Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 10

Plato's Stepchildren

Aired Unknown Nov 22, 1968 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
154 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Kirk and his crew find themselves at the mercy of powerful individuals who possess mind-over-matter powers...and plan to use the Enterprise crew for their twisted entertainment.

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  • Kirk and his crew are trapped by aliens with telekinetic abilities who want Dr. McCoy to spend the rest of his life as their physician.

    This planet-based episode with a touch of Greek history explores the idea of "intellectual bullying" with the core message that bigotry is bigotry, whether rooted in intelligence, force, or a mixture of the two.

    It's a solid premise (which returns in "The Cloud Minders") that's given an X-Men-like twist where the "superior intelligence" is really just superior ability. Kirk and company, of course, have dealt with this Dunning-Kruger issue quite a few times ("Where No Man Has Gone Before", "Charlie X", "The Squire of Gothos") but the writers have always been careful to protect the regulars from crude humiliation... until now.

    Here, we get Kirk slapping himself silly, Spock singing a little ditty, Uhura and Chapel forced to kiss their shipmates, and a dwarf riding Kirk riding like a pony (or maybe some alien animal, considering the peculiar sound Shatner makes).

    Put simply, the episode turns into a forum for cheap laughs that damage the characters and the show, with only Alexander the dwarf displaying any depth. (Guest stars Liam Sullivan and Barbara Babcock, likely chosen for their ability to appear arrogant and smirk condescendingly respectively, offer little of interest in their roles as the episode's antagonists).

    When all is said and done, the fact that so little of consequence happens is more of a comfort than annoyance, because "Stepchildren" is not an episode worthy of remembrance, though it's sad that it wastes the show's last original score and as well as a fine performance by Michael Dunn (who years earlier was considered briefly for the role of Spock).

    Predictably, the episode just sort of came and went in 1968 without much notoriety. Curiously, however, it was retconned by the fans in the late 1970s/early 1980s as an episode theoretically featuring television's first interracial kiss, with fans unaware that Sammy Davis Jr. and Nancy Sinatra shared a kiss on Movin' With Nancy in 1967.

    Remastered Version:

    Aside from new shots of the Enterprise in orbit (with the original borrowing the shots from "The Deadly Years" and the new version featuring a highly detailed Earth-like planet instead), the only change of note is a shot of McCoy's tricorder screen which features a more high tech display.

  • entertaining but...

    Once again the Enterprise has to deal with super powerful theme endessley repeated in "Star Trek the Next Generation" with Piqard Vs Q. For once Michael Dunn doesnt play a villian and actually gets to talk classic greek acting. To bad there wasnt a sequel in which the UFP has to deal with moronic superpowerful aliens.
  • Painful to watch... because you're watching sick sadistic acts of degradation.

    The main reason this episode is probably rated fairly low is because you're watching writer Meyer Dolinsky drag the audience through a series of degradation games. the Platosians are another in a series of super-powered alien races, albeit low-grade compared to the Metrons, Organians, Trelane, Thalasians, etc. Basically Dolinsky hits the audience over the head with the idea that "absolute power corrupts absolutely"... except, of course, if you're the angelic Enterprise crew who all resist the urge for some sweet, sweet revenge at the end.

    So after some minimal set-up with the usual coincidence required (the Enterprise just happens to be going by when Parmen happens to suffer a very rare life-threatening infection), it's watch the Platonians torture Spock and Kirk again... and again... and again. The torture is... well, torture to watch. As with most third season episodes, it's the Kirk & Spock Show, with McCoy along with the ride. Nichelle Nichols gets about as much screen time and a chance to do anything in the third season here as she ever will this late in the game. Yes, we get the first interracial kiss, with the sop tossed in that it's hinted at as a form of torture.

    Liam Sullivan and Barbara Babcock do what they can with their one-dimensional stick figures in this morality play, but Michael Dunn, always a class act, shines here. He manages to rise above the mediocre scripting and give some real human reaction to the situation. His character doesn't really add anything to the situation, but whether it's Alexander reacting to the torture, or swearing vengeance, or his last look of joy and happiness at the end, Michael Dunn is always at the top of his game.

    Overall a simplistic "power corrupts" moral message but so cloaked in allegory (by making the bad guys telekinetic meanies) that if there was any real message or real-world allegory to be found, it's deeply buried. Meyer Dolinsky has done better, but he should have stuck to spy, cop, and detective dramas.moreless
  • Sounds Greek to Me!

    I'm giving this episode of Stsar Trek a 5. That is low and may be the lowest of the original series. The planet is greek and is run by a people who can use their mind to move things and mess with people's miknd. that one scene where Kirk and spook are under the mind and have them doing stupid stunts maybe be the turning point of the epiosde. It's painful to watch the way the two has bee treated. Especially Mr. spook, who have it emotions drain right out of him. I didn't care much about this episode. A big embrassement.moreless
  • Some non-conformist dwarf refuses to shoot up with Kirk, Spock and McCoy spoiling the mood of the party

    Apart from my girl, Uhura, (who looked ravishing!) and the big kiss scene, this one was uncomfortable at times. Especially the long, drawn out part where Parman is making Kirk and Spock do dances and strange things. I have to admit I do love saying out loud "How about a serenade from the Laughing Spaceman!?" whenever some band or DJ asks the crowd what they want to hear. Of course, no one knows what the heck I'm talking about. So I guess the episode has some redeeming quality to it.moreless
Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Michael Dunn

Michael Dunn


Guest Star

Liam Sullivan

Liam Sullivan


Guest Star

Barbara Babcock

Barbara Babcock


Guest Star

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Majel Barrett

Majel Barrett

Nurse Christine Chapel

Recurring Role

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

Featured Episode Clip

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Their home star Sahandra went nova 1,000 years ago, yet they arrived on Playtonius 2,500 years ago. While it is possible they left their world long before it went nova, Philana states she is only 2,300 years old.

    • Later the Platonians force Kirk to dress in a toga. After he and Spock defeat them, he pulls out his communicators. Why did the Platonians put his communicator in his toga?

    • Another super-discovery forgotten - all the Federation has to do is inject kironide into its Starfleet members and they'd have telekinetic powers. They never do.

    • Kirk says the Platonians moved to their current planet when their last planet "novaed." Planets don't nova - stars do.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Uhura: (forced into Captain Kirk's arms) I'm so frightened, Captain. I'm so very frightened.
      Kirk: That's the way they want you to feel. Makes them think that they're alive.
      Uhura: I know it, but... I wish I could stop trembling.
      Kirk: Try not to think of them. (the Platonians laugh as they force them closer and closer together) Try...
      Uhura: I'm thinking... I'm thinking of all the times on the Enterprise when I was scared to death... (they're forced to embrace) ...and I would see you so busy at your command, and I would hear your voice from all parts of the ship... and my fears would fade. And now they're making me tremble. But I'm not afraid. I am not afraid...

    • McCoy: The release of emotion is what keeps us healthy. Emotionally healthy.
      Spock: That may be, Doctor. However, I have noted that the healthy release of emotion is very frequently unhealthy for those closest to you.

    • Parmen: Philosophic kings have no need of titles.

    • Kirk: Where I come from, size shape or color makes no difference.

    • Dionyd: Too much love is dangerous.
      Eraclitus: Cupid's arrow kills Vulcans.

    • Parmen: Uncontrolled power will turn even saints into savages, and we can all be counted on to live down to our lowest impulses.
      Kirk: You're very good at making speeches, Parmen. Just make sure that this one sinks in.

    • Kirk: To us, killing is murder, even for revenge.

  • NOTES (5)

    • Leonard Nimoy wrote the song "Maiden Wine" that Spock performs.

    • According to Nichelle Nichols, the infamous kiss almost didn't happen. First the director, then studio executives, objected. Roddenberry talked them into shooting the scene with and without the kiss, saying they could decide later. Since it was near the end of a week of filming and the studio didn't want to go over time, Shatner continued to ask for more takes of the kiss until the day was over, then subtly blew the non-kiss take by crossing his eyes at a crucial moment. The result was that the studio and director had no choice but to allow a kissing take.

    • This is the last of six appearances by Barbara Babcock (Philana) in the series. Four of these were as voices of computers or aliens, the other was in "A Taste of Armageddon."

    • The history making first televised interracial kiss between Captian James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) from this episode was named #65 on TV Guide/TV Land's 100 Most Memorable TV Moments in December of 2004.

    • This episode has a place in TV history for containing the first ever inter-racial kiss to be shown on American network television, between Kirk and Uhura while under Parmen's telekinetic influence. However, their lips are never seen actually making contact.