Star Trek TOS: Spock Sings Amid a Backdrop of Nonviolence
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 3, Episode 10
An unknown planet was sending desperate calls, and Kirk plus his men were on the move. When they arrived at the place, a little person greeted them, explaining some people needed medical care. The leader of the planet was suffering from a massive leg infection.
Alexander was the little guy, and he informed his countrymen that Kirk and his friends were there to help. While giving that mini speech, a woman named Philana forced Alexander to bite his own hand — with some sort of mind control.
The folks on this planet modeled society after the teachings of Plato and somehow possessed psychokinetic abilities. They could move stuff with their minds. The Platonians didn’t do well with bodily injury as such maladies caused their psychokinetics to malfunction. This was evident when the leader with the infected leg began making rifts on Enterprise — even though he was nowhere near the ship.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy tamed the frenetic activity, but Kirk wanted to head home to Enterprise. McCoy insisted he should tend to the leader, Parmen. Kirk took a liking to Alexander, who was the one person on the planet sans psychokinetic powers.
Soon, Kirk learned that all technical activity on Enterprise was frozen, leaving Parmen to claim credit. He was holding Kirk’s crew hostage, claiming himself as superior to the Starfleeters. He even used his powers on Kirk, making him slap himself repeatedly.
For some reason, Parmen apologized soon after, albeit a hollow gesture. Parmen would restore all operation to Enterprise — in exchange for McCoy remaining on the planet. Kirk was unimpressed. Parmen also insisted his society was the most democratic one ever assembled, chiding the Starfleet system as oppressive because it embraced weaponry. He instructed Kirk and Spock to get the hell out peacefully while McCoy stayed behind permeanantely.
That discussion went off the rails as Parmen took control of Kirk’s body and coerced Spock into a tap-dance routine, threatening to stomp all over Kirk. This man had total control over everyone’s physical faculties. Parmen even made Kirk turn into a figurative horse with Alexander on his back, neighing and the whole bit. Memorable for the show — embarrassing for Captain Kirk.
Kirk and Spock eventually recovered from their spells. Serving as a team player, McCoy offered consent to the offer of staying with the Platonians, which was quickly rebuffed by Kirk. Alexander stopped by to chat, and Kirk persuaded him to believe Parmen manipulated his brain and blood. And that royally peeved Alexander once he bought into the theory.
Out of nowhere, Uhura and Nurse Chapel were beamed down to join the Starfleeters. Along with Kirk and Spock, they were dressed in togas and summoned to a spectacle for Parmen’s entertainment.
We even got a serenade from Spock in Plato’s Stepchildren, singing an ode to Uhura and Chapel. It sounded like a Catholic church song.
McCoy determined the source of the psychokinetic power — the food. So, he synthezied the compound and injected Kirk and Spock with the “kironide.” Ultimately, that’s how Kirk and Spock neutralized Parmen. Alexander was given the opportunity to murder Parmen — you know, an act of vengeance — but Kirk taught him that he’d be the same evildoer as Parmen if he crossed the line.
No murders took place. In a vintage Star Trek moment, Kirk chose nonviolence to stop Parmen. The Platonian leader vowed to be benevolent in his future travels. There was an element of good faith there, but Star Trek prefers reformation to retaliation — always.
Plus, Enterprise gained a new shipmate — Alexander beamed back up with the group when they returned to their ship.
The takeaway from Plato’s Stepchildren was a reaffirmation of Kirk’s continuous quest to preach nonviolence and diplomacy over Western-like retribution
Themes: Nonviolence, Diplomacy
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).