In Star Trek: Insurrection, Captain Picard and Worf sing A British Tar from HMS Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan in an attempt to distract Data.

As Picard mentions in that scene, Data was rehearsing the song for a performance aboard the Enterprise.

However, is there an out-of-universe reason why that specific operetta was chosen for the movie?

Memory Alpha gives a hint that Patrick Stewart suggested HMS Pinafore (when the original plan for the scene was that they would recite from Shakespear's King Lear), apparently quoting the book Fade In: From Idea to Final Draft.

Does the book Fade In: From Idea to Final Draft give any further details about that change?

  • 3
    LaForge sang "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" (also by Gilbert and Sullivan) in TNG: "Disaster". I wonder whether this is in any way related.
    – Hilbert
    Jan 1, 2016 at 21:12
  • 1
    @Hilbert - Well, yes. In the sense that pretty much everyone involved with the production and writing would be familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan, just as they'd almost certainly know quite a lot of Shakespeare.
    – Valorum
    Jan 1, 2016 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


The quote from that book is:

Patrick was uncomfortable using Shakespeare in the ship battle with Data. “I don’t think the Lear quotes work,” he’d said in his notes. “It will be meaningless to most of our audience and I’m not sure I believe in what it is meant to do.”

The idea harkened back to the television series when Picard had taught Data about humanity by directing him in fully-recreated scenes from Shakespeare’s plays on the holodeck. We’d actually built one memorable episode around the themes of Henry V. In addition, I thought the King’s madness in Lear would provide a metaphor for Data’s erratic behavior.

Losing Shakespeare didn’t really bother me. But I felt we needed something like it. I argued that Picard would try every trick to safely capture Data before ever firing a weapon that might harm him. Patrick suggested, “Well, couldn’t I tell him some jokes that we both know or perhaps sing something from Gilbert and Sullivan?” And a new sequence was born

However, this conflicts with his past statements that he's just not keen on their works

In the new Star Trek flick, Stewart's Picard has a lengthy scene with Worf and Data in which they sing "A British Tar" from Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. Again, to some surprise, it's not Stewart's cup of tea.

"I'm sorry, but i really don't like Gilbert & Sullivan," he says, shaking his head between his hands. "It's like the Marx Brothers. I've tried but I just don't get it."

Patrick Stewart tells the story very differently. Apparently he wasn't keen but all of his other suggestions were dismissed

This is how it goes with putting movies together. Michael came up with this idea of "OK how do we distract Data? take him off guard with something that might just distract him for a moment". What he wrote was Shakespeare, rehearsing him in a scene from King Lear. Oh God it was deadly. It was nice, I mean King Lear's a great play but it's not the moment you wanted to have there. I don't recall whose idea it was but "maybe it's musical" came up. First of all, I said, anything that Tony Bennett sings is what we should do, because Brent has this beautiful tenor voice. They said it's obvious and corny and Rick is always reluctant to make 20th century references so overtly. And then Michael came up with the G&S. Now, just like the Marx Brothers, I don't get G&S. Never have. But I thought wait a minute I know what they should sing! Picture Picard and Data singing Three Little Maids . And they said "no that's vulgar, Patrick." And they came up with this song which I resisted and fought and said no it's boring but I was wrong. It's totally successful. So that's how the G&S came about. It works nicely. You're right, the counterpoint of the G&S and what they're actually doing is charming.

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