Star Trek Guide

10 Shakespeare References In The Star Trek Franchise That You Probably Missed

William Shakespeare was so renowned as a playwright, you could say he was light years ahead of his time. At least that's what you could probably glean from the Bard references that peppered several episodes of the Star Trek TV saga, not to mention a few movies spawned by the sci-fi franchise.  Fans of the show are only too familiar with Capt. Jean-Luc Picard's infatuation with the Elizabethan author and the memorable quotes from priceless theatrical works that would occasionally get him out of a tough spot on the Enterprise-D.

Capt. James T. Kirk from the original series probably wasn't as well-read, but that didn't stop series writers from injecting a bit of wit and wisdom originally penned during the Renaissance. That's right; Shakespeare's text was used so frequently during the whole Star Trek run, it's a wonder he was never credited in the shows as a writer. Some of his influence was obvious in some episodes, while other references warranted some heavy sleuthing to make this list.

10 A Test Of Faith

Unlike the other shows, Star Trek: Voyager has borrowed from the Bard only once. It was still a noteworthy homage, though, as it was a profound look at the existential angst of ship chef and wheeler-dealer Neelix, who gets killed but is brought back to life.

It's a severe test of his faith until a vision quest puts his mind at ease in the episode dubbed "This Mortal Coil," taken from a classic Hamlet soliloquy.

9 A Couple Vague References

The Star Trek: Enterprise prequel ran for five seasons with nary a Shakespearean reference save for two titles, neither of which had plots relevant to what made it into those Elizabethan scripts.

One was "Sleeping Dogs," a line fragment from Henry IV Part II and "Breaking the Ice," loosely taken from The Taming of the Shrew.

8 Discovery's Otherworldly Bard Connection

The second half of Star Trek: Discovery's first season sees Capt. Lorca take the ship to a mirror universe, not unlike the plot twist in Shakespeare's The Tempest in which a shipwrecked cast finds itself on a strange Mediterranean island.

And in the episode "Vaulting Ambition," it's also revealed that Lorca isn't from Discovery's homeworld, but from the mirror setting where he's returned to rule over his enemies, much like the agenda of the title character in Macbeth.

7 The Original Series Had 4 Episodes Titled After Shakespeare's Works

It's probably no accident that the original Star Trek decided to lift quotes from the Bard to use as show titles, with some of those episodes loosely following plots from some of his plays.

Case in point are two taken from Macbeth ("Dagger of the Mind" and "All Our Yesterdays"), and one each from Hamlet ("The Conscience of the King") and Romeo and Juliet ("By Any Other Name").

6 Shakespeare Goes Deep

SimilarlyStar Trek: Deep Space Nine also had four titles taken from Bard works, but had an interesting reference in one episode called "The Die Is Cast." One scene had two Cardassian adversaries, Garak and Tain, reflect on something gone wrong, prompting Tain to ask "How could this happen?"

Replies Garak taking liberties with a line from Julius Caesar, "The fault, dear Tain, is not in the stars, but ourselves." The Shakespeare version was a response to Brutus from a nobleman named Cassius.

5 Eye For Detail

A few original series episodes that had William Shatner playing Capt. Kirk were pretty obvious in aping the Bard. Some instances include a sonnet quote in "Whom Gods Destroy," Macbeth plot fragments remounted in "Catspaw," and a sci-fi rendition of The Taming of the Shrew in "Elaan of Troyius."

But you won't find any verbal accounts of Shakespeare in another episode called "Bread and Circuses," in which Starfleet encounters an alien planet with a society strangely similar to that of the Roman Empire. Instead of a direct quote or a reenactment of a certain play, the Shakespeare homage is found in a visual clue on the robe of leader Claudius Marcus. It's not just any insignia, but Shakespeare's coat of arms.

4 Picard Hams It Up

Before taking on the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Sir Patrick Stewart was widely known as a Shakespearean actor in his native England. So it's no surprise that he can't resist quoting lines from the Bard in almost a dozen episodes. A few scenes have Picard and crew reciting segments from such outings as A Midsummer Night's Dream, Henry V and Merchant of Venice among others.

One hilarious scene has omnipotent antagonist Q getting a line wrong from As You Like It when he utters "All the galaxy is a stage." Responds Picard gruffly, "World. Not galaxy."

3 The Undiscovered Country Is Pure Bard

The Star Trek movie that most frequently channels Shakespeare is The Undiscovered Country, which features Christopher Plummer as the Klingon General Kang. There are so many references to Shakespeare here that only the most astute Bard fan might identify them all.

The title comes from Hamlet and Kang quotes from seven Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, Henry IV, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest), while an extra Hamlet line comes courtesy of Iman, as a shapeshifter named Martia. But the funniest line referring to the playwright comes from Klingon Chancellor Gorkon, who utters “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”

2 Prelude To A Finale

One of the most surreal episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation was "Emergence," which had arcane sequences interspersed with the USS Enterprise inexplicably going into warp drive. Those sequences included character names from Shakespeare's The Tempest. The show even started with a recreation of that play in the ship's holodeck.

Showrunners picked that play for timely reasons. As the series was drawing to a close after seven seasons, The Tempest was chosen as it was reportedly Shakespeare's final work.

1 Kirk & Kang Were Pals

In The Undiscovered Country, it's telling that a line from Henry V is included in the script. It's a connection underscoring the fact that Both Shatner and Plummer have been buddies for years, having worked at Stratford Theatre, Canada's ground zero for all things Shakespearean.

While the two never really shared a stage, Shatner was Plummer's understudy in a 1956 production of Henry V. A week after the show started, Shatner recalls being asked to go on for Plummer, who wasn't available one night. "Go on? To What?" recalled Shatner about his response at the time. Greatness, it turns out.


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