"The Conscience of the King": Plot Holes and Questions.

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by t_smitts, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    What's creepy about two consenting adults being attracted to one another? I've known quite a few young men and women who like dating people older than themselves. If it's for exploitive reasons (a la Kirk in this segment) that's one thing, but if two consenting adults wanna go at it like bunnies that's their business, even if they're radically different ages.
     
  2. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    Well, it's those exploitive reasons that are especially concerning in this episode.

    Starfleet rules of decorum for starship captains fraternizing with civilians aside, although these might be "consenting adults," we actually don't know what the age of consent is in the 23rd century Federation. It's generally 18 years of age here in the U.S, but that might not be the case by Star Trek's time. In an era when an Ocampa's average lifespan is nine years, consent laws are liable to be fairly sophisticated.

     
  3. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    A 19 year old girl who enters society (attends a grown-up party) unescorted, comports herself as a grown woman, and flirts with an eligible bachelor? She is a grown woman and fair game for romance, by the rules of every human society for the past 6000 years.

    It is only in very recent times that "childhood" has been extended so far into this phase of life, that had historically been considered adulthood. So recent, in fact, I'm pretty sure that in 1966 a 19 year old female was a considered woman ready for marriage unless she herself insisted otherwise.
     
  4. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    This is the part where I shamelessly mention that my sequel to this ep, Foul Deeds Will Rise, comes out from Pocket Books later this year.

    And, yes, the fact that Kirk romanced a much younger woman to get at her father is alluded to. Kirk admits that it was hardly his finest hour--even if Lenore turned out to have a much more lethal agenda of her own.

    And as for Kodos, I never got the impression that "Anton Karidian" was any sort of household name or celebrity by Federation standards. He was a respected Shakespearean actor touring the outer colonies, but I doubt that Kirk had ever heard of him before being summoned to Planet Q.

    As for Leighton's injuries: This isn't TNG, where most anything can be fixed in sickbay over a commercial break. We know from "The Menagerie" that some scars and injuries can't be healed by 23rd-century medicine. Maybe Leighton's face suffered some major radiation burns from delta rays or something . . . .
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2014
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, I'm talking about adult attitudes at the time. It's only in recent decades that society has become aware of pedophilia as a serious threat, since people in the past just didn't talk about such things. Even rape wasn't considered a serious crime in the 1960s; see "The Enemy Within" and the way Spock teases Rand about the "interesting qualities" of the "impostor" Kirk who sexually assaulted her. Heck, what we see today as sexual victimization of women was seen back then as normative; there was supposed to be an imbalanced power dynamic in the man's favor. So an older man going after a younger woman wasn't seen as a disturbing thing. See also the 1957 song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," which is a paean to the sexual potential inherent in preadolescent girls ("They grow up in the most delightful way"). In its day, it wasn't seen as creepy at all.

    Heck, look at the first (and only non-Trek) feature film Roddenberry wrote and produced, 1971's Pretty Maids All in a Row. It's a dark sex comedy in which Rock Hudson plays a school guidance counselor who's having sex with many of his underaged female students, most of whom have nude scenes and are portrayed as willing seductresses. True,
    Hudson turns out to be a serial murderer,
    but he's actually played as a sympathetic figure, and his trysts with teenagers aren't portrayed as anything creepy in themselves, but are just part of the sex-comedy milieu. Not to mention that Angie Dickinson, who was 39 at the time, also has sex with a male student who I believe is supposed to be 17 (and the actor was 19 at the time). This is not portrayed as wrong in any way.

    So society back then just wasn't as concerned with sexual victimization or exploitation as we are today. And pedophilia simply wasn't talked about or recognized as a problem. Whereas these days we've become so hypersensitized to pedophilia that we overreact to interactions between consenting adults when one of the adults simply happens to be more than a decade younger than the other. A 19-year-old isn't a child and there's no reason to find anything creepy about her involvement with an older man.



    The age of consent is actually 16 in 30 US states and the District of Columbia, and 17 in another 8 states. Only a dozen states set it at 18.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_consent_in_North_America#State_laws


    The problem with calling Kirk's actions exploitative here is that, yes, he was using her, but no, he wasn't using her for sex. He was using the pretense of seduction in order to pursue what he was really after, which was information about her father. First-season Kirk was not the womanizer he was later written as. He was a serious, driven command officer, generally not allowing himself time for interest in women, and when he did get involved with women it was either because he was under some mental influence ("The Naked Time," "Dagger of the Mind") -- which he was able to shake off because of his overwhelming commitment to duty -- or because he was using seduction as a pretense for a more pragmatic goal (here or "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"). We even saw women throwing himself at him and Kirk largely ignoring or resisting them ("Mudd's Women," "Miri"). Otherwise, beyond an old flame or two ("Court-martial," the passing allusion to Helen Johansson in "The Menagerie"), the times we saw him genuinely involved with women were cases where he was deeply and tenderly in love with them ("Shore Leave," "City on the Edge"). So to interpret first-season Kirk as any kind of predatory womanizer is a huge misreading of his character, even more so than for the Kirk of the later seasons (who was more in line with the majority of promiscuous male action leads in '60s TV).



    Yeah, but that's the problem -- by today's real-world standards, it's hard to believe that 23rd-century medicine would be as backward as TOS portrayed it.
     
  6. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    McCoy: He's dead, Jim.

    Kirk: Do you uh, want to try resuscitating him?

    McCoy: I'm sorry, what?
     
  7. Marsden

    Marsden Commodore Commodore

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    To go to Dr. Adams! That'll fix her! :lol:


    I honestly didn't think she looked 19, I thought Kodos adopted her as a ten year old. Really, she was supposed to be 19? Of course, makeup and hairstyles can make someone look much older/younger, but I didn't think she was only 19.
     
  8. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Kirk's computer states specifically that she's 19 years old, born one year after the massacre on Tarsus.

    I considered explaining who her mother was and what happened to the mom, but that ended up being irrelevant to the story I was telling.
     
  9. Marsden

    Marsden Commodore Commodore

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    Thank you, you're right of course, but my memory did not serve me well. I still think she was a very mature looking 19.
     
  10. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I admit I was startled the first time someone mentioned that she was only nineteen. but then I went and rewatched the episode to be sure.
     
  11. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    Growing up in Los Angeles, I recall conversations and news stories (over 4 decades ago), where my parents & their friends talked about adults getting arrested for preying on children/teens. The specter of the "creepy" and/or professional boundary-breaking teachers (under the suspicion of pedophilia) or neighborhood adults was not some hidden or seldom discussed matter.

    I think exposure to this / recognition as undeniable crime depended on where one lived, and how crime-sensitive the resident culture was at the time.
     
  12. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    If she had been older than 20, then Karidian's history would not have begun "almost to the day" that Kodos disappeared: his history would have begun much earlier than that--with him siring Lenore.

    As has been pointed out, Barbara Anderson was not a thirtysomething-year-old actress playing one of Mr. Kotter's high school sweat hogs. Her actual age was pretty age-appropriate for the character she played.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Ditto. I must've heard the line plenty of times (unless it's one of those that was cut out of the syndicated reruns), but it never registered with me until it was brought up on this BBS a year or two ago. Anderson just struck me as more mature than that.
     
  14. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I think it's clear that Lenore was using her sex appeal to attract Kirk to try to murder him. If Kirk appeared to be hitting on her, she only encouraged it. To Lenore, Kirk was a fly in her web.
     
  15. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    They were both manipulating each other, at least at first. Neither of them come off looking particularly well . . . although at least Kirk wasn't planning to murder anyone! :)
     
  16. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    This sounds perilously close to a "it wasn't really rape, because with the way she dressed, she actually encouraged it and I simply fell into her web" argument. I'm dubious of any argument to justify someone's behavior that's based upon someone else's perceived behavior.
     
  17. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Kirk didn't rape anybody and nor did he make sexual advances to a child. Let's not conflate Kirk's behavior with rape, statutory rape, or pedophilia.

    Lenore, on the other hand, was a murderess. As for the evidence that she was trying to seduce him, well, see the episode.

    The episode is what it is. Of course, it was a product of its time.
     
  18. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Heck, I think I had already started plotting the new book when somebody pointed that out.

    "Whoa! She was only nineteen?"
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's ridiculous. One more time: A 19-year-old woman is a legal adult. She's mature enough to make her own choices. It's really rather insulting to talk about her as though she were a child.

    Also, one more time: Kirk is not a sexual predator. He was investigating a claim that her father was a mass murderer, and he engaged in mutual flirtation with her -- a fellow consenting adult -- because he saw that it gave him an opportunity to investigate an act of genocide. Getting laid was the last thing on his mind, and it's an enormous misreading of the episode to think otherwise. Yes, he was using her -- just as she was using him -- but not for that end. The mutual exploitation and manipulation was not about sex. These were both using seduction as a tool to get what they really wanted -- in Lenore's case, to cover up her father's crimes, and in Kirk's case, to expose them.

    For that matter, it's unlikely that Kirk and Lenore even had sex. Look at the timing. Yes, we saw Kirk and Lenore fall into an embrace and the camera faded out -- but that same evening, we saw a hand that turned out to be Lenore's spraying tetralubisol into Riley's milk down in engineering. Since Uhura, who's presumably on the same shift rotation as Kirk, was still awake in an active, well-populated rec room, it's logical to assume that it wasn't too late in the evening -- not very long after the kiss in the observation gallery. Okay, it's not impossible that they had a quickie inside the nearest shuttlecraft and then went their separate ways, but let's remember that was 1960s early-evening TV and was obligated to be pretty chaste by modern standards. Most likely, the intent was that after their romantic walk together in the gallery, Kirk took her back to her quarters, said goodnight, and went on his way like a proper 1960s gentleman, whereupon Lenore snuck down to engineering and poisoned Riley.

    So bringing rape into this is completely off-base on several levels. Two consenting adults flirted and made out for a little while, both of them manipulating each other for purposes that had nothing to do with sex. Not honest or wholesome on either side, but a far cry from sexual assault of any kind.
     
  20. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    True. I wasn't trying to suggest that Kirk didn't have an ulterior motive.

    My point was that the idea that Kirk was trying his moves on someone who was unreceptive and who lacked the right and ability to give consent is patently false.

    Further, when Lenore beamed aboard the Enterprise to ask for a lift, it was quite clear, from the reactions of the crew in the background, that what she was wearing was intended to be arousing. The idea that Lenore, as an actor, didn't dress herself for the occasion, both fully aware of how those in her presence would react and in order to enhance the chances of the Company getting its ride, just doesn't make sense.