The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Plato’s Stepchildren

When the Enterprise is summoned to the planet Platonius to dispense urgent medical assistance, they discover a colony of aliens who have modelled their society on ancient Greek, having once visited Earth in that era. The Platonians have developed amazing powers of psychokinesis, but correspondingly their physical endurance has withered away; desperate for a physician, they use their powers to manipulate Spock and Kirk, in the hopes of making McCoy agree to stay with them forever.

Guess what? Powerful aliens have encountered the Enterprise, and they’ve decided to toy with the lives of the crew for their own amusement! Yes, this is one of those generic “things that happen all the time in Star Trek” type episodes, with particular silliness and overacting as Kirk and Spock are forced to sing, dance and even make out against their will. And yet, the legacy of this otherwise rather ridiculous episode is one of the most memorable scenes of the entire franchise – the Kirk/Uhura kiss.

Although there’s some debate over on Memory Alpha, this is generally regarded as the first interracial kiss on television, albeit one which was made under duress, and one where the actors’ lips probably didn’t touch. Nevertheless, these are the kind of boundaries Star Trek can and should be pushing, and it performs admirably in this episode.

Characterisation, schmaracterisation

  • It’s a shame that the one time Uhura gets to do something other than monitor alien communications, she has to play the womanly role of admitting she’s scared all the time – but that the manly presence of Captain Kirk gives her the strength to continue. Then again, if Uhura is here despite her fears, that makes her stronger than someone too stupid or ignorant to be afraid. So, in summary – go Uhura!
  • Spock’s enforced display of emotion clearly has a great toll on him, forcing him to withdraw into himself. He’s likely deeply embarrassed and ashamed at having control stripped away from him, and perhaps, deep down, concerned that it may happen again.

We are as private parts to the gods; they play with us for their sport

  • Kironide is apparently a substance which, when ingested and broken down in the humanoid body, grants psychokinetic powers. Having discovered this, Kirk uses it to play the Platonians at their own game, leaves them with an impassioned speech about mending their ways, and then this important discovery is never mentioned again. I can imagine either the Federation wanting to keep a strict quarantine on this substance, or a substantial black market springing up around it. But then again, that would make for a very un-Star Trek-like series – it’s more of a Babylon 5 kind of plot.
  • The Platonians claim to have modelled themselves after the ancient Greeks, but their fashion sense seems more Roman in style.
  • In the episode, it is said that the Platonians’ original planet “went nova”. Of course, planets do not go nova – stars do. And a veteran spacefarer like Captain Kirk should really know that!
  • Kirk calling Alexander a “little surprise” seems a bit tactless.

Summary – Plato’s Stepchildren: Exclaim “Shatner!” every time you spot over-acting.

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