Picard pleads humanity’s case using the Bard of Avon’s words
When talking about poetry in Star Trek, we can’t ignore the numerous ways the works and words of William Shakespeare resound throughout the franchise.
From the Karidian Players’ interrupted production of Hamlet aboard the Enterprise in “The Conscience of the King” to Star Trek: Discovery episode titles (such as “Such Sweet Sorrow”) drawn from his plays, Shakespeare’s spirit hovers like a muse of fire over the Star Trek future.
The late literary critic Harold Bloom claimed Shakespeare’s plays were “the outward limit of human achievement,” even that the Bard invented human character as we understand it: “no one yet has managed to be post-Shakespearean.”
One suspects Jean-Luc Picard might agree.
His impassioned recitation of Hamlet’s speech about human nature transforms lines which are, as Picard notes, cynical in original context into a paean praising the species and its potential:
"What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! —Hamlet, II.2"
As Picard frames the passage, Shakespeare may as well have been penning the Star Trek vision statement. As long as the franchise’s aspirational and inspiring view of who humans are and what we may become continues, its gleanings from the Shakespearean canon will likely continue, too.
After all, the “Star Trek Universe” ad Paramount+ aired during this year’s Super Bowl began by reframing (and slightly altering) yet another quote from Shakespeare: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on …” (The Tempest, IV.1)
Across all its iterations, Star Trek assures us the human adventure is just beginning.
But poetry in Star Trek will never end, bringing deeper meaning to moment after memorable moment.