Star Trek's Captain Picard Almost Had A Very Different Character Trait

"Star Trek: The Next Generation" has inquired about the future of humanity and the nature of being, but the French Captain Jean-Luc Picard's English accent remains a point of confusion even after the man traversed space and time. The Captain has expressed his pride in and appreciation for French culture, reciting the "Frère Jacques" nursery rhyme, and muttering "merde" in times of distress. Despite this, he also loves Earl Grey tea and Shakespeare, so his cultural background isn't entirely Gallic.

Data mentions in the (much-reviled) season 1 episode "Code of Honor" that French is an "obscure language," though it's implied Picard is, indeed, fluent in it. After his traumatic experiences under the influence of the Borg, Picard visits his family in his hometown of La Barre, where everyone else seems to speak in an English accent, too. "Star Trek" never explained the seemingly endangered status of the French language, though it's possible that World War III had something to do with it in pre-Federation times. However, the real reason for Picard's regal English speeches has to do with actor Patrick Stewart's not-so-majestic attempt at a French accent.

A Truly French Jean-Luc

It turns out that Picard was, in fact, originally supposed to speak with an accent that would more accurately reflect his French background. In an interview with Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air, Stewart explained that he even recorded his introduction voiceover in a French accent:

"Somewhere in the Paramount archives, there ought to be a videotape of me speaking Picard's lines with a French accent. They did actually want me to do that ... I mean, obviously, if they'd wanted it, I would have worked on it and made it as impeccable a French accent as I could. But I think I know what I did."

The included audio has Stewart recreating his original lines around the 7:50 mark, which means you now have the privilege of hearing the esteemed actor declare "These are the voyages of the Starship Enterpreese." Stewart went on to say that "it never came up again," which tells you all you need to know about why Captain Picard speaks like the Englishman portraying him.

Notably, Stewart already had to modify his native speaking voice as a working-class man from Yorkshire. He might talk with a posh-sounding accent (more formally called RP English), but that's because of his theater training. The point is, the actor is no stranger to accents. It's just that a French twang was maybe not the ideal choice for Stewart or Picard, both of whom spent years studying Shakespeare.