The Conscience of the King (TOS)
The A-Story: Kirk struggles with notions of justice and vengeance in investigating if a traveling actor is actually the mass murdering Kodos the Executioner.
I don’t really see the resemblance:
I’ll admit I was really happy y’all picked this one. Not only is it a classic TOS episode, but it’s nice to talk about something that’s not DS9 or TNG. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about those two, but I know those series like the back of my hand. Less so with every other series, so it’s nice to have fresher eyes when rewatching something not TNG or DS9.
Shakespeare and Trek; it feels weird at first the two would go so naturally together. Yes Shakespeare has influenced pretty much all western theater, but there is something in Trek’s DNA that seems more susceptible to the tragedies and hubris of the Bard’s work. Star Trek, at its best, tells relatable stories across time periods. Much like how Shakespeare still resonates 400 years later, Trek resonates with us despite it being set 300 years in the future. Both do a lot with morality plays and tragedies, cloaked with strange costumes in far off settings. Trek would go on to pay homage to a lot of Shakespeare plays, especially in its dialogue, since Trek dialogue is often less organic and more larger than life. Whether it’s Sisko or Archer (shudder) or of course Picard, Trek dialogue has often leaned in on the Shakespearian.
And this episodes has all of what makes Shakespeare so timeless. Tragedy, manipulative love, vengeance, murder, death, madness, phasers set to blow up, Uhura singing.
No, no, not that, this:
I often forget the beauty of Nichols’ singing voice.
I know Shatner’s acting style is often lampooned, but he’s fantastic here. Not that I’m saying anything new, but he’s such a perfect fit for TOS’s (a theater play on tv) style. The scene in Kirk’s quarters with the big three is great. Kirk doesn’t know if it’s justice or vengeance he seeks, and I like how that is a hard choice for a lot of us to make. I also like how it would have been easy to play Kirk as irrational and out for vengeance no matter the evidence, but instead Shatner plays him as much more cautious at first. But at the same time Kirk is coldly calculating in his attempt to id Kodos. It was harsh what Kirk did to Riley, basically demoting him to protect him, and never telling Riley that was his purpose. Kirk also manipulates Lenore, Kodos’ daughter, to gain more information. Sure, Lenore is EVIL! but that’s messed up.
My favorite part is when Kirk confronts Kirdian/Kodos in his quarters. Kodos is a villain, no doubt, but Arnold Moss doesn’t play him as mustache twirling. Like a good Shakespeare villain, we don’t like Kodos, but it’s hard to not feel a little sorry for him.
Lenore, on the other hand, I’m not so sure of. Trek has never been especially good at handling women characters, and TOS is a product of its time. Lenore taking matters into her own hands to protect her father is interesting, but her descent into madness is not. I mean, I know product of its time and all, but when Lenore asks if machines have allowed women just to be people, Kirk’s response is ““Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman always remains a woman.”
KIRK: I’m not. I’m interested in justice.
MCCOY: Are you? Are you sure it’s not vengeance?
KIRK: No, I’m not sure. I wish I was. I’ve done things I’ve never done before. I’ve placed my command in jeopardy. From here on I’ve got to determine whether or not Karidian is Kodos.
SPOCK: He is.
KIRK: You sound certain. I wish I could be. Before I accuse a man of that, I’ve got to be. I saw him once, twenty years ago. Men change. Memory changes. Look at him now, he’s an actor. He can change his appearance. No. Logic is not enough. I’ve got to feel my way, make absolutely sure.
MCCOY: What if you decide he is Kodos? What then? Do you play God, carry his head through the corridors in triumph? That won’t bring back the dead, Jim.
KIRK: No, but they may rest easier.
My other favorite part is what I can only assume is a 23rd century spray bottle, that uses transporter technology to get the liquid out from the bottle.
So, what do y’all think?