The Conscience of the King


"The Conscience of the King"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 13
Directed byGerd Oswald
Written byBarry Trivers
Featured musicJoseph Mullendore
Cinematography byJerry Finnerman
Production code013
Original air dateDecember 8, 1966 (1966-12-08)
Guest appearances
Episode chronology
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Star Trek: The Original Series (season 1)
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"The Conscience of the King" is the 13th episode of the first season of the American science-fiction television series Star Trek. Written by Barry Trivers and directed by Gerd Oswald, it was first aired on December 8, 1966.

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."[1]

In the episode, Captain Kirk crosses paths with an actor suspected of having been a mass-murdering dictator 20 years earlier. The episode featured the final appearance (in production order) of Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Janice Rand). Whitney had already been notified that she was fired from the series a week before filming on this episode began. Her brief walk-on scene was her last scene in Star Trek before her return in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.


The USS Enterprise is called to Planet Q by Dr. Thomas Leighton, a friend of Captain Kirk's, ostensibly to investigate a possible new synthetic food source. Leighton's true motivation, however, is his suspicion that Anton Karidian, the leader of a Shakespearean acting troupe currently on the planet, is in fact Kodos the Executioner, former governor of the Earth colony of Tarsus IV. Kodos had ordered that half the population of 8000 be put to death during a food shortage (supply ships were late and it was believed the full population would not survive until they arrived). Both Leighton and Kirk were eyewitnesses. Kirk insists Kodos is dead, but reconsiders after researching Karidian's background. Hoping to meet Karidian at a party at Leighton's home, Kirk meets his daughter Lenore. During a walk outside, the two find Leighton dead.

Kirk arranges for the Enterprise to ferry the acting troupe to its next destination. He transfers Lt. Kevin Riley to Engineering, after discovering that he, too, was a witness to the Tarsus IV massacre. These actions arouse the curiosity of First Officer Spock who, after an investigation of his own, learns the history of the massacre, Kirk and Riley's connection to it, and that seven of the nine witnesses to the massacre have died, in each case when Karidian's troupe was somewhere nearby.

Riley is poisoned, and a phaser set on overload is left in Kirk's quarters. Kirk confronts Karidian with his suspicions. Karidian does not admit to being Kodos, but argues in defense of Kodos's actions, and when asked to read a transcript of Kodos's execution order, does so with barely a glance at the paper. A computer analysis of his voice results in a near-perfect match with Kodos, but Kirk still hesitates to accuse Karidian.

Lt. Riley, recovering in sickbay, overhears Dr. McCoy's log entry and learns that Karidian is suspected of being Kodos. Riley heads for the ship's theater, where the Karidian troupe is performing Hamlet, and goes backstage, phaser in hand, to exact revenge for the death of his family. Kirk discovers him before he can act, and persuades him to surrender the weapon. Karidian, overhearing, is disturbed, and Lenore tries to reassure him by revealing that she has been killing the witnesses to his crimes. Kirk, overhearing this conversation, moves to arrest them both. Lenore snatches a phaser from a security guard and aims at Kirk. Karidian jumps into the line of fire, is hit, and dies. Lenore breaks down and begs her father to wake up and continue his performance. Later, on the bridge, McCoy reports on her psychiatric condition; she believes her father is still alive and giving performances to cheering crowds.


In 2013, Wired ranked this episode one of the top 10 episodes of the original television series.[2]

Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A− rating, noting strong performances from the actors including a "great Spock/McCoy dynamic" and "some very credible acting from Shatner."[3] Keith DeCandido, writing for, commended the acting of Moss, Shatner, and Anderson, but felt that the episode had aged poorly in regard to only being able to identify Karidian as Kodos via an unreliable voice comparison. He gave the episode a rating of 7.[4] Jamahl Epsicokhan of Jammer's Reviews rated the episode 2.5 stars out of 4 and similarly praised the performances of Moss and Anderson, but criticized the ending, calling it "inappropriate".[5]

Michelle Erica Green of Trek Today also praised Moss and Anderson's performances, but criticized the episode's script.[6] Later Star Trek writer Ronald D. Moore considers the episode to be "deeply underrated" and one of the series' best.[7]

See also


  1. ^ ""The Conscience of the King" Treknation Review". Treknation. August 19, 2005. Retrieved September 8, 2009.
  2. ^ Staff, WIRED (May 15, 2013). "10 of the Most Underrated Episodes of the Original Star Trek Series". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  3. ^ Handlen, Zack (February 27, 2009). ""Conscience Of The King" / "Balance Of Terror"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
  4. ^ DeCandido, Keith (June 2, 2015). "Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: "Conscience Of The King"". Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  5. ^ Epsicokhan, Jamahl. "[TOS] Jammer's Review: "Conscience Of The King"". Jammer's Reviews. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  6. ^ Green, Michelle Erica (August 19, 2005). "The Conscience of the King". Trek Today. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  7. ^ Ronald D. Moore [@rondmoore] (September 17, 2016). "I maintain Conscience of the King is deeply underrated TOS episode and one of the series' best" (Tweet). Retrieved November 10, 2017 – via Twitter.

External links

  • "The Conscience of the King" at
  • "The Conscience of the King" at IMDb
  • "The Conscience of the King" at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
  • "The Conscience of the King" Screenshots before and after remastering