Thursday, 22 November 2018

plato’s stepchildren

Though the act went seemingly unremarked on at the time, Star Trek’s tenth episode of its third season, which aired originally on CBS on this night in 1968, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is notable for portraying one of the first televised interracial kisses. Prospecting for a rare mineral, the crew of the Enterprise encounter an alien, humanoid colony whose culture and hierarchy is based on the philosophy of Plato, their rarefied existence made a bit less of an aesthetic sacrifice by dint of a vein of the rare mineral that imbues them with telekinetic and mind-control abilities.
Having only one victim to torment, the Platonians ostensibly to have playthings at their disposal but also to seek medical help for one of their fellow sadistic interlocutors, but seething from their arrogance and deception, Captain Kirk threatens to begrudge them their treatment—also intimidating that the Enterprise could take away the lode that leverages their powers, eventually usurping those powers by discovering how to wield it within that environment themselves. In retribution and for their entertainment, the Platonians emotional unhinge the crew, including making Mister Spock laugh and cry and compelling Kirk and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols, previously here and here) to embrace and kiss. Though perhaps most memorable, such on screen kisses (by no means commonplace) had occurred on British television and between Asian and Caucasians actors a few years beforehand. It was not without controversy and it remains unclear if reception might have been different if Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura were in control of the situation. In any event, even if Star Trek was not the first portrayal five decades ago, the franchise was able to reawaken the discussion and depiction nearly three decades later in 1995 with the Deep Space Nine episode “Rejoined,” an allegory on the taboos of homosexuality and aired one of the first scenes of a woman kissing a woman sensually, albeit they were to be understood as a symbiotic alien species whose gender identities were layered and complex.