Gates McFadden has revealed why she was absent from the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation almost thirty years after the show ended. The actress, known for portraying Doctor Beverly Crusher, the mother of everyone’s favorite punching bag, Wesley Crusher, recently spoke out on the Inside of You podcast with Michael Rosenbaum about what led her to leave the show.
Gates revealed that before joining Star Trek in 1987, she had mainly been working on theater and art projects (many with Jim Henson and The Muppets) that were more collaborative as opposed to the rather straightforward way that shows were done.
This led to some tensions with showrunner Maurice Hurley during the first season of the show. The tensions began small, with the character of Beverly mostly being sidelined, especially in episodes that involved Wesley, with serious parts and conversations that she felt would happen between the mother and son duo being given instead to actors like Patrick Stewart or Jonathan Frakes.
Tensions only grew from there, as Gates McFadden says her screen time continued to get cut for not being as traditionally beautiful as some of the other actresses on the show (If Gates isn’t beautiful then I’m a blob of snails).
Things would come to a head in the episode Angel One, midway through the first season. With a plot that focused on a planet ruled by women and advanced in medical technology, Gates assumed she would finally see a juicy bit of dramatic acting coming her way. Unfortunately, she was wrong, and the episode would mostly center around a pre-bearded Riker.
Despite dissatisfaction from series creator Gene Roddenberry, Hurley wrote Gates out of the next season, not necessarily firing her but doing the even more dickish thing of “Not asking her to come back”. The actress would leave the series, instead moving in to work in theater and help Jim Henson with his newest effort at the time, Labyrinth. The time off proved to work in her favor, as Hurley stepped down from showrunner after the 1989 season ended. After a lengthy conversation with Captain Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, Gates was convinced to rejoin the crew of the USS Enterprise-D.
Gates McFadden would return triumphant to the show, making her re-entrance in the season three premiere just in time to deal with more of Wesley’s b.s. as he accidentally lets a science experiment loose on the ship. Beverly Crusher would be a welcome addition to the cast of The Next Generation once more and would receive more involved storylines in the years to come. Gates would remain on the show until its end in season seven, while also returning in the film Star Trek: Generations just after the series finale.
Beverly Crusher has had a legacy throughout Star Trek now thanks to Gates’ willingness to return after being let go. She’s now appeared in every movie based on The Next Generation, from Generations to Nemesis. Even recently, she’s returned to the role of Beverly in the premiere of Star Trek: Picard season three, bringing along with her a new son and a reunion for not just The Next Generation crew, but many Starfleet officers from across the galaxy.