(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise finds a planet inhabited by aliens who were once followers of the Greek philosopher Plato.
Summoned by an urgent distress call for medical help, the USS Enterprise landing party consisting of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy find a group of aliens who supposedly model their society on the teachings of Plato. Their leader is suffering from a massive infection in his leg and is close to death. Alexander, a servant to the Platonians, quietly suggests to Philana that they should not kill the Enterprise landing party, given that they are trying to save their leader, Parmen. Before he can finish his sentence, Philana telekinetically makes him bite his hand.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy discover the Platonians' powerful psychokinetic abilities, as the man's delirium has violent effects on his surroundings. Another Platonian trait is extreme longevity, as well as frail physical immunity seemingly caused by their emphasis on mental prowess. This is what caused their powerful ruler to be so vulnerable to what should have been a minor treatable injury.
The result of an mass eugenics project on their home planet, "Plato's stepchildren" had escaped to Earth in the time of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato when their star, Sahndara, went supernova. After Plato's death they established a republic based on his philosophy, where 38 inhabitants live a life of quiet contemplation and self-reliance.
A simple cut in the leg had developed an unknown infection which caused Parmen to have a fever and lose control of his powers. Furniture is thrown around and the Enterprise is shaken in orbit, while Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Alexander duck and hide from the flying objects. "Fascinating. I believe we are experiencing the psychokinetic manifestations of Parmen's delirium", Spock notes. Philana, Parmen's wife, is able to distract Parmen long enough for McCoy to sedate him with a hypospray, ending the chaos. Later, Dr. McCoy's treatment of Parmen is effective and the landing party prepares to leave the planet. However, the Enterprise is frozen; Scott reports that there are no functional transporters, navigation or even subspace communication with Starfleet. Captain Kirk barges into Parmen's chamber, and Parmen strips Kirk of his phaser and tells him that guests must recognize his supremacy. In an allusion to the Greek ideal of guest-friend, Kirk retorts: "Guest? You don't know the meaning of the word. Guests are not treated like common prisoners." Parmen uses his psychokinetic powers to force Kirk to slap himself in the face repeatedly.
After the ordeal with Kirk smacking himself around, he, Spock, and McCoy are back in their guest chamber, trying to contact the Enterprise with his communicator to no avail. The Platonians summon them and seem grateful for McCoy's help. They provide the landing party with variety of gifts: the shield of Pericles for Kirk, a kithara for Spock, and a collection of Greek cures written by Hippocrates himself for McCoy. Parmen appeals for Kirk's forgiveness. He says he will release the ship, but he wants McCoy to remain on the planet.
McCoy refuses and Parmen says he will not be refused. Kirk says that he cannot consider himself a descendant of Plato. Spock points out, "Plato wanted truth and beauty and above all, justice." Parmen says that theirs is the most democratic society that ever was – unlike the Federation, which uses weapons and fleets of starships to enforce justice, the Platonians use the power of the mind. He says he wants to persuade Kirk and Spock to leave peacefully so as not to upset McCoy.
Parmen uses his mental powers to intimidate and humiliate Kirk and Spock into compliance. First, he makes them sing a song and dance a jig. Kirk tells McCoy that he is not going to let him stay behind and Parmen makes Kirk recite some lines from William Shakespeare's Sonnet LVII: "Being your slave what should I do but tend | Upon the hours, and times of your desire? | I have no precious time at all to spend; | Nor service[s] to do, 'til you …". Parmen makes Spock dance some more and then forces him to laugh and cry, torturing his Vulcan psychology by forcing severe emotion, such as hearty laughter and a good cry out of him. Kirk is forced to get down on his hands and knees and neigh and trot like a horse and Alexander is forced to ride on Kirk's back
McCoy decides to volunteer to stay but Kirk still refuses, pointing out that once they are gone they and the Enterprise will be destroyed. Alexander speaks up, saying that Kirk is right. He gives a speech about how he used to think it was his own fault that he did not have the same powers as the Platonians and that he was lucky that they had kept him around. But now, after the Enterprise crew stood up to the Platonians and showed them for what they are, he realizes how they've been putting him down.
Spock questions Alexander about the powers and determines that the power had manifested itself shortly after the Platonians had used up their food stores and started eating local food. McCoy scans Alexander's blood with his medical tricorder and finds that Parmen has more kironide, which is broken down by the pituitary gland. Alexander remembers that the kironide gave each Platonian different mental powers, but when they tried to combine these powers they failed. McCoy synthesizes some kironide and injects Kirk, and Spock – to double that of Parmen's level. Kirk suggests that Alexander get a dose, take Parmen's place and rule the planet, but Alexander refuses: "You think that's what I want? Become one of them? Become my own enemy? Just lie around like a big blob of nothing and have things done for me? I want to run around for myself. If I am going to laugh or cry, I want to do it for myself. You can keep your precious power. All I ask is one thing: if you do make it out of here, take me with you."
The conversation is interrupted when the Platonians force Lieutenant Uhura and Nurse Christine Chapel to beam down as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy look on in bewilderment. The women, unable to speak, walk away and are forced against their will to prepare for the evening's festivities. Kirk angrily surmises that the Platonians have now found some new entertainment for their amusement.
Later that night, Uhura and Chapel step out into the main hall, both dressed in fabulous Greek dresses as Kirk and Spock join them, both clad in short Greek tunics and laurel leaf crowns. Kirk asks Spock to try to lift some plates of food, but the powers have not kicked in yet. Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and Chapel are led to a stage. Parmen would like to welcome McCoy, but he has to convince McCoy to change his mind first. He makes Spock sing what he calls "a serenade from the laughing spaceman" to Uhura and Chapel.
Then, the four are split into two pairs: Uhura and Kirk, and Chapel and Spock. Chapel and Spock are forced to kiss despite their protests; Chapel confesses that she has wanted to be close to Spock for so long but now she wants to "crawl away and die". Uhura likewise confesses to Kirk that she was so often calmed by Kirk's presence when she was frightened on the bridge of the Enterprise. The two couples struggle in vain to avoid being forced to kiss.
After the kisses, Parmen compels Kirk to crack a bullwhip at Uhura and Spock to brandish a hot poker rod at Chapel. While Parmen is distracted controlling the four officers, Alexander attempts to sneak up on him with a knife. Parmen shifts his focus to trying to make Alexander turn the knife on himself. Meanwhile, Kirk begins to feel his telekinetic power building and laughs once he prevents Alexander from hurting himself. Parmen cannot believe that Kirk has telekinetic abilities and tries to test them. He sends Alexander to threaten Kirk with the knife, but again the captain turns the tables on the Platonian. For a brief time, the two minds fight for control of Alexander. Kirk's power is proven the greater but ultimately they both release him. Alexander begins to use his free will to attack Parmen but Kirk stops him, asking simply, "Do you want to be like him?" Alexander struggles with his conscience, but finally drops the knife, heaping contempt onto his former leader instead. Parmen sees that Kirk has spared his life, and appears repentant. He promises that he will be more benevolent towards future visits by other starships. Spock and Kirk are very dubious of the reform and so stresses that any new visitors can easily be dosed with kironide as well. Parmen appears to acquiesce to this truth and Kirk seems satisfied that the "Platonian problem" has been solved.
Kirk calls Scotty for transport, saying that he has "a little surprise" for the chief engineer. Kirk intends to make good on his earlier promise to rescue Alexander from Platonius and the Enterprise departs soon after.
"Alexander, where I come from, size, shape, or color makes no difference."
- - Kirk, on life outside Platonius
"Doctor McCoy, you may yet cure the common cold."
- - Spock, after Parmen's recovery
"Philosopher kings have no need of titles."
- - Parmen, correcting Kirk
"I'm Tweedledee, he's Tweedledum."
"We're spacemen marching to and from."
"We slythe among the mimsey toves."
"And tire among the borogoves."
- - Kirk and Spock, performing for Parmen – file info
"Being your slave, what should I do but tend."
"Upon the hours, and times of your desire?"
"I have no precious time at all to spend."
"Nor service to do, 'til you..."
- - James T. Kirk, reciting from William Shakespeare's Sonnet LVII while under Parmen's spell – file info
"However, I have noted that the healthy release of emotion is frequently very unhealthy for those closest to you."
- - Spock to McCoy, on their humiliations
"You think that's what I want? Become one of them? Become my own enemy?"
- - Alexander to Kirk, on receiving psychokinesis
"For so long I've wanted to be close to you. Now all I want to do is crawl away and die!"
- - Chapel, before kissing Spock
"Careful, Mr. Spock. Too much love is dangerous."
"Remember, Cupid's arrow kills Vulcans."
- - Dionyd and Eraclitus, on Spock's kiss – file info
"And now they are making me tremble. But I'm not afraid. I am not afraid."
- - Uhura, before her kiss with Kirk
"Don't stop me! Let me finish him off!"
"Do you want to be like him?"
- - Alexander and Kirk, as Alexander points a knife at Parmen
"Despite your brains, you're the most contemptible things that ever lived in this universe. "
- - Alexander, scolding Parmen
"To us, killing is murder. Even for revenge."
- - Kirk to Parmen, on why he was spared
"Uncontrolled, power will turn even saints into savages. And we can all be counted upon to live down to our lowest impulses."
- - Parmen to Kirk, before the landing party departs
"Kirk to Enterprise. Mr. Scott, prepare to beam us up. I have a little surprise for you. I'm bringing a visitor aboard."
- - Kirk, not forgetting his promise to take Alexander with him (last lines)
- Story outline by Meyer Dolinsky, titled "The Sons of Socrates", 10 June 1968
- Revised story outline, 13 June 1968
- First draft teleplay, 8 July 1968
- Second draft teleplay, 18 July 1968
- Third draft teleplay, 8 August 1968
- Final draft teleplay by Arthur Singer, 29 August 1968, 3 September 1968
- Additional page revisions by Fred Freiberger, 3 September 1968, 4 September 1968, 5 September 1968, 9 September 1968, 10 September 1968, 13 September 1968
- Filmed, 9 September 1968 – 17 September 1968
- Day 1 – 9 September 1968, Monday – Desilu Stage 9: Int. Bridge; Desilu Stage 10: Int. Atrium
- Day 2 – 10 September 1968, Tuesday – Desilu Stage 10: Int. Atrium
- Day 3 – 11 September 1968, Wednesday – Desilu Stage 10: Int. Atrium
- Day 4 – 12 September 1968, Thursday – Desilu Stage 10: Int. Atrium, South wing
- Day 5 – 13 September 1968, Friday – Desilu Stage 10: Int. South wing
- Day 6 – 16 September 1968, Monday – Desilu Stage 10: Int. South wing
- Day 7 – 17 September 1968, Tuesday – Desilu Stage 10: Int. South wing ("Theater")
- Score recorded, 25 October 1968
- Original airdate, 22 November 1968
- First UK airdate 22 December 1993
- This is Alexander Courage's last score for Star Trek. This episode was also the last episode to have an original score, although new songs for "The Way to Eden" and a Brahms paraphrase for "Requiem for Methuselah" were composed.
- Leonard Nimoy composed "Maiden Wine", the song that he performs in this episode.
- The togas worn by Shatner and Nimoy in this episode were designed by William Ware Theiss, and were later put up for auction in December 2018. 
- This episode has been long touted for featuring "the first interracial kiss on [American] network television." (The Star Trek Compendium, p. 120) See: Kirk and Uhura's kiss.
- There is some dispute about whether the kiss actually occurred. According to the on-screen footage, it appears that the actors' lips touched. However, both William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols claimed in Star Trek Memories [page number? • edit] that NBC exerted pressure to forbid lip contact, and to use a clever camera technique to conceal the "separation".
- Also according to Nichols, NBC was afraid of the kiss because some stations in the South could decide not to air the episode because of it. Finally, an agreement was made: to film two versions of the scene – one where Kirk and Uhura kissed, and one where they did not. They filmed the first version (with the kiss) successfully, then she and Shatner deliberately flubbed every take of the latter, making it unusable, and leaving the kiss intact. Nichols writes, "The next day they screened the dailies, and although I rarely attended them, I couldn't miss this one. Everyone watched as Kirk and Uhura kissed and kissed and kissed. And I'd like to set the record straight: Although Kirk and Uhura fought it, they did kiss in every single scene. When the non-kissing scene came on, everyone in the room cracked up. The last shot, which looked okay on the set, actually had Bill wildly crossing his eyes. It was so corny and just plain bad it was unusable. The only alternative was to cut out the scene altogether, but that was impossible to do without ruining the entire episode. Finally, the guys in charge relented: 'To hell with it. Let's go with the kiss.' I guess they figured we were going to be canceled in a few months anyway. And so the kiss stayed." (Beyond Uhura [page number? • edit])
- According to Nichols, in the early script, it was supposed to be Spock that kissed Uhura, but William Shatner had it changed, saying, "If anyone's gonna get to kiss Nichelle, it's going to be me, I mean, Captain Kirk!" (citation needed • edit)
- Trekkies Bjo and John Trimble were happy to receive news of this installment. John Trimble remarked, "Our immediate reaction was, 'Alright, by God, about time!'" Added Bjo Trimble, "And my second immediate reaction was, 'Boy, are they gonna hear from the Bible Belt on this one!'" Bjo Trimble stated, "We got our share of some really nasty letters. But here was the thing – you get one nasty letter, and you get a hundred really great letters. It was a step forward, I think." (Star Trek: The Real Story [page number? • edit])
- Screenwriter D.C. Fontana recalled, "There were Southern stations that told NBC: 'Well, we're not going to run this show, because you have a black woman on the bridge,'," she then added “And Gene Roddenberry told NBC to tell them to go to hell." According to Nichols who said the scene struck a chord for her personally because her own "Grandpa was white, and Grandma was black. But professionally speaking? It was just a kissing scene." 
- This episode was not shown until 22 December 1993 in the United Kingdom, with the BBC skipping it due to "sadistic" elements in the plot. An official BBC statement by Sheila Cundy of the Programme Correspondence Section declared, "After very careful consideration a top level decision was made not to screen the episodes entitled 'Empath' [sic], 'Whom The Gods Destroy' [sic], 'Plato's Stepchildren' and 'Miri' [actually transmitted in 1970, but not re-aired until the '90s], because they all dealt most unpleasantly with the already unpleasant subjects of madness, torture, sadism and disease." (BBC form letter, undated, Reference 28/SPC)
The remastered version of "Plato's Stepchildren" aired in many North American markets during the weekend of 16 June 2007. Very few new effects were required. Like all other remastered episodes, the physical model of the Enterprise has been wholly replaced by a CGI model throughout the episode. Similarly, the Enterprise is universally shot at different – and typically closer – angles than in the original.
The most dramatic new effect is that of the planet Platonius. It has changed from its original, Mars-like appearance to one that greatly resembles Earth.
Dr. McCoy's tricorder insert also received a touch-up. Its display was transformed from a bar graph that approximated sickbay displays to an integrated line chart. The benefit of the changed effect is that the display now more easily reads as a true comparison of the blood of Alexander and Parmen, along with (ostensibly) Human norms.
In addition, the digital restoration of non-SFX shots has resulted in an overall brightening of color that is perhaps more profound in this abstractly-designed episode than in others.
Video and DVD releases
- Released with "Whom Gods Destroy", the volume was originally unrated, as it was released prior to the Video Recordings Act 1984. After 1985, it received a rating of PG.
- Original US Betamax release: 1988
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 35, catalog number VHR 2431, 7 January 1991
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.4, 20 October 1997
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 34, 18 September 2001
- As part of the TOS Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TOS-R Season 3 DVD collection
Links and references
- Michael Dunn as Alexander
- Liam Sullivan as Parmen
- Barbara Babcock as Philana
- James Doohan as Scott
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel
- Ted Scott as Eraclitus
- Derek Partridge as Dionyd
- William Blackburn as Hadley
- Jeannie Malone as Yeoman
- Frieda Rentie as a Sciences division crew woman
- Unknown performers as
44 BC; 32 BC; 85 AD; academician; aging; anger; anniversary; answer; apology; apple; Aristophanes; arm; arrogance; arrow; atmosphere; bacteria; beauty; blood; blood sample; bloodstream; "Bones"; borogove; brain; brain wave; breathing; brotherhood; brow; bug; bullwhip; century; chamber; chess; children; choking; common cold; comparative test; concentration; contact; contemplation; court buffoon; crying; culture; Cupid; cut; dance; day; death; death warrant; deficiency; delirium; democratic society; deposit; desire; dignity; disciple; distress call; drum; dwarf; Earth; emergency gyro; emergency stabilizer; emotion; enemy; engineer; environmental condition; eugenics; Excellency; fact; fear; fever; fit; Flamenco; flush; French language; Frogs, The; fruit; furniture; genius; god; good faith; grapes; gratitude; Greek civilization; Greek language; guest; hatred; head (aka ruler); heart; Hippocrates; hoof; hope; horn; hour; humiliation; hypo; hypothesis; idea; ignorance; infection; information; intention; joking; justice; keg; kironide; kiss; kithara; knife; knowledge; laughing; laurel; leader; leadership; leg; life; light; logic; longevity; love; lyre; "Maiden Wine"; marriage; meaning; medical stores; medical tricorder; medicine (aka medical arts); meditation; Milky Way Galaxy; mind; month; mood; moralizing; murder; muscle; music; night; nova; order; pain; Pan; patience; peace; pebble; Pericles; philosopher king; physician (aka doctor); plate; pituitary gland; pituitary hormone; place; Plato; Platonian; Platonian's original leader; Platonius; population; power level; present; principality; prisoner; probability; problem; prognosis; psychokinesis (aka psychokinetic power, psychokinetic ability); puppet; question; rage; reality; recuperative power; refugee; republic; research; result; revenge; rhyme; sadism; Sahndara; Sahndara; saint; savage; "scared to death"; science officer; secret; self-reliance; sensor; serenade; Shakespeare, William; Shakespeare's sonnets; shape; shield; sing; size; skin; slap; slave; sleepwalking; Socrates; solution; smile; space fleet; spaceship; speech; spouse (wife); stabilizer; star; Starfleet; starship; stepchildren; storm; strain; subspace communication; symbol; temper; ten scale; "theory; thing; thinking; Through the Looking-Glass; throwback; time; time factor; title; tone; torture; treasure; treatment; tricorder; trick; truth; turbulence; Tweedledum and Tweedledee; unconscious; universe; utopia; vagabond; vanity; velvet; voice; Vulcan; weapon; will: wine; wing; word; year
- "Plato's Stepchildren" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Plato's Stepchildren" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Plato's Stepchildren" at Wikipedia
- "Plato's Stepchildren" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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