Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"I wish your Enterprise to-day may thrive." —Julius Caesar, III.i.13

Star Trek: Generations [a.k.a. Star Trek VII]. Dir. David Carson. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Billy Campbell, Alan Ruck, Whoopi Goldberg, and Malcolm McDowell. 1994. DVD. Paramount, 2004.
With the image above, Bardfilm wraps up its survey of Shakespeare in Star Trek. Combing through the wreckage of The Enterprise, Captain Picard is delighted to find his Complete Works of Shakespeare intact.

It's not a bad image for what Star Trek, in all its permutations, has done with Shakespeare. The show has quoted Shakespeare, decontextualized Shakespeare, alluded to Shakespeare, borrowed from Shakespeare, and done many other things with Shakespeare, but Shakespeare comes out intact.

The overarching interest in these uses of Shakespeare in a pop culture icon like Star Trek is that they are both engaged in the same project. Shakespeare takes real human beings and puts them in situations that enable us (and them) to study and to learn about the human condition—its behavior, its faults, its depravity, its redemption. Although the circumstances may be unlike any that we are likely to experience (I'm not, for example, in line to the Throne of Scotland, however much I'd like to be), we—through Shakespeare's characters—learn by experience about our own guilt and sin as we see Macbeth's guilt and sin played out on stage. As we learn about our own need for redemption, we also discover means for working out that redemption. I hope I'll never be as hypocritical as Measure for Measure's Angelo, for example, but I can certainly learn about mercy and redemption by watching him through that play.

Star Trek also puts human beings (and Betazoids and Romulans and Sheliak and Vulcans and Tholians and Klingons and others too numerous to mention here) into situations that show us (and them) something about humanity writ large. Star Trek, being what it is, has a less-Calvinistic (I'm just starting work on a paper I've been commissioned to write on Shakespeare and John Calvin—more on that as time progresses) position on human nature than does Shakespeare, but its characters are still seeking redemption for humanity.

There you have it. Star Trek, seeking to understand the human condition, turns to Shakespeare to aid it in its own—um—enterprise.
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.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

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