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Reviews & Ratings for
"Star Trek" Plato's Stepchildren (1968)

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26 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Power Corrupts Even Saints on Platonius

7/10
Author: Bogmeister from United States
11 February 2007

Well, there never were any saints on Platonius, I'd wager. No, I would say that the small grouping of inhabitants on this planet were always egoist boors, even before acquiring their power. Kirk, Spock & McCoy beam down to a culture patterned after ancient Greece, to treat an infection suffered by the group's leader. However, the resemblance to the old-time Greek philosophers & intellectuals is mostly superficial: the jerks here possess vast telekinetic powers and enjoy using them on 'lesser' beings for purposes of humiliation, to satisfy their sadistic need for vicarious entertainment. In other words, they're bored as hell after an existence of over two millennium and the Enterprise crew offer a brief respite from the doldrums. A cautionary take on the 'power corrupts' principle, the episode shows how these Platonians are unable (read: unwilling) to hold back from using their power for even the briefest of periods. Kirk gets the first sampling when Parmen, the leader, forces him to slap himself repeatedly. It gets worse, much worse.

This episode probably elicits different reactions from viewers based on their ages and life experiences. I know when I was younger - much younger - I couldn't help but laugh when Kirk & Spock started into their forced Tweedledee & Tweedledum routine. With age, callousness gave way to empathy, and now I sympathize with the heroes, because this is torture and I already know what's next; it reminds me of some of the worst excesses of our history, such as how the Jews suffered under the Nazis or the slavery in America before the 20th century. Unlike their turns at an Abbott & Costello shtick in "The Trouble With Tribbles," when we were laughing with them, here we either laugh at them or boil in anger, in anticipation of some payback. In the end, however, this is a good case study of just how far we've evolved in the 23rd century, according to the Trek-makers: Kirk, Spock & McCoy retain their dignity even as they're humiliated and even when the time for revenge has arrived. We see that they will never revert to some of the base instincts mankind left behind 200 years earlier - it's rather inspirational.

This episode is known for the first interracial kiss on TV, occurring between Kirk and Uhura when the Platonians escalate their sadistic manipulations. It's ironic that this kiss is forced and it still caused controversy back in the sixties, though I've also noted attempts to downplay it in later decades, with some stating that the two performers did not actually make contact. Well, it looks like contact to me (I've also read some accounts that Shatner purposely spoiled the takes where they may not be actually touching, forcing the editors to use the take where they were). You can downplay it all you want, but what was the 2nd interracial kiss on TV? I sure don't know, though I guess it would be interesting to look up on the internet. By the way, these Platonians are another example of aliens visiting Earth in ancient times, much like Apollo and his brood from the "Who Mourns For Adonais?" episode; it seems a common occurrence in the Trek universe. This also benefited from the guest star turn by actor Dunn, better known for his mesmerizing portrayal of the villainous Loveless on the "Wild Wild West" TV series.

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

the weirdest Star Trek episode

6/10
Author: HelloTexas11 from United States
22 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While 'The Way To Eden' and 'Spock's Brain' often vie for the title of All Time Worst Episode of the original series, I don't think there's a serious contender to the claim of 'Plato's Stepchildren' as All Time Strangest Episode. There were some other oddball entries, no doubt, particularly in the third season but this one about a group of superpowerful humans living in their own version of a Platonian utopia has some very disturbing undertones of depravity, cruelty, and humiliation. The show isn't bashful about putting this perverse behavior on display. It's actually quite daring for its time and place... that an episode of a network TV series back in 1969 would even cover such ground is amazing. Of course, not all of it works. There are many bits that are unintentionally hilarious, others that are cringeworthy. There is the constant reminder in Alexander's treatment by the others of man's inhumanity to man. By way of the Platonian's mind control, Kirk is forced to slap himself (repeatedly), dance, sing, act like a horse, even kiss Uhura before using a bullwhip on her and Nurse Chapel. Spock is similarly humiliated. In an odd turn of events though, Kirk pretty much shrugs off his degradation while Spock takes his, shall we say, very personally. The scene where he and Kirk discuss their mutual ordeal is quite something, and one of the best scenes in the episode. Spock looks like he might implode with anger. Other parts shine as well; the character of Alexander is sharply written and has the best dialogue. Kirk and Spock are eventually able to duplicate the Platonian's power and the overall effect of the final scene is of a bunch of petty bullies being shown up and discredited. (But not before we get to hear Spock warble 'Bitter Dregs,' one of his lesser hits.) I think it is to Star Trek's credit that they were still trying in that last season... the cast and writers and everyone involved weren't just phoning it in, they were still reaching for interesting stories to tell and occasionally succeeding.

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Despite a super-dumb plot, it is oddly watchable

7/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
8 December 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Okay, it was sure silly when the Enterprise investigated one planet inhabited by 20th century-style Romans and another which was a re-creation of the Nazis. However, these bizarre and impossible situations made the visit to aliens who act like they are the descendent's of the ancient Athenians not so impossible to take after all! Sure, it's all completely silly, but somehow the execution is good enough to keep the episode from being dumb. In fact, since these Platonians are also super-powerful, it's pretty cool to see them abuse their power and torture not only their pet dwarf, but the crew members. While stating that they are enlightened and honorable, the Greek Freaks are really just petty little jerks who love pushing around weaker people. Well, despite their hubris, in the end, Kirk is able to defeat them and watch these pansies beg for mercy.

Interestingly enough, aside from being a pretty good episode, this show has the distinction of having the first American televised interracial kiss between cast members of a series, as Kirk kisses Uhura passionately on the mouth. According to a book written later by writers of the show, this passionate kiss wasn't the first between Ms. Nichols and Mr. Shatner!

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14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Again, sometimes wrongfully dismissed.

Author: Blueghost from The San Francisco Bay Area
20 January 2010

There's a theory in psychology that if you press a person's buttons that you'll get to the heart of the matter regarding whatever it is that's bothering them, and hence be able "to cure them" of whatever emotional ailment is believed to be afflicting them.

What does this mean? It means torture. Not in the physical sense, but in the grade school sense where one is taunted and teased to the point of breaking. Any parent will tell you that the solution is a good spanking, slap across the cheek, or a "time out" where said problem child is placed in a corner, and not allowed to speak to anyone or interact with anything.

Now, what if you were an adult and experienced this? Your normal reaction would be to retort back or ignore the matter, until you couldn't take it anymore. So it is with Plato's Stepchildren, as we see a typical luring of the afflicted represented by Kirk, Spock and McCoy "to treat" the psychiatric-needful and physiologically distraught Parman, a man who models himself and his society after one of Plato's utopias (down to the slave class).

Like unexpectant, hapless, unworried patients approaching a "facility" they, the U.S.S. Enterprise's trio representing the ship's command of heart and mind, are lured to do bidding they have not foreseen.

The allegorical doctor is Parman. This script, like much of Roddenberry's fare, is taken right out of case examples of Psychology Today, where the patient is mentally tortured for "a cure". Nevermind the fact that this defies all principles of civilized nations, which seems to be the point that Kirk and Spock make after the display of debauchery they are forced to exemplify for a lurid audience who might as well be peep-show addicts down at the local porn shop. So it is the message of the author of this episode to the world of alleged mental health, and their snake-oil filled shelves of cures. The audience at the end of the episode are, in fact, psychologists represented allegorically.

Does a civilized nation of any sort, burden itself with such a pyramidal scheme of political power the likes of which are invested in Parman? The forcing of affections, the creation of a display against one's will, the violation of basic decency on the part of the subjects in question, in this case Captain James T. Kirk and Executive Officer Mister Spock, may seem like child's play to the child like mind, but it is serious business with men and women of pride and a code of conduct are concerned.

Would you like to be Kirk or Spock in this episode? Take care for your answer, because it does happen.

It is not until the balance of power is brought back that a sense of reciprocity is forthcoming. More than justice, but not quite revenge. Is this how things work in the real world from which the allegory is drawn?

No.

What we're witnessing are school yard tactics which are often employed and labeled as "office politics" in the workplace. Either way it's unwarranted, and, if taken too far, libel to be the subject of arrest and a law suit for those involved in executing "the treatment".

Thankfully this is fiction. And not just fiction, but Science Fiction, and one of our favorites; 1960's era Star Trek :-)

The down-shot of this Trek installment is of course once more that it's another 3rd season low budget episode. Or, at lest low budget by Star Trek standards. No red shirts were hurt in the filming of this episode (thank goodness), and the musical accompaniment is narrow in scope as opposed to the relatively adventurous and grand orchestrations by the great Alexander Courage.

We have to ignore things like why doesn't the ship and crew just do Action-X or execute Plan-Y? Well, it's taken care of in the script as best as possible, but it does give one a moment of pause. But again, the episode's thrust is the indolent seeker of power to tamper with a thing that doesn't need tampering. I wonder if Plato would approve.

Note; interracial kiss; unfortunately Shatner denied it, then embraced it, then denied it once more according some involved. Looking at it in retrospect it's a silly thing. Men and women, whoever they are, should be allowed to feel and express affection for one another. Unless of course you're the actor involved, and you think your career might be damaged by it. Again, fortunately this is Trek, and know that the social taboos of yesteryear are just that; gone.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Star Trek Roman Around

6/10
Author: Hitchcoc from United States
6 May 2014

Silly science fiction, certainly. The only strength of this episode is to see those self- centered toga wearers get theirs and for the little guy to come out on top. Of course, like so many advanced civilizations in the original series, here we go again with their shortsightedness and their need to do evil instead of something positive with their powers. Kirk and the gang land on a planet that was every stereotype of ancient Roman culture we can come up with. The people have mastered telekinesis and use it to make the Enterprise crew look like fools, making them dance and do things utterly embarrassing to them. The whole coliseum full are smarmy, useless creatures who get their jollies from watching pain. Alexander is the gofer for them, ridiculed because he is a little person. He feels a total lack of importance. The problem here is that it is downright ridiculous, another earth culture that has revived itself in outer space. Man, the imagination was truly lacking.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"Where I come from, size, shape, or color makes no difference".

7/10
Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
25 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Well you have to admit, Star Trek came up with some pretty goofy stuff from time to time. Kirk and Spock have a Monty Python moment in this episode with their Tweedledum routine, and there's even a scene where Spock laughs because, let's face it, he probably couldn't keep a straight face with some of the nonsense going on.

It's too bad the message of the story didn't stand out more than the quote in my summary line might have suggested. The best scenes had to do with Kirk's uplifting dialog with Alexander (Michael Dunn), providing him with inspiration and hope even as the little guy kept getting tortured by Parmen's (Liam Sullivan) mental blasts. For a society bred toward contemplation, self-reliance and longevity, the Platonians certainly didn't apply any humanity to their world view.

And taking the 'color makes no difference' angle a step further, the Captain plants one on Uhura in TV's first inter-racial kiss. I know everyone else on this board has mentioned it already, but this really WAS a big deal. A year later, ex-footballer Jim Brown had a big screen inter-racial match up with Raquel Welch in "100 Rifles", and though I'm not sure if that was the first movie instance of black and white lovers, it had to be close. So once again, Star Trek broke new ground, going where no man had gone before.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Uncomfortable but solid theme about degradation and human nature

Author: Doug Mertaugh from United States
20 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This episode is one of my guilty pleasures. While I had seen the show as a child on it's first run, this was the first episode I watched as an adult. It had the bonus of involving telekinesis (or psychokinesis as it was called in the episode), something I find fascinating within the realm of fiction.

There is no question that the story has heaping logical flaws. These Platonians have lived a few thousand years so they must have a tremendous resistance to disease as well as longevity but a mere cut infects Parmen badly just from sitting around all the time. But once Dr. McCoy helps him, the doctor comments upon Parmen's amazing recuperative powers. Then there are problems such as the Platonians had apparently visited Earth during Plato's era or shortly thereafter and then left but he forces Kirk and Spock to quote Lewis Carroll. And he knows about this how? The episode falls into a typical Trek pattern as the telekinesis of the Platonians seems without limits although in this case, the heroes can give themselves the same abilities as the seemingly all-powerful aliens, which is an unusual twist.

One comment I've heard throughout the years is, "Since Kirk stated they could recreate the power at will now that they know how, why haven't they pulled it out of mothballs to stomp the Borg and others easily when they were attacked?" This is just one of those situations where you have to take each episode as a self-contained reality having no bearing on future stories. That would be far less likely to work these days. If you like, Kirk was wrong. It can only be simulated for a short time and only using materials on Platonius.

The acting is unusually good in this one. Even Shatner's acting is good considering the humiliating situations. Liam Sullivan as Parmen is the heart of aristocratic evil and desperate need for anything to keep him going. Barbara Babcock as Philana beautifully portrays the desire to feel and, so I got the impression, to participate rather than just watch feelings. Michael Dunn, whose portrayal of Dr. Miquelito Loveless in "The Wild Wild West" was superb here takes a character who has to spout a lot of exposition and makes him the most sympathetic character.

It's hard to buy into the idea that it's their longevity and power that has "made them crazy" since Alexander says he was brought there as the court buffoon to begin with, that they already had a smug, class divided society and that they started really pushing him around the day they got the powers.

It was a tribute to the philosophy of Star Trek though that, once they triumphed, Kirk tossed revenge out the window as did Spock.

I found the sets to be bright and highly attractive, perhaps the more so because there was a certain stage set unreality to them. I think I found the power fascinating as well because it had to be acted rather than accomplished by CGI.

One note is that the "First interracial kiss on television" thing is a long debunked fallacy. The first interracial kiss was almost any episode of "I Love Lucy". If specifically black and white is meant, there was previously a variety show where a black and white person kissed. Only if one means specifically fiction on television between two characters who are one black and one white does it become the first interracial kiss and even then, it is clearly filmed in such a way that one cannot tell whether they are really kissing or not. Even if they are, we cannot see it- unlike the undeniable and prolonged kiss between Spock and Chapel. So it will always be argued whether it was or was not the first interracial kiss or a kiss at all.

The episode is uncomfortable to watch but what I think a lot of people miss is that this is because the raw emotion and display of the negatives in human nature make it uncomfortable. Sure, Kirk on all fours neighing like a horse seems funny from one point of view and yet in the sequel to "Roots", we have the LeVar Burton (ironically, a Star Trek connection) character on all fours neighing like a horse and being ridden by children while staring at someone with a look in his eyes that says how degrading and dehumanizing this is. I suppose by trying to make the same point but doing it with aliens in a fantastic setting, it's hard for the audience to get by the window dressing and recognize the same theme and situation. This is about the lowest levels of degradation that humans can sink to, not just the victims but more so the perpetrators.

There are those who rate it as the worst original Trek episode but it is probably my second favorite next to "The Empath", yet another episode rated low by many people but which cuts to the very essence of what Star Trek is which, in my opinion, is about admitting what we have inside us, the depths we can sink to but making a choice and rising to the highest levels we are capable of.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Humiliated by Platonians

7/10
Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
6 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Having responded to a distress signal from an unknown planet Kirk, Spock and McCoy are greeted by a dwarf named Alexander who takes them to the society's leader Parmen who is threaten by an infected cut. After McCoy treats him the away team learn that this society, the Platonians, is based on the Ancient Greek society which they visited before it fell. They then moved to their current home where a eugenics programme led to a tiny population which is effectively immortal and everybody apart from Alexander has telekinetic powers. They say that this incident shows that they need a physician so they insist that McCoy stays with them. When he refuses they use their powers to humiliate Kirk and Spock; treating them like puppets. McCoy manages to discover the source of the Platonian's power and replicate it but he is unsure how long it will take to work. Before it can start working the Platonians have force Uhuru and Nurse Chapel to beam down and join in their cruel puppet show.

This is one of the best known episodes of Star Trek thanks to the inter-racial kiss between Kirk and Uhuru; thankfully anybody watching know would hardly think twice about the characters different races. That doesn't mean it isn't a rather disturbing scene because the characters are being forced to act against their will; there is a sadistic side to Platonians in general and Parmen in particular and the way he deliberately humiliates Kirk, Spock and later Uhuru and Chapel makes for some uncomfortable viewing. The cast do solid job with guest stars Michael Dunn being likable as Alexander and Liam Sullivan being suitably unlikable as Parman. The story itself is entertaining enough although we have had enough of societies that either mirror or are based on historical Earth societies… it might have been better had these characters just been aliens without all the Grecian trappings. Overall a solid enough episode but not as good as it could have been.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Absolute Power

6/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
7 June 2014

Again a reference to earth culture in a Star Trek episode for a reference point for viewers. Some travelers in space who at one time settled in ancient Greece and admired the culture have now settled on a planet and have developed their minds kind of like the Krells had done in Forbidden Planet. Only their monster from the ID is nothing like a pretend creature from the depths of their souls.

They've developed their minds and psychokinetic abilities to such a degree that they make everyone else dance to their tune. Such is what they do for amusement to several Enterprise crew members. They do have a purpose in mind. They're a finely tuned genetic machine these Platonians, but having achieved almost immortality and eradicating those pesty one celled things that cause disease they're immune systems are non-existent. When DeForest Kelley treats the head Platonian Liam Sullivan for a simple cut that has grown infected, Sullivan decides a Platonian doctor on call is what the planet lacks.

Sullivan is also willing to go any lengths to keep Dr. McCoy there at his beck and call. And of course making the Enterprise crew do what you want them to do is good amusement. Previously the only one whom they could do it to was dwarf Michael Dunn.

An interesting parable about absolute power. This Star Trek episode should be seen back to back with Forbidden Planet.

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Big bully tortures the good guys - without end

1/10
Author: Christopher Baird from United States
3 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is not much to the plot of this episode. Some super-powerful Greek-looking aliens decide to torture Kirk and Spock by controlling their bodies and making them do embarrassing, painful, and downright evil things. The show goes too far and shows the aliens deriving sadistic pleasure from forcing Kirk to kiss and then whip Uhura, and Spock does the same to Nurse Chapel. I am amazed that this episode was even allowed to air on 1960's television. Sadism has no place in entertainment, even if it's the bad guys doing it. You keep watching thinking that Kirk will take control before things get too bad, but he doesn't until the very end and things just keep getting worse. This episode is demeaning to the characters as well as the actors that had to go through with it, and should have been rejected by the production crew.

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