Jean-Luc Picard has been a fan of the Bard for nearly as long as it’s been around, thanks in no small part to Stewart’s own history with Shakespeare and the franchise’s pre-existing literary streak. As The LA Times puts it, when Stewart was cast in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1987, the outlet referred to him as an “unknown British Shakespearean actor.” It was a superlative that stuck, as co-star Brent Spiner apparently made a sign for the door of Stewart’s trailer emblazoned with that exact phrase.
Soon, however, Stewart became well known, and his history on stage in Shakespearean productions became intertwined with the character he played on the much-loved series. Picard’s first Shakespearean reference appears in the first episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” when he quotes “Henry VI, Part 2” in his first confrontation with Q (John de Lancie). Shakespeare’s plays appear again and again throughout the series, with both Picard and Data (Spiner) turning to the Bard’s plays as a key to understanding the totality of the human condition.
“Star Trek” has been obsessed with Shakespeare’s plays since long before Picard set foot on the Enterprise-D. Five different episodes of Gene Roddenberry’s original series draw their titles from Shakespearean lines, including the fan-favorite time travel episode “All Our Yesterdays,” which references “Macbeth.” Over the decades, the franchise’s Shakespearean references have ranged from the silly (in one episode of “The Next Generation,” the team convinces a 19th-century landlady from Earth that they’re traveling actors working on a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) to the perceptive (in another, Picard uses Data’s performance as Prospero to comment on art, hope, and despair). As “Picard” comes to a close, she lands the takedown of her with an especially heartfelt recitation.