Plato's Stepchildren

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"Plato's Stepchildren"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 10
Directed byDavid Alexander
Written byMeyer Dolinsky
Featured musicAlexander Courage
Cinematography byAl Francis
Production code067
Original air dateNovember 22, 1968 (1968-11-22)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Tholian Web"
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"Wink of an Eye"
Star Trek: The Original Series (season 3)
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"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.

In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounter an ageless and sadistic race of humanoids with the power of telekinesis.

The episode is notable for depicting a passionate inter-racial kiss between a white man (Kirk) and a black woman (Uhura), which was daring for 1960s US television.[1][2]

It was one of several episodes not screened by the BBC because of their "unpleasant" content, including torture and sadism.[3]

Plot[edit]

Captain Kirk, along with First Officer Spock and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy beam 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.

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 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 of it. 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.

The kiss[edit]

The kiss between Kirk and Uhura is sometimes cited as the first white and black interracial kiss portrayed on US television.

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 and a black on American television.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] There were, however, few contemporary records of any complaints commenting on the scene.[8] 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."[8] Nichols notes that "for me, the most memorable episode of our last season was 'Plato's Stepchildren.'"[9]

Production and reception[edit]

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".)[10]

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.[1][2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Malik, Tariq (September 6, 2006). "After 40 Years, Star Trek 'Won't Die'". SPACE.com. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Molloy, Tim (April 9, 2009). "Shattered TV Taboos: How Bea Arthur and Others Broke Barriers". TV Guide. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  3. ^ "Star Trek: looking back at the BBC's ban and censorship". Den of Geek. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  4. ^ Brown, Mark (20 November 2015). "TV archive discovers couple who beat Kirk and Uhura to first interracial kiss". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  5. ^ Nichelle Nichols, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, G.P. Putnam & Sons New York, 1994. pp.195-198
  6. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgdBpxEf4U0
  7. ^ Nichols, p.195
  8. ^ a b Nichols, pp.196-197
  9. ^ Nichols, p.193
  10. ^ "Star Trek: looking back at the BBC's ban and censorship". Den of Geek. Retrieved 11 May 2018.

External links[edit]