(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise finds a planet inhabited by aliens who were once followers of the Greek philosopher Plato.
Summoned by an urgent request for medical help, the USS Enterprise landing party consisting of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy find a group of aliens who supposedly model their society on the teachings of Plato. Their leader is suffering from a massive infection in his leg and is close to death.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy discover the Platonians' powerful psychokinetic abilities, as the man's delirium has violent effects on his surroundings. Another Platonian trait is extreme longevity, as well as frail physical immunity seemingly caused by their emphasis on mental prowess. This is what caused their powerful ruler to be so vulnerable to what should have been a minor injury.
The result of a eugenics, "Plato's stepchildren" had escaped to Earth in the time of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato when their star, Sahndara, went supernova. After Plato's death they established a republic based on his philosophy, where 38 inhabitants live a life of quiet contemplation and self-reliance.
A simple cut in the leg had developed an unknown infection which causes Parmen to have a fever and lose control of his powers. Furniture is thrown around and the Enterprise is shaken in orbit, while Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Alexander duck and hide from the flying objects. "Fascinating. I believe we are experiencing the psychokinetic manifestations of Parmen's delirium", Spock notes. Philana, Parmen's spouse, is able to distract Parmen long enough for McCoy to sedate him with a hypospray, ending the chaos. Later, Dr. McCoy's treatment of Parmen is effective and the landing party prepares to leave the planet. However, the Enterprise is frozen; Scott reports that there are no functional transporters, navigation or even subspace communication with Starfleet. Captain Kirk barges into Parmen's chamber, and Parmen strips Kirk of his phaser and tells him that guests must recognize his supremacy. In an allusion to the Greek ideal of guest-friend, Kirk retorts: "Guest? You don't know the meaning of the word. Guests are not treated like common prisoners." Parmen uses his psychokinetic powers to force Kirk to slap himself in the face repeatedly.
After the ordeal with Kirk smacking himself around, he, Spock, and McCoy are back in their guest chamber, trying to contact the Enterprise to no avail. The Platonians summon them and seem grateful for McCoy's help. They provide the landing party with variety of gifts: the shield of Pericles for Kirk, a kithara for Spock, and a collection of Greek cures written by Hippocrates himself for McCoy. Parmen appeals for Kirk's forgiveness. He says he will release the ship, but he wants McCoy to remain on the planet.
McCoy refuses and Parmen says he will not be refused. Kirk says that he cannot consider himself a descendant of Plato. Spock points out, "Plato wanted truth and beauty and above all, justice." Parmen says that theirs is the most democratic society that ever was – unlike the Federation, which uses weapons to enforce justice, the Platonians use the power of the mind. He says he wants to persuade Kirk and Spock to leave peacefully so as not to upset McCoy.
Parmen uses his mental powers to intimidate and humiliate Kirk and Spock into compliance. First, he makes them sing a song and dance a jig. Kirk tells McCoy that he is not going to let him stay behind and Parmen makes Kirk recite some lines from William Shakespeare's Sonnet LVII: "Being your slave what should I do but tend | Upon the hours, and times of your desire? | I have no precious time at all to spend; | Nor service[s] to do, 'til you ...". Parmen makes Spock dance some more and then forces him to laugh and cry, torturing his Vulcan psychology by forcing severe emotion out of him.
McCoy decides to volunteer to stay but Kirk refuses, pointing out that once they are gone they and the Enterprise will be destroyed. Alexander speaks up, saying that Kirk is right. He gives a speech about how he used to think it was his own fault that he did not have the same powers as the Platonians and that he was lucky that they had kept him around. But now, after the Enterprise crew stood up to the Platonians and showed them for what they are, he realizes how they've been putting him down.
Spock questions Alexander about the powers and determines that the power had manifested itself shortly after the Platonians had used up their food stores and started eating local food. McCoy scans Alexander's blood with his medical tricorder and finds that Parmen has more kironide, which is broken down by the pituitary gland. McCoy synthesizes some kironide and injects himself, Kirk, and Spock – to double that of Parmen's level. Kirk suggests that Alexander get a dose, take Parmen's place and rule the planet, but Alexander refuses: "You think that's what I want? Become one of them? Become my own enemy? Just lie around like a big blob of nothing and have things done for me? I want to run around for myself. If I am going to laugh or cry, I want to do it for myself. You can keep your precious power. All I ask is one thing: if you do make it out of here, take me with you."
The conversation is interrupted when the Platonians force Lieutenant Uhura and Nurse Christine Chapel to beam down as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy look on in bewilderment. The women, unable to speak, walk away and are forced against their will to prepare for the evening's festivities.
Later that night, Uhura and Chapel step out into the main hall, both dressed in fabulous Greek dresses as Kirk and Spock join them, clad in short Greek tunics and laurel leaf crowns. Kirk asks Spock to try to lift some plates of food, but the powers have not kicked in yet. Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and Chapel are led to a stage. Parmen would like to welcome McCoy, but he has to convince McCoy to change his mind first. He makes Spock sing what he calls "a serenade from the laughing spaceman" to Uhura and Chapel.
Then, the four are split into two pairs: Uhura and Kirk, and Chapel and Spock. Chapel and Spock are forced to kiss despite their protests; Chapel confesses that she has wanted to be close to Spock for so long but now she wants to "crawl away and die". Uhura likewise confesses to Kirk that she was so often calmed by Kirk's presence when she was frightened on the bridge. The two couples struggle in vain to avoid being forced to kiss.
After the kisses, Parmen compels Kirk to crack a bullwhip at Uhura and Spock to brandish a hot poker at Chapel. While Parmen is distracted controlling the four officers, Alexander attempts to sneak up on him with a knife. Parmen shifts his focus to trying to make Alexander turn the knife on himself. Meanwhile, Kirk begins to feel his telekinetic power building and laughs once he prevents Alexander from hurting himself. Parmen cannot believe that Kirk has telekinetic abilities and tries to test them. He sends Alexander to threaten Kirk with the knife, but again the captain turns the tables on the Platonian. For a brief time, the two minds fight for control of Alexander. Kirk's power is proven the greater but ultimately they both release him. Alexander begins to use his free will to attack Parmen but Kirk stops him, asking simply, "Do you want to be like him?" Alexander struggles with his conscience, but finally drops the knife, heaping contempt onto his former leader instead. Parmen sees that Kirk has spared his life, and appears repentant. He promises that he will be more benevolent towards future visits by other starships. Spock and Kirk are dubious of the reform and so stresses that any new visitors can easily be dosed with kironide as well. Parmen appears to acquiesce to this truth and Kirk seems satisfied that the "Platonian problem" has been solved.
Kirk calls Scotty for transport, saying that he has "a little surprise" for the chief engineer. Kirk intends to make good on his earlier promise to rescue Alexander from Platonius.
- "Captain's log, stardate 5784.2. We are responding to desperate distress calls from an unknown planet. My science officer, Mr. Spock, is unable to account for this, since he reported no signs of life on the planet. It is rich in kironide deposits, a very rare and long-lasting source of great power."
- "Captain's log, stardate 5784.3. Dr. McCoy is endeavoring to treat the leader of a strange group of people. When their planet novaed, millennia ago, they transported themselves to Earth during the time of Socrates and Plato. After the death of the Greek civilization they idolized, they came to this planet and created for themselves a utopia patterned after it."
"Alexander, where I come from, size, shape, or color makes no difference."
- - Kirk, on life outside Platonius
"Doctor McCoy, you may yet cure the common cold."
- - Spock, after Parmen's recovery
"Philosopher kings have no need of titles."
- - Parmen, correcting Kirk
"I'm Tweedledee, he's Tweedledum."
"Two spacemen marching to a drum."
"We slith among the mimsey toves."
"And gyre among the borogoves."
- - Kirk and Spock, performing for Parmen
"However, I have noted that the healthy release of emotion is frequently very unhealthy for those closest to you."
- - Spock to McCoy, on their humiliations
"You think that's what I want? Become one of them? Become my own enemy?"
- - Alexander to Kirk, on receiving psychokinesis
"For so long I've wanted to be close to you. Now all I want to do is crawl away and die!"
- - Chapel, before kissing Spock
"Careful, Mr. Spock. Too much love is dangerous."
"Remember, Cupid's arrow kills Vulcans."
- - Dionyd and Eraclitus, on Spock's kiss
"And now they are making me tremble. But I'm not afraid. I am not afraid."
- - Uhura, before her kiss with Kirk
"Don't stop me! Let me finish him off!"
"Do you want to be like him?"
- - Alexander and Kirk, as Alexander points a knife at Parmen
"Despite your brains, you're the most contemptible things that ever lived in this universe. "
- - Alexander, scolding Parmen
"To us, killing is murder. Even for revenge."
- - Kirk to Parmen, on why he was spared
"Uncontrolled, power will turn even saints into savages. And we can all be counted upon to live down to our lowest impulses."
- - Parmen to Kirk, before the landing party departs
"Kirk to Enterprise. Mr. Scott, prepare to beam us up. I have a little surprise for you. I'm bringing a visitor aboard."
- - Kirk, not forgetting his promise to take Alexander with him (last lines)
- This episode has long been famous for featuring "the first interracial kiss on American network television". To be more precise, it was "the first kiss between a fictional white male and a fictional black female to premiere on American network television", as Kirk kissed an Asian actress, France Nguyen, in a previously recorded (but later aired) episode, "Elaan of Troyius". Almost a year earlier (11 December 1967), NBC broadcast an Emmy Award-winning musical-variety special entitled Movin' With Nancy, during which singers Nancy Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. greeted each other with a kiss.  Desilu's flagship show, I Love Lucy, had years previously broken the barrier on Hispanic/Caucasian kissing; of course, since "Hispanic" is an ethnicity and not a race, there can be an argument on whether Desi Arnaz is or can be considered a white or non-white Hispanic. Also, The Little Rascals had some "innocent" kisses between its child stars, but these shorts, under the title Our Gang, had previously premiered in cinemas; and, David McCallum kissed an Asian actress in a 1966 Man from U.N.C.L.E episode, "The Her Master's Voice Affair". An even earlier example occurred in a July 1964 episode of British soap opera Emergency Ward 10, during which characters Louise Mahler (portrayed by Joan Hooley) and Giles Farmer (portrayed by John White) kissed.
- There is some dispute about whether the kiss actually occurred. According to the on-screen footage, it appears that the actors' lips touched. However, both William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols claimed in Star Trek Memories that NBC exerted pressure to forbid lip contact, and to use a clever camera technique to conceal the "separation". If you look closely, you can tell that the actors' lips are not touching; the angle only makes it look like they might be slightly touching.
- According to Nichelle Nichols, in the early script, it was supposed to be Spock that kissed Uhura, but William Shatner had it changed, saying, "If anyone's gonna get to kiss Nichelle, it's going to be me, I mean, Captain Kirk!" (Forty years later, Spock and Uhura freely kissed multiple times – much to Kirk's surprise – in Star Trek.)
- Also according to Nichols, NBC was afraid of the kiss because some stations in the South could decide not to air the episode because of it. Finally, an agreement was made: to film two versions of the scene – one where Kirk and Uhura kissed, and one where they did not. They filmed the first version (with the kiss) successfully, then she and Shatner deliberately flubbed every take of the latter, making it unusable, and leaving the kiss intact. Nichols writes, "The next day they screened the dailies, and although I rarely attended them, I couldn't miss this one. Everyone watched as Kirk and Uhura kissed and kissed and kissed. And I'd like to set the record straight: Although Kirk and Uhura fought it, they did kiss in every single scene. When the non-kissing scene came on, everyone in the room cracked up. The last shot, which looked okay on the set, actually had Bill wildly crossing his eyes. It was so corny and just plain bad it was unusable. The only alternative was to cut out the scene altogether, but that was impossible to do without ruining the entire episode. Finally, the guys in charge relented: 'To hell with it. Let's go with the kiss.' I guess they figured we were going to be canceled in a few months anyway. And so the kiss stayed." (Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories)
- This is Alexander Courage's last score for Star Trek. This episode was also the last episode to have an original score, although new songs for "The Way to Eden" and a Brahms paraphrase for "Requiem for Methuselah" were composed.
- George Takei (Sulu) and Walter Koenig (Chekov) do not appear in this episode.
- The story outline was originally titled "The Sons of Socrates" and submitted 13 June 1968.  The episode was filmed early- to mid-September 1968.
- Trekkies Bjo and John Trimble were happy to receive news of this installment. John Trimble remarked, "Our immediate reaction was, 'Alright, by God, about time!'" Added Bjo Trimble, "And my second immediate reaction was, 'Boy, are they gonna hear from the Bible Belt on this one!'" (Star Trek: The Real Story)
- Nichelle Nichols has said that the Star Trek production offices received more mail on this episode than any other episode in the history of the series and none of it, surprisingly, was negative. (citation needed • edit) However, Bjo Trimble stated, "We got our share of some really nasty letters. But here was the thing – you get one nasty letter, and you get a hundred really great letters. It was a step forward, I think." (Star Trek: The Real Story) Nichols additionally recalled a letter that Gene Roddenberry once showed her. It was from a man in the American South, and he said, "I am against the mixing of the races, but anytime a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets his arms around a gal like Lt. Uhura, he ain't gonna fight it!" (citation needed • edit)
- This episode was not shown until 22 December 1993 in the United Kingdom, with the BBC skipping it due to "sadistic" elements in the plot. An official BBC statement by Sheila Cundy of the Programme Correspondence Section declared, "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' [actually transmitted in 1970, but not re-aired until the '90s], because they all dealt most unpleasantly with the already unpleasant subjects of madness, torture, sadism and disease." (BBC form letter, undated, Reference 28/SPC) Assumptions that "Plato's Stepchildren" was excluded because the Kirk/Uhura kiss would have been "controversial" are erroneous. In fact, British television had featured its first "interracial" kiss several years before US TV; the prime-time soap opera Emergency Ward 10 had depicted a long-term "interracial" relationship between two main characters throughout 1964 without inciting controversy in the UK (although the producers had expected that it would). However, the "banned" TOS episodes were shown on UK satellite TV channel Sky before the BBC changed its mind. (citation needed • edit)
- Spock's observation that Plato desired justice above all is quite correct. In "The Republic", the philosopher envisioned justice as the highest ideal to which any state could aspire, achieved through the harmonious interplay of wisdom, courage, and temperance.
- Leonard Nimoy composed "Maiden Wine", the song that he performs in this episode.
- Story outline by Meyer Dolinsky, 10 June 1968
- First draft teleplay, 8 June 1968
- Third draft teleplay, 8 August 1968
- Filmed, 9 September 1968 – 16 September 1968
- Score recorded, 25 October 1968
- Original airdate, 22 November 1968
- First UK airdate 22 December 1993
The remastered version of "Plato's Stepchildren" aired in many North American markets during the weekend of 16 June 2007. Very few new effects were required. Like all other remastered episodes, the physical model of the Enterprise has been wholly replaced by a CGI model throughout the episode. Similarly, the Enterprise is universally shot at different – and typically closer – angles than in the original.
The most dramatic new effect is that of the planet Platonius. It has changed from its original, Mars-like appearance to one that greatly resembles Earth.
Dr. McCoy's tricorder insert also received a touch-up. Its display was transformed from a bar graph that approximated sickbay displays to an integrated line chart. The benefit of the changed effect is that the display now more easily reads as a true comparison of the blood of Alexander and Parmen, along with (ostensibly) Human norms.
In addition, the digital restoration of non-SFX shots has resulted in an overall brightening of color that is perhaps more profound in this abstractly-designed episode than in others.
Video and DVD releasesEdit
- Released with "Whom Gods Destroy", the volume was originally unrated, as it was released prior to the Video Recordings Act 1984. After 1985, it received a rating of PG.
- Original US Betamax release: 1988
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 35, catalog number VHR 2431, 7 January 1991
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.4, 20 October 1997
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 34, 18 September 2001
- As part of the TOS Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TOS-R Season 3 DVD collection
Links and referencesEdit
- Michael Dunn as Alexander
- Liam Sullivan as Parmen
- Barbara Babcock as Philana
- James Doohan as Scott
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel
- Ted Scott as Eraclitus
- Derek Partridge as Dionyd
- William Blackburn as Hadley
- Jeannie Malone as Yeoman
- Unknown actors as
- Armando Gonzales as Leonard Nimoy's flamenco dance double
1st millennium BC; 1st millennium AD; academician; apple; bacteria; "Bones"; brain wave; brow; chess; common cold; court buffoon; Cupid; dance; delirium; democracy; drum; dwarf; Earth; emergency gyro; emergency stabilizer; emotion; eugenics; Excellency; fever; French language; furniture; grapes; Greek; Greek language; Hippocrates; hypo; infection; kironide; kiss; kithara; knife; laurel; logic; lyre; "Maiden Wine"; medical arts; meditation; Milky Way Galaxy; muscle; Pan; Pericles; philosopher king; physician; pituitary gland; Plato; Platonian; Platonius; principality; psychokinesis; refugee; republic; Sahndara; Sahndara; science officer; Shakespeare, William; Shakespeare's sonnets; shield; sing; skin; slave; sleepwalking; space fleet; Starfleet; subspace communication; Through the Looking-Glass; tricorder; Tweedledum and Tweedledee; velvet; Vulcan; wine
- "Plato's Stepchildren" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Plato's Stepchildren" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Plato's Stepchildren" at Wikipedia
- "Plato's Stepchildren" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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