Recently I rewatched the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" and observed the well-known Kirk-Uhura kiss, which occurred under the psychokinetic duress. I know that the kiss was scripted, but as filmed I could not tell whether Kirk and Uhura's lips actually met. There was no doubt with the Spock-Chapel kiss in the same episode, but the Kirk-Uhura kiss was shot in such a way that the studio had plausible deniability if the TV audience reaction were extremely negative. Perhaps the first scripted interracial kiss on television wasn't a kiss at all.

Did Kirk and Uhura actually kiss?

Acceptable proof would be a quote from Shatner or Nichols or someone else on set that day saying the kiss actually happened.

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    I always thought that the characters did, but the actors did not. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 22:35
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    As a side note: "This is often cited as the first white and black interracial kiss depicted on a scripted television series,[1][2] but took place after Sammy Davis, Jr. had briefly kissed Nancy Sinatra on the variety program Movin' With Nancy in December 1967..." -- The wikipedia article I link in my answer. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 23:37

6 Answers 6


William Shatner recalls in Star Trek Memories that NBC insisted their lips never touch (the technique of turning their heads away from the camera was used to conceal this). However, Nichelle Nichols insists in her autobiography Beyond Uhura (written in 1994 after Shatner's book) that the kiss was real, even in takes where her head obscures their lips.

Wikipedia, with a citation.

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    I've heard Nichelle Nichols, at two separate conventions, say that she did get to actually kiss him.
    – Tango
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 22:56
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    I believe that they did, in fact, kiss. Note that Shatner never says that they didn't, he simply re-asserts the network's position that they were not supposed to. Very politic. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 23:04
  • So in the end, conflicting accounts. :( Thanks for the fine answer just the same.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 18:17
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    @KyleJones: Not conflicting at all, actually: Shatner never says that their lips didn't touch, he says NBC insisted their lips never touch. I often insist that my kids should not hit each other...but they still do quite frequently.
    – Jeff
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 18:45
  • @Tango I'm not sure that "get to" is the right way to phrase it since she says that she hates William Shatner
    – user60653
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 22:50

Here's an interview with Nichelle Nichols in which she directly confirms that she and Willian Shatner did kiss during the filming of TOS: Plato's Stepchildren.

Apparently the first take was a bit too realistic

Director : You kissed her

Shatner : I know I kissed her, I thought that was what we were doing?

The Director [David Alexander] evidently asked them to scale it back for the version that was ultimately used in the episode, which merely has them pressing their lips together.

enter image description here

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    "which merely has them pressing their lips together" Isn't that kind of the definition of a kiss?
    – phantom42
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 18:40
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    @phantom42: There's a difference in how you kiss your grandma (pressing lips together) and how you kiss your date. If you're lucky.
    – Jeff
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 18:47
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    There's also big difference between a "real" kiss and a "stage" kiss.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 19:13
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    @Jeff, in my part of the world, "how you kiss your grandma" is "on the cheek". A kiss on the mouth is only for romantic partners, no matter how hard you press your lips together.
    – Martha
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 18:41
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    @Martha: In some parts of the world, family kiss with pressed lips (especially parents to children).
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 20:40

One more thing to consider is that during that time on television, kisses were almost always done in such a way that the audience would not be able to see their lips touching. So in retrospect, the fact they were instructed to do it the way they did really had nothing to do with race, it was just the way it was. From looking at the scene again it really doesn't appear to be much of a kiss and I would say it appears that their lips may not have really touched. I suppose what they did "represented" the first inter racial kiss. I guess the answer depends on what definition you use as what constitutes a real kiss. Back at the time they filmed this scene( in the 60's), the fact they even got close enough to even appear to be kissing is a big deal and if they didn't touch I don't think in the 60's it would have made much of a difference. It was the perception they gave.

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    The show was emphasizing the mental power the masters had to force them...so showing it as looking natural would be bad filming. It needed to look like a violation.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 21:36

To add a direct quote from William Shatner's Star Trek Memories...:

Unfortunately, what Gene meant by "Let's shoot it two ways" was that we'd shoot the Kirk/Uhura kiss twice. In the first take, we's actually kiss on camera, and in the second, Nichelle and I would turn our bodies as we embraced, so that my back was to the camera long before our lips would have ever touched. We'd give the impression of kissing without ever touching lips. Sadly, when push came to shove, the network got their way and the no-contact kiss made it to the airwaves. For that reason, the widely held assumption that Star Trek features the first interracial kiss in the history of television is absolutely untrue. And if you happen across the episode, look closely and you'll see what I mean.

And from Nichelle Nichols's Beyond Uhura...:

Finally, we were back on the set, ready to shoot the scene Shen suddenly the director realized that this would be an interracial kiss. He panicked... skipping a bit ...Knowing that Gene was determined to sir the real kiss, Bill [William Shatner] shook me send hissed menacingly in his best ham-fisted Kirkian staccato delivery, "I! WON'T! KISS! YOU! I! WON'T! KISS! YOU!"
It was absolutely awful, and we were hysterical and ecstatic. The director was beside himself, and still determined to get the kissless shot. So we did it again, and it seemed to be fine. "Cut! Print! That's a wrap!"
The next day they screened the dailies, and although I rarely attended them, I couldn't miss thus one.Everyone watched quietly as Kirk and Uhura kissed and kissed and kissed. And I'd like to set the record straight: Although Kirk and Uhura fought it, they did kiss in every single scene. When the non-kissing scene came up, everyone in the room cracked up. The last shot, which looked okay on the set, actually had Bill wildly crossing his eyes. It was so corny sync just plain bad it was unusable. The only alternative was to cut out the scene altogether, but that was impossible without ruining the entire episode. Finally, the guys in charge relented. "To h--- with it. Let's go with kiss." I guess they figured we were going to be canceled in a few months anyway. And so the kiss stayed.

My all-time favorite Nichelle quote:

"That is so-o-o-o-o-o find. When I get to know you better I'm going to ask for a ride in this Stingray. It's BAD, you know."


Unfortunately I can only give an answer that is based on my very old memories:

In William Shatner's book with his Star Trek memories, he writes about this episode and the kiss, as was already mentioned in another answer. Nichelle Nichols also gives her perspective in the chapter.

Now if I recall correctly, they write that they actually filmed two versions of the kiss: One where their lips touch and one were they do not touch. In both versions the mouths were actually concealed by their heads, so it should not matter, which version they used. However the directors chose the shot with the faked kiss.


I just recently watched this episode again and noticed that Shatners lips are not pursed. So even if their lips did touch in certain spots, it was not technically a kiss. Whether or not Nichelle's lips were pursed you cannot tell because of the head shift into the camera angle.

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