Monday, September 10, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 13 (The Conscience of the King)

I’ve always hated when someone says, “Oh, but he’s such a nice guy.”  Usually, the person that’s supposed to be such a nice guy really isn’t.  Maybe it’s someone accused of a crime.  Maybe it’s someone who’s a jerk.  There’s usually someone who knows that he’s not such a nice guy.

Anton Karidian would seem to be a nice guy.  He has a loving daughter.  He’s part of a Shakespearian acting troupe.  He seems friendly enough.  However, Dr. Thomas Leighton is on to him.  Leighton things that Karidian is actually Governor Kodos, referred to as Kodos the Executioner.  This is because, as governor of Tarsus IV, he killed thousands of people.  Food shipments were late and sacrificing part of the population would have saved the rest, except that the food arrived on time.

Kirk doesn’t believe Leighton at first, even though Kirk was on Tarsus IV at the time.  Kirk becomes concerned when Leighton shows up dead, so he arranges to have the Enterprise bring the troupe to their next destination.  Also on board is Lt. Kevin Riley, who was also present on Tarsus IV.

Riley manages to survive what looks like a attempt at poisoning.  There’s also an attempt made on Kirk’s life.  Kirk is hesitant to confront Karidian about it, even after getting a voice match.  At this point, does it really matter?  Kodos is believed dead and Karidian doesn’t show any intent to harm anyone.  Is bringing him to justice that important?

I think the episode may have faltered a little bit.  There would seem to be a parallel between Karidian and Nazi war criminals.  Does it matter how many people he killed?  Granted, what Kodos did wasn’t genocide, but he did still kill people.  I would think that many of his victims would probably have families who would want closure.  It’s also not as if Kirk would have to pass judgment on Kodos.  Kirk would simply be turning in someone suspected of being Kodos.

Letting him go seems like the easy way out.  There are only two people left who could identify him, so it’s not like anyone would know.  Right?  I can’t really think of a good reason to let him go.  Even if we were to say that he’s dying, wouldn’t punishment be for the courts to decide?  Get the man a good lawyer and let the justice system sort it out.

There is some debate within the episode on the potential merits of what he attempted.  Had the food ships not arrived, it would have cast Kodos in a better light.  He would have saved people that might have died otherwise.  However, Kodos did kill people and he was selective about it.  He saved the people that he thought were better.

I can see where the episode might be trying to show both sides of the argument.  Kirk is hesitant to do anything.  Riley is quick to take action.  Is it understandable that Riley would want revenge or is Kirk right to think it through?  Once someone like that has been caught, what would be the correct way to treat them?  My only problem is that the question would be better posed in a courtroom.

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