"The Conscience of the King"
This is the first shot of the episode, accompanied by the "Tonight, on Masterpiece Theatre..." music.
Kirk: Kirk gets backstory! Kind of. We now know that, around age 11, Kirk was on a planet called Tarsus IV where Governer Kodos (his WWE name is "Kodos the Executioner") killed half of the colony's 8,000 inhabitants to give the remaining colonists a chance to survive a famine. It's not explained why Kirk was there, whether anyone in his family was killed, or why he was only one of 9 people to have seen Kodos's face and survived. Twenty-two years later, Kirk has gone on to be a successful starship captain with questionable taste in women, an annoying habit of keeping his first officer completely in the dark about what Kirk is planning, and a Star Warsian preference for feelings over facts. In the episode, he says things like "Logic is not enough. I've got to feel my way," and talks about how there's no way a computer can determine anything accurately. I'd refer him to the ship's counselor for post-traumatic stress, except that she turned into a demi-god and then died in the pilot.
First kiss not as a result of outside coercion!
Spock: Spock is pretty stressed out in this episode, either because Kirk is keeping him totally out of the loop, or because, according to a half-drunk McCoy, Vulcan is apparently a "conquered" planet. Oookay? Anyway, Spock freaks out that Kirk starts issuing unexplained course changes and crew transfers, and spends most of the episode berating McCoy for not agreeing with him that This Is An Emergency. Spock really needs to learn the value of reverse psychology, I think, since it seems like McCoy just supports the opposite of whatever Spock is saying at any given moment.
McCoy: Oh, McCoy, you are really killing my Fantasy Trek Crew here in this episode what with your drinking on duty, declaring Riley a lost cause before he recovers just fine, and recording a log out loud, within earshot of your patient, about why you are keeping your patient there under false pretenses. Also, they really need to get a brig on the Enterprise soon, because when they're discussing what Kirk will do if Touring Shakespeare Company Actor Karelian really is Kodos The Executioner, McCoy jumps to this conclusion: "Are you going to play God and carry his head through the corridors?" I'm thinking maybe someone should rethink the policy of having the ship's liquor cabinet in sickbay.
It's 1700 hours somewhere...
Uhura: Uhura's back, and playing the Space Harp. There were a lot more musical numbers in this show than I remembered.
The Triumphant Return of Kevin Thomas Riley: Riley is a completely ridiculous character. It's so sad that he has serious angst in this episode... because the actor just can't pull it off. If it weren't bad enough that his parents were killed by Kodos the Executioner, Kirk demotes him without explanation and then someone tries to kill him by spraying Fantastik in his glass of milk. I AM NOT KIDDING.
The only time food cubes are not the weirdest thing happening on a food tray.
Lenore Karidian: Jim Kirk and common sense need to have a little sit-down and chat about his taste in women. Lenore Karidian is nineteen, which makes her more legal than his last crush. However, the way that she can't talk like a normal person should probably have tipped him off that this was not a good idea -- she says things like "There's a stain of cruelty on your shining armor, Captain" in lieu of normal conversation! Once upon a time, when I was resisting being dragged away from the TV to go to the theatre, my parents told me "Too much culture can't hurt you." Lenore is the example that this is not the case. I mean, I'm sure that having a mass-murderer father probably has something to do with why she turns into a psychotic killer herself, but the part where she chews acres of scenery while quoting Shakespeare as she kills people? That's just not normal. Also, the bit where she plays Lady Macbeth to her father's Macbeth nudges their relationship from "mass murder runs in the family" to "this father-daughter relationship is totally not okay."
Ophelia: Now With Even More Crazy.
Kodos the Executioner: Okay, the scene with him and Kirk is really great, and I guess I can't really fault the actor for overhamming his other scenes -- I mean, it's a risk any time your character is a thespian, and really, a certain amount of ham is required in order to stay in the frame whenever Kirk is on-screen. However, he can NEVER BE FORGIVEN, because according to a graphic in Enterprise's "In A Mirror Darkly II," KODOS KILLS HOSHI. Which is completely and totally unacceptable, of course, and therefore NOT TRUE in my world, but it does raise the question of whether Kirk knew Hoshi on Tarsus IV.
Janice Rand, We Hardly Knew Ye: Janice Rand gets second "also starring" billing only to McCoy, and yet says absolutely nothing and is only seen on-screen for a moment, giving a sort of critical "you know, purple fur minidresses are so last season" look to Lenore. Really? This is her last episode on the show? As Das Boy says, "Maybe once Space Central becomes Starfleet Command, they get rid of the stewardess positions on starships." Of course, she's actually going to the Academy to become an officer, so she can one day be reunited with her BFF Sulu on his ship in the movies. COLD COMFORT to me, since I'm not sure I will be able to write recaps without a steady supply of Janice WTF to fall back on.
Can I get a savejanicerand.com, please?
Speaking of Space Central: Riley is apparently a lieutenant in the "Star Service," which is either an early name for Starfleet or the actor's talent agency. Also, at one point, Kirk orders a "double red alert." When single red alerts just won't do!
WTF Prop of the Episode: Even more than the spray bottle, the random ejector ports around the ship are pretty ridiculous. It's probably a prank they play on new crewmembers, telling them it's a laundry chute or something.
Kirk ejects an overloading phaser into space via a convenient hallway mail drop.
Further Proof that Ron Moore and I Are Not The Same Person: Apparently, this episode is Ron Moore's favorite episode of TOS. All I can say is "...really, now." Though that does explain why the "Astral Queen" sounded like a familiar ship name when I heard it in this episode...
This is Ron Moore's favorite episode!?