Star Trek (1966–1969)
18 user 5 critic

Plato's Stepchildren 

After Dr. McCoy helps the leader of a planet populated by people with powerful psionic abilities, they decide to force him to stay by torturing his comrades until he submits.


David Alexander


Gene Roddenberry (created by), Meyer Dolinsky

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Episode complete credited cast:
William Shatner ... Capt. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy ... Mr. Spock
DeForest Kelley ... Dr. McCoy
Michael Dunn ... Alexander
Liam Sullivan ... Parmen
Barbara Babcock ... Philana
James Doohan ... Scott
Nichelle Nichols ... Uhura
Majel Barrett ... Nurse Chapel
Ted Scott Ted Scott ... Eraclitus
Derek Partridge ... Dionyd


On an urgent medical emergency, Kirk, Spock and McCoy encounter an alien society that had once flourished on earth during the time of Plato. Since reaching their current planet, they've developed psychokinetic powers while also losing their bodies' ability to combat even the simplest infection, making the need for a physician newly apparent. When Dr. McCoy declines their invitation to stay, they begin to make sport with Kirk, Spock, Nurse Chapel and Lieutenant Uhura using their psychokinetic powers. Written by laird-3

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Release Date:

22 November 1968 (USA) See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


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 that NBC exerted pressure to forbid lip contact, and to use a clever camera technique to conceal the "separation". If you look closely, you can tell that the actors' lips are not touching; the angle only makes it look like they might be slightly touching. See more »


Spock's ears are quite obviously fake prosthetic ears when he and Kirk wear the laurel wreaths on their heads towards the end of this episode. His left ear in particular has been bent to prevent the wreath slipping down any further and because of this it looks very abnormal and fake. See more »


Philana: Alexander, you talk too much.
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Featured in The True Story: Star Trek (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Again, sometimes wrongfully dismissed.
20 January 2010 | by BlueghostSee all my reviews

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?


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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