Star Trek: The Banned Episodes

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For much more on this topic, see The Four Banned Star Trek Episodes in the UK.
Title: Star Trek: The Banned Episodes
Creator: Stephen Bell
Date(s): February 1985
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
External Links:
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Star Trek: The Banned Episodes is an essay by Stephen Bell about the Star Trek: TOS episodes "Miri," "Plato's Stepchildren," "The Empath," and "Whom Gods Destroy" which were banned in the UK for a time.

The essay was published in Beta-Niobe in February 1985 and gives a little history, describes the four episodes, and ends with the opinion that all four episodes should be shown, but two are objectionable enough to be kept away from the children.

The Article

In the summer of 1984, the BBC announced that they would be showing once more the entire series of Star Trek. It had been several years since the world's most famous SF TY programme had been seen in the UK, and the news was greeted with enthusiasm by its legions of fans. There was also the certainty of capturing an entirely new audience among younger viewers. Although it is not a children's programme, Star Trek's popularity with children cannot be denied.

In one respect, however, the BBC's announcement was inaccurate; they have never yet shown the entire series of Star Trek. There are three episodes which have never been seen on TV in the UK, and after one showing in 1970, a fourth had had a similar ban imposed on it. When asked if these four episodes would be included in the current re-run, the BBC replied that they would not, as the content of all four was "considered unsuitable". This reply provoked a storm of protest in the 'Radio Times', to such an extent that the situation is being reviewed with the possibility that the episodes will be shown at a later date.

All this must be rather perplexing to anyone who is not a regular fan of the series. How can four episodes from a series which had prime-time scheduling in the conservative American TV networks of the sixties be deemed unsuitable for family-time viewing in the UK in 1984?

The problem started when the BBC showed the episode "Miri" in 1970. This provoked such a furor of protest from parents that it has not been shown since. It also prompted them to look very closely at the content of all the other episodes, with the result that three more ('The Empath', 'Whom Gods Destroy' and 'Plato's Stepchildren') were removed from the schedules. Except for the first season episode 'Miri', all of the banned stories are from the programme's third and final season, which by common agreement was the worst and contained some appalling scripts,

Whether or not the BBC does decide to show them remains to be seen; but those who feel they have waited long enough will be interested to know that all four episodes are now available on two video cassettes from CIC, After 15 years of waiting, the fans now have a chance to see these notorious episodes. So what is so objectionable about their content, and were the BBC justified in banning them?

I saw 'Miri' in 1970, and while I did not think it a particularly good episode, I could see nothing objectionable about it. In this story the Enterprise crew find a formerly civilised planet in a state of advanced decay. Only children still live there, and on entering puberty they succumb to a disease which causes them to age and die rapidly, Kirk, Spock and McCoy discover that the disease is a by-product of experiments in longevity by the planet' inhabitants. The experiments went wrong and all the adults died, leaving the children with a drastically reduced ageing rate. They remain as children for about 300 years, and then the ageing process suddenly accelerates. Aided by Miri, one of the children, Kirk persuades them to trust him and McCoy develops a cure for the disease.

Parents apparently assumed that this story was a bad influence on their children. The point to make here is that Star Trek is not, and never has been, a children's programme, and the story is science fiction sufficiently removed from reality to make such complaints groundless.

'Whom Gods Destroy', probably the best of the four, sees Kirk and Spock trapped on a planet used as a lunatic asylum which has been taken over by Garth, a former starship captain who is now one of the inmates. Garth has insane delusions of immortality and conquest, and tries to force Kirk to reveal the code phrase which will provide him with the chance to take over the Enterprise. He has developed the power to transmute his appearance, and masquerades as both has developed the power to transmute his appearance, and masquerades as both Kirk and Spock in turn in an attempt to trick his way aboard the starship. The story has one or two surprises and this is quite an enjoyable episode. The ban on it is completely unjustified.

By contrast, 'Plato's Stepchildren' must rank as one of the series' most execrable episodes. Beings with telekinetic powers order McCoy to remain on their planet as their full-time doctor, since they have no medics of their own and a small scratch can prove fatal to them, when he refuses, the beings use their mental powers to force Kirk and Spock into undergoing humiliating and degrading actions until McCoy agrees to stay. We are subjected to the sight of Spook doing a tap dance and crooning a romantic ballad, and Kirk crawling around on all fours neighing like a horse. The aliens bring down Uhura and Nurse Chapel from the ship and force them into passionate embraces with Kirk and Spock. Aided by the aliens' servant, a dwarf who hates his masters and does not possess their powers, Kirk and Spock discover the secret of the telekinetic power and use it themselves to defeat their tormentors. It is difficult to understand how such a bad script was ever accepted, and the scenes of humiliation are embarrassingly pathetic.

Finally we turn to 'The Empath' which, although quite an interesting story, is definitely the grimmest episode of the whole series. Two aliens conduct a bizarre experiment involving Kirk, Spock, McCoy and a mute alien girl called Gem. Gem is an Empath, a being capable of attuning her nervous system to that of another and absorbing the other person's pain and injuries into her own body. At the end we discover that Gem's planet is one of several threatened by a star going nova. The two aliens have the power to save only one planet, and the object of their experiment is to discover whether Gem is willing to sacrifice her own life by absorbing fatal injuries from another, thereby demonstrating her race's fitness to be saved. The injuries are inflicted by the aliens on McCoy, who in the process is subjected tc appalling torture. Spock's subsequent diagnosis of his condition leaves little to the imagination. McCoy is later restored to full health, but the story is not by any means a pleasant one.

To sum up, then, I believe that 'Miri' and 'Whom Gods Destroy' contain nothing to offend; but 'Plato's Stepchildren' and 'The Empath' have a certain nastiness about them, both implicit and explicit. I would not ban them, but I do believe that a later evening broadcast time would be better; certainly I do not think they should be shown in the early evening time slot of 5.10 which the BBC selected for the latest re-run.