Star Trek: Plato's Stepchildren

"How can you let this go on?"

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Got it.

I was determined to find something I liked about this episode. It was a challenge, but I did hit on one thing. I liked that long-tormented but obviously superior being Alexander got away from the Platonians in the end and hopefully wound up exploring the galaxy. Okay, the set dressing, especially the chess statues on the floor, was gorgeous, and the costumes were also quite good. And there's the famous first interracial kiss. That's more than one thing, so maybe the episode isn't a complete loss.

But while the psychokinetic power of the Platonians could have been interesting, the way they chose to explore the theme was so ridiculous that it was embarrassing. Alexander riding Kirk like a horse? Spock doing a flamenco dance around Kirk's head? The double kissing scene followed by the whip and the flame was enough to make me cringe. The rest of the episode, and I keep feeling like I'm beating a dead horse, combined elements of "I, Mudd," "Bread and Circuses," "Spock's Brain," "Who Mourns for Adonais?" and the guest star (Barbara Babcock, who played Philana) from "A Taste of Armageddon."

For me, the best part of this episode is actually a behind-the-scenes story about the filming. Two versions of the Kirk/Uhura clinch were requested so that a less controversial version of the episode (without the kiss) would be available. But when it came time to film it, William Shatner deliberately blew every take, and only the original scene with the kiss was usable. I don't know if this story is true, but it's exceptionally cool and I certainly wish it were.




Ben says...

Kirk and Spock become trapped in a series of horrific acting exercises!

"The humiliation must have been most difficult for you to bear" – Spock (or was that Nimoy)

What was the worst one? I think maybe having Shatner slapping himself straight into the commercial break, or maybe the great Vulcan flamenco (an art form few people realize originated in Ancient Greece, incidentally). Then again, Tweedledee and Tweedledum was... y'know what, I am moving on, because this episode had some good points as well.

The first (scripted black-white) interracial kiss, for example. I qualify it that way because, while purists will point out Sammy Davis Jr. and Nancy Sinatra had kissed on stage the year before, and there were several examples of Asian-White kisses in other programs and in a previously filmed Trek episode ("Elaan of Troyius"), I think these criticisms are way off base. Legend has it that Shatner and Nichols actually flubbed every take of the "non-kiss" alternative to ensure the kiss would be shown all over the U.S. (as opposed to edited out for Southern markets). That's real commitment and it makes the point that Star Trek, for all its many flaws, was becoming more counter-cultural as the series moved along.

And let's not forget Michael Dunn, whom I loved (okay, as a child feared, as one should a good villain) as Dr. Miguelito Loveless in The Wild Wild West. He completely outshines everyone else in the episode and again lets Roddenberry deliver a remarkably progressive message about ability and disability in an era where it was not on many people's radars.

If only we could have skipped the laughing Vulcan.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 5784.2. A desperate distress call for medical help from the planet Platonius, whose inhabitants were formerly natives of the planet Sahndara, and visitors to Earth at the time of Plato.

— Why a population of only 38? Was that something to do with Plato? I'll admit I'm not up on my Plato.

— If an injection of kironide gives a human being such powerful psychokinetic abilities, isn't this something the Federation scientists (and possibly megalomaniacal military leaders) would want to keep in mind for future applications?

— A blood test with no needles. Wouldn't it be nice.

Quotes:

Philana: "How old would you say I am? (Kirk thinks about it) Oh, don't be afraid. I'm not vain."
Spock: (flatly) "Thirty-five."
Actually, it appears that the beautiful Barbara Babcock was only thirty-one at the time. http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Barbara_Babcock

Kirk: "Alexander, where I come from, size, shape or color makes no difference."

Spock: "Doctor McCoy, you may yet cure the common cold."

One out of four flying statues,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

5 comments:

Juliette said...

Whenever I think this can't be that bad, I watch it again and am reminded it's worse... The kiss is a great thing to be remembered for (as long as you leave out the part where it's forced, so Kirk and Uhura are both essentially being sexually assaulted).
I'm not aware of any special Platonic significance to the number 38, though I confess philosophical texts are not exactly my main area of expertise.

Jerry Modene said...

Awful, awful episode - right down there with "And the Children Shall Lead" and "Gamesters of Triskelion". If not for the "historic" aspects of the episode, it would be totally forgettable. (at least, we'd be trying like heck to forget it.)

FWIW, I've read that the original name of the episode was "The Sons of Socrates".

Anonymous said...

Lucy and Desi gave us the first interracial kiss....

Gavrielle said...

I just discovered the other day from the BBC that in fact this wasn't the first scripted black/white interracial kiss. The BBC did it four years before, in a drama called Emergency Ward 10. They were interviewing the black actress who'd been involved - she was understandably irritated that this is mostly not remembered.

tinkapuss said...

This is one of the only episodes so far that I cannot remember seeing before but, as weird as it was (and slightly disturbing), I liked it!? Much credit goes to the actor who played Alexander - excellent performance.