I was recently told that Star Trek episodes are built on a structure inspired by Shakespeare's plays. I tried to verify this claim, but have been unable to find a reference that compares the two. So, my question - how much do Star Trek episodes have in common with Shakespearean plays?

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    The Conscience of the King is the first thing that popped into my head. While references to Shakespeare can be found with a quick search on Memory Alpha, finding out what plot elements are lifted from Shakespeare will require someone who knows Trek as well as the Bard. Calling @Martha F. ? – Goodbye Stack Exchange Feb 23 '11 at 5:14
  • "Requiem for Methuselah" loosely adapts Shakespeare's "The Tempest", and "Elaan of Troyius" loosely adapts "Taming of the Shrew". – Anthony X Sep 5 '16 at 4:56
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    Plots that strain credibility ☑︎ — Dialogue impenetrable to regular people ☑︎ — Fanatically beloved by a cohort of nerds ☑︎ — Provides employment for otherwise-useless RSC graduates ☑︎ — Persists in pop culture long past when it was actually relevant ☑︎ — Star Trek is Shakespeare! – Paul D. Waite Sep 8 '16 at 13:57

It's hard to tell what you're referring to exactly, but all shows generally follow the same format Shakespeare (and indeed, all normal plays) take: a series of acts (usually 3 for 30 minute shows and 5 for 60 minute shows) broken into scenes.

For TV, acts generally have a central aspect tying them together, just like a play. Acts are usually separated by commercial breaks: a plot point will generally resolve itself before the commercial break, or transition into a different plot point (e.g. via the use of a commercial break cliffhanger).

But it's a bit of a misdirect to say something's based on Shakespeare because it shares similar elements. The reason many things relate to Shakespeare is because Shakespeare created well-crafted plays based on centuries of knowledge on the subject dating all the way back to Antiquity. It's no different than in music where almost everything generally follows the same principles used in classical music.

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There are lots of Shakespeare quotes in Star Trek if that's what you mean. See these references:

My personal favorite, from Star Trek VI is: "You haven't heard Shakespeare until you've heard it in the original Klingon." (Chancellor Gorkon)

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  • @blueberryfields: after re-reading your question I'm not sure if this answer is appropriate. This answer matches the title but not the word "structure". If this does not help please post that here and I will delete this answer. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Feb 23 '11 at 7:40

Structure. Shakespeare's plays have been divided into more acts. Lots of screenwriting now has been formalized to 3 act structure. Some very old movies used a Shakespearean structure. Some episodes of the original Star Trek seem to have that kind of structure. Action with a comic relief secondary plot or vice versa. Suspense heightened by switching between settings. We wonder what's happening on the planet while we're on the ship. Will the ship be destroyed while we're on the planet? Formalized structure is a little like putting dots on a painting but it can be helpful to know before writing. I like the 5 act structure as a way to think about it.

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