TOS: S1E13: “The Conscience of the King”

In which we try to puzzle out the difference between mass murder and lifeboat ethics, McCoy knows literally nothing about anything, and Kirk sticks his dick in crazy. 

"Ooh, I should not have had that burrito."

“Ooh, I should not have had that burrito.”

This appears to be a production of MacBeth, despite the title being a reference to Hamlet. Hooray, I was right! Thus begins a long tradition of Starfleet officers performing plays for each other. A lot of people don’t like “Frame of Mind” but I remember it fondly. Only 7 full seasons at 37 episodes to go… This is being performed by Arkturians, and apparently one of them, the actor for MacBeth, is Kodos, who has earned himself a pretty bad-ass appellation. How do I get people to call me “The Executioner?” I’m sure it can’t be too horrible if actors can do it.

This face, which earned a mother's fear and loathing, a mask, my first unfeeling scrap of clothing...

This face, which earned a mother’s fear and loathing, a mask, my first unfeeling scrap of clothing…

Yeah, see, all he did was kill 4,000 people horribly and dye this guy’s Phantom of the Opera mask black. Kirk doesn’t seem to want to believe this actor is Kodos, but we all know this wouldn’t be an episode if one war-scarred refugee had an episode of PTSD triggered by someone who looked like space-mini-Hitler. And it turns out that the actor didn’t seem to exist before Kodos’ death. But let’s not spoil the mood – Kirk beams down to a party where a trumpet with heavy muting is doing a slow jazz version of the opening titles. I kind of want that. It makes a perfect place for Kirk to flirt with space-mini-Hitler’s daughter who plays Lady MacBeth to space-mini-Hitler’s MacBeth. So far we have Hamlet, MacBeth, the Holocaust and Electra all piled into one episode. That’s one way to subvert tropes – make it impossible to tell which classic you’re cribbing off of. Seriously though, Kirk. Try not to stick it in Hitler’s daughter.

Let’s take a moment on that, actually. this is another bit of the kind of implicit world-building that Star Trek is actually pretty good at. Kodos gets the sobriquet “The Executioner” because he killed 4,000 people on a colony that he was governor of. I’m actually struggling to think of anyone in contemporary history that killed 4,000 people. I had to go to Wikipedia’s list of genocides by death toll (link here for those who want to be depressed) and I’d be willing to bet good money that most people haven’t even heard of any of the genocides of fewer than half a million. But this Kodos guy is essentially a direct parallel to Hitler, right down to his corpse being burnt to unrecognizability, but with a death count five orders of magnitude lower. It’d suck to be on that planet, but if that’s the caliber of mass murderer the future can come up with, sign me up. I like them odds.

Kirk’s friend with the half a balaclava is dead, which lends some credence to the whole conspiracy theory. Kirk asks the ship that was going to transport he actors to let him do it, and beams up. And is being a very sly fox about it when he ‘reluctantly’ agrees to take the company to their next stop, despite ‘regulations.’ Lenore, who is the daughter of space-Ratko Mladic (Did you read that list? No? Then you don’t get to complain when I don’t introduce historical referents.)

There's at least three good paragraphs of insight into Rand's personality in this one shot.

There’s at least three good paragraphs of insight into Rand’s personality in this one shot.

There are 9 (well, 8, now) living people who have actually seen Kodos, and one of them aside from Kirk works on the Enterprise. Kirk makes some duty shifts which are likely to result in the untimely death of the poor officer in question, and Spock is concerned. I’d be pretty concerned too if the CEO of a 500-person company started making staffing decisions on the operational level. McCoy makes an offhand remark about Spock’s father’s race being

I don't care if she IS fondling the ship and saying 'throbbing,' Kirk. Don't stick it in space-Mladic's daughter.

I don’t care if she IS fondling the ship and saying ‘throbbing,’ Kirk. Don’t stick it in space-Mladic’s daughter.

conquered. Excuse me, what now? I don’t recall anything like that happening, except in the mirror universe. Is this just more of McCoy being basically the worst at everything, or is there something here? By contrast, the upcoming dialogue about simulating day and night conditions aboard the Enterprise is pretty mundane. Mostly.

Ugh, let’s just skip past the ’60s dialogue. I don’t want it. Go away. It’s not as bad as “Mudd’s Women” because nothing will ever be, but it’s still pretty bad. Let’s instead skip to Spock’s detective work and explanation to McCoy (who is the worst at everything including history, let’s remember) that Kodos was the governer of Tarsus during an episode of extreme famine. Declared martial law, performed triage on the population and started murdering 50% of the population as quickly and painlessly as possible. Also, all the rest of the eyewitnesses except for Kirk and that drunken Riley douchebag from “The Naked Time” are dead. Well, for now. Riley is all alone in the engine room. Way to go, Kirk. Someone put laundry detergent in Riley’s milk and it’s all your fault.

Soneone put a phaser on overload in Kirk’s quarters. This apparently merits “double red alert.” Gee, it sure would be nice if someone could lock onto the energy signature and and transport it a thousand kilometers into space. Instead, Kirk has to find it and throw it down the garbage chute, which makes it safe, somehow.

We get an excerpt from Kodos’ old speeches, which are remarkably similar to some of the lifeboat ethics that British officers used to be (and maybe still

This is getting pretty heavy. Time for another poop joke.

This is getting pretty heavy. Time for another poop joke.

are) trained in. If you’re twenty days from shore with only enough supplies for 8 people to make it for 15 days, is it wrong to try to make as many survivors as possible? If you’re in command and you do the math, 6 people can last for the 20 days. Kirk has the benefit of looking back and knowing that the supply ships arrived earlier than they were expected to, but Kodos had no such assurances. Kirk has the benefit of a life outlook that doesn’t bow to no-win scenarios, but how exactly does he think he would have handled that situation, if he were governor? Let 8,000 people die of starvation, so long as his finger wasn’t the one on the trigger? That smells like bullshit to me.

Riley hears McCoy logging that Karidian might be Kodos, so here comes some conduct unbecoming an officer. But on a lighter note, the ship actually does have a dedicated theater. For some reason. And the daughter is the one who was doing all the murdering. Which at least explains how that phaser got into his quarters. Womp womp. she’s a little crazypants. So is the moral here “murder runs in families” or “actors… go figure.”

Overly Murderous Girlfriend.

Overly Murderous Girlfriend.

 

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