Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) -The Conscience of the King and Balance of Terror

Captain’s Log: Stardate 2817.6

The Conscience of the King, taken from a line in Hamlet (the series has a wonderful relationship with the Bard), was a bit of a murder mystery that didn’t quite engage with me when I was younger, but has grown on me since. Written by Barry Trivers, this had an original airdate of 8 December, 1966, and saw the return of Kevin Riley (Bruce Hyde) as one of only two witnesses who could possibly identify the mass murderer, Kodos the Executioner, who may now be hiding out as a stage actor, Karidian (Arnold Moss), travelling with his troupe and daughter, Lenore (Barbara Anderson).

At a friend’s urging, Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), the only other living witness alongside Riley ,who could identify Kodos, offers the troupe a lift to their next port of call, and begins an investigation of his own.

The mystery is a little easy to figure out, but the story plays out nicely. I’m a little troubled though with the fact that Kirk plays up his flirtatious side with Lenore. Even as the youngest captain in Starfleet at the time, he’s 35, she’s 19.

Admittedly, Kirk is manipulating her, and by extension Karidian, but he cops to wanting more later.

It’s a slower paced story, almost a Starfleet noir, especially with the way the tale plays out, but it shows that the series can tackle genre within genre, and Kirk and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) begin their own investigations.

Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and McCoy (DeForest Kelly) are the real detective pair here, a futuristic form of Holmes and Watson. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), meanwhile, gets to belt out another tune, Beyond Antares, while Riley sulks in Engineering.

When Kirk learns of Spock and McCoy’s investigation, there’s a quick argument that shows how well the trio works together, and it’s these moments that I, and countless others have grown to love over the years.

Watching the three of them discuss justice, vengeance, and what’s morally right, these are the things that affected me when I was younger, helping create a moral code that I still carry with me to this day.

The trio, by now, thirteen episodes into the first season have become very well formed, and are just as important to the series, as the stories, the special effects and the action beats were to me as a child. And is now, the most important part of the series for me, alongside the tales told.

I think, this one may have begun my love of theatre, as the story is interwoven around the actors’ troupe as well as the performance for the ship.

We learn that Riley was a witness to Kodos when he murdered the young man’s family, this giving a dramatic impetus for Riley to seek the road of vengeance, and allow Kirk the higher ground as the episode reaches its climax.

This is an incredibly strong episode, and while I may not have gotten all the moments, and subtleties when I was a youngster, this one amazes now. Moss is perfectly cast, and he plays the part wonderfully. Watching his arrogance, and his heartbreak, wow.

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Captain’s Log: Stardate 1709.2

The Trek version of The Enemy Below as well as Run Silent, Run Deep, a pair of films I hadn’t seen at the time, but this episode found its way on to my favourites list. It’s a wonderfully orchestrated episode, and is the first appearance of Mark Lenard, beginning a long history with the series, over irs various incarnations.

Written by Paul Schneider, and airing on 15 December, 1966, this episode gave us our introduction to the Romulans, and for me showed me how cool submarine movies could be, before I had ever seen one.

This episode is tightly paced, wonderfully made, and still incredibly captivating. Much like the traditions of the court-martial in the Navy, this story, a cat and mouse hunt as the Enterprise pursues a Romulan Bird of Prey, commanded by Mark Lenard’s Romulan, towards the Neutral Zone has a strong nautical feeling. The Romulans have tested their new cloaking device as well as destroying a number of Federation outposts, and if it weren’t for some stalwart detection by those aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise they may have infiltrated deeper into Federation space.

It’s curious that the navigator, Stiles (Paul Comi), comments on the similarity in appearances between the Vulcans and the Romulans, especially since Mark Lenard would later assume the role of Spock’s father, Sarek. It brings up the idea of racism, as Stiles rails against both Spock (and his behaviour towards the First Officer is incredibly insubordinate) and the Romulans, while dealing with the Cold War as the two superpowers hunt one another.

There’s a hint of religion in the opening of the episode as Kirk is conducting a wedding in the ship’s chapel. It’s the racism that Stiles engages in that really stays with the viewer, especially now when we see that racism is incredibly prevalent today, as the fear of the other is used for political gain, fear mongering and the creation of hate and division.

Despite the fact that he doesn’t have much to say in this episode, Scotty (James Doohan) gets to walk the bride down the aisle, and when things get underway, he spends a lot of time on the bridge, watching from the upper deck.

Much like The Corbomite Maneuver, this one plays out almost entirely on the bridge, and if you’ve been reading my Trek posts, you know this one would have played into the games I played as a child, sitting at my desk in class.

I mean, come on. It’s not that hard to believe. The slight tilt of my desktop serving as the helm position, the green blackboard at the front of the class serving as the viewscreen, is it any wonder that I would lose myself to some intergalactic adventure?

 

This is a classic episode and remains a strong example of how awesome Trek can be! See you next time as –

… The Human Adventure continues…

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