The Conscience of the King

Ando: So while this was a very well-done episode with a nice theatrical feel, it’s pretty safe to say this was just an entertaining episode.

Get it? Because the episode played us into thinking we knew who the bad guy was ;-)

The play’s the thing…

Katie Mae: Yes, I feel it was a good episode, but not a very standard representation of what Star Trek is usually like. If I was recommending episodes to someone, I wouldn’t give this as a good example. This is what I think of as a “flavor episode”. Like how sometimes TV shows will do a “Christmas episode” or a “musical episode” or a “vacation episode”; these are fun little episodes that take us outside the normal realm of the characters or put a novel spin on the show.

Ando: Since there wasn’t really a deep hidden message in this one, did you notice anything about the visual elements? I know that’s an area you like to analyze.

KM: After meeting Dr. Leighton, the left half of his face is of course not shown. This is obviously for the sake of the dramatic reveal. In the second scene in which we see him, his shots are all framed in very deliberate and unmoving profile. It is so stark that it is a bit off-putting – and that’s the point. Even if you don’t realize what you’re seeing, your brain knows there’s something unnatural about seeing only one side of the character’s face.

Ando: It’s a very similar technique to shooting a scene with the camera very slightly tilted (referred to as a “dutch angle”). Even if the angle is so slight that you don’t actively realize it, your brain is telling you something’s not right. In this case, people watching the episode for the first time may not register that this man looks strange until he turns around and shows that his face has been damaged.

Kirk, Dr Leighton, and Martha Leighton

Dr. Leighton’s still profile is in stark contrast to Kirk and Martha, who both show a natural full range of motion during the conversation

KM: That was probably the case in the 60’s, but I think today’s television/movie-watching audience is more “in the know” about tricks like that than they used to be. By now we’ve seen Two-Face and the Phantom of the Opera – an audience recognizes when they’re about to be presented with a guy with a messed-up face.

Ando: It’s true – we see the profile shot and think “Uh-oh, something creepy or ugly has happened to that guy’s face!”

KM: I wonder if this was one of the first places where guy-with-half-a-messed-up-face reveal was used.

Ando: I’m not sure. {checks trope page} Well, it does appear to be one of the earlier examples of the face-reveal trope on TV. Way to go, Star Trek!

KM: An interesting example of how Star Trek was groundbreaking in ways that we can’t always appreciate anymore.

Ando: Then I’ll close with a quick nod to the episode which first named Lt. Leslie (mentioned for the first time in our review of “The Naked Time“), who is driving the Enterprise during this episode.


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