Gene Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to be an inspiration to the future. In fact, it’s one of the few optimistic visions in science fiction. It is a future in which all colors and creeds of the human race come together to explore the final frontier.
“Plato’s Stepchildren” is probably Star Trek’s most controversial episode. It features TV’s first interracial kiss. So, why do I place it here? Because I cannot let controversy make me give it a pass. I have nothing against the scene personally. But how we got to it is a path I did not like.
The story begins with Kirk, McCoy, and Spock beaming down to a planet, investigating a distress call. They are greeted by a friendly dwarf named Alexander. They meet the planet’s inhabitants, (called Platonians) who have created a society based on the ideals of the Greek philosopher Plato. These Platonians are ageless, and with the exception of Alexander, all are telekinetic.
The Platonians have actually lured the crew because their leader, Parmen, is ill. Parmen isn’t alone, but Kirk objects. The Platonians demonstrate their abilities on Kirk and McCoy, making them dance like jesters and imitate horses, with Alexander riding Kirk. This was the moment that made me hate the episode.
Later, Nurse Chapel and Lieutenant Uhura are transported to the planet as well, leading to the infamous kiss between Kirk and Uhura. The plot is resolved when McCoy discovers a mineral in the planet’s water that is responsible for the Platonian’s telekinesis. He gives Kirk and Spock doses of it, and they give the Platonians a taste of their own medicine.
I feel this episode is weakly executed and resolved. It is so convenient that the mineral has the same effect on Kirk and Spock that it does on the Platonians, but not on Alexander. The controversy of Kirk and Uhura’s kiss has often caused some to give this episode a pass, but I cannot. Not after seeing Kirk and Spock whinnying like horses.