Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 10

Plato's Stepchildren

Aired Unknown Nov 22, 1968 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (8)

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out of 10
156 votes
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Why is this one so badly rated?

    A group of aliens who influenced Earth and later fled, who adopted (cherry-picked) certain mannerisms of the Greeks develop telepathic and telekinetic abilities. They in turn act cruel towards one of their own who never developed the ability, and when one of their own gets injured need to bring in some help...

    The whole setup of the piece states it all. The Platonians are a despicable, ruthless lot. They repay Kirk's good intentions by humiliating and torturing him. Ditto for Spock. All to get McCoy to stay behind, and we all know that there is no way any of them would be let go anyway. There are some really gut wrenching scenes at work - never mind the low budget; it's that they play it straight and it's the ideas and acting that what count; a big budget only adds icing to the cake. When Kirk and Spock are forced to threaten Chapel and Uhura with whips and other means of torture, it's blood curdling. Spock's scene of reclaiming himself after the torment inflicted upon him by the Platonians is equally moving, and poignant. and the Southern states probably allowed the kiss scene because it was more "torture" provided by the Platonians and therefore not "real" in the eyes of censors, who half the time don't know what to think anyway. Sci-fi allows expression and Trek (the original) has always done it best. One way or the other, the kiss is a milestone in TV history and I'm glad the actors and production team were so daring. And that, just as much as the plot, makes this installment very worthy.

    Once 'the big three' fathom how to beat the Platonians at their own game (which makes one wonder about McCoy's medical bag of tricks and how big it is, but otherwise...), Kirk and Spock see right through the empty promises of the Platonians. As usual, Star Trek (the original )delves into human behavior (and not telling people how TO live, which is what all the spinoffs preferred to do). Most people heckle this one because it's third season and who likes Kirk anyway? (apart from me and other people who can enjoy the series for what it was all about, and the context it was made in - not bad for a person who's half the age of a Baby Boomer...)

    Oh, and for Kirk to play a horse as the latest form of torture imposed by Parman, he does a superb job. Intercutting with Michael Dunn as Alexander packs home the point as well (Michael Dunn's performance also makes this episode a solid, worthy piece.)
  • This episode sticks up there in my mind with all the other greats.

    This episode has one of the most hilarius scenes I've seen in the entire Star Trek series, and that is where the dignified Captain Kirk and his first officer, Mr. Spock, traisp about doing the "Twiddle Dee Dee, Twiddle Dee Dum" dance. Hats off to William Shatner who was able to keep a straight face, but note that Nimoy couldn't hold it. At the end of the dance you see a very un-Vulcan like open-mouted smile. At one point Shatner appears to clamp his facial muscles in an exaggerated frown, which I suspect was to prevent from bursting out laughing. I loved the acting by Parmen and the actress that plays his wife. The set was beautiful with the classic Greek motif. However, negatively, there was a lot of filler and some scenes ran too long. The writers probably ran out of steam, but they had some great ideas in this one. I love the Flamingo dance Spock did and the singing with the lyre. All of this was meant to humiliate them, but you can tell the writers had a great sense of humor to come up with this stuff. This is also the episode of the first interracial kiss, which I thought was done quite well. Great direction with several close ups of Kirk glaring almost into the camera. You have to admit a very good job was done of coming up with a budget script that was entertaining, yet very memorable as well.
  • Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to a planet inspired by the Ancient Greeks, and run by ageless individuals with strong psychic powers, who use Kirk and co. for their own twisted entertainment. Another of the third season's far better episodes...

    I am extremely surprised that this episode is generally rated so low, as I personally consider it to be one of the third season's far stronger instalments.

    Pint-sized Michael Dunn gives a very good performance as dwarf Alexander, who has been at the Platonians' mercy for countless ages. The character is very sympathetic, and Dunn plays the role perfectly.

    The Ancient Greek concept had already been utilised in the second season episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?".
    The way it is presented here, it seems as if Earth's Ancient Greek Gods were indeed real, and the Platonians encountered them before voyaging into space.

    The plot is one of (if not THE) darkest of the Original Series, and has some truly chilling moments as Kirk and co. are used as the Platonians' playthings. The moment at the end of the second act, where Kirk is forced to act like a horse, with Alexander the dwarf riding on his back, and Kirk shrilling, is truly haunting.

    Of course, this episode is famous for another thing – the kiss between Kirk and Uhura, often cited as American television's first interracial kiss. Many of the 'powers that be' were very unhappy about this, to the extent that some stations refused to show the episode. It seems ridiculous nowadays that something could have caused such uproar.

    Here in the United Kingdom, this episode was typically skipped by the BBC on their repeats of the series, with the treatment dished out to the crew and Alexander deemed unsuitable by the Beeb for the show's timeslot; it became one of several episodes to be dropped from BBC runs of the series. However, since the 1990s, this episode has always been included on repeat runs.

    This episode is also of particular note to me for getting me back into the series, after my interest waned slightly in the late 1990s – early 2000s. A few weeks previously I had found an old off-air recording of the second season's "The Ultimate Computer", and not long after, a friend lent me a film he had recorded, and which just happened to have a recording of this episode afterwards. These two episodes reignited my interest in the series.

    Overall, I find this to be a very strong episode, and one that could easily have come from the far better second season. It has a good story with some very dark moments, and I don't think it deserves the low rating it has. From me, it falls not far short of a perfect 10.