To stray off topic for a minute, I think that it is over this point which T.N.G. often stumbled, and it's why I'm frequently irritated by the characters on that show. T.N.G.- especially at first- seemed to be operating under the assumption that human beings had by that time evolved to a higher plane of existence than we poor, benighted rubes of this time period. I remember one particularly annoying episode, where Commander Riker is smugly condemning the people of 1990's earth as being corrupt, greedy, selfish, and violent-as if he was immune from such failings- concluding pompously that it was a wonder anyone survived the era. Uh huh. Aside from any other considerations, the people on T.N.G. frequently seem like a bunch of navel-gazing neurotics; not one of the main characters can maintain a stable, healthy relationship, and almost none of them are on speaking terms with their families. Yet we're supposed to believe that all crime, greed, and violence has been eliminated from Earth. Yeah right.
'The Conscience of the King' also calls into question the superiority of their system of governance. After all, Kodos was a product of it. He wasn't motivated by greed or a desire to commit violent acts, but by the belief that the good of society supersedes the good of the individual. It therefore follows that the lives of those more useful to society are worth more than those of less use- his justification for deciding who would live or die. As bad as killing out of hatred or greed is, there is something more horrifying about it being done oh-so-regretfully by the "benevolent" state.
'The Conscience of the King' works as a murder mystery, but it is also a morality play...or a play within a play... which raises issues of justice vs. revenge, and the rights of the individual vs. those of society. It also demonstrates how past evil- no matter how well hidden- can bleed forward, having unintended consequences, ruining lives long after the original action or intent.Definitely a must-see episode.