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, 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.” Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) explained that Dr. Crusher took a promotion as the head of Starfleet Medical, although it meant leaving her teenage son Wesley alone aboard the Enterprise. Meanwhile, 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 TNG 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.
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 so that Rick Berman took over running Star Trek: The Next Generation. After Hurley left at the end of TNG season 2, Berman asked McFadden to come back. Berman said Muldaur’s character just wasn’t working, though it’s hard to fault Muldaur for that since she joined after the rest of the cast had a full season to develop chemistry on screen and friendships in real life.
Why Dr. Beverly Crusher Returned In Star Trek: TNG Season 3
Gates McFadden was understandably skeptical of the invitation to return to TNG after being fired one season prior, but fan letters and personal phone calls from her former castmates, especially Patrick Stewart, convinced the actress to return. In TNG season 3, episode 1, “Evolution,” McFadden picked up where she left off as Chief Medical Officer of the USS Enterprise-D, where Beverly was also reunited with her son, Ensign Wesley Crusher, who had recently been promoted. Gates’ return also allowed TNG to further explore Beverly’s unique history and chemistry with Stewart’s Captain Picard, which made her comeback to the show sweeter.
Beverly Crusher was often relegated to background duties while spouting futuristic medical jargon but the stories that put the spotlight on McFadden’s acting talent showed how ambitious, level-headed, and funny Beverly Crusher could be. Although Dr. Crusher is often regarded as one of Star Trek’s most underutilized characters, she remains a fan-favorite throughout TNG and in the greater Star Trek franchise. McFadden has often remarked about how many Trekkers were inspired to pursue careers in medicine and life sciences because of her playing Dr. Beverly Crusher, which was only made possible by Gates McFadden returning to Star Trek: The Next Generation after she was fired in season 2.
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