"Plato's Stepchildren" is the tenth episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek. Written by Meyer Dolinsky and directed by David Alexander, it was first broadcast November 22, 1968.
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3|
|Directed by||David Alexander|
|Written by||Meyer Dolinsky|
|Featured music||Alexander Courage|
|Cinematography by||Al Francis|
|Original air date||November 22, 1968|
Captain Kirk, along with First Officer Spock and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, beams down to a planet to investigate a distress call. Once there, they are greeted by a friendly dwarf named Alexander (Michael Dunn). He leads the landing party to meet the rest of his people, who have adopted classical Greek culture, and named themselves Platonians in honor of the Greek philosopher Plato.
All of the Platonians, except for Alexander, possess telekinetic powers. The Platonians explain they "lured" the Enterprise to their planet because their leader, Parmen, requires medical help. After being treated by Dr. McCoy, Parmen demands McCoy remain on the planet to treat other Platonians. When Captain Kirk objects, the Platonians use their powers to punish him.
Alexander wishes to tell Kirk and Spock that Parmen wishes to kill them but is afraid.
Parmen repeatedly humiliates Kirk and Spock as Dr. McCoy watches, trying to make him agree to stay on the planet. Later, the Platonians use their powers to force two other Enterprise officers to the planet for their entertainment: Communications Officer Lt. Uhura and Nurse Chapel.
McCoy takes a sample of Alexander's blood and manages to isolate and identify the kironide mineral that provides the inhabitants with their special powers; it is abundant in the natural food and water supply of the planet. McCoy is able to prepare a serum and inject Kirk and Spock with doses to make them have twice the power of Parmen. Alexander asks where does Kirk come from and if size matters. Kirk says size, color, and species does not matter. Alexander asks to go with Kirk.
While waiting for it to take effect, Parmen forces the four to perform again. Alexander becomes angry after watching the humiliating tricks played upon the crew by his fellow Platonians and he tries, unsuccessfully, to attack Parmen with a knife.
Kirk uses his new-found telekinetic powers to defeat Parmen and save Alexander's life. Parmen then promises to mend his bullying ways, but Kirk doesn't believe him, and warns Parmen, should he go back on his word, the powers can be recreated by anyone whenever they wish to defeat him.
Kirk promises to send appropriate medical technicians to the planet as long as the Platonians behave themselves, and Alexander requests to go with the Enterprise to start a new life elsewhere in the Galaxy.
With Alexander by his side, Kirk contacts the Enterprise and tells Scotty. "I am bringing a little surprise onboard."
The episode features a passionate kiss between James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) which is usually described as the first scripted interracial kiss of that kind between a white man and a black woman on American television.
Several takes of the scene were filmed, with different levels of contact between the actors, and many speculate on which version was used in the final cut of the episode. William Shatner recalls in Star Trek Memories that NBC insisted their lips never touch (the technique of turning their heads away from the camera was used to conceal this). However, Nichelle Nichols insists in her autobiography Beyond Uhura (written in 1994 after Shatner's book) that the kiss was real, even in takes where her head obscures their lips.
There are many who claim that, even if the kiss was real, it was not the first interracial kiss on television, however, many of these incidents were not portrayed as the passionate kiss between Kirk and Uhura was. A good example of this is the friendly cheek-to-cheek kiss between Sammy Davis, Jr. and Nancy Sinatra on Movin' with Nancy in 1967, a year before "Plato's Stepchildren" aired. Other instances are: Adventures in Paradise (1960) - "The Big Surf", between Gardner McKay and Pilar Seurat, and Laramie (1961) - "Dragan at the Door" (Season 3, Episode 1), by Nobu McCarthy and Robert Fuller.
When NBC executives learned of the kiss they became concerned it would anger TV stations in the Deep South. There were, however, few contemporary records of any complaints commenting on the scene. Nichelle Nichols observes that "Plato's Stepchildren" which first aired in November 1968 "received a huge response. We received one of the largest batches of fan mail ever, all of it very positive, with many addressed to me from girls wondering how it felt to kiss Captain Kirk, and many to him from guys wondering the same thing about me. However, almost no one found the kiss offensive" except from a single, mildly negative letter from one white Southerner who wrote: "I am totally opposed to the mixing of the races. However, any time a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a beautiful dame in his arms that looks like Uhura, he ain't gonna fight it." Nichols notes that "for me, the most memorable episode of our last season was 'Plato's Stepchildren.'"
Kirk's line, as quoted by Newsweek (2009)
It was one of several episodes not screened by the BBC because of their "unpleasant" content, including torture and sadism. (The other episodes that were censored in this way were "The Empath", "Whom Gods Destroy" and "Miri".) The U.K. reviewed Star Trek in part as a children's show and restricted episodes that included several with overt depictions of torture and sexuality they felt were not appropriate for children. For example, Marta's dance in "In Whom Gods Destroy" was deemed too sexual for it be recommended for children's viewing material. The episode is notable for depicting an inter-racial kiss between a white man (Kirk) and a black woman (Uhura), which was daring for 1960s US television. This was one of the first interracial kisses on television. In 2016, TVline ranked the interracial kiss as one of the top twenty moments of Star Trek.
In 2009, Newsweek pointed out the moral lessons of this episode, in particular Kirk's lines to the oppressed alien. The alien is being mistreated on the planet, and is surprised when Kirk informs him about Starfleet standards.
- Malik, Tariq (September 6, 2006). "After 40 Years, Star Trek 'Won't Die'". SPACE.com. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- Molloy, Tim (April 9, 2009). "Shattered TV Taboos: How Bea Arthur and Others Broke Barriers". TV Guide. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- "Star Trek: looking back at the BBC's ban and censorship". Den of Geek. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
- Brown, Mark (November 20, 2015). "TV archive discovers couple who beat Kirk and Uhura to first interracial kiss". The Guardian. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
- Nichelle Nichols, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, G.P. Putnam & Sons New York, 1994. pp.195-198
- Nichols, p.195
- Nichols, pp.196-197
- Nichols, p.193
- EDT, Marc Bain On 5/5/09 at 8:00 PM (May 5, 2009). "Has Star Trek Lost Its Moral Relevance?". Newsweek. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
- "5 original Star Trek episodes that were banned overseas". Me-TV Network. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
- "'Star Trek' Is Right About Almost Everything". National Geographic News. June 16, 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
- Mason, Charlie (July 19, 2016). "Star Trek's 20 Most Memorable Moments". TVLine. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
- "The 50 Greatest Star Trek moments of all time - 6". Radio Times. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
- Roth, Dany (December 28, 2016). "The Top 10 Uhura Moments from Star Trek". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
- "The 15 Best Worst Episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series". Den of Geek. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
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