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Plato's Stepchildren

Suppose that, sometime early in the third season, the actors went to the new producer and said, "We don't like the direction the show is going. Let's go back to what we had before." The producer nodded thoughtfully, and said, "I'll take it under advisement." Then he commissioned a script whose sole purpose was to humiliate those actors so that they would never question him again.

I'm not saying that's what happened. I don't even know if such a thing would be within the realm of possibility for Freiberger and Singer. But that's what this script looks like. So, Nimoy likes to sing? Let's give him a number. So, Shatner thinks he can act? How about acting like a horse? These actors think they should have some input? Let's make it clear to them what pawns they are.

How else can you explain the content here? There are so many better -- and less humiliating -- ways to tell exactly the same story. Not that the story is good, mind you. The premise is very, very dumb: a dying civilization goes to Earth, meets Plato, then sets up shop on another planet where they still dress like ancient Greeks, but now the food gives them kinetic powers. This isn't even B-movie material! The characters are nothing at all -- not even types, just placeholders. The entry point for our heroes is so weak (Platonians have no doctors) that it is simply foolish to think you could slip it past Trek's astute viewers. This terrible idea led to a terrible script which led to a terrible episode.

I'll admit that not everything is terrible. You shouldn't really blame the guest stars for the vendetta they've walked into. In fact, Dunn as Alexander is quite memorable, and manages to find pathos in a mere sketch of a character. And both Sullivan and Babcock shine as the arrogant Platonians (though the second-tier Platonians are positively laughable). Sullivan especially makes Parmen the very seat of evil. Babcock does disdain, disinterest and a beautiful evil smile better than anybody.

This episode also raised a stink by purporting to contain the first ever interracial kiss on television. The only problem is that Shatner's lips clearly never touch Nichols. He does a little spin and moves her head into a position that almost covers what's going on. But it is clearly visible that his lips are not engaged in a kiss at all. Perhaps this was to satisfy a censor who was unwilling to break that particular barrier. Let's give them credit, however, for getting close enough to make everyone think it had happened.

Special effects on the Trek set rarely sunk to this Bewitched-quality level. I haven't looked closely, but I'm pretty sure those things moved because of wires attached to them. Really, wires! Hard to believe, eh? It's every bit as undignified as what the actors are forced to do.

It's interesting that not everyone sees this episode for what it really is. Some reviews applaud it. But Alexander, who cringes practically through the whole thing, has got it just right. By the time the quick fix comes around (McCoy whips up a potion from his medical kit and, boom, everybody's got the power!), this episode has humiliated everyone associated with the production -- right on down to the overactive make-up artist who did Barrett's eyelids.

Rating: Very Bottom (7)