As part of Space Week commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing, BBC America is showing marathons of Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Voyager. The middle series sees the starship Enterprise captained by Sir Patrick Stewart‘s Jean-Luc Picard, an erudite and measured leader who’s become one of the most popular characters in the franchise’s history.
Picard also features in the 1994 movie Star Trek Generations, one of several sci-fi flicks airing during Space Week, so you’re bound to run into him at some point. With this in mind, here’s a handy primer on what Sir Patrick’s Captain is all about.
1. Surprisingly, Sir Patrick wasn’t first choice for the role.
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry initially wanted the character to be played by a Frenchman who was “masculine, virile, and had a lot of hair,” producer Robert Justman revealed in 2007. American actor Stephen Macht (Knots Landing) later became Roddenberry’s first choice, while Stewart was considered for the quirkier role of Data (eventually played by Brent Spiner). However, Roddenberry was finally persuaded that Stewart could portray the Captain of the starship Enterprise after being impressed with his “gentlemanly demeanor” and flawless delivery honed on stage with the U.K.’s Royal Shakespeare Company.
2. Over the years, the boundaries between Sir Patrick and Captain Picard got kind of blurred.
“One of the things that I’ve come to understand is that as I talk a lot about Picard, what I find is I’m talking about myself,” Stewart told the BBC in 2011. “There was a sort of double action that occurred. In one sense Picard was expanding like this and at the same time he was also growing closer and closer to me as well and in some respect I suppose even had some influence on me. I became a better listener than I ever had been as a result of playing Jean-Luc Picard because it was one of the things that he does terrifically well.”
3. In the 2002 movie Star Trek: Nemesis, Stewart’s Picard comes face-to-face with a younger clone of himself played by Tom Hardy.
Yes, really – check out the clip below.
4. Picard hails from a family of French winemakers.
A deleted scene from Star Trek: Nemesis shows Picard and Data enjoying a bottle of Château Picard, which, by pure coincidence, is a genuine French wine estate that’s proud of its association with the Captain!
5. Famously, Picard also has a favorite caffeinated beverage.
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”
6. Though he speaks in a British accent, Picard has been known to let out the occasional French expletive.
7. He’s named after Swiss scientists Auguste Piccard and Jean Piccard.
These twin brothers were active in the early 20th century and are best known for their pioneering work with high-altitude balloons.
8. Stewart’s Picard appeared in all but two of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s 178 episodes.
The actor’s personal favorite is the season five episode “The Inner Light.” It’s actually a pretty atypical Star Trek story in which Picard spends 40 years living as a scientist on a distant planet after being struck unconscious by an alien probe.
“It was a beautiful script, which for me was almost entirely located away from the Enterprise – and its crew!” Sir Patrick recalled in a Reddit A.M.A. “And [I also love the episode] because I was given the chance to perform what Picard would have been like if his life experience had been different. But another important reason is that I had a son in that episode who was played by my [real-life] son, Daniel Stewart.”
9. Picard is a bit of a philosopher.
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness, that is life,” Picard once said. He also offered this comforting verdict on the passing of time: “Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives, but I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment, because they’ll never come again.”
Aww, are you feeling inspired yet?
10. Most Star Trek fans consider either Picard or William Shatner‘s James T. Kirk to be the greatest ever Starfleet captain.
A few years ago, Stewart responded to a long-running debate among Trekkies: “If Kirk and Picard fought each other, who would win?” His pitch-perfect answer was that actually, Picard would prefer to negotiate with Kirk in order to avoid the fight altogether!
What’s your favorite thing about Jean-Luc Picard?Read More