The British-French Picard
#1
This doesn't seem to have been discussed here before, but naturally the question arises about Picard being born and raised in France yet having a British accent and British habits. The explanation seems to be that French has become obscure and Europeans speak English with an English accent, which is the story in en.Wikipedia. Apparently, Stewart was unable to pull off the French accent, which is the story at ScienceFiction.Com, where it is suggested that they should have simply made the character British. I agree. I think they goofed. Why they wanted the character to be French in the 1st place seems unknown. Also, apparently, the name is a nod to famous undersea explorer Jacques Piccard. I like that elegant English accent that Stewart has (and the beautiful and classy Samantha Eggar, for instance), which is apparently West Midlands, but I would have thought it is upper class Londonian, though he was born in Yorkshire. I don't like very much the cockney accent. I also like the Irish and Scottish accents, and the elegant Parisian accent is probably the most beautiful.
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#2
The more common etymology for the name is that Roddenberry got the name from two Swiss scientists, Auguste and Jean Felix Piccard (Apparently the father and uncle of the oceanographer guy.)
There's a passing reference to French having become a much less widely spoken language in the episode "Code of Honour" :

Quote:DATA: It is a highly structured society in which people live by strict codes of honour. For example, what Lutan did is similar to what certain American Indians once did called
counting coup. That's from an obscure language called French. Counting coup...

PICARD: Mister Data, the French language for centuries on Earth represented civilisation.

DATA: Indeed? But surely, sir..

RIKER: I suggest you drop it, Mister Data.

DATA: Yes, sir.

One can extrapolate that by Picard's time, perhaps French was not as widely spoken, and British English was more commonplace. And/or that perhaps Picard went to a British school at
some point and developed a perfect accent. I would think Stewart could do just about any accent, but my guess is he just didn't want to do an accent, was assertive and said it wasn't relevant to the character.

We had some discussion on the casting of the role here. Also in the running were a Belgian actor, Patrick Bauchau, who would have had an accent, but also Americans Mitch Ryan (Riker's father), Roy Thinnes (The Invaders), and Yaphet Kotto (Alien, Live and Let Die) and I seriously doubt any of them would have used either French or British accents.
So who knows - Kotto might have been the first "Sisko," or perhaps Ryan or Thinness might have been called "Janeway" or "Archer" or "Riker."
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#3
It never made sense to me, either. Having said that, I wouldn't have wanted him to fake an accent for the entire run of the show.
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#4
Having a French character, you would think they would consider only French actors. French being the 2nd most influential tongue in the world after English, I don't think it would be obscure even in the 24th century. If it was, all the others besides English would be, too, and English would be the only language in the world with any importance. Anyways, counting coup is also in an episode of Riverboat, which I did a thread on because of its similarities to ST.
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#5
Yep - they later incorporated some French references, like Picard breaking up w/ Michelle Phillips at a cafe near the Eiffel Tower, and his brother maintaining a family vineyard
in the French countryside... but those could just as easily have happened in California.

Possibly Roddenberry just really liked the sound of the name, but wasn't invested in the character necessarily being a French national. Obviously my name is German, but
that's not where I'm from, and around here we have a ton of people with French Huguenot heritage, who have kept family names, but not necessarily the pronunciation.
I went to school with a kid named Jean LaBorde, but he pronounced it "Gene," and his dad was named Pierre. Another classmate's brother was named Lucien Bruno -
but he just pronounced it "loo-shun." And there are assorted people running around named Prioleau (who pronounce it "pray-lo"), Guignard (they're pretty close to the original,
and pronounce it "Geen-yard") but also people of both races who have the name but spell it differently. There are almost no actual Porchers left (pr. "Pore-shay"), but hundreds
of African-American families who took that name. The best is the Gourdins and the Gourdines - after the Civil War, a lot of freed slaves took the last name of the families they had worked for,
including "Gourdin." The story goes that the postmaster got frustrated trying to deliver mail to a dozen people named "John Gourdin," and so arbitrarily decided to
add an "e" to any listing he had for the African-Americans with that name. And 150 years later, it still persists. :crazy:
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#6
august Wrote:Possibly Roddenberry just really liked the sound of the name...
This is probably the case. I just watched a documentary about the first three years of TNG that William Shatner did called "Chaos on the Bridge." From the sound of it,
Roddenberry was pretty loopy by the time TNG came around.
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#7
And of course, I just realized the obvious other example - Geordi La Forge (who was named after a fan of the show) was apparently referenced somewhere
(presumably one of the books) to have been born in Somalia. (The only reference I recall on the show was him saying that he lived on various space stations
and outposts all over the Federation.) So his last name was (sort of) French - does that mean he was supposed to have French heritage? Yet based on the
other actors who were in the running - Wesley Snipes, Tim Russ, et al. - it would appear they always planned for it to be played by an African-American.
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#8
There was also a DeSalle in the original series.

Guignard means an unlucky person or type of plover, gourdin is a big short stick, and borde is a type of farmland.
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#9
I think it was always assumed (even in the original series) that English was the official language of Earth. I'm not sure that would be realistic but it was convenient for a television show intended for American audiences.
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#10
Yep, I think it's just one of those dramatic conventions. Just like how all the aliens magically spoke fluent English. And years later they sort of reverse-engineered the concept, saying that
actually the little communication devices everyone was wearing were doing the translation, and we were simply hearing what they heard. Or like the great line from Stargate SG-1, when
someone observed how odd it was that ever planet they visited always resembled the Pacific Northwest. :laugh:

Same as having the ships all called U.S.S. .... and then after the fact deciding that this stood for "United Star Ship."
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#11
While nitpicking is sometimes warrented, I think its only non-fans who ever really complained about the language stuff. I never got the impression that the show implied English was the official language of Earth, the tv show just happened to be produced in an English speaking system. It's been dubbed in many other languages, too.
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#12
Well, it could be that they meant to imply that the universal translators were ubiquitous and therefore everyone heard the French-speaking Jean-Luc Picard as if he was a Shakespearean-trained English actor. His occasional forays into Shakespeare helped clinch the deal.

Patrick Stewart all but kept the show alive during its first two seasons. The wooden acting and terrible scripts made it really hard to watch. The second season was especially awful. When the third season premiered I was already kind of over TNG but some friends of mine persuaded me to give it one more try. And I stayed with it after that.
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#13
And as we know, there are plenty of people who speak English flawlessly, even though it's not their first language - Rutger Hauer, Audrey Hepburn, the new Chekhov Anton Yelchin
(who was born in Russia but has no accent) Shannara actress Ivana Baquero who is Spanish, and many others. Remember all the WWII movies we see when spies are questioned to
see if they can speak the enemy's language without an accent. :bg:

But again, I think it's more the suspension of disbelief that we all agree to when we turn on a television set. Uhura didn't have an African accent, Sulu didn't have a Japanese accent (or an actual Japanese name :laugh: )
and Riker didn't talk like Sarah Palin.
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#14
I don't really know for sure why this particular captain had to be French, but as a French myself, I can tell you that any reference to Picard's origins was always a cause for loud laughs around here. Whether he sang in French ("Disaster") or worse, spoke in French ("11001001"), it was always ridiculous.

Captain Picard, with his British accent, had this presence and gravitas which is quite effective for French ears, but whenever his supposed French origins were mentioned, that gravitas suddenly evaporated: Everyone was like "oh that's right, he's supposed to be French"… followed by loud laughs.
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#15
Well, given the show was intended for an English-speaking American audience, I'm sure they felt that was ok. :laugh: I doubt too many Russians thought Mr. Chekov's accent was
particularly authentic either.

Interesting though - TNG wasn't dubbed into French for French tv?
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#16
Good point about Chekov. I can't imagine how he must have sounded to real Russians. :-)

Fortunately, as TNG wasn't popular in France, it wasn't picked up by national networks (where foreign stuff was always dubbed), but got aired much later on digital cable instead, which offered multi track and optional subtitles capacity.
If the French dubbed version of TOS had some kind of charm (it was a vintage dubbing from Quebec which added an additional layer of weirdness), all other Trek shows were absolutely horrendous in French. Having said that, I only listened to it long enough to grab the remote and switch channels. :-D
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#17
Interestingly, a bunch of viewers of the new Trek movies have complained about the new Chekov's accent.... but the actor, Anton Yelchin, actually is Russian! :laugh: He grew up here, but his
parents are Russian, and he was born in Leningrad. I'm sure he's patterning his accent after his relatives. Smile

BTW welcome to the forum - feel free to surf around and dive into any thread, new or old, and post away. :bg:
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#18
I didn't know about the new Chekov's controversy. Funny.

About Picard, the reason for giving him a French background remains a mystery to me. I know he's supposed to come from a family of famous sailing explorers, but to my knowledge, there weren't many French in that department to begin with. Spanish, Portuguese, and to a lesser degree British explorers easily come to mind, but no French to my knowledge. On that level, even Vikking origins would have made more sense.

Also, that background wasn't much developed either. The exception being in "Family", when he visits his family vineyard, pictured as a preposterous and almost medieval environment, where people still wear straw hats. Such a picture of France in the present would already be ridiculous, let alone in the 24th century…

Oh, and thanks for the welcoming !
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#19
If you click here, you'll see a little bit of the history. Being French doesn't really seem to have had much to do with the character's
backstory or nature - and as you say, it wasn't developed, any more than Kirk being from Iowa, or McCoy being from Georgia. And there's no reference to Kirk and McCoy having
Scottish roots from their surnames just like Scotty, or to Geordi having a French surname either. Everybody has to have some heritage, after all. Just like it doesn't
make narrative sense for the commander of the American forces against the Nazis to have a German name like Eisenhower, or for leading English actors to
have French, Irish, and Lithuanian names like Olivier, Guinness, or Gielgud... and yet they did. :bg: As above, Roddenberry seems just to have been fond of the name, which he apparently
heard from the Swiss-French scientists above.

At that link, you'll see that also in the running for the role of the captain were a Belgian actor, Patrick Bauchau, who would have had an accent, and conceivably could have been named
"Picard" ....but also Americans Mitch Ryan (who later played Riker's father), Roy Thinnes (The Invaders), and Yaphet Kotto (Alien, Live and Let Die) and I seriously doubt
any of those last three would have used either French or British accents. Conceivably, had Kotto gotten the role, the captain might have been "Sisko," or perhaps Ryan or Thinness might
have been called "Janeway" or "Archer" or "Riker." Smile
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#20
I agree with you about the choice of a character's origins without much development beyond a name, but Picard mentioned he had explorer ancestors several times (the one I remember for sure was in Generations)… Having said that, maybe that happened in two separate steps:
1- Roddenberry liked the name.
2- Roddenberry (or someone else) fleshed out the character by giving him explorer ancestors, thinking it was cool for a starship captain, regardless of his nationality.

About Geordi, I never needed any explanation for his French surname, as I always thought it was obvious : Wasn't he from New Orleans ? If so, the French name is only natural. But maybe I unconsciously made this up : Black american + French sounding name = New Orleans background. :-)

Edit :
Oh, and about Yaphet Kotto as French: He did play a creole bad guy in Live and Let Die, and it worked, so since creole areas were French colonies, why not ?
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