Star Trek Season One On BluRay Will Make You Love Beverly Crusher
By Alex Cranz
I’m way too many discs into the first season of Star Trek The Next Generation on BluRay–at least for a woman who just got the discs yesterday. It’s been a couple of years since I revisited the series but it still instills in me a goofy sense of affection and it still possesses an addictive quality. Even when I know every episode and many of the beats within them I can’t help but smile and enjoy the ride.
Everyone has their favorite character. Usually Picard, Worf or Data. Maybe Riker if you’re into lusty ladies’ men.
But Troi? No one likes Troi. Chick is all fainting like a lady in the old X-Men cartoon. And Tasha? First [SPOILERS]she dies because the actress hated Gene Roddenberry’s sexist ass[/SPOILERS] and second uh her hair is not so good?
I mean there are plenty of reasons to like her. She went from dodging “rape squads” when she was five to being the chief of security and having super justifiable anger issues that are never adequately explored because, you know, dead.
But man, Beverly Crusher? For me she’s where it’s at. When ST:TNG premiered in 1987 the “women can have it all” movemement was in full swing. Women were, according to a hysterical media, leaving the home in droves to work and abandoning their children to nannies and daycares and being judged for being terrible mothers.
And there on Star Trek every week Beverly Crusher was busy being a BAMF and raising a child. Admittedly that child was Wesley Crusher and until he turned into adult Wil Wheaton he was the worst for a lot of people.
So technically she isn’t single by choice. She is, in fact, a widow. Something that’s mentioned as often as Tasha’s rape squads in the early episodes. It was like Roddenberry didn’t understand character development and just assumed it was the same as repeating personal facts all the time.
But while Beverly is busy talking about her status as a widow she is also busy revealing a key fact. She was an active Star Fleet doctor while pregnant with Wesley.
Which means even before she was a working widow she was a working mom. And fifteen years after her husband’s death she’s still a working mom. A working mom who dates, flirts and manages to be Star Trek canon’s premiere non-genetically enhanced doctor. That’s a pretty extraordinary role model to have and over the years she’s only grown in my estimation.
Even when she gets written off the show because Gates McFadden had had it up to here with Gene Roddenberry’s sexual harassment she is awesome, flying off to command Starfleet Medical; which, technically, means she probably outranks Picard for a while…you know if you want to play that game.
It was only because of Roddenberry’s retirement (he would die a few months later) and Patrick Stewart’s begging her at her chateau in the bucolic fields of France* that McFadden returned to the show. Over the next five seasons she crafted a flirtatious professional who finds a way to manage motherhood, a love life and an exemplary career.
Other characters might be better defined on the surface. Data, who yearns to find balance between his android and “human” self. Worf, who is perpetually driven to find honor even at the cost of love and happiness. Picard, who is obsessed with the world beyond our windows and so married to exploration that he self sabotages every relationship he has by falling in love with only those he can never have.
Crusher never had that luxury of commitment from the writers. Perhaps a character, so rooted in compassion–often to extremes, didn’t strike the writers as interesting as others. It didn’t help that the character has a very sardonic streak. A few writers could see the charm of the character and odds are if someone was saying something snarky that bordered on breaking the fourth wall it was Crusher.
Yet McFadden reportedly had to beg for more to do and usually that meant things like being stuck with Jeri Taylor as her fangirl (see how that worked out for Janeway on Voyager and Star Trek‘s big gay episode that was anything but and that one episode where Crusher finds the world folding in on itself and comes to the very logical but hilariously egotistical conclusion that she isn’t the problem–the universe is.
It also meant the very first instance of invisible ghost sex on network television.
And it meant an anchor for the better developed Jean Luc Picard. His relationship with Data is the one writers like to talk about because it very much mirrored the Kirk/Spock relationship and because we as a culture are enamored with the idea of Pinocchio’s quest for “realness.”
But Crusher and Picard are a quiet love affair. One that humanizes Picard and makes him relatable. And one that mines the bittersweet drama of finding the love of your life but always at just the wrong time.
In a show often condemned for possessing so many characters with so few flaws Crusher stands out as something else. She is a member of the pantheon Worf and O’Brien remember with starry eyed fondness on Deep Space Nine but she also grounds that pantheon. She’s the widow–proof that they are not untouchable, and she’s the doctor. She a constant reminder of the characters’ mortality.
And in a show full of icons she’s the one I find myself turning to.
*That’s probably not true.