Star Trek 3.10: Plato’s Stepchildren

Plato's StepchildrenPlato’s Stepchildren“. Good lord, this is a bad episode.

The Enterprise answers a distress call for urgent medical assistance on an unsurveyed planet. They are met by a huge shadow, which turns out to be cast by the dwarf Alexander. The local ruler Parmen is dying of an infected wound, which McCoy heals. While ill, Parmen’s scary powers manifested spontaneously in his delirium. The natives turn out to be disciples of Plato, from Ancient Greece on Earth (it seems every uber-powerful alien race has visited and/or modelled their society on pre-21st century Earth for some reason), and live in a self-proclaimed Utopia, in which they have honed their psychic powers and attained near-immortality. They explain that because they live so long and are so healthy, they have no need for doctors – thus the distress call. Paradoxically, they also explain that because they’ve eliminated disease, their immune systems are incredibly weak, so a simple cut can be fatal. I am not making this up.

To cut a long and tedious plot short, Parmen insists that McCoy stays behind to act as a doctor to the remaining 38 Platonians. He refuses, and Parmen chucks a hissy fit, using psychic powers to prevent him, Kirk, and Spock from leaving. He beams down Uhura and Nurse Chapel, and then subjects them all to humiliating psychic human puppetry. This includes a couple of the most cringeworthy moments in the entire series, as Kirk acts as a horse, bucking and neighing, with Alexander riding on his back, and Spock sings and dances and is almost forced to step on Kirk’s face. Also notable is Kirk and Uhura being forced to kiss – which is an historic scene, often cited as the first interracial kiss on American TV (though apparently there were a couple of lesser known earlier ones, and this one is hidden by their heads). Nowadays it just comes across as embarrassingly bad acting.

Kirk and Spock manage to gain psychic powers from a special serum McCoy prepares from the native food (a trick which they forget about and never use again in the series), and use them to challenge Parmen. Alexander is the only non-psychic Platonian, and used as a lackey and buffoon by the others. His resentment bubbles to boiling point and he attacks Parmen with a knife, but Kirk tells him not to be so petty. At this point, they simply leave the planet, taking Alexander with them, and that’s the end. They never really resolve the problem of a planetful of dangerous psychics, except by saying they’ll warn others to stay away.

Meh. A painful episode to watch.

Tropes: BLAM Episode, Big Shadow, Little Creature, Malfunction Malady, Ancient Astronauts, Uncanny Village, Psychic Powers, Wall Banger, Kick The Dog, Playing With Puppets, People Puppets, Kissing Discretion Shot, Forgotten Phlebotinum, Left Hanging.
Body Count: None.

2 Responses to “Star Trek 3.10: Plato’s Stepchildren”

  1. Crested Eaglet says:

    The ‘first interracial kiss’ credit to Star Trek always makes me cringe. The writers show that the cast are under mind control… by having them do things they would never do in their right minds. Apparently they felt that no one in their right mind would kiss a human from a different culturally-defined racial group. I know this was an early step on a road that is still far from over, but any praise for the moment makes my head hurt.

  2. Pilar Harry says:

    Im a huge TREKKIE, and I agree with you to a point. Watching some episodes so star trek have been cringing ‘ ’cause of the bad acting. And the Nytoya Uhura situation is true. But in the episode it was against ” their will ”
    But in Nicols (uhura) autobiography she tells she received horrid treatment from the studio, cuz she was black.
    Although her and Spock were originally supposed to be together. Well, in the 60’s you know how race was.
    But that really doesn’t change the way I love STAR TREK. Long Live Star Trek!!

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