Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 3, Episode 10
Original Air Date: November 22, 1968
|via Memory Alpha|
Star Trek broke significant cultural ground on the evening of November 22, 1968 when Captain James T. Kirk kissed Lieutenant Nyota Uhura. For the first time in the history of American television, a kiss was scripted between a white man and a black woman. In 1968, interracial marriage was still illegal in much of the United States so this was no small matter. Network executives feared a boycott of the episode in the Deep South and demanded that two versions of the crucial scene be filmed, one with the kiss and one without. The cast deliberately botched every single take of the no-kiss version so in the end, there was no choice.
For all the worry, the backlash was essentially non-existent. The show got more fan mail for this episode than any other. Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) tells the story of the one mildly negative letter from a Southern fan. He wrote "I am totally opposed to the mixing of the races. However, any time a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a beautiful dame in his arms that looks like Uhura, he ain't gonna fight it." The episode was banned in Britain, not for the kiss as the BBC had already crossed that threshold but for the story's sadistic imagery.
Oh right, the story...
Drawn once again by a pesky fake distress call, Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to a planet which, according to their readings, does not support life. There, they encounter a civilization that has patterned itself after ancient Greece, particularly the philosophy of Plato. All possess telekinetic powers - all, that is, except for Alexander, the dwarf who first greets them. Because of his deficiencies, Alexander is mistreated by the others on the planet. As power dynamics shift, the episode engages in unusually insightful explorations of the relationship between the powerful and the powerless in a society, all of which feeds into the story's big moment. Our heroes fall under the control of the natives, as do Uhura and Nurse Chapel, all of which leads eventually to the kiss.
The kiss really isn't much of one. In fact, it's difficult to tell if lips ever actually touch. Shatner has always claimed it was a mere stage kiss whereas Nichols insists it's the real thing.
Vital musical side note: in our story, Spock sings a song called "Maiden Wine." Leonard Nimoy wrote the song himself. However, a double was hired for his flamenco dance, a Mr. Armando Gonzales.
Dunn's showbiz career began on the stage, then moved to film and television. He was nominated for a Tony in 1964 for his performance in The Ballad of the Sad Café and for an Oscar for 1965's Ship of Fools. On TV, he was best known for his multiple appearances on The Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless.
Dunn did a great deal of philanthropy work for children with dwarfism. Sadly, his own spinal deformities led to health complications that shortened his life. Dunn passed away in 1973 at age 38.