"Plato's Stepchildren" will forever be remembered for a kiss — the kiss. Captain Kirk smooched 19 different women in total on Star Trek, but none of them made history quite like his moment with Uhura near the end of this episode. Some may split hairs of the specific historical importance of this kiss — Sammy Davis, Jr. and Nancy Sinatra pecked each other on the cheek during a music special in 1967, actresses of Asian descent Pilar Seurat and France Nuyen kissed action heroes Robert Conrad and Robert Culp onscreen earlier in the Sixties — but the fact remains, this 1968 tale marked the first time a black character kissed a white character on American television.
Not only that, these are two iconic characters, household names. In the decades since, this has become the most important kiss of Sixties television.
For this reason alone, "Plato's Stepchildren" remains one of the highlights of Star Trek season three. But the episode has so much more to offer. Let's take a look.
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William Shatner claimed their lips never touched.
The book jacket to William Shatner's 1993 memoir Star Trek Memories promised, "The truth about Kirk and Uhura's first prime-time interracial kiss." What was that revelation? Shatner explained that the production used camera angles to conceal the space between the actors and make it look as if the two were kissing. The network insisted that a version of the scene be shot without the two kissing — but the actors conspired to make it unusable. Nichelle Nichols recalled in her memoir, 1994's Beyond Uhura, that Shatner hammed it up throughout the alternate take, going so far to cross his eyes à la Jerry Lewis. NBC had no choice but to use the kiss.
Leonard Nimoy wrote the song "Maiden Wine."
The episode has many joys to offer beyond the kiss — Kirk slapping himself silly and Spock singing a ballad among them. Sporting his sparkling green toga and laurel, Spock croons a tune called "Maiden Wine," accompanied by harp. It may seem like a centuries-old song from the Renaissance, but not so. It was a Nimoy original. The star included it as the second track on his 1969 album, The Touch Of Leonard Nimoy.
Gene Roddenberry considered Michael Dunn for the role of Spock.
Dunn played a key role in "Plato's Stepchildren" as Alexander, a Platonius native without the psychokinetic powers of his lords. Born in Oklahoma and raised in Detroit, the actor nearly had a much-larger role in the Star Trek universe. In The Star Trek Interview Book (1988), author Allan Asherman chatted with Star Trek legends, including series creator Gene Roddenberry, who revealed that he nearly cast Dunn as Spock. "I was also considering Michael Dunn, a dwarf," Roddenberry revealed in the book. "I wanted Spock to look different and be different, and yes, to make a statement about being an outsider looking in." Dunn remained on the mind of Star Trek creators. In the production notes for the episode "The Corbomite Maneuver," NBC Manager of Film Programming Stan Robertson suggested casting a "'Michael Dunn' type person" in the role of Balok. Clint Howard, younger brother of Ron, ended up with that part.
The BBC banned the episode until 1993.
British television officials deemed "Plato's Stepchildren" too "sadistic" for Her Majesty's airwaves. Remember, the plot revolves around Platonians using mind control to make the Enterprise crew slap themselves, writhe on the floor, dance, recite Shakespeare, kiss, etc. It was not the only episode barred for such content. An official BBC statement proclaimed, "After very careful consideration a top level decision was made not to screen the episodes entitled "Empath" [sic], "Whom The Gods Destroy" [sic], "Plato's Stepchildren" and "Miri", because they all dealt most unpleasantly with the already unpleasant subjects of madness, torture, sadism and disease." Thus, "Plato's Stepchildren" would not air on the BBC until December 22, 1993.
The Tricorder graphics have been enhanced.
The computer-enhanced images of the Enterprise and planets stand out as upgrades in the digitally remastered episodes seen today. However, there are subtler alterations that may escape your notice. Take Bones' Tricorder, for example. In the modern HD episode, we see a line graph on the display with distinct green, red and yellow lines. The original effect showed verticle meters with white triangles all pointing to the same level. The update better shows the differences between the blood of humans, Alexander and the antagonist, Parmen.
Chekov and Sulu are not in the episode.
Ever wonder about Sulu and Chekov's usage rates? George Takei was in 52 of 79 (66%) total Star Trek episodes as Sulu. Walter Koenig, who did not join the cast as Chekov until season two, was in 36 out of 50 (72%) episodes in seasons two and three.
The original title was "Sons of Socrates"
Writer Meyer Dolinsky titled his original submission "Sons of Socrates." Maybe that was too hard for the Bills & Teds of the world to pronounce? Remember, Socrates was the teacher of Plato in ancient Greece. It was Dolinsky's only script for Star Trek, though he also wrote some memorable episodes of The Outer Limits, including the unforgettable "The Architects of Fear."