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The Strange History of Deanna Troi's Accent


Merriam-Webster defines an accent as "a way of speaking typical of a particular group of people and especially of the natives or residents of a region". It's hard to estimate but some LingoHut says there are160 distinct English dialects throughout the world. That's just English. How many accents are there in the 6,500 spoken languages?

There are a ton of fictional alien languages too and the most notable is Klingon. An alien race that doesn't have a spoken language is Betazed. Betazoids are a telepathic civilization that can read minds, so they don't need a language. But some learned English and one very famous Betazoid is counselor Deanna Troi of the USS Enterprise-D. She's played by the British-Greek actress Marina Sirtis. During her run on Star Trek: The Next Generation she used a very unique and exotic-sounding accent. But no one else, in the history of Star Trek, has the same accent.

For decades fans have been confused Why does Deanna Troi have an accent? What is Deanna Troi's accent on Star Trek? What nationality is Deanna Troi? We're going to try and answer all your questions, drop some trivia and explore the history of the character from beginning to today.

Strap in. Set faces to "stunned" and read the bizarre history of Deanna Troi's accent.

Marina Sirtis' Natural Accent Almost Cost Her Roles


Marina Sirtis was born in Hackney, London. She's the daughter of working-class Greek parents, Despina, a tailor's assistant, and John Sirtis. Growing up in Harringay, North London she developed a "Cockney" English accent. It's a dialect of British English traditionally spoken by the working-class poor of London.

Sirtis was accepted to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. This is the same school that James Bond actor Daniel Craig, Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor, and Doctor Who's Jodie Whitaker attended.  Unfortunately, her lower-class accent and working-class background limited Marina Sirtis's acting career.

"I spent every lunchtime sitting in a tiny room in front of a mirror with a bone prop in my mouth, learning how to do RP," she later said. Morrison bone props were originally designed by Annie Morrison. They're small pieces of shaped bone held between the teeth while doing vocal exercises. The props are supposed to help actors and speakers improve articulation. Received Pronunciation (RP), is commonly called BBC English and Standard British pronunciation or Southern British pronunciation.

Obviously, it didn't get rid of her natural accent. But she did get more skilled at accents and played a number of roles in America and Britain before Star Trek. Small roles like the unnamed harem girl in the TV movie Thief of Baghdad (1978) and a bit part in Blind Date (1982).

The Role Called For a Foreign Accent

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Data (Brent Spiner), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis)

When the show created counselor Deanna Troi's character they planned her to be exotic and foreign. The character description said Deanna is "probably foreign (anywhere from Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Russian, Icelandic, etc.) with looks and accent to match". Marina Sirtis originally auditioned for the role of security officer Tasha Yar. Denise Crosby tried out for the role of Deanna Troi. After the auditions, creator Gene Roddenberry decided to switch the casting. They cast Crosby as Yar and Sirtis as Troi. While Marina Sirtis doesn't have an "exotic" accent the producers asked her to come up with one.

She would later explain what came next in a convention interview. "They said 'OK, you've got the job,'" she said. "'You have to do an accent'. And I said 'Well, where do you want the accent to come from? and they said 'Betazed'. So I thought 'Great! I can make up an accent. I mean, who's going to tell me that I'm doing it wrong? So I made up this accent'.

Sirtis Had to Change Her Accent Because of Picard

Marina Sirtis was born in East London and has a natural British accent. But the producers had already hired Patrick Stewart to play Captain Jean-Lic Picard. The character is from France. The show asked Stewart to use a French accent for one take. It was terrible. So they decided to let him use his natural British accent.

But the producers didn't want another British accent. So they asked Marina Sirtis to make up a Betazoid accent for the character.  "In the 24th century, geographical or nationalistic barriers are not so evident," Sirtis later said. "The Earth as a planet is your country, your nationality. I didn't want anyone to be able to pin down my accent to any particular country, and being good at accents, the producers trusted me to come up with something appropriate."

Sirtis's accent is unique. Her Betazod accent was derived from a number of different Eastern-European regions but she credits an unnamed Israeli friend as a major influence.

Troi's Mother Doesn't Have a Betazoid Accent

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry)
Deanna Troi's background had been fleshed out before the show. She was half-Betazoid and half-human. Her mother was full Betazoid and her father was from Earth.

In the eleventh episode of the first season, the show introduced Lwaxana Troi in "Haven". The show cast Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the wife of creator Gene Roddenberry, as Deanna's over-bearing mother Lwaxana Troi "daughter of the Fifth House, holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed". Barrett-Roddenberry had played Nurse Christine Chapel on Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Animated Series and several of the movies. She also played the voice of the computer for all the shows.

It was Barrett's idea to play Lwaxana Troi with a brash American accent. Sirtis was furious when she realized other Betazoids, like her mother, wouldn't have an accent. So she decided to find out what was happening.

Troi's Accent Came From Her Human Father

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry)

"Now I assumed that I was doing the Betazoid accent," Marina Sirtis later said at a convention. "But then mum came along. Well, obviously she was from the American sector on Betazed...because she didn't have an accent. She had an American accent. So being, as I said, one to make trouble I go to [producer] Rick Berman's office and I knock on his door and say ‘excuse me, I thought I was doing the Betazoid accent but obviously, I'm not because Majel is American' and of course by this time we're well into the filming and they're rewriting scripts constantly. They're really busy. They're casting, they're editing, they're doing all this stuff and the last thing they want is Marina Sirtis knocking on their door and being a pain in the butt.

"So Rick Berman, and I know all he wants to say to me is ‘shut up and get out of my office', but he has to come up with an answer so he says, ‘you know what, it was your father's accent'. And I said ‘Really? Because I don't believe that because of my relationship, Deanna's relationship with Lwaxana was kind of identical to my own relationship with my mother, God rest her soul. And I knew that they had lived together in the same house. That was why there was so much friction on the show'.

"So he was like ‘No, it's your father's accent and go away'." That seemed to answer the question but led to more questions.

Troi's Accent Didn't Come From Her Human Father

The explanation that Deanna Troi's uniquely exotic accent didn't come from her mother was bizarre. It implied that her alien mother had an American accent and her human father had an alien accent. But this explanation held for years until the seventh season episode "Dark Page". In that episode, several flashbacks introduced Troi's father Starfleet officer Ian Andrew Troi played by Amick Byram. Byram played Ian Troi with an American accent and not a hint of Betazoid anywhere.

Bryan had already played a minor role in the show. He played Lieutenant Paul Hickman in the fourth season episode "Identity Crisis" as one of the away team infected by alien DNA. So where did Deanna get her unique accent? That's what Marina Sirtis wanted to know after they started filming.

"Well then I think it was Season 6 or Season 7," Sirtis later said at the same convention. "I don't remember because they've all kind of blended together at this point, ‘Dark Page', where we met my dad ... who was from Iowa. And I just had to. I know we were coming to the end of the series and I had to go back to Rick Berman's office and ask.

"So I knocked on his door and I said ‘You told me back in season one that I was doing my father's accent but actually we've met dad now and he doesn't have an accent' and Rick is ready to throttle me. He's like ‘Really, this is the conversation that we're having now?' And he goes ‘They sent you away to school! Now shut up and get the h**l out of my office!'"

Since then other Betazoids appeared on Star Trek and none of them have an alien accent. This includes Lon Suder (Brad Dourif), Tam Elbrun (Harry Groener) and Sabin Genestra (Bruce French). Most of them use American accents.

Troi Lost Her Accent 

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) - William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis)

Over the years Deanna Troi's accent became less and less prominent. By the end of the show, it had completely slipped into a much softer British accent. In 1995, after The Next Generation ended, she gave an explanation that's one part thoughtful and three parts bitter. In Star Trek: Communicator #102 she said, "If I could really travel back through time and relive the TV series, I wouldn't give Deanna a foreign accent – even though her mother is a Betazoid. But over the years, Deanna lost the [foreign] accent and sounded much more mid-Atlantic."

By Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) she said, "Well, she's not foreign anymore. When we started, she had almost this Russian accent, and now she's almost American."

Troi's Accent Returns


Marina Sirtis acted for many years since Star Trek: The Next Generation. She appeared in science fiction shows like Stargate SG-1 using a Russian accent and The Orville using her natural British accent. But her unique Betazoid accent returned several times.

Sirtis reprised her role as Deanna Trois for several Star Trek shows like Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. Most recently she appeared in the sequel series Star Trek: Picard and her Betazoid accent returned. Where did Deanna Troi get her accent? Marina Sirtis made up an Eastern-European \ Israeli accent for The Next Generation. Why does she talk with the accent when no one else does? Because the producers asked her to make up the accent but never had another actor to use it.

What do you think of Deanna Troi's accent? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author
Maurice Mitchell has been a passionate science-fiction fan of movies, television, books, and comics since age five. He and his twin brother Nigel created the site "The Geek Twins" to share that passion. Maurice has written and created infographics for sites like The Geek Twins and About.com. His work has been featured on sites like Business Insider, io9 Slashfilm and more.
Read more of his posts | Follow him on Twitter @Mauricem1972 

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