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Friday, April 14, 2017

Star Trek: Season 1, Episode 13. "The Conscience of the King"

Prior  to episode beginning Governor Kodos of Tarsus IV or Kodos the executioner instituted martial after a drastic drop in food and killed fifty percent of the population. Kodos is presumed burn beyond all recognition.

The episode begins with Tom Leighton, a witness and victim of Kodos, watching the play MacBeth. He suspects actor Karidian as being Kodos. He arranges a meeting with the actors. He winds up dead, leaving just Kirk and Lt. Riley the only living witnesses who have seen Kodos.

Captain Kirk interrogates the daughter, Lenore, with pleasure. He arranges for transport of the actors aboard the Enterprise. Spock

Analysis with spoilers:
Lt. Riley listens to Uhura from Engineering room and happens to communicate his poisoning.

Kirk confronts (see quotes), tests Karidian's voice. Close but perfect.

Daughter admits to killing witnesses for father. Father appalled. She threatens Kirk. Kodos stands to protect Kirk from being blasted. They erase daughter's memory, even to the point that she believes father still alive. If that's a mercy. Strangely, her murders make less sense (at least, based on the information we're given) yet Captain Kirk is willing to spare her life, not Kodos's.

Interesting dilemma--if food resources are limited, what do you do?--dramatically dynamic. But it does flatten the tricky dilemma, taking an easier resolution. Part of the problem is that rescue comes early. One would think that Karidian would have known how far away help was and calculated how far resources might extend. Better to have made the problem trickier.

This somewhat parallels the Nazis, but there was no crisis of resources. At least the viewer can understand why Kodos chose what he chose (although how does one decide who are important in a society?). This is a classic problem in ethics: If you could divert a train to kill fewer people than it would if you let it go straight, what would you do?

Mostly, this parallels the pursuit of war criminals, decades afterward when the criminals take on a normal life, seemingly repentent, as happened recently in Minnesota when residents and family did not want him extradited and out on trial and placed in prison. If people change and repent, are they forever criminals or are they normal? The daughter's own murders make the solution easy, yet more dramatic.

Why she is named Lenore, presumably an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe's poem, is unclear. For Kodos, she is his life. For Kirk, she remains alive. Maybe she is dead inside (before and after the memory erasure but in different ways).
  1. Kirk: Are you Kodos? I asked you a question.
    Karidian : Do you believe that I am?
    Kirk: I do.
    Karidian: Then I am... if it pleases you to believe I am Kodos. I'm an actor. I play many parts.
    Kirk: You're an actor now. What were you twenty years ago?
    Karidian: Younger, Captain, much younger.
    Kirk: So was I. But I remember.
  2. Karidian: Here you stand, a perfect symbol of our society, mechanized, electronicized, and not very human.
  3. Karidian: Some had to die so that some might live.
  4. Karidian: Why not kill me now? Let bloody vengeance take its final course and see what difference universe of yours.
    Kirk: Beautiful words, well acted, change nothing.
    Karidian: No, I suppose not. They are merely tools.
  5. Karidian: Blood thins, body fails, and one is finally grateful for a failing memory. I no longer treasure life, not even my own. I am tired! The past is a blank.
  6. Lenore: You talked of using tools. I was a tool, wasn't I? a tool you used against my father.
  7. Lenore: You are like your ship: powerful and not human. There is not mercy in you.
    Kirk: If he is Kodos, then I've shown him more mercy than he deserves.
  8. Kirk: The play is over. It's been over twenty years.
  1. Kirk has another liaison. Hard to tell if it's business or pleasure. Maybe both, considering his final decision.

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