News

This 'Star Trek' Kiss Was Iconic — But Not For The Reason You've Heard

SMS
This 'Star Trek' Kiss Was Iconic — But Not For The Reason You've Heard
The "Star Trek" kiss scene between Capt. Kirk and Lt. Uhura turns 50 this year.
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Would you believe this very dramatic, rather awkwardly staged kiss from "Star Trek" is one of the most notable kisses in television history? 

Because it is, and as of this Thanksgiving, it's aged more than half a century. ["Let's get on with it."]

So, why is this scene so special? 

Critics and historians like to say it's the first interracial kiss ever aired on television, and that label is one of the reasons the scene is revered so much.

Unfortunately, it's not accurate. 

Six years before Capt. Kirk and Lt. Uhura canoodled on television, the British teleplay "You In Your Small Corner" featured a kiss between Jamaican actor Lloyd Reckord and Scottish actress Elizabeth MacLennan

More than a decade before that, American actress Lucille Ball and Cuban-American actor Desi Arnaz were frequently smooching on "I Love Lucy." Though the couple's on-screen and real-life marriage is sometimes argued to be more "bicultural" than "biracial," the portrayal of their relationship was still pretty groundbreaking for the entertainment industry. 

We could go on and list more of the interracial kisses that happened on TV before Kirk and Uhura's, but we've made our point. "Star Trek" wasn't the first — but that doesn't make it any less important. 

The episode, titled "Plato's Stepchildren," aired a year after the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Loving v. Virginia. That ruling annulled state laws against interracial marriages during a time when they weren't widely accepted. 

"Star Trek," one of the most progressive shows at the time, was one of the programs that helped normalize it. But even then, there was some doubt about whether American audiences would react positively to Kirk and Uhura's kiss. 

Because of that, two versions of the scene were actually filmed: one with the kiss and another with an embrace. 

The only reason the kiss was used was because actor William Shatner deliberately crossed his eyes in the alternative shot — rendering that footage unusable and leaving audiences with this iconic moment.