Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher, standing on the bridge of the Enterprise.
Image: CBS/Paramount

The Troubling Reason Beverly Crusher Disappeared From ‘Star Trek’—and the Triumphant Story of Her Return

Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) is one of Star Trek‘s most unforgettable characters. As chief medical officer aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Beverly cared for other crew members at their most vulnerable. But she was also a formidable character in her own right, dealing with the grief of her husband’s death while caring for her son Wesley.

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Star Trek fans were stunned when, at the conclusion of season 1 in 1988, they found out that McFadden was leaving the series. In season 2, Beverly was replaced by Dr. Katherine Pulaski, played by Diana Muldaur. The reason the series gave for Beverly’s departure was that she’d taken a position as head of Starfleet Medical, with Katherine being transferred to the Enterprise to take her place. After one season, though, Katherine was switched back out so that Beverly could return.

Why, though? What happened behind the scenes? The reason, it turns out, goes against everything Star Trek stands for.

Gates McFadden was ousted for calling out sexism

According to issue 12 of The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine, an official statement from CBS/Paramount stated that McFadden had left to pursue other career options. Meanwhile, McFadden herself was told that the studio had decided to go in another direction with her character.

However, in the 2012 documentary Making It So: Continuing Star Trek—The Next Generation, McFadden states that she was forced out because a male producer took issue with her criticism of sexist writing on the show. Patrick Stewart and other cast members were reportedly “horrified and appalled,” with no one having guessed that the producer might retaliate.

More recently, McFadden elaborated on the story to the Australian website SBSand shared its eventual happy ending.

What was great was they got rid of [the producer] and asked me to come back. So, for me, that was terrific. I know that the fans had something to do with it. They [the producers] would never admit that, but I know it’s true. I was surprised at how powerful the fans felt about things and vocal about it.

Indeed, Making It So describes how fans started a letter-writing campaign which, along with help from Patrick Stewart and executive producer Rick Berman, got McFadden back onboard the Enterprise for season 3. McFadden would stay with the series for the rest of its seven-season run, followed by four feature films and a return in 2023’s Picard season 3.

While McFadden hasn’t shared the specific details of her conflict with the producer, she did talk to SBS about the sexist writing that she took issue with.

They felt that [the show] had too many women. My agent said that I was the third most popular character on the show at the time. I felt pretty confident. I understand why Denise [Crosby, who played Tasha Yar] wanted to leave. They didn’t use her. Our characters never had one scene together. I never had a scene with just Troi.

For a show about a utopian society based on principles of equity and equality, shying away from female characters isn’t a good look—nor is firing a female cast member for calling out the show’s sexism. Here’s to the dedicated fans and coworkers who fought to bring Beverly back, and won.

(featured image: Paramount)


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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>