Monday, June 8, 2009

Hamlet and the Merchant of Venice Walk into a Pub in Fair Verona—On Another Planet

“Birthright, Part 1.” By Brannon Braga. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, and Paul Winfield. Dir. Winrich Kolbe. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 6, episode 16. Syndicated television. 7 March 1993. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
“The Ensigns of Command.” By Drew Deighan, Ronald D. Moore, and W. Reed Moran. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, and Paul Winfield. Dir. Les Landau. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 3, episode 2. Syndicated television. 19 March 1990. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
“The Outrageous Okona.” By Burton Armus. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Billy Campbell, and Whoopi Goldberg. Dir. Robert Becker. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2, episode 4. Syndicated television. 12 December 1988. DVD. Paramount, 2002.

Since I’ve added to the total sum of human knowledge by pointing out three episodes from the Original Series of Star Trek that draw their plots from Shakespeare, I thought I’d try to double that sum by pointing out three Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes that do the same.

“Birthright, Part 1” is a derivative version of Hamlet. Sort of. In it, Worf has been told that his father—a father treacherously killed—is still alive, and he goes to seek him. Hamlet, of course, finds a ghost; Worf finds a group of Klingons, but not his father.

He does, on the other hand, find a Horatio analogue—one who paraphrases I.ii.211-12 (“I knew your father. / These hands are not more like”) into “I knew your father well, Worf” (see image above).

In “The Ensigns of Command,” a group of aliens called “The Sheliak” are notorious for wanting to stick to the exact wording of a written contract. Eventually, the specifics of the contract itself are employed against them (see the image below, which contains a segment of the Treaty of Armens—Paragraph 1290, the “Third Party Arbitration Clause,” to be specific).  

Well, that’s clearly a version of The Merchant of Venice, right? 

You might not be convinced—yet. Take another look at the aliens’ name. They are the Sheliak. Sheliak. Shyliak. Shyloiak. Shylock! Yes, Shylock has been extended into an entire alien species, still crying, “I crave the law” (IV.i.206)!


Finally, “The Outrageous Okona” gives us a Romeo and Juliet. Yes, I’m grasping at straws here. There are two households, both alike in dignity, and neither one wants their child to marry the child of the other. Yup. Romeo and Juliet. Only less tragic. And in space.

Next time, there are some miscellaneous things to wrap up, but we are nearly at the end of our lengthy survey of Shakespeare and Star Trek.
Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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