Director: David Alexander
Writer: Meyer Dolinsky
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Michael Dunn, Liam Sullivan, Barbara Babcock, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett, Ted Scott, and Derek Partridge
Composer: Alexander Courage
Air Date: 11/22/1968
Production #: 60043-67
Responding to a medical emergency, Kirk travels with Spock and McCoy to a society modeled after ancient Greece. Before long, the landing party is enslaved for the entertainment of psychokinetic aliens named Parmen (Liam Sullivan) and Philana (Barbara Babcock), who, along with the other Platonians, have survived for thousands of years after mastering the teachings of their eponymous philosopher.
Historically relevant for including the first interracial kiss ever featured on a television program, “Plato’s Stepchildren” benefits from a number of compelling interactions between Alexander (Michael Dunn) and Kirk. A solid twist ending will also appeal to science fiction enthusiasts, though its powerful impact is hampered by an astonishing lack of justice.
After nearly crushing Kirk’s skull and collapsing into a fit of uncontrollable laughter/weeping, Spock is forced to cope with his newfound hatred of the Platonian people. Spock’s pained reaction during his meditative state is made entirely realistic thanks to Leonard Nimoy’s subtle performance, which embodied the silent torment of a Vulcan confronted with emotions beyond his ability to fully suppress.
The Platonians’ degrading treatment of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Alexander, Uhura, and Nurse Chapel may be difficult for sensitive viewers to tolerate, especially when compounded with William Shatner’s hammy acting (Spock’s humiliating display does, of course, allow for Nimoy’s poignant response as outlined above). Watching the Enterprise crew members behave like animals and intimately bond with one another against their will might have been made endurable if followed by a just conclusion; however, Parmen is never punished for his vile behavior, even though his antics could have easily resulted in serious injury or death for Captain Kirk.
“Plato’s Stepchildren” examines a potential consequence of extraordinary power left unchecked by benevolent intentions. Despite their apparent mastery of metaphysical techniques, the Platonians prove themselves to be nothing more than sadistic creatures with neither the gravitas nor the intellectual maturity to extend mercy when dealing with “inferior” beings. In contrast, Kirk and his officers prove their superior ethical standing when they choose to forgive Parmen and Philana instead of succumbing to a more primitive desire for revenge.
Though marred by an excess of deeply disturbing sequences, “Plato’s Stepchildren” will no doubt elicit compassion from audiences who identify strongly with Star Trek’s main characters. That being said, Shatner’s occasional scenery chewing may prevent certain fans from accepting the serious nature of Kirk’s predicament.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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