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Plato's Stepchildren

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TimelinePreviousNextYour View
Series :
The Original Series
Rating :
2
Disc No :
Episode :
68
First Aired :
22 Nov 1968
Stardate :
5784
Director :
Year :
Writers :
Season :
Guest Cast :
YATI :
The Platonians say they left Earth when the Greek civilization went into decline. Yet they know French phrases and Mexican dances, both invented much later in Earth's history.
Great Moment :
Virtually any moment that Alexander is on screen, but most especially his emphatic rejection of the Platonian's psychokinetic powers and subsequent speech to Parmen about his reason for doing so (see Quotations).
Body Count :
Zero.
Factoid :
This episode features the first inter-racial kiss ever screened on US television.

This episode was originally to be titled "The Sons of Socrates".


Plotline

Responding to a distress signal, the Enterprise crew finds a group of Humanoid aliens living on a remote planet who have modelled their society on the teachings of Earth philosopher Plato. The leader of the aliens, Parmen, is close to death as a result of a massive infection. It quickly becomes apparent that the aliens are possessed of massive psychokinetic abilities; Parmen's delirium is causing him to affect his surroundings in unpredictable ways. McCoy is able to cure Parmen easily, but the Platonians reveal that they plan to keep the landing party and use them for their own amusement, using their mental abilities to make the crew perform like puppets in a variety of entertainments. Kirk befriends Alexander, a Platonian of short stature who lacks the mental abilities of the others and is constantly abused by them as a result. Alexander is the only one of the group who displays any awareness that their actions are wrong, and has over time developed a colossal hatred of his fellows.

Eventually, McCoy is able to isolate and synthesise the environmental factor responsible for the Platonian's power and injects the Enterprise crew with it. They develop the same ability as the Platonians and use it to overpower Parmen, giving him the right to claim leadership of the Platonians. Alexander refuses to take the compound, expressing disgust at the idea that he might become any more like his comrades. Kirk offers to take him along with the Enterprise, which he gleefully accepts. Before leaving Parmen tells Kirk that he has come to realise how pointless his people's life has become, and how he hopes to make a change for the better. Kirk and Spock are sceptical, and makes it clear that Parmen had better be on his best behaviour since they now know exactly how to defeat him should it become necessary.

Analysis

I never really liked this episode all that much, as the basic concept is a little bit silly for my tastes. By now the "aliens who came to Earth long ago" had been done a few times and was already becoming a cliche (though the cliche would be repeated several times through future incarnations of Trek). Still, it makes a change to see that it is the aliens who were influenced by Humanity of the past, rather than vice versa as is more usually the case.

I'm not keen on the treatment of Spock here, either. Of course we have always known that Vulcans have emotions and must repress them because of their philosophy of logic, but this episode goes so far as to claim that expressing emotion will actually kill Spock! This is absolutely nonsensical, and it undercuts much of what we have seen of Vulcans. The whole point of the Vulcan tragedy is that they are so afraid of their dark side that they choose to repress all emotion, so missing out on the good side of them. But if this episode is correct then it's not really a choice at all - the Vulcan lifestyle is a necessity, since doing anything else would kill them all. The tragic aspect of the situation is almost completely negated by this approach.

What saves this episode from being really bad is the performances, most especially that of Michael Dunn as Alexander. He's a simply marvellous character, who has been surrounded by horror and abuse for over two thousand years yet rejects any suggestion that he might seek revenge - the very idea angers him, because he's quite simply a better person than that. Dunn is fabulous in the role, and he goes a long way toward overcoming some of the episodes other deficiencies.


© Graham & Ian Kennedy Page views : 22,768 Last updated : 23 Apr 2010