he would not run into Anton Karidian, who the captain suspected to be Kodos the Executioner.
As McCoy uttered those words, Riley stood listening, and his countenance changed. He snuck out unnoticed.
In the ship’s theater, the Karidian Players began to perform, as Kirk and Spock looked at the computer’s comparison of Karidian’s versus Kodos’ voice. Then McCoy realized that Riley was gone. He called to Kirk, who was then contacted by security, who reported that someone had broken into a weapons locker on H Deck.
As the Karidian Players performed Hamlet, Riley skulked backstage with a phaser, intent on killing Karidian. Kirk found him and talked him into turning over the phaser and heading back to sickbay.
As the scene ended, Karidian went backstage and spoke to his daughter. He said that the voices of his past had come back. She told him that those times would never return because, after this performance, she would finish off the last two witnesses to Kodos’ terror.
Karidian was revolted. He said that she was the one thing in his life who he thought was pure and untainted by his past. Kirk walked up as they were arguing and she noticed him. She said that not even Kirk would stop her.
Kirk said that the show was over. Karidian told that he was just a soldier in a cause and that he did what needed to be done. He began to detail what when on while he was Kodos. Lenore said that she would have done anything to protect her father and that seven was just the start.
Lenore told Kirk that he could not deny her father his last performance. She grabbed a phaser from a guard nearby and pointed it toward Kirk. Karidian stepped in front of her aim as soon as she pulled the trigger. Kirk rushed over and disarmed her, as she collapsed over his unmoving body.
Later, McCoy told Kirk that Lenore would be given the best medical care. She had lost touch with reality and thought her father was still alive and performing. McCoy asked Kirk if he cared for Lenore. Kirk ordered the ship ahead, warp factor one.
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
Sigh… I found this one to be a huge letdown after the Menagerie, Part 2. But I guess not every episode can be life or death. “The Conscience of the King” was, in the end, a whodunit, where there was only one obvious killer. The twist was good, and the interaction of the Big 3 (Kirk, Spock and McCoy) was very well done, especially when they were debating who Kodos was, and if he might be Karidian.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5