An actor traveling aboard the Enterprise may be a former governor who ordered a mass-murder twenty years ago.
The Enterprise is diverted three light years off of its scheduled course to Planet Q, lured by word of a new synthetic food which promises to ease chronic shortages on Cygnia Minor. But what Doctor Thomas Leighton actually wants to show his childhood friend Kirk is merely a traveling Shakespearean actor, Anton Karidian. Leighton believes Karidian to be Kodos the Executioner, a man who seized control of the Tarsus IV colony in 2246 and murdered half its population. Of the 4000 survivors, only nine--including the young Kirk and Leighton--ever saw the face of the revolutionary governor.
Though convinced Kodos is long dead, Kirk does enough research to pique his curiosity about Leighton's claim. He returns to the planet in hopes of meeting Karidian in person. At a party at the Leightons' home, Kirk meets Karidian's daughter Lenore, who looks resplendent after having been up to no good. The two leave the party to stroll in the desert, and come upon the body of their host Thomas Leighton.
Following Leighton's suspicions, Kirk calls in a favor: he gets Jon Daily, captain of the Astral Queen, to leave Planet Q orbit ahead of schedule and without notice. This strands the Karidian Players, who now have no choice but to ask for passage aboard the Enterprise.
Researching, Kirk reviews the list of the nine eye witnesses, and discovers Lieutenant Kevin Riley as one of the eyewitnesses. Despite the fact that he recently was promoted from engineering to communications, Kirk orders Spock to demote Riley back to engineering.
Spock becomes concerned about the captain's behavior and confides in Dr. McCoy, while Kirk proceeds to get more involved with Lenore. Spock does his own research and learns enough to raise his own suspicions, including the disturbing fact that of the nine eyewitnesses who could positively identify Kodos, seven are now dead. And whenever one died, the Karidian Players were somewhere near. Only Kirk and Lieutenant Kevin Riley remain alive.
With a plate of food at his side, Riley broods while alone in engineering and calls to the rec room, and to cheer him up, Uhura plays and sings him a song. While Riley is distracted by Uhura's performance, someone sneaks into the room and squirts something into Riley's drink. Feeling a little better, Riley reaches for his drink and takes a long gulp. Uhura finishes her song and we suddenly see Riley choking.
As Riley lies in critical condition, Spock realizes that if he dies, Kirk will be the next target. Spock is certain that Riley was poisoned and with McCoy confronts Kirk. Spock is now certain Karidian and Kodos are the same man, but Kirk remains unsure. Their discussion is interrupted by the hum of an overloading phaser. Somewhere in Kirk's quarters is a potential explosive that can take out the entire deck. Kirk finds and disposes of it seconds before it explodes.
Kirk is finally driven to confront Karidian, asking him point blank whether he is Kodos. Karidian gives him evasive answers, and after twenty years of playing parts that, of all things, he is tired. He does perform a short speech for the purposes of voice comparison. Meanwhile, in sickbay, the recovering Lieutenant Riley overhears McCoy's log entry, learning that Karidian is suspected of being Kodos, the man who murdered Riley's family. The voiceprint comparison is close, very close, but Kirk argues that when a man's life is at stake, very close isn't good enough.
The Karidian Players begin a presentation of Hamlet. Riley, with a stolen phaser, sneaks backstage. Kirk manages to talk him out of killing Karidian, who overhears their sotto voce conversation.
Kirk is still backstage when Karidian and his daughter Lenore discuss what he overheard. Karidian is distressed over hearing the 'voice of a part that he played long ago'. But he learns, to his horror, that Lenore not only knows about the nine, but killed seven of the nine witnesses who could identify him. Lenore goes on to tell him innocently that she plans to kill the remaining two after the performance.
Karidan is horrified that his daughter has spilled more blood on 'his' hands, but she proclaims that 'they had to be silenced', and says, all with a smile on her face, that she buried those ghosts for him. Karidan is devastated that in spite of all his attempts to save his daughter from his past that she did all this. Lenore continues with a dreamy smile that she has 'saved him', declares to Kirk that the people she killed weren't innocent but 'dangerous', and that she would have killed a world to protect her father.
Kirk summons security to take them into custody; Lenore snatches Security officer Harrison's weapon and runs on stage. Her eyes show she's quite insane (reminiscent of Lady Macbeth and/or Ophelia). Karidian, desperate there should be no more blood on his hands, steps between her and Kirk as she fires; the shot is fatal. Twenty years after earning the name, Kodos the Executioner is dead.
The death of Karidian at her hands sends Lenore over the edge. The last report of her is that she believes her father is still alive ... performing to cheering audiences.
- Captain's log, stardate 2817.6. Starship Enterprise diverted from scheduled course, purpose: to confirm discovery by Dr. Thomas Leighton of an extraordinary new synthetic food which would totally end the threat of famine on Cygnia Minor, a nearby Earth colony.
- Captain's log, stardate 2818.9. There are many questions in my mind, too many perhaps about the actor Karidian and his daughter. For personal reasons, I'm almost afraid to learn the answers.
- Captain's log, stardate 2819.1. Ship's officer Riley's condition worsening, Dr. McCoy making lab analysis to determine cause and antidote. Entire crew deeply concerned.
- Medical log. Lieutenant Riley sufficiently recovered to be discharged, but the captain has ordered him restricted to sickbay to prevent contact with passenger who calls himself Karidian, and who's suspected of being Kodos the Executioner, and of murdering the Lieutenant's family.
- Captain's log, stardate 2819.8. Suspect under surveillance, strategic areas under double guard, performance of the Karidian Players taking place as scheduled.
"Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman always remains a woman."
- - James Kirk to Lenore
"Even in this corner of the galaxy, Captain, two plus two equals four. Almost certainly, an attempt will be made to kill you. Why do you invite death?"
- - Spock
"What if you decide he is Kodos? What then? Do you play God, carry his head through the corridors in triumph? That won't bring back the dead, Jim!"
"No. But they may rest easier."
"What have you done? All seven? More blood on my hands? My child! My child! You've left me nothing!"
- - Anton Karidian, on learning that Lenore has killed seven (of nine) eyewitnesses.
"I was a soldier in a cause; there were things that had to be done – terrible things!"
"Stop it, father! You have nothing to justify!"
"Murder, flight, suicide, madness... you were the one thing in life untouched by what I'd done."
"And this ship: all this power, surging and throbbing. Yet under control. Are you like that Captain?"
- - Lenore to Captain Kirk
"They died quickly, without pain... but they died!"
- - Spock
"What were you twenty years ago?"
"Younger, captain... much younger."
"Why are there no records of you twenty years ago?"
"Blood thins ... body fails ... and one is finally grateful for a failing memory. I no longer treasure life, not even my own. I am tired! The past is a blank."
"The revolution... is successful. But survival depends upon drastic measures. Your continued existence is a threat to the order we have restored; your lives mean slow death to the more valued members of the colony. I, therefore, have no alternative but to sentence you to death. Your execution is so ordered, signed Kodos, governor of Tarsus IV."
- - Anton Karidian reading a copy of Kodos' death pronouncement
"There's a stain of cruelty on your shining armor, Captain. You could have spared him ... and me. You spoke of using tools. I was a tool, wasn't I? A tool to use against my father."
"In the beginning, perhaps, but later ... I wanted it to be more than that."
"Later! Everything's always later. Later ... latest ... too late! Too late, Captain. You are like your ship: powerful, but not human. There is no mercy in you."
"If he is Kodos, then I've shown him more mercy than he deserves. And if he isn't, then I'll let you off at Benecia with no harm done."
"Captain Kirk – who are you to say what harm was done?"
"Who do I have to be?"
- - Kirk and Lenore, after Kirk has confronted Karidian
Story and Script
- The title is a reference to the line from Hamlet: "The play's the thing Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." (Act 2; Scene 2) This episode shares many plot elements with the play: A leader's troubled conscience, his crimes being exposed during a play, and a daughter going insane (or more so, in Lenore's case) after the accidental killing of her father.
- The most overt reference is in the teaser. The Karidian Company is performing a scene from Macbeth, where the title character (played by Karidian) murders King Duncan and utters the line, Will all Neptune's great ocean wash this blood clean from my hands?
- The name of the planet that Kodos ruled, Tarsus IV, is a reference to the biblical Saul of Tarsus. Just as Saul experienced a conversion on the road to Damascus, and became the apostle Paul, so Kodos underwent an identity change by recasting himself as Karidian.
- The phaser overload emergency is the only known instance when a double red alert is declared. However, in James Blish's adaptation of "Court Martial" in Star Trek 2, he has Kirk ordering a red alert and then a double red alert during the ion storm — as opposed to the yellow alert and red alert that were depicted on screen. "Red alert" and "Double Red Alert" were used in the final draft of that episode's script but were changed on-set before filming.
- This episode contains 'Star Trek's' first direct reference to eugenics, although there is an oblique reference in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?". He declares Kodos' martial rule of Tarsus IV to have been an experiment in eugenics, causing McCoy to note that his wasn't the first such experiment.
- When Spock declines to have a drink with McCoy by saying that his people were "spared the dubious benefits of alcohol", McCoy scorns Spock's refusal by stating that he now knows why Vulcan was conquered. This is contradicted in "The Immunity Syndrome", when Spock says that Vulcan has not been conquered in its collective memory.
- Kirk refers to Riley as a lieutenant in the "Star Service" - another early name for Starfleet.
- When Lenore shoots Karidian/Kodos and kills him, she doesn't zap him into oblivion as the "kill" setting normally does, allowing her to weep over the body.
- The preview trailer for this episode gives the stardate as 2817.2.
- This is the only episode that shows nighttime on the Enterprise. Kirk says that they try to approximate conditions of night and day as closely as possible.
Cast and Characters
- James Doohan (Scotty) and George Takei (Sulu) do not appear in this episode.
- Eddie Paskey's character name, Mr. Leslie, is finally established in this episode.
- The voice of Captain Daily is the same voice used for "Starbase Operations" in "The Menagerie, Part I", and is the same actor seen as "Mike", one of Kirk's old classmates at the bar in "Court Martial". It is unknown if the actor is Tom Curtis or Frank da Vinci, as there is conflicting evidence.
- Her walk-on bridge appearance and stern look at Lenore is Grace Lee Whitney's last appearance in the series. In the script, she interrupted Kirk and Lenore on the Observation Deck to bring Kirk a report.
- In the original draft, a "Crewman Daiken" was the young man whose parents had been murdered by Kodos. In the end, he was replaced by actor Bruce Hyde as Kevin Riley. He was a navigator then, but in this episode he's a communications officer who's just been transferred from Engineering. However, he still wears the gold command shirt.
- Joseph Mullendore's score for this episode would be heard again in "Court Martial", "Shore Leave", "Space Seed", "The City on the Edge of Forever" and in the teaser of "The Return of the Archons".
- The Star Trek theme song is performed by the lounge band at Tom Leighton's party. This is the first time the Star Trek theme has been played as source music. The only other time this occurs in the original series is when Kirk meets Areel Shaw in the bar in "Court Martial".
- The dreamlike song sung by Uhura is "Beyond Antares". Nichelle Nichols got to interact with the Vulcan harp again in "Elaan of Troyius", but that scene was cut.
Sets and props
- Kirk's quarters are labeled as 3F 121.
- The preview for this episode features an alternate edit of Kirk searching for the overloaded phaser in his quarters. It was unused because the plywood under the mattress of his bunk was visible. (citation needed • edit)
- In the original series, this is the only appearance of the Observation Deck. It overlooks the shuttlebay, called here the "Flight Deck". However, the Observation Deck does make a later appearance in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, when Scotty stands in here spying Kirk and Sybok fighting in the shuttlebay.
- McCoy's cabinet has two skulls in it for the first time in this episode.
- The Pressure Vent Disposal drawer, into which Kirk places the overloading phaser, would later be used by Lazarus to cause a fire in "The Alternative Factor". The small drawer would be filled with circuits for that scene.
- In the scene where security guards are searching for Kevin Riley in the corridors, rectangular seams are visible in the floor. This is where the grates visible in "Charlie X" and other early episodes were eliminated and filled in with the corridor floor material.
- The equipment-filled alcove that McCoy and Spock pass in the corridor as they discuss Kodos the Executioner is labeled "Engineering Circuit Bay". This sign was later placed next to the Jefferies tube in season two.
- The city in the background out Tom Leighton's window is the same one used as Mojave in "The Cage". The window itself was used in the Delta Vega lithium cracking station set in "Where No Man Has Gone Before".
- The ship's theater is a redress of the Engineering set. Pieces of the ship's gymnasium are hanging on the walls, and the ceiling can be seen of this set in one of three glimpses in the first season.
- The Observation Deck is a redress of the Romulan bridge set from "Balance of Terror".
- The Karidians' quarters aboard the Enterprise appear to be a "VIP suite," the only one of its kind seen in this series. Just inside the door is a "sitting area." Further back, behind the grating, are two doors leading to separate bedrooms. Finally, two walls of the sitting area feature the same "inset bookcases" that were last used in Pike's quarters in "The Cage".
- Chairs are shown by the panels in Engineering. They are never seen again.
- Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons named his recurring alien characters "Kodos" and "Kang" after the characters in this episode and "Day of the Dove", respectively.
- Stating that this was his favorite episode of TOS, writer Ronald D. Moore commented:
- I liked the backstory of Kirk as a young man caught up in a revolution and the nightmarish slaughter by Governor Kodos. I liked the Shakespearean overtones to the episode as well as the use of the plays themselves. And I absolutely loved Kirk in this episode – a troubled man haunted by the shadows of the past, a man willing to lure Karidian to his ship under false pretenses, willing to do one of his more cold-blooded seductions on Lenore, willing to fight with his two closest friends, and risk his entire command in the name of justice. Or was it vengeance? Kirk's aware of his own lack of objectivity, his own flaws to be in this hunt for a killer, but he cannot push the burden away and refuses pull back from his quest to track down Kodos no matter what the cost. It also has some of my favorite lines in TOS.
- The scene with Spock and McCoy in Kirk's quarters is one of the series' highlights. The brooding tone and the morally ambiguous nature of the drama fascinated me and definitely influenced my thinking as to what Trek could and should be all about. 
- Consequently, in his reimagined version of Battlestar Galactica, executive producer Ronald D. Moore named the prison barge "Astral Queen" after the ship commanded in this episode by Jon Daily.
- In the fourth season ENT episode, "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", the future biographical information displayed for Hoshi Sato states that she was one of the 4,000 people killed by Kodos on the Tarsus colony.
- 2nd draft teleplay by Barry Trivers: 8 June 1966
- Revised final draft: 14 September 1966
- Filmed: Late September 1966
- Premiere airdate: 8 December 1966
- Remastered airdate: 22 September 2007
Video and DVD releases
- US LaserDisc release: July 1985.
- Original US Betamax release: 1985.
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 7, catalogue number VHR 2256, release date unknown.
- Japan LaserDisc release: 10 November 1992.
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994.
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 1.5, 9 September 1996.
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 6, 22 February 2000.
- As part of the TOS Season 1 DVD collection.
- As part of the TOS Season 1 HD-DVD collection.
Links and References
- DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy
- Grace Lee Whitney as Yeoman Rand
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- William Sargent as Dr. Leighton
- Natalie Norwick as Martha Leighton
- David-Troy as Larry Matson
- Karl Bruck as King Duncan
- Marc Adams as Hamlet
- Frank da Vinci as Vinci
- Eddie Paskey as Leslie
- Unknown actor as Lewis
- Ron Veto as Harrison
- Majel Barrett as the Voice of Computer
- Tom Curtis? as Jon Daily (voice)
2246; 2247; 2257; Arcturian; Astral Queen; Benecia colony, "Beyond Antares"; Cygnia Minor; Daily, Jon; double red alert; Eames, D.; Eugenics; Galactic Cultural Exchange Project; "Hamlet"; Hangar Deck; Karidian Company of Players; Kodos the Executioner; Macbeth; Molson, E.; Mullendore, Joseph; Observation Deck; Planet Q; quarterly physical; Saurian brandy; Shakespear, William; Tarsus IV; tetralubisol; voiceprint; Vulcan lute,
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