Star Trek: Plato's Stepchildren   Rewatch 
October 25, 2015 4:02 PM - Season 3, Episode 10 - Subscribe

The Enterprise searches for a rare element called kironide on an unknown planet. They encounter a race of non-aging telekenic humanoids who claim to have organized their society around Ancient Greek ideals.

"Plato's Stepchildren" is a third season episode of the original science fiction television series, Star Trek, first broadcast November 22, 1968. It is episode No. 65, production No. 67, written by Meyer Dolinsky, and directed by David Alexander. This 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]

This episode was withdrawn by the BBC in the UK because of "sadistic plot elements" during the initial run in 1971 and was not shown until a repeat run in January 1994 Review.

Memory Alpha Link
The episode can be viewed on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
posted by Benway (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"I'm Tweedledee, he's Tweedledum."
"Two spacemen marching to a drum."
"We slith among the mimsey toves."
"And gyre among the borogoves."

The Kirk / Spock dance... and Spock dancing around Kirk's head. Classic.

Spock being forced emotion and subsequent pain...and of course Shatner's overacting. Love it.
posted by Benway at 4:18 PM on October 25, 2015

This is a rare unwatchable episode, I think. The extended cruelty ( also a problem I have with The Empath) is not pleasant to watch, and the whole dropping the fact that everyone could now have psychic powers anytime they want is a plot hole. One of the worst season 3 episodes, despite the historical kiss.
posted by wittgenstein at 4:50 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think the rhyme is possibly misreading Carroll's intentions for those nonsense words. (The toves are supposed to be slithy, not mimsey, and I get the impression that slithy is meant as an adjective and not a verb.) But this is a rhyme made up by aliens who are obsessed with Plato (and have also kept tabs on Earth enough to know of Jabberwocky, apparently) so the whole premise is pretty bizarre and in that context I may be picking at some tiny, tiny nits.

Not a terrible episode, but this one has always been too cringe-y for me to really enjoy. So much humiliation! (And not just for the characters. I feel like the actors kind of got put through the wringer too.) But it's also the one with the Kiss, and you could probably write an entire book about all the awesome anecdotes surrounding the creation, broadcast and reaction to that one moment. In some ways it's got a really classic Trek structure, with the crew encountering sadistic and seemingly omnipotent aliens, our guys struggling to resist the aliens' power and eventually everybody reaching some sort of new understanding. (Although in this case I always doubted the sincerity of the leader guy's speech at the end. It plays more like he knows he's been beaten and he's saying what he has to say to get out of trouble.) But the execution involves watching Kirk and Spock hop around while they recite nursery rhymes and Shatner wearing a tunic while he crawls around on the floor and whinnies like a horse, and it gives me the squirms.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:12 PM on October 25, 2015

I agree about all the terrible-ness and plot holes. I did like some of the quieter scenes with Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Alexander away from the other Platonians though.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:38 PM on October 25, 2015

The big 'torture scene' begins with an offering of gifts. When comes Spock's turn, Philana sez,
To our silent and cerebral Mister Spock -- this kithara to pluck music to soothe his ever-active brow.
. . . which is a great line because, of course, what she means is that his mind is always working, but it also can refer to Spock's trademark response to irony and other human foolishness -- a silent, raised eye-brow. An ever-active brow, indeed.

Speaking of great lines, Lewis Carrol pastiches aside, you may have missed some other literary references in this ep. For example, as our heroes enter, Alexander quotes Aristophanes' play, The Frogs:
In reproof of your scorn
Mighty Pan nods his horn.
Beating time to the rhyme
With his hoof, with his hoof.
Persisting in our plan.
We proceed as we began.

Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax
In The Frogs, the chorus play a chorus of frogs, hence the repeated refrain of "Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax".

Kirk quotes Shakespeare's 57th Sonnnet:
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 services to do, till you require.
And Spock quotes, of all people, that obscure 20th Century poet Leonard Nimoy*:
Take care, young ladies, and value your wine.
Be watchful of young men in their velvet prime.
Deeply they'll swallow from your finest kegs,
Then swiftly be gone, leaving bitter dregs.
Oh-o-o-oh, bitter dregs.

With smiling words and tender touch,
Man offers little and asks for so much.
He loves in the breathless excitement of night,
Then leaves with your treasure in cold morning light.
Oh-o-o-oh, in cold morning light.

What are to make of that?

* Nimoy wrote Maiden Wine himself. I believe it appears on one of his albums.
posted by Herodios at 7:01 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also like the interaction between Philana and Spock on Platonian's longevity

Philana: How old would you say I am? Don't be afraid. I'm not vain.
Spock: Thirty five.
Philana: That old? . . . I stopped aging at thirty. Well, anyway, you're off by two thousand years.

The actress nails Philana's vanity about her vanity, her offended vanity and Spock's instant and apparently unflattering estimate, and then her attempt to disguise her offended vanity.

And for those of us were around when this was made, it was interesting to see Michael Dunn in the role of Alexander (defender of the people) while also playing the recurring role of the brilliant and villainous Professor Miguelito Loveless on Wild Wild West.
posted by Herodios at 7:39 PM on October 25, 2015

The Bitter Dregs song really does sound like something much older, though. I never would've guessed it was something modern, or that Nimoy had written it. So good job there, Leonard! I wonder if this was a situation where Nimoy complained about Spock being humiliated and the producers said, "Look, how about we let you sing one of your songs? Will you play the scene then?"

Dunn's Wikipedia page is worth checking out. What a fascinating fellow. A dwarf who was an actor, singer, monastic student, spelling bee champ and hotel detective! He used to entertain crowds at the bus stop and he saved one of his Wild Wild West co-stars from drowning. He was a really interesting, intense actor too, a natural for 1960s Trek. I sure would like to have seen him as Cousin Lymon in Edward Albee's stage adaptation of The Ballad of the Sad Café, by Carson McCullers!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:22 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I sure would like to have seen [Michael Dunn] . . . in Edward Albee's stage adaptation of The Ballad of the Sad Café . . .

He was good in Ship of Fools, too.
posted by Herodios at 8:43 PM on October 25, 2015

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