Gates McFadden played Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation and the TNG movies but backstage issues led to McFadden’s character being replaced in TNG season 2. Dr. Crusher was introduced in TNG‘s pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” along with her teenage son, Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), and Beverly is remembered for being a consistent part of TNG’s main cast. However, at the start of TNG season 2, it’s revealed that Dr. Crusher transferred off the Enterprise to head up Starfleet Medical, leaving Wesley behind.
Dr. Katherine Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) took over the job of Chief Medical Officer on the USS Enterprise-D at the start of TNG season 2, episode 1, “The Child.” However, Dr. Pulaski was an unpopular replacement for Dr. Crusher and another switch occurred in-between seasons with Gates McFadden returning to TNG at the start of season 3, where she remained throughout the popular series’ run. While Dr. Crusher’s desire to accept a promotion and advance her career explains the character’s temporary absence from the Enterprise, there are a few real-world reasons that explain why McFadden left the show and why she later came back.
Why Dr. Beverly Crusher Left Star Trek: TNG In Season 2
Dr. Crusher wasn’t in Star Trek: The Next Generation season 2 because Gates McFadden was fired by co-executive producer Maurice Hurley. Production on TNG season 1 was infamously chaotic and numerous writers quit the show during its tumultuous first year. As a result, Hurley rose to become TNG‘s head writer and began to put his stamp on the series as Star Trek: TNG‘s creator Gene Roddenberry stepped back from running TNG day-to-day. One of the targets of Hurley’s ire was the character of Beverly Crusher and Gates McFadden, both of whom he disliked. According to Star Trek producer Rick Berman, McFadden was fired because Hurley, “had a real bone to pick with Gates.” In turn, McFadden didn’t care for Hurley, either.
In a 2018 interview with SBS Australia, McFadden said the following:
“I had been in conflict with one of the male writer-producers about certain things I thought were sexist. What I’ve heard is that he said ‘Either she goes or I go.’ I was shocked that they let me go, because I knew my character was really popular. But he was going to be writing more and more and didn’t want to have to deal with me. What was great was they got rid of him and asked me to come back.”
Hurley went directly to Roddenberry and asked to have Gates let go. Berman, for whatever reason, decided not to get involved or prevent McFadden from being fired and replaced by Diana Maldaur’s Dr. Pulaski in TNG season 2. But Hurley himself only lasted one season as TNG‘s showrunner. Rick Berman then took over running Star Trek: The Next Generation. After Hurley left at the end of TNG season 2, Berman asked McFadden to come back as Dr. Pulaski proved unpopular with fans.
McFadden also believes that some of the producers behind the show may have felt like the show “had too many women.” Denise Crosby, who played Security Chief Tasha Yar, had just left the show a few episodes before the end of TNG season 1 because she felt her character wasn’t given enough to do. It seems McFadden, too, wanted to play a more active role as Dr. Crusher, but the early writers just weren’t sure what to do with her character.
Why Dr. Beverly Crusher Returned In Star Trek: TNG Season 3
After she was let go, McFadden said she received “thousands of letters” from fans who loved and missed Dr. Crusher. It wasn’t just the fans who wanted Dr. Crusher back aboard the Enterprise. Captain Picard himself reached out to McFadden asking her to return. In fact, McFadden said that Patrick Stewart “was the first person to call me and ask if I’d consider it.” With Maurice Hurley no longer running Star Trek: The Next Generation and with the blessings of her castmates, McFadden returned as Dr. Crusher in TNG season 3. McFadden continued as Beverly Crusher throughout the rest of TNG‘s 7-season run, and she returned as Dr. Crusher in the four TNG feature films.
Dr. Crusher Returned In Star Trek: Picard Season 3
Gates McFadden and Dr. Beverly Crusher weren’t part of the first 2 seasons of Star Trek: Picard, but she returned in Picard season 3. McFadden was able to play a much different version of her iconic doctor who was closer to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s original concept for Beverly Crusher. Picard season 3 revealed that after her final TNG movie appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis, Dr. Crusher left the USS Enterprise-E and severed contact with Captain Picard and her crewmates. Secretly pregnant with Picard’s son, Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers), Beverly raised him on the outskirts of the United Federation of Planets. As adults, the Crushers performed ‘doctors without borders’-style missions to worlds beyond the Federation’s reach.
Dr. Beverly Crusher was an integral part of Star Trek: Picard season 3, and Jack is a fascinating new addition to Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s lore. Crusher’s priority in Picard season 3 was projecting Jack, whom she eventually deduced was infected from birth with organic Borg DNA he inherited from Jean-Luc, who was once Locutus of Borg. Beverly and Picard saved Jack from his fate to become Vox of Borg and assimilate Starfleet. Further, Dr. Crusher masterminded a solution to the Changeling infiltration of Starfleet, which earned Beverly a promotion to Admiral and the position of head of Starfleet Medical. These storylines would not have been possible had McFadden not decided to return, and Star Trek: The Next Generation would have been lesser without Dr. Beverly Crusher.
This story originally appeared on Screenrant