The presence of interracial romantic relationships on television today have happened frequently enough that they’re no longer hot topics. For Star Trek, however, the cult classic sci-fi show featured American television’s first interracial kiss in 1968, which was a racially turbulent time for the country.
The NBC series aired the “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode on November 22, 1968, which featured the smooch between Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, and Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols. Regarding the plot, the kiss was forced by telekinetic powers by outside forces. Some accounts say that this angle was stressed as to not anger White viewers in the South.
In later reports, both Shatner and Nichols have seemingly conflicting views of the scene. In an interview, Shatner claimed their lips never touched. Nichols says in her own recollections that the kiss happened and was very real.
In either case, Nichols fondly remembered that fans were mostly appreciative of the scene, although much harsher backlash was anticipated. Nichols also claimed in interviews that Shatner demanded to do the scene after seeing Nichols and co-star Leonard Nimoy, better known as Spock, practicing the kiss.
Many television history experts consider the first interracial kiss to have taken place in June 1962 between British actors Lloyd Reckford and Elizabeth MacLennan.
Star Trek was canceled in 1969 over low ratings, but has since exploded into one of the most popular film and television franchises in the world. Several television series, movies, games and much more have been created under the Star Trek umbrella.