The Conscience of the King (Star Trek)

The Conscience of the King (Star Trek)

__NOTOC__ST episode
name = The Conscience of the King

Kirk confronts Karidian about his true identity
series = TOS
ep_num = 13
prod_num = 013
remas._num = 42
date = December 8 1966
writer = Barry Trivers
director = Gerd Oswald
guest = Arnold Moss
Barbara Anderson
Bruce Hyde
William Sargent
Natalie Norwick
Karl Bruck
Marc Adams
Eddie Paskey
stardate = 2817.6
year = 2266
prev = The Menagerie (Parts 1 & 2)
next = Balance of Terror

"The Conscience of the King" is an episode of "". It is episode #13, production #13, and aired on December 8, 1966. It was written by Barry Trivers and directed by Gerd Oswald.

The episode takes its title from the concluding lines of Act II of "Hamlet": "The play's the thing/Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Overview: Captain Kirk crosses paths with an actor suspected of having been a murderous dictator many years before.


On stardate 2817.6, the starship USS "Enterprise", under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, is transporting a Shakespeare acting troupe led by Anton Karidian to Benecia Colony from Planet Q.

Before their arrival, Captain Kirk is contacted by his childhood friend, Dr. Thomas Leighton, who wishes to inform Kirk about the development of a new synthetic food. Leighton however, uses the opportunity to tell Kirk that Karidian is really Kodos the Executioner, the former tyrannical governor of Tarsus IV, who is responsible for many deaths - including members of both Kirk's and Leighton's families. Leighton takes Kirk to watch a performance of "Macbeth" with Karidian in the title role. Karidian is shown having just killed King Duncan and delivering the lines:

:"Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood:"Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather:"The multitudinous seas incarnadine,:"Making the green one red."

Twenty years earlier, Governor Kodos had ordered 4,000 colonists on Tarsus IV be put to death, thus acquiring the grim sobriquet of "the Executioner". His rationale for the slaughter was that a critical food shortage on the planet made it necessary to sacrifice some colonists that the rest might live. Mr. Spock points out evidence that Kodos applied his own personal theory of eugenics when he chose who lived or died. Furthermore, the vital resupply ships that could have saved the whole colony came much sooner than Kodos anticipated and rendered his measures unnecessary.

The colony records state that Kodos died shortly after the ships arrived and his body was burned beyond recognition. Leighton claims that Kodos escaped and assumed a new identity – that of Karidian. There were nine known people left who could identify Kodos, but now only three survive – Captain Kirk, Lt. Kevin Riley (also serving on the "Enterprise"), and Dr. Leighton. All the others have recently died mysterious deaths, and each time Karidian's acting troupe has been somewhere nearby.

Unsure if Karidian really is Kodos, Kirk decides initially just to keep a close eye on him and Lenore. When Dr. Leighton is found dead, Karidian is the primary suspect, but Kirk takes no action for the moment. Spock becomes curious about the Captain's behavior and decides to do some investigating of his own. Lt. Riley drinks poisoned milk but sickbay saves him. Spock is certain that Karidian and Kodos are the same person but Kirk is deeply haunted by what happened on Tarsus IV and remains reluctant to draw the same conclusion regarding the gentlemanly and noble-seeming actor. A further complicating factor is that Kirk has started falling in love with Lenore.

Kirk's and Spock's discussion is interrupted by the ominous humming of an overloading phaser hidden in Kirk's quarters. While Spock is clearing the deck, Kirk finds the weapon and jettisons it before it explodes. Kirk now decides to confront Karidian and demands point-blank to know if he is Kodos. Karidian is evasive (though clearly pained), but enough of his dialog is recorded to determine whether it matches an archived voiceprint of Kodos.

Meanwhile, Lt. Riley is recovering in sickbay and overhears Dr. McCoy's log entry and learns that this Karidian is suspected of being Kodos – the man responsible for killing Riley's family. Riley sneaks out of the sickbay, clearly bent on revenge. Meanwhile, Spock runs the voiceprint analysis and the results reveal a close, but not exact, match. Despite this, Kirk is still reluctant to pass a final, damning judgment on the man.

The Karidian troupe begins their stage performance of "Hamlet" at the "Enterprise's" theatre. We see Karidian playing the Ghost, speaking to Hamlet:

:"I am thy father's spirit,:"Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,:"And for the day confined to fast in fires,:"Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature:"Are burnt and purged away."

Lt. Riley sneaks backstage, phaser in hand, to exact his revenge on Karidian. Kirk discovers him before he does so and persuades him to surrender the weapon. Their conversation is overheard by Karidian and Lenore who goes backstage to investigate. Karidian, who for twenty years has tried to forget his past and shield Lenore from it, learns to his horror that his adoring daughter has (by her own admission) been on a crazed crusade to protect "him" by assassinating the witnesses. She plans to complete her killing spree by eliminating the last two witnesses – Kirk and Riley.

Lenore then produces a phaser and takes aim at Kirk. Desperate to prevent any more bloodshed in his name, Karidian/Kodos jumps into the line of fire as Lenore tries to shoot Kirk. As her beloved father lies dead, Lenore, quoting some poignantly apposite lines from Shakespeare, slumps over his body in a paroxysm of grief, driven out of her mind by the realization of what she has done. Dr. McCoy would later remark that Lenore remembered nothing about what had happened. In fact, she still believed that her father was still alive, entertaining audiences as he did. Kirk, however, would confess that he had been moved by Lenore, almost believing her story about her father.

40th Anniversary remastering

This episode was remastered in 2006 and aired September 22, 2007 as part of the remastered "Original Series". It was preceded a week earlier by the remastered version of "The Galileo Seven" and followed a week later by the remastered version of "The Man Trap". Aside from remastered video and audio, and the all-CGI animation of the USS "Enterprise" that is standard among the revisions, specific changes to this episode include:

*The planets the "Enterprise" orbit have been given more realistic appearances.
*During a scene where Kirk talks to Lenore, the stars outside the room's viewport have been given animation to show the "Enterprise" is at warp.


*This is one of many episodes where the title is uttered onscreen. Other examples include "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", "A Piece of the Action", "By Any Other Name", "The Doomsday Machine","Wink of an Eye", and "Wolf in the Fold".

*It also marks Grace Lee Whitney's quiet departure from the series, as her character, Yeoman Rand, can be seen entering the bridge. She does not speak. Her absence in future episodes is never explained. The creators of the series decided it wasn’t a good idea for Kirk to have a love interest on the ship. The actress and character later returned in the "Star Trek" feature films as a minor character, and eventually even as a guest-star on an episode of "", ("Flashback"). Grace Lee Whitney appeared as Lt. Commander Rand in the Star Trek fan series New Voyages episode "World Enough and Time"

*Lt. Riley (in the script the character was Lieutenant Robert Daiken, but when Bruce Hyde was cast, "Kevin Riley" was handwritten in), also seen in "The Naked Time", was meant to show that the "Enterprise" had other regular crew members. However, he too was never seen or referenced again.

*The "Enterprise"'s observation deck is shown here for the first of only two times in the entire series. The other instance is in the third season (MOS #71) episode "The Mark of Gideon", in which Kirk and Odona enter the observation deck, gaze at the viewport, and see masses of people instead of stars.

*According to the USS "Defiants computer records shown briefly onscreen in the ' 2-part episode "In a Mirror, Darkly", communications officer Hoshi Sato of the Enterprise (NX-01) and her husband Takashi Kimura are among the 4,000 colonists executed by Kodos.

*"Kodos" is one of the two Trek-named aliens who appear in the halloween episodes of "The Simpsons", the other being named after the Klingon character "Kang."

* Kodos is included in Kirk's flashbacks in the Star Trek novel "Avenger"

* Guest star Barbara Anderson ties with France Nuyen (in the third season's "Elaan of Troyius") for the most number of costume changes in a single episode (4). Anderson's costumes are a fur dress, a blue and green mantle, a black dress and the Ophelia dress.

* The music playing in the background at Leighton's cocktail party is a slower, jazzier version of the "Star Trek" theme.

External links

* [ Star's Episode Summary]
* [ Review of the remastered "The Conscience of the King" at]

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