Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Conscience of the King: TOS Season 1 Episode 13

Plot Synopsis

The Enterprise is called to a planet by Thomas (an old friend of Kirk's) who says he found a new way to make synthetic food. It turns out that he had just wanted to get Kirk there so he could see the lead actor in a play which is being put on by a travelling group of actors. Thomas thinks it is someone from their past, Kodos the executioner. He was originally thought that he had died 20 years ago, but the body was never found. Thomas is pretty sure that it is his, but he wants Kirk's opinion too. Kirk compares the two pictures, he seems thinks it is him, but he's not totally sure and he doesn't want to wrongly accuse somebody of something so terrible. It also turns out that the actor has no history before Kodos supposedly died, and it matches up almost to the day.

Thomas winds up killed, and Kirk arranges to take the acting company onto the Enterprise rather than having them use their normal transportation. It turns out that there are only 9 people who could identify Kodos, and all but 2 are dead, both are on the Enterprise, one is Kirk and the other is some low level officer. Someone tries to kill the low level officer with poison but he pulls through. It's not completely clear that it is attempted murder, it could have been an accident because of the type of poison used (it was lubricant they use in engineering or something, it could have reasonably been accidentally dropped in his drink), but that seems pretty unlikely. And of course the viewers know it was attempted murder

Eventually Kirk actually decides to confront Kodos and they have an interesting back and forth. Kirk has his read a sentence and they can analyze if it is really him. They can't get a complete answer, but it certainly seems like it is him. Later on, the crewman who is recovering overhears that the actor might be Kodos and he heads over to the play to kill Kodos as revenge, but Kirk is able to stop him but they make enough noise that the actors realize what is going on and there is a confrontation. It turns out that Kodos' daughter has been killing the other witnesses, Kodos is completely distraught over this. She did it to protect him, but he didn't want any more bloodshed in his name. Finally, she tries to kill Kirk and Kodos jumps in front of Kirk and takes this hit.


There's a funny conversation between McCoy and Spock. 

McCoy: Would you care for a drink Mr. Spock?

Spock: My father's race was spared the dubious benefits of alcohol

McCoy: Oh, now I know why they were conquered

In addition to simply being an amusing conversation, we learn that Vulcan was conquered at some point.

Crime and Punishment

There was a really great scene with McCoy, Spock and Kirk. Spock and McCoy are confronting Kirk about why he brought Kodos on board and why he hasn't accused him yet.

Spock: Almost certainly an attempt will be made on your life, why do you invite death

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.

...(skip a few lines)...

McCoy: What if you do decide he's Kodos? What then? Carry his head through the corridors? That won't bring back the dead Jim

Kirk: No, but they may rest easier.

This scene was fantastic, and I thought it brought a few things into focus. Why hasn't Kirk just accused the guy? There certainly seems to be plenty of evidence. Kirk says he's not sure, he needs more to know that this guy is actually Kodos. But why? It seems that Kirk might not turn him over to the courts for normal prosecution, perhaps he is going to take matters into his own hands. If that's the case he will need a crazy amount of evidence, he certainly doesn't want to kill an innocent person. If he's certain it's Kodos perhaps he will take the vengeance route rather than justice. And best of all, when he's confronted with this he admits that it is a possibility and he's not even sure what he will do. That last line seemed to be him justifying to himself that vengeance is a reasonable path.

Sheer Brutality or Tough Leadership?

Another very interesting thing that was brought up in this episode is what Kodos did twenty years ago. It seems that he was the leader of a colony and their food supply was nearly gone. They had 8000 people, but only enough food to feed 4000 of them before their resupply would get there. He decided to kill half of the people so the other half would live. Tragically, the resupply ships arrived ahead of schedule and the deaths were completely unnecessary. It would seem that he is a brutal monster.

But is it that simple? Suppose the supply ships had not been early. In that case, the 4000 people would have survived and the other 4000 who were killed would have died a painless death. If Kodos had not acted all 8000 people would have died a slow painful death. Without the surprising rescue, what he did would be brutal for sure, and yet necessary for the safety of the maximum number of people possible. (note: this is a little hard to say for sure with food, but I've seen this story play out with oxygen elsewhere, it's a bit more clear cut then, but the moral difficulty is the same) Not that what he did was necessarily the best solution, but to do nothing and let everyone die is obviously not the best answer either.

Of course, we also have the way he enacted this plan. There was some reference to the fact that he used some form of Eugenics. Kodos personally decided who lived and died. Certainly there are certain things you need to be careful of in such a plan, you need to make sure you keep enough people alive with all of the skills necessary to run the colony, but having one guy just pick and choose is obviously a problem.

Future Technology From the Past

One final thing I want to add here, there was a scene where they were comparing the voice output of the actor with the old voice output from Kodos, it was of course two big pieces of paper and they were checking the differences. I just love to see old visions of the future.



Intense Debate Comments

I've decided to remove intense debate and go back to the default blogger comments. Of course, ID holds your comment threads hostage so you will stay with it, but luckily I don't have too many. I have taken screenshots and edited them into the bottom of their posts so they won't be lost.

No comments:

Post a Comment