Star Trek: The Original Series

"Plato's Stepchildren"

3 stars

Air date: 11/22/1968
Written by Meyer Dolinsky
Directed by David Alexander

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

As we all know, "Plato's Stepchildren" is most commonly remembered for providing television's first interracial kiss. All well and good, but how does the story stand up? Actually, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this fairly nondescript premise, in which Parmen (Liam Sullivan), a tyrannical leader of a small community of people with telekinetic abilities, decides he wants McCoy to stay against his will on this planet as their doctor. Story execution here is key.

After Kirk's initial defiance of Parmen comes a telekinetically induced humiliation brought to Kirk and Spock that is surprisingly well played. The degree of Parmen's villain factor is multiplied by tenfold when Uhura and Chapel are beamed down as players in a degrading entertainment spectacle alongside Kirk and Spock. What's particularly nice about this episode is that the plot falls together logically, and the characters' reactions to their predicament shows sensible thinking and quiet ingenuity. McCoy's way of fighting back makes sense and is applied with a cool head. Meanwhile, Alexander (Michael Dunn), the community's most often abused, turns out to be a deeper-than-expected source of sympathy—someone with a great deal of moral integrity.

The problem is that the episode lets its villain off way too easily. As Kirk says, Parmen is very good at making speeches, and given the extent of his cruelty, letting it all slide at the end lacks justice. A more satisfying ending would've found a way to strip Parmen of his telekinetic powers, thereby administering, without turning to vengeance or violence, a rational comeuppance.

Previous episode: The Tholian Web
Next episode: Wink of an Eye

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

61 comments on this post

Thu, Jun 28, 2012, 1:54am (UTC -6)
I agree about the ending, but the remarkable thing about this episode seems to go unremarked everywhere. In the scene after the first set of humiliations, where Spock almost stomped on Kirk's head, then was made to laugh and cry--provoking McCoy's most vehement objection in the episode. Spock asks Jim if he feels anger, and Jim says yes. He asks McCoy, and he says yes, and hatred. Then Spock says that he, too, feels anger and hatred, and while they must channel theirs, he must master his. Then he crushes a stone sculpture.

Spock is all too aware that he could have been made by forces out of his control to kill Jim. He's already been there once--during the ponn farr. Add that to the humiliation of his own treatment and the misery of seeing Kirk degraded--that's about as close to an explosion from Spock that we've seen, at least while he's in his right mind. It was good writing, and stunningly well-played by Nimoy.
Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 2:15pm (UTC -6)

Totally agree. Shatner's good in this one, too. His dialog with Alexander is dead on and is more akin to Kirk from the first two seasons.

Agreed that Parmen was let off the hook too easily. But I had another thought: Couldn't Kirk and Spock retain their telekinetic abilities after they left (assuming they kept taking kironide)? The episode doesn't say that the powers are only usable on that planet.
Thu, May 30, 2013, 2:28am (UTC -6)



There aren't enough words in the dictionary to describe "Plato's Stepchildren". It is fifty minutes of pure, sadistic humiliation of our lead characters. The third season had its share of stinkers, but this is the only one of them that makes me wish the series had been yanked from the network schedule before the ep had a chance to air.

I can only imagine how many Trekkies who had worked so hard to get the show renewed sat in front of their televisions in slack-jawed horror that Friday night in November 1968, watching Kirk slap himself silly for thirty seconds and wondering what they had written all of those letters for.


(Even the interracial kiss this monstrous thing is known for isn't real. The shot is framed to obscure the fact that Shatner's and Nichols' lips don't actually touch.)
Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 3:10pm (UTC -6)
Jo Jo Meastro
Mon, Mar 24, 2014, 10:35am (UTC -6)
From what I can gather, this episode is very polarising amongst fans. I feel conflicted about what I make of it because its such a bizzare mixture of hilarious camp, genuinely uncomfortable dark content and a satisfying degree of thoughtfulness. Sometimes its all these things at once! I think it works in the end, even if you'll ask yourself what the hell am I watching on more than a few occasions (it reminds me of Lexx in that regard)!

I'm surprised that barely on-screen kiss gets so much recognition instead of the line about colour or shape or size aren't important and the depth and strength given to a perceived disabled character. That stood out the most for me, the kiss was too shy and self-conscious to really transcend the era imho.

I'll give this one a 2.5 stars for being unique and a well done adventure despite some OTT silliness along the way.
William B
Wed, Oct 1, 2014, 11:51am (UTC -6)
Like Jo Jo Meastro, I'm not entirely sure what I think about this episode, which is really, really odd. I think that it's maybe supposed to do for Greek culture what "Bread and Circuses" did for Roman culture -- to show how that's, you know, not a good thing to emulate, at least to a degree. As easy as it is to idealize the Greeks for their philosophical thought and emphasis on intellect, they were a state with slaves, and Plato's ideal that a republic would be ruled by Philosopher-Kings whose superior intellect and dedication to ideas has some, er, problems. I don't have as much of a philosophy background/expertise as I'd like, so I don't claim to speak with much background. Still, some of the big problems are demonstrated here. Parmen talks about how his society is superior to one ruled over by the strong rather than the intelligent, but he employs tyrannical cruelty for his own pleasure just as much as any strongman-tyrant. Someone who is deemed by them to be unintelligent because he lacks their psychokinetic abilities, Alexander, is reduced to slavery and mockery. Given the opportunity, these "intellectuals" lounge around fulfilling their desires and do naught else. I value intelligence, and Trek obviously does too, but intelligence by itself is no guarantee of moral virtue, and a society with an intellectual dictator is still a dictatorship.

On the other hand, Spock makes the point of distinguishing between the awful society that Parmen rules over and what Plato himself advocated -- with truth, beauty, and above all justice as founding principles, rather than this perpetual sadistic cruelty. And the episode could also be argued not so much to argue with Plato -- perhaps a wise decision, really -- as with those who would emulate Plato while ignoring his meaning. In particular, the trait that Parmen believes indicates intelligence, telekinesis, is actually completely unrelated to intelligence, and only related to petuitary hormones and, well, height. His mind powers basically are indistinguishable from any other form of strength, and his smug insistence that his powers make him the most intelligent is just a rationalization for his brutality. I think this also has some pretty far-reaching implications. It makes me think of the Dunning-Kruger effect, and other cognitive biases in which the strong seek to justify their strength as indicative of superior moral virtue rather than of some accident of circumstance. Along those lines, I really like the way McCoy is so highly prized by the Platonians because he has actual skill, knowledge, curiosity and intellectual acumen, which they have essentially abandoned; and that the away team beats the Platonians by using scientific investigation and, well, intellect to beat them. This is the application of intellect and intuition through work and curiosity -- rather than the decadent, lazy "intellect" of the "Philosopher-King" class that we see with Parmen, who has clearly left behind anything resembling valuable intellectual pursuits a few millennia ago.

I also really agree (with Jammer and Jo Jo) that the depiction of Alexander is impressive -- not just because it's a good development of a supporting character, but because it's an unusual-for-the-time (and still for this time, frankly) depiction of a dwarf/little person as heroic while also pretty directly confronting the feelings of insecurity that come with having one's disability constantly thrown in his face as a weakness or even as stupidity. Alexander's arc over the course of the episode is good -- he starts off pretty much just accepting his lot in life, as is to be expected (had he not accepted it, had he rebelled, he likely would have been executed earlier, and he doesn't have the science kits that the crew have), feeling bad that the Enterprise crew are now condemned to his fate, but unwilling to step out and help them because of the inevitable consequences to himself, beginning to feel guilt and shame once the Enterprise crew shows him another path and Kirk immediately reassuring him that it's understandable in his circumstance, him refusing the power granted the others because he sees its corrupting influence, finally refusing to kill Parmen, refusing not just the Power-power of telekenesis but the power-over-life-and-death that is the "real" meaning of that Power-power. I think one could look upon some of these later developments less kindly, and say that perpetual-victim Alexander's refusal to take on power means that he has to be saved by Kirk et al.; that, indeed, it may be that the episode "sides" with Alexander, and views the power as corrupting in Alexander's hands but not in Kirk's, suggesting perhaps that oppressed people really do need some able-bodied guy to come in to save them. It's possible -- but I think that the episode is clear that Kirk trusts Alexander with the power, and Alexander himself makes the choice to refuse it. It's been so much a part of his life for years that Alexander cannot as easily as Kirk view the taking on of such power as a totally passing thing, specific to this planet. He demonstrates his moral superiority, confirms that it was not intellectual inferiority that kept him from having the telekenesis at all, and leaves.

So, okay, that's the Big Themes of the episode, such as they are: what do we make of the actual depiction? This is probably the longest depiction of pure sadism on TOS, with scene after scene of the crew helpless to stop being subjected to different humiliations. I can't really tell if they are "funny" or not: they are...funny to the Platonians, and maybe to the audience for sheer camp value. It's different watching Kirk et al. humiliate themselves to try to convince McCoy to stay for the Platonians and watching Shatner et al. "humiliate" themselves for a paycheck for the audience, because, well, the actors did sign on to this type of thing, I guess, and maybe don't mind it? But the story's basic point -- the Platonians are cruel and barbaric but believe themselves to be intellectually sophisticated -- doesn't really need scene after scene of proof. There is something kind of effective in the episode's repeating the humiliation again and again, though -- especially when we get glimpses of how awful the Platonians are, and what sense of intellectual superiority backs up their reasoning. When Kirk and Spock are made to court Uhura and Chapel and then switch and then switch back, and one of the Platonians yells out how fickle they are and laughs as if Kirk and Spock had any control over their situation, it's not just pure cruelty, but the shocking, disgusting idea that the Platonians seem on some level to believe their victims actually want to do what they are being forced to do, and deserve it. The fact that the last humiliation is actually some depiction of sexual violence -- Kirk and Spock forced first to kiss and then to get whips/hot pokers and presumably torture and maybe kill Uhura and Chapel -- makes this episode seem like something out of the Marquis de Sade rather than Star Trek.

In that sense, the episode is actually maybe more effective than the half dozen or so "Kirk/whoever has to fight in a gladiator combat against his will for entertainment!" episodes, because at least Kirk doesn't have to be forced to pretend to enjoy those gladiator fights, and at least he has control over his body even if he's being put in a kill-or-be-killed situation. When Spock is forced to laugh or cry, or to dance and nearly crush Kirk's skull, or when Chapel and Spock are forced to kiss and Chapel admits that this is exactly what she's wanted but not like this, and Kirk and Uhura kiss and Uhura talks about how Kirk is the person who made her less afraid, or when the whip comes out, there is the sense that the Platonians are aiming to control not just the body but the hearts of their victims as well, which is what real totalitarian savagery is -- not killing someone but tearing them apart from the inside, breaking their will. That the episode does this in a kind of light, fanciful tone is part of what makes it so strange and puzzling.

...which is, I guess, to say that the interracial kiss was maybe not such a television watershed in-story. That they got the image of a white man and a black woman kissing on American network TV is impressive and admirable. But they were forced to against their will, you know? And while the story was careful not to depict the problem as that they were different races -- the problem is that it's awkward because it's a captain and one of his officers, and, more to the point, that they are being telekinetically controlled. But everyone knew that. It just makes the moment weird to watch, and associates this big "THIS IS WRONG" emotion over the moment.

Anyway, uh...I do not really know what I think of the episode, to be honest. I think that enough elements of it work that I'm inclined to think favourably of it -- but it is a bit of a slog to get through and I'm not sure if the long depiction of sadism is clever enough to justify...itself. I guess 2.5 stars.
Gordon, Edinburgh
Sun, Oct 26, 2014, 6:27am (UTC -6)
Point of interest - this episode was banned in the UK for many years. Nothing to do with the inter-racial kiss; we'd had them on UK TV years before this episode was made and nobody batted an eyelid. It was because the BBC apparently believed the episode encouraged sadism, or some such nonsense. Along with 'The Empath' it was left out of the constant reruns we got during the seventies and eighties. There was a third episode which was originally banned but did get shown the third or fourth time round; I forget which one. But viewers in the UK didn't get to see these two until the early nineties, if memory serves.
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 1:46am (UTC -6)
This episode was by far my favorite of TOS. There is such nuance and layering to make this a gem of all three seasons. The in depth exploration of Spock's psyche, as well as the graceful development of the Alexander character make this worthwhile on their own. Add to that, the performance of Shatner and Nimoy. Many have found this episode to be controversial, but it is not simply because of an interracial kiss. The circumstances that lead up to that forced affection and the whipping scene after are meant to be grotesque displays of power and feigned superiority. If fans of the show felt uncomfortable or awkward while watching Shatner and Nimoy flopping around in humiliating fashion, the objective was met. That was exactly the point. I applaud the actors for "going there" for the sake of the story. 4 stars!
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 10:24am (UTC -6)
@ Gordon:

The other episodes banned by the BBC was 'Whom Gods Destroy'. According to Memory Alpha, the broadcast of 'Miri' resulted in complaints, leading the Beeb to review all the other eps and decide 'Plato', 'Empath' and 'Gods' were unsuitable because they 'all dealt most unpleasantly with the already unpleasant subjects of madness, torture, sadism and disease'. 'Miri' wasn't shown again until the early 90s, and the three originally banned eps received their first UK air date around the same time.
Gul Senghosts
Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 4:17pm (UTC -6)
Horrible. Ghastly. Wretched. Disgraceful. Horrid.

The kiss is epic, incredibly important, and one of Trek's best ever radical and revolutionary moments.

But if you leave that kiss aside to judge the rest of this episode, it's not looking good. TOS has a history of shabby episodes, and this one's one of the worst even among those. I would call the script stupid worthless trash but that would be too generous. I can't even find any words for this catastrophe, I just don't know where to start, and every word wasted on this is at least one too many.

If it weren't for that kiss: on a scale of 1 - 4, this is a solid -3.
Lt. Yarko
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 2:11am (UTC -6)
Didn't even get to see their lips touch. And if we did, can we really count a black woman and a white man being psychically forced to kiss a real interracial kiss? They were trying their hardest, it seemed, to avoid it! Worst first interracial kiss ever. Funny, there can only be one first interracial kiss and, man, did we f*ck it up.
Sun, Sep 25, 2016, 5:24pm (UTC -6)
One of the better season three episodes, IMHO

The character arc of Alexander was brilliantly played and always felt real, maybe because it's still relevant today.

The interactions of the main three were on par with previous seasons, with each wanting to save the others and Spock finding the whole thing so loathsome that he can barely control himself. It was a good bit of character development.

The ending did lack any sort of comeuppance for the antagonists, which is always frustrating, but par for the course with TOS villains, who are almost always easily forgiven by Kirk no matter the atrocities they inflicted (Khan, those tentacle monsters in human form who turned everyone into giant dice in "By Any Other Name", the Gorn, etc). Oddly, minor villains usually are punished (Harry Mudd, Tyrano Jones).
Sat, Dec 17, 2016, 9:59pm (UTC -6)
This was worse than Spock brain
Fri, Apr 14, 2017, 6:41am (UTC -6)
I'm amazed the actors didn't flat out refuse to perform the ridiculous nonsense in this episode. The writers must seriously hate them.
Mon, Jun 5, 2017, 1:15pm (UTC -6)
Early on, just after our heroes meet Alexander for the first time (giant shadow - tiny man - sooo 1960s!) there's a point at which Parmen (or someone) summons Alexander, and he goes "Excuse me, someone's waiting for you..." then he jumps around and scurries off backwards to the next room with a look of fright on his face. That moment freaked! me! out!! 😨 It didn't help that it was late at night and dark and quiet in the house. Yikes!
Tue, Jun 27, 2017, 7:35am (UTC -6)
If this was meant to be hilarious, it worked. If it was meant to be serious drama, it failed.
Fri, Jun 30, 2017, 2:29pm (UTC -6)
The parts of "Plato's Stepchildren" when Kirk/Spock are humiliated are my least favorite in all of 60s Trek. I am a huge fans of these 2, their obviously massive contribution in the Trek cannon, but to see them humiliated in this manner was hard to watch. The parts were well-acted by Shatner/Nimoy and McCoy's part was well played too - I think he tried to minimize the damage but wasn't sure what he could do until finally giving in.

As for the interracial kiss - may be a big deal in the 60s but obviously not now. Trek was known for being groundbreaking in many ways and I guess this interracial kiss is just another example.

On the bright side, Alexander's part was really well played. His facial expressions of distaste etc. as Kirk/Spock/Uhura/Chapel get humiliated is so well done. The episode really exemplifies some of 60s Trek's "higher morals" -- Alexander says he doesn't want to become like Parmen and Kirk talks about other worlds where there is no psychokinetic power and short/tall etc. people are all treated equally. Plenty of Trek's ideals come through in this episode despite some of the distasteful parts of the plot.

Like other commenters I would have liked to see some punishment dished out to Parmen - Kirk lets him off too easily. But this is not the first time we've seen this - "The Gamesters of Triskelion" is another example where it's hard to believe the antagonists will carry out their promises.

The sadistic humiliation/torture scenes were a bit too long - it is fine to make the point about Parmen's nature. I kind of think this episode could have been fit into a 1/2 hour.

I'd rate "Plato's Stepchildren" 2.5 stars - some important ideas in this episode but went on a bit much with the humiliation/torture -- can really see how some won't like this episode for those parts.
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 4:35am (UTC -6)
I laughed during the tweedle-dee bit and horse acting.
Fri, Oct 6, 2017, 6:50pm (UTC -6)
This episode is an absolute disgrace to Star Trek. Hateful, sadistic humiliation. Along with Spock's Brain, one of the worst pieces of trash in TOS.
Tue, Oct 17, 2017, 8:18am (UTC -6)
Plato's Stepchildren strikes me as being way ahead of its time. The humiliations Kirk and the gang are forced to enact are silly on one level, but they also point to forms of humiliation, embarrassment and debasement which are disturbing when read on an allegorical level: rape, dehumanization, forced violent and sexual games done solely for the amusement of a ruling class whose power is largely arbitrary etc etc. It's Trek doing Pasolini's graphic masterpiece, "Salo: 120 Days of Sodom", for children and a TV audience. I found this all to be very disturbing when the implications - rather than the execution - are dwelt upon. One can imagine a modern show doing this episode with nudity and blatant violence and/or S and M whippings, and so running the accidental risk of titillation, something which this episode avoids.

There's also something grotesque about the whole episode; the ludicrous, decadent, campy nature of the Platonian's utopia, makes their violence seem more arbitrary and so more twisted and sick. This is an utterly needless violence whose aim is purely for the pleasure of a very tiny (and themselves vulnerable) social class.

I thought Spock's song, "Maiden Wine", was also very touching. And for all the furor over Kirk kissing Uhura, it was his whipping of her - a black woman - which I found shocking. I hadn't remembered that scene taking place. Given the humiliation culture we currently live in - from state sanctioned torture, to the infamous Abu Ghraib photos, to torture porn, to people humiliating themselves just to be on TV - Kirk's arguments for dignity are also fitting.

Anyway, not a great episode, sure, and filled with laughable moments; but very twisted, disturbing and thematically interesting I thought.
Tue, Nov 28, 2017, 7:05am (UTC -6)
They should have phasered Parmen when they had the chance. So who was holding the Enterprise at bay 5hat whole time?Parmen by himself?
Trek fan
Wed, Nov 29, 2017, 5:54pm (UTC -6)
One of the all-time classic TOS episodes, "Plato's Stepchildren" is a riveting examination of human cruelty writ large by omnipotent power, and a clever meta-commentary on the Greek gods with perhaps more interest than the stately "Who Mourns for Adonais?" of Season Two. Together with "The Tholian Web" and "Day of the Dove," Season Three delivers three classics in a row here, with better lighting and special effects and acting overall. And "Stepchildren," with its dignified central arc of the dwarf Alexander who gains the upper hand and proves to be the bigger man than his former tormentors, is a 4-star classic for me.

There's also the particularly strong sense of tension here, as the crew is genuinely tormented (rather than threatened by abstract countdowns to doom) by the villainous Parmen (the guest characters are especially vivid and strong here) and other "philosopher kings." And while Chekov and Sulu sit this episode out, Uhura and Chapel figure in the main plot as captives brought to enact humilitations for the Platonians, with clever continuity in the Chapel-Spock dynamic (a real Schroedinger's Cat relationship decades before Picard-Crusher) contrasted nicely against the Uhura-Kirk dynamic that is clearly forced in every way by contrast. Chapel has real feelings for Spock, but there's nothing between Kirk and Uhura, and the whole spectacle of their torment is riveting and edgy television even without the interracial kiss.

This one is fun to watch simply to see how the crew gets out of an impossible situation, with the Kirk-McCoy-Spock friendship bolstered by the addition of Chapel and Uhura to the mix. For philosophical debate, Spock has some great lines for Parmen in critique of his alleged paradise, and the sight of the Platonians laughing hysterically at people humiliate themselves at the end feels like a remarkably fresh social critique of the way our culture finds entertainment in the shaming of others. Spock's keen intellectual torment and the way McCoy, of all people, fiercely stands up for him really pushes their love-hate relationship further into the friendship zone as we'll see again later this season on shows like the brilliant "The Empath." Good character stuff here for the regulars, well-performed, and it's a high point for TOS.

But the central arc of Alexander and his tormentors is especially touching, feeling real at every beat. Alexander is a remarkably sympathetic character and the story steadfastly refuses to demean him (Kirk's joke at one point is genuinely funny because it comes from a place of affection rather than the sadism Parmen displays) or reduce him to a revenge-driven cipher. He's one of the better-rounded and well-realized guest stars in the history of Trek. I really empathized with him and liked him; the story treats him as a real person deserving of respect whom the Federation values equally to others. Great Trekkian idealism here: In the face of barbarism, the crew works with Alexander to preserve their common dignity, and Alexander himself is so disgusted by the behavior of his tormentors that he can't bring himself to behave likewise when he gains the upper hand. In a word: Wow. Very rare depth and complexity here for a TV show of any era, even our own today.
Sun, Dec 10, 2017, 5:25pm (UTC -6)
I've been watching the entirety of TOS through on Netflix. This is the first episode that I've felt deserved 0 stars. Spocks Brain was bad, but it had comedy value, even if unintentional.

Plodding, dull, and ridiculous in the extreme. The cast must've needed a strong drink after this one.

It is as described earlier a particularly hateful and wretched episode.
Thu, Jan 11, 2018, 7:43pm (UTC -6)
I liked this episode even while recoiling in horror at the sadism displayed. I agree with all the four-star reviews here. Mission accomplished.

One thing I didn't find anyone cited: We finally get to see the full face of the Medical Tricorder (what McCoy sees) when he's comparing Alexander's blood to Parmen's, a sort of oscilliscope display with multi-colored tracings. It was brief. But cool.
Paul C
Tue, Feb 6, 2018, 7:43am (UTC -6)
The first half of this episode is basically unwatchable and (unintentionally) hilarious. It rescues itself when they start to decide how to solve the problem. Then it's actually quite good and ties the story up well.

The episode contains the lines, 'colour, size, race isn't important'. But this episode is famous for, ironically, it being very important. Sad, really.
Sat, Jul 21, 2018, 9:24pm (UTC -6)
Whether or not they new this was episode was culturally spot on with the excesses of the Greek culture. Even though democratic their society still had slaves, violence subjugation of women etc. From a critic of Plato and the Greeks it was said that some of his philosophy was authoritarian. For example Aristotle thought the Black race was inferior. Can they be trusted I think not. Totalitarian regimes and their philosophers started by looking at the the Greeks. Their objectivism philosophy said that the physical world really did not exist. If you start there you can twist people's perceptions to what you want them to be. In Plato's Stepchildren it is uncanny that the pseudo Greeks had a power that could not be seen and not used by everyone. Kind of like the Science fiction version of the SS or Nazi state. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al were just pawns to be used in this case for entertainment. Just doing their part, entertaining, for the good of the whole. Not to have any individual thoughts or feelings of their own; like a bunch of Nazi automatons who just did what the Fuhrer said in lock step. Nothing for the individual just for the state . Fascism runs deep. Enough of that. For me personally this was the episode I related to the most because I could as a 9 year old, ironically to the day when this was first released, who was picked on horribly as a child by kids and teachers relate to Alexander. He did not end up wanting to be like the Platosions and just wanted to get out. Good job Alex make your own choices do what is best for you. Well this is a choice everyone should make. Please read Angus Song's Flowers from the Garden of Evil in which he explains the roots of Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism in the modern world. Hopefully we don't make the same mistakes in the future. Well?
Thu, Nov 8, 2018, 4:36pm (UTC -6)
Watched this episode in college with a room full of people during a tv marathon, maybe 13 of us. i had seen all of TOS prior but I could only remember this one vaguely for whatever reason as 'the one where they dance and sing and the spock kiss'--like, did not even remember it was also the famous kirk/uhura kiss episode, did not remember the plot at all or alexander. it was totally surreal because although the images were familiar in that dejavu-movies-from-childhood way, it felt on some level like a first viewing or a lost episode from a show i thought i knew literally backwards and forwards. I can only surmise that i spent years of star trek viewing subconsciously skipping it entirely--perhaps for some of the same reasons described above for those who hate the episode.

Maybe as a young trek fan it seemed too silly or juvenile with all of the horseplay to a mind too young to quite get the adult implications but feeling too mature for the surface ham of it, maybe I got it just enough to be deeply discomforted at the humiliation of my heroes. I honestly dont know how i experienced it before this night.

That viewing party had about a half-half ratio of full blown veteran trekkies and casual fans--some there for nostalgia who had probably seen a few episodes with daddy or come-with-a-friend types who had a general cultural awareness and were there to giggle at some shatner--all valid reasons to watch some trek, and we had been tuned in for hours at this point, commercials and all. The bloodwine I brought was long gone and the party had taken over the actual viewing by this point.

And then I saw this episode LITERALLY TRANSFIX the entire group, myself included. The two vets I was with were rolling their eyes and I was totally embarrassed that I couldn't remember what I should be eye-rolling about lol and they wanted to leave but I of course secretly wanted to stay because for me it was kind of like watching new trek for the first time in years. So i convinced them to stay by being like, guys, LOOK at how the rest of them are watching this! They've been giggling at shanter all night--even during the great episodes getting mad at us for shushing them and now look at them! they are silent, leaned forward, on the edges of their seats CARING about KIRK with lined serious faces, NOT laughing at shanter and nimoy crawl around and sing? Im pretty sure i actually said 'fascinating.'

Anyway, they stayed and I watched the episode right along with the newbies (also riveted myself) and after a while I saw my trek friends fall into the group mind tool--seeing it through their friends eyes and then feeling it differently than they had before. There were TEARS in that room when Alexander’s monologue was through. When Spock asked Kirk if he felt anger i HEARD people inhale sharp and then hold breath.

After the episode--by some silent agreement of groupthink the tv went off and the, like, 13ish of us talked trek for 4 more hours! None of the new fans left and today all of them are seen-every-episode-ENT-->VOY fans that I freak-tweet during discovery episodes. For most of them, this is their favorite episode. The group as a whole considers it brilliant, even the longest standing trekkies in the group eventually had to admit that night (3 hours to 3 years later) that if it could affect a whole room that way randomly, even if it wasn't their taste or on their top 10 list, that for some people it was doing what they also loved best about trek--making them think, reevaluate, explore, learn, grow, discuss, debate, synthesize, so many ideas all around a ridiculously campy backdrop, a made-up world etc.

In the end, it's a favorite for me too. In fact its on my personal introduce-a-friend-to-trek list now. I try not to tell them how "stupid" it is before they watch. Ive realized over the years that it is still polarizing. Some people ultimately find it TOO gratuitous or TOO exploitative or just TOO cheesy in its presentation though sound in concept--like many people above. But Trek as a whole is TOO everything at some point. It’s a giant, sprawling, unevenly gratuitous/exploitative/cheesy-in-practice-if-not-theory/goodadjectivestoo beast where there is room for other people to see brilliance differently. Some people like Janeway more than Picard because they think the erratic writing of her character makes her more interesting on repeat viewing--a pastiche of the developing StarTrekCaptain character like a dissection and meta-examination of the tropes of trek itself, or because they interpret her philosophical inconsistency as an exploration of her psychological trauma as a lone authority figure isolated from her command structure. Both are interesting reads that have made VOY more enjoyable to me over the years.

Some of the people who watched Plato’s Stepchildren that night say they never saw better acting in TOS ever again--one of them says this episode is the crown jewel of nimoy’s spock and makes the argument in detail as part of a thesis years later (it was her first introduction to trek). They have high praise for how WELL they think the director/actors/episode convey the depth and gravity of torture/sadism/control through classical performance styles like you might see on a stage with only the actors bodies to engage with and almost no reliance on TV magic.

Anyway, I've had a lot of conversations about this episode over the years at this point and my thoughts along with the thoughts of my friends and the internet have melted together so much that at this point I'm not sure what parts of the case I make for it are mine per say. It's still not my absolute favorite episode and I still know for some reason I skipped it for years but it has brought more richness to my experience of social fandom than any other single episode in the franchise. My advice is to try it again with someone farther outside the fandom and hear what they say without bombarding them with trek-dogmas first.

Peter G.
Thu, Nov 8, 2018, 4:54pm (UTC -6)
I'm in the middle of rewatching this one right now and noticed you review, JTiberius. Thanks for the great write-up. I also think this one is top-notch Trek.
Wed, Dec 5, 2018, 8:01pm (UTC -6)
Studying Ancient Greek myself, I was quite surprised Alexander quoted the Greek frog ribbit sounds (brekek-koax) of Aristophanes’ classic comedy “Frogs”. This is a quite specific nod to people who have actually read Ancient Greek literature.

Unfortunately, I disliked great parts of this episode, because it did not catch at all the spirit of the Ancient Greek culture or of Platos thoughts or philosophy. Parmen acts like a simpleminded sadistic tyrant, without honor or ethical values. The Platonians are flatly depicted as vile and sadistic because the episode just needed antagonists Kirk and his crew had to fight against.

I dont see a serious critique of Greek culture, and Platons philosopher-kings would have surely not acted in such a silly immature way. The problem is, the episode suggests exacty that to the audience and the Greek culture is shown in a very distorted way. They acted more like Romans than Greeks and looked like Americans dressed up on a Greek themed party. ;-)

2 of 4 stars because of some positive aspects (which mostly involve Spock)
Peter G.
Thu, Dec 6, 2018, 12:05am (UTC -6)
@ Jessie,

Nice catch with the Aristophanes. And I've been too derelict to ever read him I never would have known that.

However one thing I would point out is that the episode in no way has an intention to depict Ancient Greek society, or any type of society that's literally been on Earth. The Platonians specifically say that they developed their culture based on what they read in Plato's Republic. I happen to be doing a careful reading of the Republic right now, by coincidence, and if you take Socrates' arguments very literally what he describes is on its face basically a fascist state, not totally unlike that of Sparta at the time, where the entire culture is based on creating the most competent guardians (read: warriors). And if you think Parmen's sadistic manner is totally off-base, which I agree it is, I regret to say that most people I've met basically think Plato is advocating for exactly what Parmen demonstrates. I've seen and heard sophisticated academics quite confident that Plato's philosopher kings are basically evil tyrants. I personally do not believe his dialogue is really any kind of advocacy for that, but that takes deeper reading between the lines of what Socrates actually says. So while I agree it's off-base in that it misses Plato's intended point, it's an all-too-common reading of the Republic so in that sense is completely realistic and predictable. And also sadly predictable is a people with a new-found power that can be used for tyranny, finding some excuse to justify using it. From that standpoint I would call the premise of the episode 100% believable; actually not just believable, but probably the most likely result to happen all things being equal.
Tue, Mar 5, 2019, 7:05am (UTC -6)
I just finished watching this. Given that I was at least mildly stoned at the time, my attitude was almost purely analytical, and I did not really have much of an emotional reaction of any kind, to what was done to the crew here. I did, however, experience some incredulity and wondered what the point was, or what the writers thought they were accomplishing with this.

I assume that the intent was to satirise Plato's own attitude; that a society eternally dedicated to a single, static ideal, without dynamism or adaptability, was believed to be acceptable, as long as said ethos was itself considered to be good. The tyranny of Parman offered a solid refutation of this; that unless compassion and sentient discernment are exercised, literally any law or stated ideal can be perverted into endorsing or justifying sadism.

Plato and his Utopia are good medicine for me, whenever I begin to fetishise archaism, and mentally condemn our own society as degenerate. It is not rules by themselves which will ensure humanity's survival, but compassionate understanding of why the rules themselves exist, practiced on a continual basis.

In hindsight, I also have no objection to Parman being left unpunished. Let him study the contrast between his treatment of the Enterprise crew, and their corresponding treatment of him. There are times when a pacifist response can generate almost equal agony through humiliation, to what might be experienced on the rack.
Tue, Mar 19, 2019, 1:32pm (UTC -6)
Great episode even with the very cringy humiliation scenes.Also few give credit to
Michael Dunn thats dr. lovelace to all you wild wild west fans.
Mon, Apr 29, 2019, 12:26am (UTC -6)
The pacing of this weird episode is all over the place. They could have vastly improved it by trimming down the time spent on those overly-long telekinesis sequences. As it is, they just draaagggg on for way too long.

- Like others, I too was surprised to hear the Greek quotation from Aristophanes "The Frogs." (I wonder if the writer had a background in Greek or Classical Lit?)

- Kirk gets a shield, Spock gets a kithara musical instrument, and Bones gets... a scroll of vastly outdated Greek medicine! Thanks a lot!

- I laughed out loud when I saw and heard horse-Kirk rearing up and whinnying. That would make an awesome meme.

- This episode was way dark and twisted for network TV. I can't believe the censors let them get away with showing a scene where two women are about to be tortured with a whip and a red hot poker! Yikes!

- The one bright spot for me in this whole mess is that Uhura gets a nice costume change into a very flattering dress, and her character gets to have a little more dialogue than what's usually allotted to her.
Other Chris
Mon, May 6, 2019, 6:18am (UTC -6)
I got to witness the characters feel the pain that I've felt watching this third season, and it wasn't satisfying at all.
Jason R.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 9:16am (UTC -6)
This episode is much better than I remembered, especially due to the Alexander character, who really elevates the proceedings. The Platonians really are on a totally different level of villainy from any previous characters in TOS.

The ending, mind you, is laughable. After the grotesqueries inflicted on them by the Platonians, Kirk's admonishment of Parman and the others amounts to little more than a mild scolding. I know that the Federation doesn't make a practice of blowing up anyone that attacks them, but seriously? "see that you do!" That's it? It should be noted that Parman alone was so powerful that he could hold the Enterprise in orbit with just his mind!
Sun, May 26, 2019, 11:04pm (UTC -6)
The best part of this was Alexander. Excellent work from the actor. The relationship with Kirk worked well

The worst part was the gratuitous, repetitive scenes of humiliation and torture. The part where African Uhura's white "boss" whips her was most cringeworthy of all.

I think this was a story about how absolute power corrupts absolutely. So many years of luxury and power have left the powerful totally twisted and vile. Only the powerless Alexander retains his decency and humanity.

Ending is weak.

Overall, Alexander lifts this to above average.
Sarjenka's Brother
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 11:35pm (UTC -6)
The show was really going all over the place by this stage.

It's almost as is each episode was put together by an entirely different team of producers, writers and directors who had never seen a previous episode. Mood, tone and everything gyrate wildly. (Although the obsession with historical Earth cultures sadly remained intact).

In hindsight, definitely the sickest episode of the 72 with the whip and hot poker, but not the worst episode of the series.

Micheal Dunn was really good as Alexander.

I think "The Tholian Web" is the next to last good episode, with "All Our Yesterdays" being the only good one remaining.
Sun, Dec 29, 2019, 5:21pm (UTC -6)
This was a good one, definitely one of those that sticks around in your head as you turn over its themes. I feel like a lot of the negative reactions in this thread boil down to "Well, I never!" but considering how extreme this episode is tonally in comparison to the rest of the series I can understand how it's not everyone's cup of tea. Personally I'm always down for a takedown of a corrupt ruling class whose smug sadism and dehumanizing attitudes are matched only by their utter banality, and the surreal camp factor is just icing on the cake.

I had heard about the interracial kiss; I didn't know that the next five minutes featured Kirk literally whipping that same black woman. Holy shit.

Most of my thoughts on this episode have been covered above, but I thought that the exceptionally written and acted character of Alexander's refusal to claim the powers for himself was all the more powerful because it was instant and completely independent of anyone else's influence. The writers could have easily had Alexander be eager for revenge and the chance to lord power over his former tormentors until Kirk and company talk him down. Instead, Kirk tells him he could run this bitch and he's like hell no, that ain't me.

I was expecting hardcore camp, and I got it, but there was also a lot more going on here.
Sleeper Agent
Thu, Apr 23, 2020, 3:54am (UTC -6)
Very boring episode which takes the ending from "I, Mudd" and stretches it out over a whole episode. Uhura's appearance and Spock's singing were the only highlights IMHO.

However, reading some of the comments makes me wonder if I was being too impatient with "Plato's Stepchildren". Certainly I will have to return to this one some day and give it another shot.

But as for now,
I / IV
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 5:41am (UTC -6)
Plato’s Stepchildren

Season 3 episode 10

"With smiling words and tender touch,
Man offers little and asks for so much;
He loves in the breathless excitement of night,
Then leaves with your treasure in cold morning light."

- Spock, singing beautifully

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

The set up for this episode is very interesting. An alien race from the Sahndara star system was forced to flee their homeworld when their sun went nova three thousand years ago. A few of that race’s survivors came to Earth. It was a time when Greece was the center of civilization, and this alien race quickly adopted the Greeks' modes of living and philosophies.

This is the second time we’ve seen aliens on Star Trek closely associated with Greek culture. The first time was in season 2, in "Who Mourns for Adonais?” There the great Apollo and his compatriots had visited Earth five thousand years ago, but left when Earth’s culture changed, and humans stopped worshiping them as gods.

Here, the aliens fell in love with the Greek culture that we now know a different set of aliens, Apollo & Co., had inspired. And when that culture died, these aliens left Earth and brought Greek culture with them to a new and unknown planet. There they lived for more than two thousand years in relative stagnation, while back on Earth, mankind progressed, and themselves reach the stars.

And as was true when Kirk met Apollo, this meeting is also doomed almost from the start.

In the interim, these aliens have developed telekinetic abilities. It seems, there is something in the water.

For an idle life of the mind, probably few philosophers are as appropriate as Plato. Most of Plato's philosophy was ghastly, and no society has ever been based upon it. In his mangum opus on ruling a “utopia," Plato figures the only way he’d ever be able to put his theories into practice, is if he could brainwash the children without any interference from parents. So he proposed strict controls on breeding and population,

"We shall, then, ordain festivals in which we shall bring together the brides and the bridegrooms. But the number of the marriages we will leave to the discretion of the rulers, that they may keep the number of the citizens as nearly as may be the same, taking into account wars and diseases and all such considerations, and that, so far as possible, our city may not grow too great or too small.”

If you were a good little soldier, the rulers in Plato’s system would give you more chances to have sex,

"And on the young men, surely, who excel in war and other pursuits we must bestow honors and prizes, and, in particular, the opportunity of more frequent intercourse with the women, which will at the same time be a plausible pretext for having them beget as many of the children as possible.”

All kids are taken away by the government, and if the government thinks a kid is somehow defective, that kid should just be killed off,

“And the children thus born will be taken over by the officials appointed for this. The offspring of the good, they will take to the pen or créche, but the offspring of the inferior, and any of those of the other sort who are born defective, they will properly dispose of in secret, so that no one will know what has become of them.”

Is it any wonder then, how the aliens in "Plato’s Stepchildren" treat Alexander?

The Greeks were a wonderful culture - wine, food, song, theater, architecture and of course their Olympics are still a force for world-peace, even to this day. But they also had their monsters. And Plato’s ideas on how to run The Republic were monstrous.

It is that monstrous philosophy that attracted these aliens so much that they modeled their entire society on it. What’s that old saying? Takes one to know one.

I have seen very few critiques of Plato as devastating as Plato’s Stepchildren. I suspect most people haven’t even read The Republic (@Peter G., did you finish your careful reading?).

I don’t know much about the writer of this episode, Meyer Dolinsky, but I commend him on getting the fascist feel of Plato exactly right.

In addition to "Who Mourns for Adonais?”, this episode is also a good follow up to "The Gamesters of Triskelion”. Once again, pure intellectualism is a poor foundation for governance, and almost certainly leads to sadism in the pursuit of elite’s stimulation (h/t @Trent).

This is epic Trek. The actors are perfect. Kirk is top notch with Alexander, and maybe not till Tyrion Lannister decades later, do we get a more noble dwarf on TV. Barbara Babcock plays Philana perfectly - every gesture, every expression is worth your attention - she basically cums watching the fantasia performed by our four heroes.

Of course Trek is best when it is showing us the infinite possibilities for good that lay in our future. But it is also good to remember what can go very, very badly if we are led by evil philosophies from our own past.

Plus, I never tire of hearing Spock sing.
Peter G.
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 10:07am (UTC -6)
@ Mal,

Sadly no, it's been difficult for the past couple of years to have any quiet time to continue the reading of The Republic. We're still in book 7 or something. However I will say by this point in the book I'm quite confident that Plato is not advocating for the society they are describing in the book. The reason I think this strange society is being depicted is because Socrates is asked what a society would look like that fills certain criteria, and he paints a picture to answer the question. Neither he, nor especially Plato (who speaks only through his dialogues) ever say that there's anything good about this place, only that it is an attempt to answer a question asked in a philosophical conversation about justice.

Aside from The Republican, Mal, why would you suggest that any of Plato's dialogues are "ghastly"? They are like the most polite and amusing examples of how to ask the right questions about important topics. None of them claims to answer anything (i.e. they are not dogmatic), and are generally understood to be thinking manuals.
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 11:10am (UTC -6)
Are you talking about the Politea? I have read it.
You have to see it in context. It is heavily influenced by the Spartan state to no small part because Socrates was sentenced to death by the Athenian democracy. Sure living in Plato's state doesn't sound appealing but his whole thinking was influenced by the constant warfare of the Greek States that is why he created this extremely static society model. No major inequalities are allowed. The children are taken away because the strongest reason for people to break rules apart from greed is to help their children.

And about philosophy from that time. Aristotle starts his major political work (politics) with a justification for slavery. Lots of messed up stuff from our viewpoint.
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 7:53pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G., I know what you mean!
Who has the space any more to read with so many intrusions on our attention? Sometimes I plan a vacation just around a few good books. As long as the the place has no TV and no internet, I find I can really get into it. I read a couple wonderful novels over Christmas/New Years this year, and all it required was that I travel about 600 miles from my wifi :-)

I think Plato gets a lot of advantage from being sandwiched between two great thinkers, his teacher Socrates, and his student, Aristotle. I don't know that Plato himself contributed anywhere near what the other two did. But since Socrates was a little like Jesus, in that he didn't bother to write anything down, I suppose we'll have to take Plato as Saul: his scribe for the ages.

When you read Aristotle, you'll get a sense of the heights that Greek philosophy could reach, the philosophy upon which their vast civilization across the Mediterranean and till Persia, was based. Aristotle was Alexander the Great's teacher, and his student seems to have done something with his education.

You can find a lot of Aristotle online.

I love that page 1, paragraph 1, starts with "The End" :-)

And the best part of it is the Table of Contents. You don't have to read the whole thing. You can just find a topic you like, and jump right in.

Aristotle of course has a lot of respect for his teacher Plato. He starts his criticism of Plato with saying how difficult it is "in view of our friendship". But, he says, Truth sometimes requires a sacrifice of what we hold nearest and dearest. The pursuit of Truth is a sacred duty. And then he tears into Plato, but very gently ;)

The great painter Raphael showed that Plato and Aristotle were pursuing opposite ends in his painting now hanging in the Vatican,

where Plato is pointing up, representing his pie-in-the-sky philosophy, while Aristotle's hand is grounded in the facts.

Most of what we know Plato for is often attributed to his teacher Socrates. For example, the Cave is told by Socrates.

But Plato - in contrast to an absolute devotion to the truth pursued by his teacher and student - was a proponent of the Noble Lie.

Plato's Noble Lie led to an insane amount of evil over the next few thousand years.

There are some fun short videos on Plato, made for our age when reading is not exactly a trivial task,

The videos are probably a better than slogging through The Republic.

There are so many better uses of our time. Like watching old Star Trek episodes!
Fri, May 7, 2021, 2:51am (UTC -6)
A bizarre and surreal episode, worth watching to see Kirk and Spock acting so out of character.

In all, a sort of Ancient Greek morality play - entertaining but not really Trek. As a one-off story it deserves 3 stars, but as a Trek episode, only 2.

An unpleasant moment at the end: Kirk has been good towards Alexander all the way through, but when beaming him up at the end, he grins and says “I’ve got a little surprise for you.” A wince-inducing moment.
Sun, May 9, 2021, 9:04am (UTC -6)
Well, the acceptable term for a dwarf is a "little" person so Kirk's comment at the end didn't bother me. Alexander was small in stature and since the Trek universe celebrates what makes us infinitely diverse, "little" would not have been thought of as a disparaging term in Kirk's mind. Alexander seems to understand this and is smiling.
Mon, May 31, 2021, 6:24pm (UTC -6)
I don't understand this at all. I see everyone complaining about TOS campiness and rethreaded storylines yet the most embarrassing and derivative episode of the entire franchise is endlessly praised here. Not only embarrassing but it's nasty and shameful, almost as if the writers hated the characters, it's even worse than Nemesis.

The leaps of logic to convince me that a telekinetic supergod can do all this sorts of thing it's astonishing. Even the famous kiss scene is bad, not only censored but also because Kirk is being forced to do it, which makes it even worse. It's a shame that a historical scene like this it's in this awful episode, should've been saved for a quality one.
Sun, Oct 17, 2021, 6:43pm (UTC -6)
Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome...for a starship whose mission is to seek out new civilizations, they excel at finding old ones. So many episodes wasted on Earth civilizations and so many missed opportunities to explore the wonders of the universe.
Mark P.
Sat, Nov 13, 2021, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
A top ten episode. I especially like the scenes featuring Kirk and Alexander. Also the way Spock and Bones work together to reason out the way the power is acquired. The "kiss" is overrated as a part of this episode.
Wed, Nov 24, 2021, 8:02am (UTC -6)
"Plato's Stepchildren" is a favorite episode of mine.
A giant shadow at the beginning is revealed as that society's most diminutive member this a suggestion of Plato's allegory of the cave perhaps?

Michael Dunn (Alexander) puts in a great performance, which serves to say that the physically unprepossessing should not be discounted as a force in a society. Alexander at the end of it, is the one Platonian worth saving from this world.

Parmen and the other tall dudes are worthless. No republic of value there.

Last scene should have been a concert for the crew by Spock and Uhura in the Enterprise recreation room:

"Great Pan sounds his horn....marking time on the ground with his hoof...with his hoof. Forward, forward in our plan, We proceed as we began." "Alexander is the man."
Sun, Dec 26, 2021, 6:15pm (UTC -6)
Loved this.

Almost the definitive example of "classic Trek". Ridiculously overpowered aliens, making our crew look foolish. Shatner and Nimoy going from over the top camp one minute, to incredibly moving and heartfelt the next. A strong message about acceptance and judging people on their merit, not their colour or creed.

Quintessential Trek - 4 stars.
Sun, Oct 23, 2022, 1:07pm (UTC -6)
Kinda of lazy writing there, eh? So, the aliens decided they need a doctor there; well, McCoy can't stay, but hey, there are milions of doctors around the universe, and if the platonians are offering such a good enviroment there, they will have no trouble getting one doctor to come.

I mean, maybe the platonians would still want to torture the crew anyway, but c'mom, this "it's just because we need a doctor" justification sounded very cheap.
Ms Spock
Tue, Nov 22, 2022, 2:26pm (UTC -6)
This episode still seems pretty new to me - as someone explained upthread this is one of the episodes the BBC banned due to it depicting scenes of torture/violence/madness (they also banned Whom Gods Destroy, the Empath and, after one showing, Miri). There was a big letter campaign at one point but a form letter came back along those lines and they didn't change their mind so I think the episodes weren't shown till the 90s. One or two were shown at Trek conventions - remember seeing The Empath that way and eventually VCR tapes came out, initially very expensive.

The inter racial kiss was never a problem - there had been quite a few on UK TV dating back to the fifties -

It's very uncomfortable viewing for what is done to Kirk, Spock, Uhura and Chapel but it does make the strong point that the hypocrites running the show are sadists. Parman's wife in particular is practically salivating through the various scenes of torture. Possibly one bit could have been cut out as the horse neighing/acting is a bit OTT.

I can't really comment on whether Plato is being critiqued but Spock does point out early on that it isn't a Platonic society because justice is excluded, and the title indicates that they aren't really true children of Plato. The actor who plays Alexander is very sympathetic and convincing, and there's a touching relationship between him and Kirk who makes the important Trek point that where they come from there isn't discrimination on size or anything else.

As for whether the Platonists were really wanting Dr McCoy above other doctors - well, he had proved his credentials when he saved Parman's life. Plus they got their rocks off torturing people and to do all that to a man's friends to force him to stay gave an added savour they didn't usually experience from their routine mistreatment of Alexander. They certainly weren't going to let the Enterprise crew go, to warn the galaxy about these Platonians who were advertising for another doctor!
Thu, Dec 1, 2022, 8:15am (UTC -6)
Great Ceasars Ghost!! This is twice now that Kirk has run into Barbara Babcock and hasn't scored. I'm losing faith in the series. Totally out of character. Memorable episode, but certainly not one of my favorites.
Mon, Jan 9, 2023, 5:51pm (UTC -6)
Like some other Season 3 episodes, Plato's Stepchildren questions what prior TOS seasons had built. This time our heroes are humiliated by a sadistic alien. Whether that makes for enjoyable viewing in this format depends on one's entertainment preferences.

FWIW, the first actual interracial kiss instead happens in What Are Little Girls Made Of? There the kiss between Uhura and Chapel is merely a cheek peck, but unlike in this ep, we see them touch, and even that was something new for TV.
Ron S
Thu, Jan 19, 2023, 12:42am (UTC -6)
Awful. Far worse than Spock’s Brain.

Michael Dunn’s fine performance is buried under 15 feet of year-old sewage.

Mr. Jimmy
Mon, Jan 30, 2023, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
This is the single worst episode of the original series, and more than anything, probably single-handedly got the series canceled. This is far worse than "Spock's Brain", wedged in between the excellent "The Tholian Web" and "Wink Of An Eye". "Plato's Stepchildren" is horrible almost beyond belief, right up there with "The Gamesters Of Triskelion ", cringe worthy, and practically unwatchable.
Fri, Jul 28, 2023, 3:07pm (UTC -6)
I have to largely agree with the generally favorable comments above, although I do sympathize with the negative comments as well. But this episode has some pretty big ideas underneath the absurdity that swing for the fences, whether it connects on those ideas is debatable. But I salute the effort and ambition.

It’s been several years since I’ve read Plato’s Republic, so I’m a bit rusty, but if I remember correctly Socrates discusses multiple issues before even delving into the hypotheticals of social order, such as aging and the nature of justice. It’s the first discussion he has with cephanes(spelling?) about the cost/benefit of aging that came to mind for me in this rewatch, as philana brags about her youthfulness even after three millennia. I always wondered if Socrates/Plato was establishing a prerequisite for the proper “philosopher-king” through his reflections on age, laying the groundwork to imply that to have the necessary wisdom to rule in the fantasy utopia that gets constructed one must escape the world of desire that dominates youth. Age leads to contentedness through the diminishment of desires and passions, and thus provides less fertile soil for the corruption of power. The platonians essentially don’t age, and thus never truly achieve a state of contemplative serenity and remain corrupted by their petty wants. This is demonstrated every time poor Alexander is dragged from a room against his will to satisfy a platonian desire. They can’t achieve wisdom, and thus can never be the ideal rulers, because they never escape youth.

It’s possible that the episode’s writer didn’t actually intend such a thorough reading of The Republic to be infused into the episode, but given that Alexander essentially quotes Aristophanes, it seems like there might be a bunch of Greek philosophy Easter eggs jammed into this outing.

Then there’s the kiss. I’m rather taken aback by some of the above commenters minimizing the importance of a moment like that. I mean, who cares if the shot was blocked in such a way that we don’t actually see their lips touch, that’s not the point. It’s like criticizing Neil Armstrong for not busting out some breakdancing moves as he hit the moon’s surface. Get some perspective already.

A few other thoughts:
-to someone with no tech, even basic tech looks like magic. This episode could be going for an extrapolation of Plato’s republic into a technological social context. The idea being that as technology grants ever greater power, the corruptive potential of that power grows in proportion. Any top town social organization has that potential for power abuse, but that potential is multiplied if those in power have greater tools than those under the yoke. Not sure if there’s a lot in episode to support that, but I like the blending of sci-fi with ancient philosophy, so I’m running with it.
-there’s definitely a major theme about the corruptive nature of absolute power, with multiple angles of interpretation: Parmen as government/political establishment,
Parmen as culture/social pressure,
Parmen as corrupted individual. They all work great.
-between who mourns for Adonis and Plato’s stepchildren, Ancient Greece was a busy place.
-so to have superpowers all you have to do is eat some kironide? if it’s that easy to gain god-like powers it’s no wonder there are so many god-like jerks strolling around the galaxy. Kinda wreaks havoc with canon tho, why haven’t we ever run into this magic stuff again? This sort of thing has a tendency to irk my inner nerd.
-the humiliation scenes were a bit much, I think I got the idea after Parmen played “stop hitting yourself” with Kirk’s face. I’m not sure we needed so much extra.

2.75/4 tasty Vulcan power ballads.
Beard of Sisko
Mon, Sep 4, 2023, 6:47am (UTC -6)
Frankly, I don't think the interracial kiss is even worth mentioning or celebrating. No, not because it's not a big deal in the here and now, but even in the context of the episode, it's not something that should be celebrated; both Kirk and Uhura are being sexually assaulted as neither party is a willing participant. That's more relevant than the fact that the two of them aren't the same race.
Tue, Oct 10, 2023, 11:33am (UTC -6)
My God this is horrific. Battling through it but just seen Kirk pretend to be a horse while some dwarf rides around on his back. Coffin meet final nail.
Neo the Beagle
Fri, Nov 3, 2023, 7:54pm (UTC -6)
Horrible. Not only does it get ZERO paws from this dog, I hereby leave a steaming pile of opinion for whomever likes this episode.
Neo the Beagle
Fri, Nov 3, 2023, 8:06pm (UTC -6)
And , I can't stop vomiting after enduring this. Most cruel. And very disappointed that it was not James West who saved Migilito Lovelace from Parmen, instead of James Kirk

Submit a comment

I agree to the terms of use

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2023 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. Terms of use.