The Conscience of the King – Episode 14

This week, Rachel and Chris see what it’s like when you mix a little Shakespeare with your Star Trek, by covering The Conscience of the King. Spoiler alert! It’s delicious!

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Special thanks to Chad Fifer for our theme tune and to Greig Johnson for his vocal stylings!

Next episode: Balance of Terror!

11 thoughts on “The Conscience of the King – Episode 14”

  1. Regarding Captain Kirk’s oddly indecisive behavior.

    The hatred and revulsion expressed by the two other survivors may be a clue that more horrors occurred 20 years ago than is explicitly described. This episode may be at least in part an alegory for the holocaust. Imagine someone claiming that Adolf escaped and was teaching art classes at the local community college. Someone with Kirk’s position of power might hesitate.

    Or…
    Is Kirk’s behavior the result of ptsd ? What else did he witness? What impossible decisions did a teenage Kirk have to make?

    J.A.

  2. This is definitely an interesting episode of TOS, more along the lines of a crime procedural than a typical Star Trek episode. The episode is lit and scored differently, and to add authenticity the parts of Lenore and Kodos/Karidian were given to actors with strong Shakespearean stage experience. It’s probably the earliest example of Trek playing with its format to tell a different kind of story – however, this may have worked against the episode. It didn’t do fantastically well in terms of viewing figures, and Producer Robert Justman, who was in charge of re-run scheduling, thought it was too slowly paced and removed it from the repeat schedule.

    Looking at some online discussions, I’ve seen a few people commenting that, like Chris, they did not remember this episode from when they watched it in their youth. Whilst I think this is a great TOS episode now, I can see how I might not have found it terribly memorable as a child. I don’t think it’s just the slow pace, but also the lack of a strong alien or other image to stick in the mind. ‘The one with the old guy who murdered a bunch of people years ago’ isn’t quite as memorable as ‘the one with the guy with the silver eyes’, ‘the one with the shaggy salt vampire’ or ‘the one with the scary blue puppet from the credits that gave kids nightmares’.

    1. I do have a childhood memory of being absolutely horrified when it was revealed that the pretty girl was the killer. TWIST ! I remember being angry about it afterward.

      J A

    2. Ah, so they were trying to make it distinctive from the other episodes. Yeah, that makes sense about it not being memorable. Or the one with the bonk-bonking zombie kids.

  3. Thinking about how “The Conscience of the King” was more like a procedural, what would a CSI: Enterprise spin-off be like? I’m not sure how well Kirk would do on that, given that he seemed unwilling to act on the increasing mountain of evidence in this episode. He’d also need to master the art of the CSI ‘one-liner’ – which got me thinking how some of the classic Star Trek openers might go if Kirk delivered a CSI: Miami ‘sunglasses’ line:

    THE CORBOMITE MANEUVER
    SPOCK: Ahead slow. Steer a course around it, Mister Sulu.
    BAILEY: It’s blocking the way!
    SPOCK: Quite unnecessary to raise your voice, Mister Bailey. All engines stop. Sound the alert.
    SULU: Bridge to all decks. Condition alert. All decks, condition alert. Captain Kirk to the Bridge.
    (The doors hiss open, and CAPTAIN KIRK steps onto the bridge. He looks at the large, glowing cube on the screen)
    KIRK: It looks like the situation has gotten a bit… dicey.
    YEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHH

    DAGGER OF THE MIND
    KIRK: Oh, Mister Berkeley, you might refamiliarise yourself with the manual on penal colony procedures.
    BERKELEY: Immediately, sir.
    KIRK: I think you can take the time to lock this up first.
    BERKELEY: I’ll get a vault assignment. (leaves. The box opens, a man climbs out and attacks the technician)
    (KIRK re-enters, looks at the technician collapsed on the floor and the cargo crate)
    KIRK: To solve this one, we’ll have to think… outside of the box.
    YEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHH

    THE CAGE
    SPOCK: Records show the Talos group has never been explored. Solar system similar to Earth, eleven planets. Number four seems to be Class M, oxygen atmosphere.
    NUMBER ONE: Then they could still be alive, even after eighteen years.
    PIKE: If they survived the crash.
    SPOCK: We aren’t going to go, to be certain?
    PIKE: Not without any indication of survivors, no. Continue to the Vega Colony and take care of our own sick and injured first. You have the helm. Maintain present course.
    NUMBER ONE: Yes, sir.
    (The doors hiss open, and CAPTAIN KIRK steps onto the bridge.)
    KIRK: Well, that plan sounds like a… total loss. Total loss, To-Talos – get it?
    PIKE: That’s dreadful. Hold on, you’re not even in this epis-
    YEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHH

  4. On this episode, you discuss the fact that Kirk has been cast as Hamlet, thus his indecisiveness, and both feel this is quite un-Kirk-like. Maybe it is, but I’d like to point out that at least the template was Shakespeare, rather than the kind of stupid plots that were written for many sci-fi shows, especially those to come for the next couple of decades.

    If you look at the history of Sci-Fi or fantasy shows on TV, the ones that stand out as great, or at least interesting in some way, are generally just the ones that were taken seriously by the creators involved and/or that tried to address real-world concerns.

    You are both too young to remember this example, but one of the worst of the worst was a show starring a pre-Dallas Patrick Duffy, called “The Man from Atlantis” about the discovery and capture of an aquatic man. The pilot was actually pretty good, and I was excited to hear that it was picked up for the following season. Unfortunately the show itself was horrible, the production values made Star Trek TOS look like Lord of the Rings, and the stories and characters were like the writers and producers used the 60’s Batman as a template, but left out all the fun. In fact, if memory serves, I think that Victor Buono, King Tut from Batman, was actually one of the show’s villains.

    That’s not to say that Star Trek doesn’t occasionally pull a “Man from Atlantis.” There are some lame episodes to come, but in general this show was handled as seriously as can be expected at the time. Harlan Ellison, who was a pretty serious guy himself, was a big supporter of the show, at least for a while.

    So be glad you are discussing Hamlet, instead of something like an attack by Zebra Women from Mars.

    Come to think of it, that might be kind of awesome.

  5. You discussed the question of why Kirk didn’t immediately get the authorities involved, and there are lots of possible reasons for that.

    1. People are dying mysteriously on that planet all the time, so it’s no big deal.

    2. Kirk is *the* authority.

    3. As demonstrated by many Trek episodes, all higher ups in Star Fleet, are either asses, insane, or clueless incompetents, and he just wanted to make sure the situation was handled properly.

    4. Kirk was more interested in macking on Lenore than in justice, and was worried busting his new woman’s father would spoil his groove.

    On a more serious note, I’ve always justified it that, being one of the few witnesses/victims, Kirk was so personally involved that he wanted to handle it himself rather than pass the case off to someone else. Also, perhaps he is even secretly tempted by the idea of revenge in the same way that Reilly is, but being an awesome guy that would never do such a thing he over-compensates by being too careful not to rush to judgement.

  6. Fantastic insights Clyde, thank you. I especially like the theory that he overcompensated. Sorry we gathered material for the comments show before you posted.

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