“Space: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise …” Star Trek is my favorite TV show. I’ve watched 3 of the 5 Star Trek series, and my very favorite is The Next Generation. (Kirk fans, don’t hate me.) One thing that really impressed me was the writers’ use of classic literature. Works by greats like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain are found in episode after episode. Here are nine classic authors and works referenced in Star Trek:
1. Gilgamesh (TNG: “Darmok”)
In the episode “Darmok,” Captain Picard is transported to the surface of an alien planet with the captain of a Tamarian ship. Captain Picard and the alien captain, although unable to communicate, must still work together to defeat a beast that lives on the planet. In one scene, the alien captain communicates to Picard that he wants a story. Picard tells him a version of the epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient Babylonian legend about a cruel king. Here’s the scene:
2. Mark Twain (TNG: “Time’s Arrow, Parts 1 & 2”)
Mark Twain actually makes a guest appearance on Star Trek! In the episode “Time’s Arrow,” Data is sent back in time to the 19th century, and he runs into Mark Twain. Twain makes several references to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, believing that Data has come back in time to tamper with his century, just like his protagonist, Hank Morgan, did in 6th century Camelot. Twain even visits the Enterprise, before deciding to return to his century. Jack London also makes an appearance in the episode, as a helpful bellboy. Twain talks to London, encouraging him to live his dream of going to Alaska and writing a book about it. Before leaving the room, London tells Twain to look for his name in print.
3. Cyrano De Bergerac (TNG: “The Nth Degree”)
One of my favorite “guest” characters in The Next Generation is Barclay (Or Broccoli, depending which pronunciation you choose. ;)). In the very beginning of “The Nth Degree,” Barclay is playing the character Cyrano De Bergerac from the play, and at first, Barclay is a terrible actor. Doctor Crusher plays Roxane, the woman Cyrano loves. I can’t wait to re-watch the episode after reading the play this year in school.
4. Shakespeare (TNG: “The Defector,” “Time’s Arrow Part 2,” and “Hide and Q”)
Shakespeare is quoted and performed many times on the starship Enterprise. In “The Defector,” the episode opens with Data and Picard performing one of the scenes from Henry V. In “Time’s Arrow Part 2,” the crew tells the landlady they are performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even has the landlady rehearse with them, reading off a passage from Act 2. Q borrows a quote from As You Like, in “Hide and Q,” when he says, “All the galaxy’s a stage.” Several episodes in the series had names taken from Shakespearian works, such as Remember Me, which is from Hamlet. A really good article about Shakespeare references in Star Trek is found here: http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/shakespeare/star.trek.html
5. William Butler Yeats (ENT: “Rogue Planet”)
I recently starting watching Star Trek: Enterprise with my mom, and it’s been really good so far, despite how much it was hated. (Yes, I even like the beginning song. :)) In this episode, Captain Archer and several of his crew travel down to a planet where it is always night. Archer continually sees a beautiful woman in the forest, who’s actually a shape shifter trying to convince Archer to help her. At the end of the episode, Archer finally figures out why the creature revealed itself to him as a blonde-haired woman with apple blossoms in her hair. When he was a child, he enjoyed a poem by William Butler Yeats called The Song of the Wandering Aengus. The poem depicts the story of a man who caught a trout that turned into a beautiful woman with apple blossoms in her hair.
6. Sherlock Holmes (TNG: “The Lonely Among Us,” “Elementary, Dear Data,” and “Ship in a Bottle”)
I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, and somehow, the writers of The Next Generation combined two of my favorite fandoms into some great episodes. Throughout the series, Data is continually fascinated with Holmes, and in “Elementary, Dear Data,” and “Ship in a Bottle,” La Forge and Data dress up as Watson and Holmes and enjoy adventures on the holodeck. Moriarty even joins the party, showing up in a few episodes as a hologram who has gained consciousness.
7. Robin Hood (TNG: “Qpid”)
Episodes with Q were always my favorite. Qpid is no exception to the “Rule of Q!” The entire episode is based off the classic tale of Robin Hood, who is portrayed by Captain Picard. Maid Marian is Captain Picard’s love interest, Vash. The rest of the crew play Robin Hood’s Merry Men, in the little fantasy world that Q has built for them. Here’s one of the best lines from the episode:
8. Frankenstein (ENT: “Horizon”)
Frankenstein even has its moment on Star Trek. In “Horizon,” Trip Tucker attempts to convince Vulcan Science Officer T’Pol to join the crew for movie night to see Frankenstein, by mentioning the movie is from a famous novel by Mary Shelley. Archer decides he’ll take her, and a skeptical T’Pol watches the movie. She seems to enjoy it for she quotes it on the bridge and says she’ll recommend the movie to Ambassador Soval, the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, to help him understand humans better. T’Pol even draws parallels between the way the humans treated the Vulcans when they first arrived on Earth and the way the characters treated Frankenstein’s creation, though Archer points out that the humans didn’t exactly chase the Vulcans with pitchforks.
9. A Christmas Carol (TNG: “Devil’s Due”)
When the episode opens, Data is acting on the holodeck as Ebenezer Scrooge. The scene is from the beginning of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol where Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old friend, Jacob Marley. The holographic scene is paused as Captain Picard is shown, critiquing Data’s acting techniques.
Star Trek is not only entertaining, but also educational. 😉 Thanks for reading, and live long and prosper! *holds up hand in Vulcan salute*