TREK-A-DAY: Conscience of the King (UPDATED!)
EPISODE THIRTEEN: Conscience of the King
There is far more to be said of this episode than my NyQuiled up brain can handle right now, so suffice to say that this is one of the best episodes of Trek I’ve ever seen, largely due to its focus on the madness of acting. The writer deftly weaves multiple Shakespearean plots together along with a whodunnit and mystery as to whether or not an actor recently brought aboard the ship is a war criminal. There’s a neat ‘Nazi/Dictator in exile’ feel to it and the suspense and stakes are well built.
For an actor/nerd, this episode is a joy, allowing the bevy of fine performers to flex their classical muscles and mixing in great nods to the Bard thematically as well as literally.
I’ll come at this with a brain tomorrow, but for tonight the rest is (contented) silence.
So, to clarify: this isn’t by any stretch one of Star Trek‘s best episodes. It’s fun, but not earth-shattering. For an actor or Shakespearean scholar, though, this episode is all kinds of incredible. It subtly works all kinds of Shakespearean themes and motifs into the episode (taking its basic structure from Hamlet, with Kirk receiving the call to vengeance from a recently dead friend, but having his doubts.) and it deals with how crazy we actorly folk are (the final moments with the daughter are particularly awesome.) Anyone who’s acted seriously for any length of time can identify with the weirdness that comes from stepping into a character and how blurry the line between performance and reality can get at times (hence show crushes/cast party hook-ups). This is a really special episode for me: it incorporates great commentary on Shakespeare and acting into an Agatha Christie in Space kind of murder mystery and plays out like a crazy mixture of other shows, from Hamlet and Macbeth to Murder She Wrote. I got a whole lot of love for all of those things and this episode made me quite happy.
It also signals the future incorporation of performance and Shakespeare in the Trek universe, played out on everything from film titles (The Undiscovered Country) to Klingon Bridges, the Holodeck, and beyond.