David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, and Avery Brooks have all performed Shakespeare, proving that the Bard can benefit from actors who've cruised through space and time. And science fiction has had more than its share of Shakespearean influence: not just lines used here and there, but futuristic adaptations of his plays and mind-bending scenarios with the Bard himself as the star. Below, we've explored enough Shakespearey scifi to "engage" your English papers for the next ten years.
Forbidden Planet: Perhaps the best-known scifi adaptation of Shakespeare's work, Forbidden Planet transplants the action of The Tempest to the near-deserted planet Altair IV. Philologist Edward Morbius takes the place of the sorcerer Prospero and his daughter Altaira stands in for the beautiful, sheltered Miranda. The magic and spirits of the original play are replaced with alien technology; just as the now-dead witch Sycorax enslaved the sprite Ariel and birthed Caliban, so too did the extinct Krell build the technology that created Robby the Robot and the Creature from the Id.
Shakespeare in Star Trek: As pervasive as Shakespeare is, few series have quite the love affair with the Bard that Star Trek does. Picard uses Hamlet to debate mankind's nature with Q. Data performs The Tempest and Henry V to better understand human emotions. And episodes of the original series contain elements of Shakespeare's plays, including “The Conscience of the King” (Hamlet) and “Catspaw” (Macbeth), casting Kirk as the male lead. But Star Trek's most significant Shakespearean adaptation is the Klingon Language Institutes's translation of Hamlet into, as Chancellor Gorkon put it, “the original Klingon.” The Tragedy of Khamlet, Son of the Emperor of Qo'nos is said to be the work of Klingon playwright Wil'yam Shex'pir, whose work and history have been distorted by Federation propaganda.
Shakespeare in Doctor Who: William Shakespeare himself makes a brief appearance on the Time-Space Visualizer in the episode “The Chase,” but doesn't actually meet the Doctor on screen until “The Shakespeare Code.” Being the genius of the human condition that he is, Will quickly pegs the Doctor as an alien and Martha Jones as a traveler from the future. In the meantime, the mystery of the lost play Love's Labour's Won is solved (it was sucked through a portal into another dimension), and the episode cheekily suggests that Shakespeare got the idea for the name “Sycorax” from the Doctor, and not the other way around. The Doctor alludes to several other off-screen meetings with the poet, and the two hang out in the novel The Empire of Glass and the audiodrama “The Kingmaker.” Isaac Asimov “The Immortal Bard”: As in Doctor Who, Isaac Asimov supposes that Shakespeare has some special power to comprehend the future beyond that of mere mortals. In his story, a physics professor claims that he can transport people from the past to the present. Though he tried it with many illustrious minds – Galileo, Archimedes, Isaac Newton – Shakespeare was the only one who could wrap his mind around modern society. Of course, it all goes to pot when he enrolls Will in a colleague's course on Shakespearean literature. It wouldn't be Asimov's last meeting with the man; in 1970, he published a two-volume guide to Shakespeare's plays. Frank Ramirez “The Merchant of Stratford”: Ever wondered just how Shakespeare deals with all those time travelers? When the first time traveler decides to head back to 1615 Stratford, he finds that Shakespeare has already set up a cottage industry as a time travel tourist attraction. After getting time travelers from all different eras to bring him works of science fiction, Shakespeare starts selling his own collected works to the people of the future, including his unpublished science fiction novel Go-Captains in Nostrilla, based on Cordwainer Smith's novel.
Romeo x Juliet: Set in a future city that hovers above a devastated Earth, the anime series keeps the themes of star-crossed lovers from warring families, but plays with the characters and their roles. Romeo is still an idle young nobleman who falls for Rosaline, then Juliet, but Juliet is an orphan, hardened by life under the oppressive Lord Montague. As the love story gets tangled up in the tale of rebellion and revenge, characters from other Shakespeare plays keep wandering in: Portia, Ophelia, Emilia, and Hermione. Harry Harrison “A Fragment of Manuscript”: Harrison imagines that Shakespeare meant for some of his plays to be science fiction in the first place. In his story, he discovers a manuscript for the original version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which, he learns, was a work of science fiction rather than a work of fantasy. But the Bard recognizes that he is too far ahead of his time for his contemporary audience, and has attached a note to revise the script accordingly. William Sanders “The Undiscovered”: Sanders puts Shakespeare across the ocean, where, in the company of a Cherokee tribe, he becomes “Spearshaker.” Doing what he does best, he tries to stage a production of Hamlet for the members of the tribe, but, contrary to theories on the universalness of Shakespeare, they don't really get what he's trying to do.
Harry Turtledove, Ruled Britannia: Shakespeare also finds his way into Turtledove's alternate history novel about the Spanish occupation of England during the Elizabethan period. English revolutionaries tap Shakespeare to compose a play about Boudicca, an ancient queen who led a rebellion against occupying Roman forces, hoping to stir up similar revolutionary attitudes. This leaves Turtledove to try his hand at composing lines in the style of Shakespeare. Nick O'Donohoe, Too, Too Solid Flesh: In a future where theater has mostly died out, a troupe of android actors performs Hamlet every night. But, because the androids were constructed specifically for their roles, they tend to stay in character even when they're off-duty. And when the troupe's designer and manager turns up dead, the Hamlet actor decides to investigate the mystery.
King Lear: Jean-Luc Godard's film takes place in a parallel universe where Chernobyl has destroyed much of human civilization, notably works of art. William Shakespeare Jr.the Fifth (Peter Sellers) has been tasked with restoring his illustrious ancestor's work to the human canon. In the course of his work he encounters the gangster Don Learo (Burgess Meredith) and his daughter Cordelia (Molly Ringwald). Fortunately for Mr. Shakespeare, on the rare occasions this pair speaks to one another, it is in lines from King Lear, which Shakespeare conveniently records in his notebook.