Friday, January 9, 2015

Othello and Star Trek

There have been many very good productions of Shakespeare's Othello both on the stage and on the screen. One of my favorite movie versions is the National Theatre Company’s staging of Othello in 1965 staring Laurence Olivier. While re-watching it the other day, I was struck by how act II, scene iii reminded me of a scene from Star Trek’s The Trouble With Tribbles.

In Othello, the villain Iago plans the downfall of Michael Cassio. Iago plies Cassio with wine and has Roderigo pick a fight with Cassio. The good Montano tries to intervene, only to have the drunken Cassio turn on him. There is the cry of mutiny and the town bell is rung.

Othello comes to break up the fight, but not before Montano is wounded by Cassio.

Dismayed that his own men are behaving like barbarous Turks, Othello demands of Iago, "Who began this?" Iago answers, "I do not know." Othello then turns to his lieutenant, Cassio, who replies, "I cannot speak."

This scene is similar to scene in The Trouble With Tribbles, where the Enterprise crew get into a barroom brawl with a Klingon crew while they are both aboard Deep Space Station K7.

When Captain Kirk confronts his men, he wants to know, "Who started the fight?" and he gets a few "I don’t know, sir," from his men.

After Kirk dismisses his men he asks Mister Scott to confide who started the fight.

 In Othello, it is Iago who explains, seemingly reluctantly, how the fight broke out.
 "... I heard the clink and fall of swords,
... I found them close together
At blow and thrust ..."

When Othello finds out Cassio started the fight, he strips him of his rank.
"Cassio, I love thee:
But never more be officer of mine."

When Captain Kirk learns that it was Scotty who started the fight:
"Scotty, you’re restricted to quarters until further notice."

 Scotty takes the reprimand with a smile.
"Thank you, sir. That will give me a chance to catch up on my technical journals."

Cassio takes his upbraiding more seriously.

"O, I have lost my reputation!
I have lost the immortal part of myself,
and what remains is bestial."

The Trouble With Tribbles has a happy ending, with the bridge crew of the Enterprise laughing. The ending of Othello is not so joyful.