In 1968, the Star Trek cast and ocrew were filming the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren,” which featured aliens using mind control to force Captain Kirk (William Shatner) to make out with Communications Officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). You know: standard classic Star Trek stuff. Star Trek just wasn’t Star Trek if Kirk wasn’t being goaded by an alien god into some sort of sexual harassment. But when it came time to shoot that scene, the director and some NBC suits got uncomfortable – not because of the weird consent issues (this was the ‘60s, after all; slapping a woman was considered foreplay), but because Nichols is black. Up until that point, scripted interracial kisses on television just weren’t done. The actors wanted to shoot the scene as it was, but since they weren’t in charge, there was only one thing they could do: sabotage.
Show creator Gene Roddenberry had suggested a compromise: they’d shoot two versions of the scene, one with the kiss, and one with a hug, and use whichever worked better. Everyone knew which version NBC was going to want to use, but luckily Shatner had a plan. See, a director can’t see exactly what the camera is picking up – only the camera operator can. So while they were shooting the versions of the scene that would preserve the purity of the white race, Shatner positioned himself so that the director couldn’t see his face, stared right into the camera, and made a bunch of stupid faces.
The director, thinking he’d won, immediately called a wrap and sent everyone home. It wasn’t until they were going over the dailies that they realized what had happened. They were forced to run the scene as originally scripted, resigning themselves to having to face an explosion of controversy that (twist!) never happened.
Truly, it was a leap forward for human rights, although whether Shatner was fighting for the progression of society or just couldn’t stand to miss an opportunity to get busy on national television is anybody’s guess.