Shakespeare and Star Trek

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Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) holds a book of Shakespeare's work in the TNG episode "Hide and Q" (1987)

The Star Trek franchise, begun in 1965, has frequently included stories inspired by and alluding to the works of William Shakespeare. The science fiction franchise includes television series, films, comic books, novels and games, and has material both Star Trek canon and non-canon. Many of the actors involved have been part of Shakespearean productions, including Patrick Stewart and Christopher Plummer.

Background[edit]

Shakespeare's work has a strong presence in the Star Trek universe.[1]:20[2]:74[3] There are several opinions on why this is, and a 1995 issue of Extrapolation was dedicated to the subject. Suggestions and speculation include the creators' appreciation of, and pleasure in, these works; their inclusion may also signal that something is "high culture", "elitist", or "repressive". The character Jean-Luc Picard (Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart) argues that Shakespeare provides moving insights into the human condition.[4]:223–4[5]:15

According to Shakespearean scholar Craig Dionne, Star Trek's use of Shakespeare "mirrors a long and largely unexamined aspect of Shakespeare's 'common place' in American culture".[1]:182[6] Shakespearean scholar Brandon Christopher argues that "'Shakespeare' for Star Trek should be understood not simply as a collection of culturally valued texts but as emblematic of a nineteenth-century ethos of Anglo-American world dominance repackaged for a 1980s audience."[7]:238[8]

The Original Series[edit]

Mark: So you'll play all the parts?
Shatner: Well, I can't play Calpurnia (laughs). I thought I'd get Sharon Stone for that.
Mark: She actually could be difficult to get.
Shatner: Then we'll get Heather Locklear. I know her.
Mark: If you play both Caesar and Brutus, won't you have to stab yourself in the back?

Free Enterprise, 1999.[1]:19

Star Trek began in 1965 and used Shakespeare's works as one of many "preexisting motifs", including gangsters, the Old West, and Greco-Roman mythology.[4]:9 William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk, had previously acted in several Shakespearean plays, including Julius Caesar as Mark Antony.[4]:246[9] When Shakespearean actor Christopher Plummer in the mid-1950s played the title role in Henry V in Stratford, Ontario, Shatner was his understudy, and successfully filled in for him one night when he was ill.[5]:3[10] According to Shatner, that was the night he knew he was an actor.[11] His 1968 album The Transformed Man included readings from Shakespearean plays.[1]:20

Kirk says that Shakespeare is his favorite author.[7]:230 The episodes "The Conscience of the King" and "Catspaw" included scenes from Shakespearean plays.[1]:176[4]:223[12] In "Requiem for Methuselah" the immortal Flint possesses a First Folio.[13] The titles of the episodes "All Our Yesterdays," "By Any Other Name," "The Conscience of the King," and "Dagger of the Mind" are all lines from Shakespeare.[14]

The subtitle of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) is also a Shakespeare line, from Hamlet.[a] In this film, the Klingons appreciate Shakespeare to the degree that they have decided that the playwright himself was a Klingon, and General Chang (Christopher Plummer), the film's antagonist, quotes him extensively.[16] Shakespeare scholar Kay H. Smith[17] says "Everybody in our ever-widening English-speaking world is expected to recognize a little Shakespeare, and Star Trek VI makes it easy by assigning almost all the quotations to one character, so we can all play the game," and that combining high and low culture can be fruitful as well as problematic.[17]:141,148

Like several of Shakespeare's tragic heroes, Chang is a "military aristocrat",[16]:36[18] and Plummer reprised the role in the computer game Star Trek: Klingon Academy (2000), where Chang gives the player's missions Shakespearean names.[19][20] In the film, while attacking the Enterprise, Chang's Shakespeare quotations become so abundant that Leonard McCoy exclaims "I'd give real money if he'd shut up!" According to Smith, McCoy echoes the feelings of those in the audience who have experienced bad performances, bad teachers, and a "cultural establishment that insists on defending the cause of Shakespearean hegemony while simultaneously commodifying it." She says that Plummer's Chang has potential to be a great villain like Richard III, but falls short and becomes flat.[17]:140–141

The film inspired the creation of The Klingon Hamlet (2000), a translation of Hamlet into the constructed Klingon language. Parts of it have been performed by the Washington Shakespeare Company. Much Ado About Nothing has also been translated.[1]:178[21]

In the 1999 comedy Free Enterprise, Shatner, playing himself, is approached by two trekkies and hopes with their help to produce a musical version of Julius Caesar.[1]:19[22]

The Next Generation[edit]

Jean-Luc Picard: "Well, Number One, you can never go wrong with Shakespeare."
—Picard's advice to Riker about what to say in his wedding vows, from " 'Til Death", short story by Bob Ingersoll and Thomas F. Zahler, 2007

When Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) began in 1987, Patrick Stewart was referred to as an "unknown British Shakespearean actor" by the Los Angeles Times. TNG actor Brent Spiner put this "title" on a sign and hung it on Stewart's trailer door. Stewart's Shakespearean background was one aspect that made Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's creator, consider him for the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.[23][24] Stewart, a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) 1966–1982,[25] has said: "All the time I spent sitting around on the thrones of England as various Shakespearean kings was nothing but a preparation for sitting in the captain's chair on the Enterprise".[2]:74

Picard keeps a collection of Shakespeare's work titled The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare, and this book is seen frequently throughout the series. It reappeared when Stewart returned to the role in Star Trek: Picard in 2020. The android Data has his own book of Shakespeare's work. Picard often quotes Shakespeare, for example when dealing with the powerful entity Q (played by John de Lancie, himself a member of the American Shakespeare Festival).[7]:235[26][27]:105

The episodes "The Defector" and "Emergence" included scenes from Shakespearean plays. In "The Defector", Stewart plays Michael Williams from Henry V as well as Picard. Spiner's character Data plays Henry V and Prospero, respectively. In "The Defector", Picard tells him: "Data, you're here to learn about the human condition and there is no better way of doing that than by embracing Shakespeare". Later in the episode, Picard asks Data about the crew's morale, since Picard, unlike Henry V, cannot easily walk disguised among the crew and gauge it himself.[4]:223,231–234[7]:236[28] In "Time's Arrow", part 2, Picard and an away team have travelled back in time to the 19th century. Picard attempts to persuade a landlady that they are, in fact, a group of actors performing A Midsummer Night's Dream.[29]:245 In "Ménage à Troi", he has to woo Lwaxana Troi with romantic Shakespearean speech.[27]:102[29]:144

David Warner, who had appeared in Star Trek V and VI, played a character who tortures Picard in "Chain of Command". Stewart and Warner had met and become friends when Stewart joined the RSC in the 1960s, and one of Stewart's reasons for joining was having seen a Hamlet production with Warner in the title role.[30][31]

Armin Shimerman (Quark in DS9), who was one of the first on-screen Ferengi in "The Last Outpost", thought of the race as the Richard IIIs of space.[32]

In Diane Duane's novel Dark Mirror, Picard encounters literature from the brutal Mirror Universe. He finds Shakespeare "horribly changed in all but the parts that were already horrible". In The Merchant of Venice, Portia successfully argues for Shylock's right to a pound of flesh. Titus Andronicus, Macbeth and King Lear, however, are mostly unchanged.[33]

Deep Space Nine[edit]

Garak: But I'm sorry, Doctor, I just don't see the value of this man's work.

Bashir: Garak, Shakespeare is one of the giants of human literature.

Garak: I knew Brutus was going to kill Caesar in the first act, but Caesar didn't figure it out until the knife is in his back.

— "Improbable Cause", 1995[7]:234

Avery Brooks was an experienced Shakespearean actor before playing Commander/Captain Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9, 1993).[4]:246 In 2005 he played the title role of Othello. Eight years earlier Stewart had played that role at the same stage in Washington, D.C., in a production that reversed the racial roles of Othello and Iago.[5]:3[34] René Auberjonois (who plays Odo in DS9) said that "Actors with a background in the larger-than-life works of Shakespeare — or even musical comedy — adapt easily to non-real characters and bring a sense of truth to them".[35] Actor Alexander Siddig (Julian Bashir) stated that everyone in the DS9 cast had done more Shakespeare than he had had hot dinners.[36]:22

Robert O'Reilly (the Klingon Gowron in TNG and DS9) said that doing a lot of Shakespeare was helpful for playing a Klingon. Richard Herd, who played another Klingon, agreed that he found his character very Shakespearean.[24]

In the episode "Improbable Cause", the characters Garak and Julian Bashir discuss the merits of Shakespeare and Julius Caesar, Garak being very skeptical. However, he quotes the play in the following episode, "The Die Is Cast", showing new understanding.[7]:234–235

Brooks directed "Fascination", in which several characters mysteriously become strongly attracted to each other. It was inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream.[36]:88

Other series[edit]

Shakespeare is mostly absent in Star Trek: Voyager (1995) and Star Trek: Enterprise (2001). The Voyager episode "Mortal Coil " is named after a line in Hamlet. In the Enterprise episode "Cogenitor", an alien captain receives a gift of Earth literature, including Shakespeare.[27]:107[37]

In the Star Trek: Discovery (2017) episode "Perpetual Infinity", Spock quotes Hamlet (Act 1, Scene 5), to which Michael Burnham replies "Hamlet, hell yeah."[38]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The phrase "The undiscovered country" appears in Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1, line 80.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Shakespeare after mass media. Palgrave. 2002. ISBN 9780312294540.
  2. ^ a b European culture and the media. Intellect. 2004. ISBN 9781841501109. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  3. ^ Rothwell, Kenneth S. (2001). A history of Shakespeare on screen: A century of film and television. Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 9780521000284. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Deep space and sacred time : Star trek in the American mythos. Praeger. 1998. ISBN 9780275962258.
  5. ^ a b c Star Trek and philosophy: The wrath of Kant. Open Court. 2008. ISBN 9780812696493.
  6. ^ "Craig Dionne". Eastern Michigan University. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Graham, Kenneth; Kolentsis, Alysia (2019). Shakespeare On Stage and Off. McGill-Queen's Press – MQUP. ISBN 978-0-2280-0006-8. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Brandon Christopher". University of Winnipeg. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  9. ^ "Julius Caesar". British Universities Film & Video Council. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  10. ^ Shatner: Where no man; the authorized biography of William Shatner. Grosset & Dunlap. 1979. pp. 268, 269. ISBN 9780441889754. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  11. ^ Shatner, William (2008). Up till now. St. Martin's Press. pp. 24–28. ISBN 9781429937979. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Holland, Peter (2000). Shakespeare Survey: Volume 53, Shakespeare and Narrative: An Annual Survey of Shakespeare Studies and Production. Cambridge University Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-521-78114-5. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  14. ^ Tichenor, Austin (27 August 2019). "Shakespeare in Star Trek: quotes, plot lines, and more references". Shakespeare & Beyond. Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  15. ^ ""The undiscovered country" - Discussion". My Shakespeare. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  16. ^ a b Gilligan unbound : popular culture in the age of globalization. Rowman & Littlefield. 2001. ISBN 0742507785.
  17. ^ a b c Smith, Kay H. (14 October 2004). ""Hamlet, Part Eight, The Revenge" or, Sampling Shakespeare in a Postmodern World". College Literature. Project MUSE. 31 (4): 135–149. doi:10.1353/lit.2004.0063. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country". British Universities Film & Video Council. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  19. ^ Washington, Kevin (11 September 2000). "'Klingon Academy' teaches art of war". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  20. ^ "Star Trek: Klingon Academy - IGN". IGN. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  21. ^ Marks, Peter (29 August 2010). "How the Washington Shakespeare Company came to offer Shakespeare in Klingon". The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  22. ^ "Free Enterprise". British Universities Film & Video Council. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  23. ^ "Patrick Stewart: 'Next Generation,' 'X-Men' and Hollywood history". Los Angeles Times. 1 February 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-02-01. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  24. ^ a b Pearson, Roberta; Davies, Máire Messenger (2014). Star Trek and American Television. Univ of California Press. pp. 122–123. ISBN 978-0-520-95920-0. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Royal Shakespeare Company : Patrick Stewart". Royal Shakespeare Company. 9 April 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-04-09. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b c Brode, Douglas; Brode, Shea T. (2015). The Star Trek Universe: Franchising the Final Frontier. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-4986-8. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  28. ^ "Defector, The · British Universities Film & Video Council". bufvc.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  29. ^ a b Altman, Mark A.; Gross, Edward (1998). Trek navigator : the ultimate guide to the entire Trek saga. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316038126. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  30. ^ Okuda, Michael; Okuda, Denise; Mirek, Debbie (1994). The Star trek encyclopedia : a reference guide to the future. New York : Pocket Books. p. 116. ISBN 9781451646887.
  31. ^ Patrick Stewart (2006). Star Trek The Next Generation Season 6 - Mission logs - Mission overview (DVD). CBS Studios Inc. Event occurs at 11:27.
  32. ^ Armin Shimerman (2006). Star Trek The Next Generation Season 1 - Special features - Memorable Missions (DVD). CBS Studios Inc. Event occurs at 08:50.
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Othello". British Universities Film & Video Council. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  35. ^ Star Trek: Four Generations of Stars, Stories, and Strange New Worlds. 1995. pp. 48–49. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  36. ^ a b Gross, Edward (1996). Captains' logs supplemental: The unauthorized guide to the new Trek voyages. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316329200. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  37. ^ Kosowan, Gene (12 August 2020). "10 Shakespeare References In The Star Trek Franchise That You Probably Missed". ScreenRant. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  38. ^ Britt, Ryan (29 March 2019). "Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Episode 11 Easter Eggs & References". Den of Geek. Retrieved 30 April 2021.

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