Tuesday, November 27, 2018


So much of Star Trek can be said to be "iconic". From the language used – "warp speed" and "beam me up, Scotty"– to the familiar triad of colorful costumes to the props – phasers and tricorders – there's much that has entered into our verbal and visual lexicon in the fifty years of Star Trek's existence. But at its core, Star Trek has always been about far more than pop-culture references. It still endures because of the stories told, the lessons learned. It told stories the likes of which had never before been seen on TV. Stories about life and death, love and loss, the nature of what it is to be human and so much more.

And delicately sandwiched into one of those stories was a history-making moment that seems quaint today, but it had repercussions across the country at the time. It was a moment so fraught with controversy that NBC feared that some stations might actually refused to air it. It was a whirlwind of angst that was brought about because of something that has happened tens of thousands of times throughout television history.

It was about a kiss. A kiss that all Star Trek fans know of but about which the public by and large knows nothing.

On November 22, 1968 – about fifty years ago to the date! – A Star Trek episode called "Plato's Stepchildren" aired for the first time on NBC. In many ways it is an unremarkable episode and seldom appears on anyone's list of favorites. IMBD summarizes the story thusly:

"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."

The race that the crew encounters have adopted classical Greek culture, and named themselves Platonians in honor of the Greek philosopher Plato. This is why it's often called "the Greek episode" (not to be confused with "Who Mourns for Adonais?", another Greek story).

They use their psionic abilities against our intrepid heroes until they are able to turn the tables on them. But along the way, Kirk and Spock are arrogantly humiliated, forced to sing and dance like court jesters. Eventually, the Platonians use their powers to force two other Enterprise officers to the planet – Uhura and Chapel. Forced to each wear Greek garb, the Enterprise foursome quickly get their bodies usurped by the leader who proceeds to make them perform for the gathered Platonians and a captive McCoy, including forcing Kirk and Uhura into a passionate kiss.

And that kiss was the issue. It was remarkable for one reason alone: it was the first time that a black person and a white person ever kissed on American television. Other shows had featured kissing between Asian and caucasian actors, but never THIS. But, despite NBC's fears, little was made of the kiss upon its actual airing. The episode ended up being shown everywhere and fan reactions were overwhelmingly positive. There was some outrage (mostly from southerners, apparently) but it was in the minority.

To put this into context, it was only one year before that the US Supreme Court deemed anti-miscegenation (interracial marriage) laws unconstitutional. The late 60's was a tumultuous time for race relations in the US, so NBC had every right to expect some turmoil. Luckily, little was manifested.

So that's the history behind that kiss. And that's why it's exciting that some particular offerings from the upcoming Prop Store auction are part of that history-making moment. The auction features many pieces from the Comisar Collection which contains a number of items from the original collection of William Ware Theiss, Star Trek's much-heralded costume designer. And among those pieces are none other than the Greek garb worn by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in "Plato's Stepchildren".

Because of the great provenance that is inherent to the original William Ware Theiss Collection, there is no doubt as to the originality of these pieces. But just to do due diligence, I compared the auction pieces to screen captures from the episode because one never knows

Most costumes are very hard to screen-match (i.e.: definitively identify a given piece as one seen on-screen) with any certainty because most costumes are usually mundane everyday items – dark suits and solid colored pieces that show little, if any, detail. But pieces like the "Plato's Stepchildren" costumes are exactly the opposite of plain. They feature a rich assortment of easy-to-see details that can easily be examined and compared and the auction pieces don't disappoint.

Whether it's the nature of the fabric's weave, the number of striped areas or the fine pattern seen in the sash and belt, everything matches wonderfully. The colors are still bright and vivid due to careful storage. The Spock piece nets the same result.

As with the Kirk, all the specific patterns and details match up. Prop Store has more great close-ups on the auction listing so I urge you to check those out as well.  There's many other fantastic Star Trek pieces in the auction as well. You'll find the auction details including a downloadable PDF and the on-line catalog at Prop Store's Comisar Auction.

Any piece worn by Kirk or Spock always brings great attention and these are no exception. Add in the historical aspect and these become even more special. If you've always wanted a piece of Star Trek history, there's no better opportunity than now! Bidding is now open with the live auction taking place on December 1 at 10:00 am PST.

Best of luck!



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