The kiss that changed the world

StarMetro Edmonton - - DAILY LIFE - Jesse J. Hol­land Get the full story on the kiss at thes­tar.com/en­ter­tain­ment

WASH­ING­TON—It was the kiss heard around the galaxy.

Fifty years ago — and only one year after the U.S. Supreme Court de­clared in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage was le­gal — two of sci­ence fic­tion’s most en­dur­ing char­ac­ters, Cap­tain James T. Kirk and Lieu­tenant Ny­ota Uhura, kissed each other on Star Trek.

It wasn’t ro­man­tic. Sadis­tic, hu­man­like aliens forced the dash­ing white cap­tain to lock lips with the beau­ti­ful Black com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer.

But the kiss be­tween ac­tors Wil­liam Shat­ner and Nichelle Nichols in “Plato’s Stepchil­dren” would help change at­ti­tudes in Amer­ica about what was al­lowed to be shown on TV, and made an early state­ment about the com­ing ac­cep­tance of in­ter­ra­cial re­la­tion­ships in a United States still strug­gling with racism and civil rights.

The kiss be­tween Uhura and Kirk “sug­gested that there was a fu­ture where these is­sues were not such a big deal,” said Eric Deg­gans, na­tional

tele­vi­sion critic for Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio.

“The char­ac­ters them­selves were not freak­ing out be­cause a Black woman was kiss­ing a white man … In this utopian like fu­ture, we solved this is­sue. We’re be­yond it. That was a won­der­ful mes­sage to send.”

“Plato’s Stepchil­dren” came be­fore Star Trek mor­phed into a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non. The show’s pro­duc­ers, mean­while, were con­cerned about one of the main episode el­e­ments: hu­man­like aliens dressed as an­cient Greeks who tor­ture the crew with their tele­ki­netic pow­ers and force the two USS En­ter­prise crew mem­bers to kiss.

Wor­ried about re­ac­tion from South­ern tele­vi­sion sta­tions, showrun­ners filmed the kiss be­tween Shat­ner and Nichols — their lips are mostly ob­scured by the back of Nichols’ head — and wanted to film a sec­ond where it hap­pened off-screen.

But Nichols said in her book Be­yond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Mem­o­ries that she and Shat­ner de­lib­er­ately flubbed lines to force the orig­i­nal take to be used.

De­spite con­cerns from ex­ec­u­tives, “Plato’s Stepchil­dren” aired with­out blow­back. In fact, it got the most “fan mail that Para­mount had ever got­ten on Star Trek for one episode,” Nichols said in a 2010 in­ter­view with the Archive of Amer­i­can Tele­vi­sion.

Of­fi­cials at Para­mount, the show’s pro­ducer, “were just sim­ply amazed and peo­ple have talked about it ever since,” said Nichols.

Nichelle Nichols’ and Wil­liam Shat­ner’s kiss made a state­ment on the ac­cep­tance of in­ter­ra­cial re­la­tion­ships.

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