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Was Jean-Luc Picard's famous "Make it so" phrase introduced by Patrick Stewart or by the series writers? Was use of the phrase inspired by any other fictional character?

What I was wondering was, was the phrase taken from the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian. One of the lead characters, Capt. Jack Aubrey RN, uses the phrase frequently. The earliest of these novels was first published in the US in 1969. Was Gene Roddenberry possibly a fan?

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    So let it be written, so let it be done. I think Picard ripped it off from Yul Brynner. – Major Stackings Apr 1 '14 at 21:08
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    Stewart: I need a catchphrase; go and make it so! – Often Right Feb 6 '16 at 2:52
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    “Was Jean-Luc Picard's famous "Make it so" phrase introduced by Patrick Stewart or by the series writers?” — You’re asking whether a line in the script was written by the script-writers, or the lead actor? I have an idea which is more probable. – Paul D. Waite Mar 11 '16 at 15:05
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    The backstory is that Picard's father was a tailor and it was from him he learnt the catchphrase make it sew. – Gaius Mar 11 '16 at 16:27
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    So did Picard ever say, "I have to go, Number One." – iMerchant Mar 12 '16 at 8:30

11 Answers 11

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"Make it so" was a standard phrase used by British naval officers. It can be seen in context on page 74 of this Google book scan of Frederick Marrayat's 1832 seagoing novel "Newton Forster": Newton Forster: Or, The Merchant Service, Google Books. It would be surprising indeed to find that Patrick O'Brian had invented any stock phrase to put in the mouth of his characters. He was notably meticulous about capturing the real details of British navy life.

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From Jean-Luc Picard, wikiquote:

Make it so.

Catchphrase first used in "Encounter At Farpoint" (28 September 1987) by Gene Roddenberry, and thereafter used in many episodes and films, instructing a crew member to execute an order.

This would indicate that the phrase "Make it so" was scripted by Roddenberry, and was not an ad-lib.

As for inspiration - without the writer specifically answering the question in an interview, it is hard to state categorically if he was inspired from somewhere. However, the phrasing is likely a common term in the military - a subordinate offers a plan of action or advises the commander/captain of readiness to perform an action, and the commander simply needs to respond 'Make it so' or 'Go ahead'. 'Make it so' is particularly imperative, and would fit in with the generally formal nature of miltary command.

Roddenberry had served in the US Army Air Force, and then in the LAPD, so was possibly familiar with the phrasing from there.

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    Thanks for the answers so far. What I was wondering was, was the phrase taken from the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian. One of the lead characters, Capt. Jack Aubrey RN, uses the phrase frequently. The earliest of these novels was first published in the US in 1969. Was Gene Roddenberry possibly a fan? – James Ramsay Jan 25 '12 at 13:13
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    @JamesRamsay: Please include that to your answer. This comment makes a huge difference making your question a good one, rather than general reference. – Goran Jovic Jan 25 '12 at 13:43
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    Thanks for the suggestion Goran. I've 'made it so'! – James Ramsay Jan 25 '12 at 14:30
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    Or did both Roddenberry and O'Brian get the phrase from the same source, i.e., real life? – Keith Thompson Jan 25 '12 at 23:49
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    @KeithThompson Hi, For the reasons outlined to HorusKoi above I feel a 'real life' origin of the phrase, while possible, is unlikely. However, in searching around I came across a semi-clue which might support my theory. It seems that when Patrick Stewart was awarded the part, Roddenberry sent him a complete set of the Hornblower novels - unnecessary as it turned out because Stewart had already read them. Given the obvious similarities between the two sets of naval stories, it seems possible, perhaps even likely, that one or both men, finding merit in the hornblower set, also read the other. – James Ramsay Jan 27 '12 at 8:48
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When George. Ill, was on board a yacht, the Captain reported, "Please your Majesty, it is twelve o'clock;" but fearing that this might be deemed too pretumptous an assertion, even prefaced as it was, and to remind him of his royal prerogative, to "make it so." humbly added, "but not unless your Majesty pleases."
(Army and Navy Chronicle, October 26, 1837)

It's a time-honored naval phrase.

The captain is found at leisure. "Twelve o'clock, sir," the messenger exclaims, and indicates briefly the latitude of the vessel, and the ship's course and speed. On the captain signifying that he is satisfied and replying, "Thank you, make it so!': the sentry strikes eight bells, the boatswain's mate pipes for dinner, and in a moment the men are hard at work eating their dinners, for after such a morning's drill in fresh salt air who would not be a good trencherman?
(How Our Navy is Run: A Description of Life in the King's Fleet, 1902)

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The phrase also shows up in Herman Melville's White Jacket, written in 1850:

Chapter VI The Quarter-Deck Officers, etc.:

The captain’s word is law; he never speaks but in the imperative mood. When he stands on his Quarter-deck at sea, he absolutely commands as far as eye can reach. Only the moon and stars are beyond his jurisdiction. He is lord and master of the sun.

It is not twelve o’clock till he says so. For when the sailing-master, whose duty it is to take the regular observation at noon, touches his hat, and reports twelve o’clock to the officer of the deck; that functionary orders a midshipman to repair to the captain’s cabin, and humbly inform him of the respectful suggestion of the sailing-master.

“Twelve o’clock reported, sir,” says the middy.

“Make it so,” replies the captain.

And the bell is struck eight by the messenger-boy, and twelve o’clock it is.

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Have just heard Richard Widmark use the phrase "Make it so." in the film 'The Bedford Incident' (1965), so it would seem that it was in use, in the USN at least, prior to the Aubrey/Maturin books. It therefore seems likely that Rodenberry got it from real life. My hypothesis was wrong.

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It's a standard naval phrase used all the time in British heritage navies for hundreds of years. It was common practice when I was in the Royal Canadian Navy for over 20 years. It's used officially when it is time for an action to occur, but requires the senior officer present to issue the order and officially begin the evolution. For instance at sunset, the officer of the day is advised "sunset sir/ma'am" and the officer looks at his watch and says "very good, make it so" allowing the ritual to begin and initiating the evening watch routine. It's also used for other things, officer of the watch advises the captain "there is a contact on our track recommend we alter course 10 degrees port to avoid" the captain looks down the track, nods, and says " yes, very good, officer of the watch, make it so". As a classically trained actor who has played British naval officers prior to Star Trek, Patrick was aware of the common phrase and used it in an ad lib. It seemed to go with the Brit accent, writers liked it and it stuck.

Also "Number 1" is British naval slang for the First Officer or XO, it is comes from the days when the senior Lieutenant on a ship was the First Lieutenant, or the Lieutenant Commander, and therefore usually second in command. Also called "Jimmy the One" or "the Jimmy". On a larger ship where the XO is a Commander rank, the position is still often referred to as 1st Lieutenant.

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    @jaepage Executive Officer – Izkata Jul 31 '17 at 0:42
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Memory Alpha says:

According to Robert Justman, this was a homage to Captain Horatio Hornblower, who gave the same command in novels by C.S. Forrester. (Star Trek Encyclopedia 2nd ed., p. 172)

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Its also said every evening on Royal Navy ships in harbour and on Royal Navy shore establishments. A rating will at the appropriate time call Sunset Sir! and the officer in charge will signify the time for the flag to be pulled up or down by saying "Make it so." Picard also refers to other RN traditions by singing Heart of Oak (a song about the Georgian navy) in Ten Forward in one episode. See here

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I heard it in "The Sand Pebbles," a movie released in 1966.

The movie is based on a novel of the same name published in 1962, by Richard McKenna, who spent 22 years in the US Navy, 1931-1953. I haven't read the book, so I don't know if "Make it so" appears in it.

In the movie it was said by the character LIEUTENANT COLLINS, commander of the US gunboat San Pablo in China, played by Richard Crenna. I only heard hiim say it once.

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The phrase was definitely used in relation to ship's time and how it was controlled as a ship changed longitude. On a ship with any east/west in its bearing noon will change from day to day. Solar sightings used to be taken to determine noon and when the officer taking the sight decided that the sun had reached it's maximum elevation (i.e. solar noon) he would tell the captain that it was noon and the captain would declare "make it so". The ship's bell would be rung resetting the ship's "clock" to reflect the change in longitude. I should think it could have been used in any situation requiring a captain's authorisation for an arbitrary change of status of the ship.

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"Make it so!" appears in Gilbert & Sullivan's comic opera "Ruddigore" (1887) in a comic bit between Mad Margaret and her husband, the bad baronet Despard Murgatroyd, near the end of Act II. I feel sure Gilbert took it from the Naval tradition.

Convoluted and improbable plotlines are a part of G&S humor, so I won't try to explain the context unless prompted; lets just say someone offers direction to Margaret and she says "Then make it so!"

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