The story of TV’s first-ever interracial kiss is actually one of the medium’s biggest urban legends. Most believe it occurred on Star Trekin 1968. The common belief is that the first kiss between an African-American and a Caucasian happened in a third season Star Trek episode called “Plato’s Stepchildren.”
The “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode involved the crew of the starship Enterprise being made into unwilling slaves, the condition being enforced by the “superior” beings called Platonians who have the power of telekinesis, which they employed to make the crew behave as their masters desired. William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) are thereby “forced” to kiss.
The telekinesis made it easier for NBC to explain the kiss, as in the big scene Captain Kirk is forced to kiss the African-American Uhura against his will. Shatner, in his inimitable manner, emotes, “I-won’t-kiss-you! I-won’t-kiss-you!” But because of the great counter-effort, the kiss does, indeed, take place.
William Shatner, in his book Star Trek Memories, insists that he and actress Nichols never actually kissed during the scene; he maintains that their lips never touched. However, Nichols positively declares that they did lock lips. It seems incredible that such a major event is not more clearly recalled, as obviously either Shatner or Nichols is mistaken. The kiss itself is obscured by the back of Nichols’ head, so we, the viewers, can’t tell who is right.
NBC, nervous about the reaction from their Southern affiliates, insisted that an alternate take be shot, one without the kiss. After Shatner and Nichols shot several kisses, the alternate takes were attempted. Both Shatner and Nichols agree on what happened next.
During every alternate take, Shatner crossed his eyes goofily, thus ruining any further takes. According to Nichols, NBC was still against using the kiss, so she went to view the dailies and see the reaction of the NBC brass. After viewing the kiss and the “cross-eyed” alternate takes, the NBC suits finally conceded and said, “To hell with it. Let’s go with the kiss.”
Nichols recalled the flood of mail the show received after the episode was aired. To her surprise, it was all positive. She even recalled one letter from a Southern viewer, which said: “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.”