Ask any “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fan about their favorite character, and it probably isn’t Dr. Beverly Crusher.
Played by Gates McFadden, Beverly serves as the Chief Medical Officer aboard the Enterprise. Originally airing in 1987, “ST:TNG” continued the progressive spirit of the series, featuring females and people of color in leadership roles.
I have to think about why the character wasn’t very likeable. Could it be that the very things people dislike about the character are also the attributes that make her awesome? In re-watching some episodes of the series recently, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the doctor, particularly on the following points:
A strong single mother in a leadership position, Crusher is diplomatic – but when necessary, she is extremely assertive. This behavior is part of her job. As Chief Medical Officer, Beverly must relieve officers of superior rank from their duty for medical reasons – even when they protest. And she’s very good at it.
Additionally, the character must often stand up for her son, her patients, and medical ethics. When younger, I saw this behavior as ‘bossy’ and undesirable. Now I view those qualities as not only admirable, but required for advancement in my career.
Motherhood vs. Career
A widow, Dr. Crusher retained her position aboard the Enterprise while providing a home for her son. Furthermore, it turned out to be the environment Wesley craved, later pursuing a career in Starfleet himself.
Beverly only showed a willingness to compromise her career or her relationship with her son for a relationship in a few instances; notably: the episode “Sub Rosa,” when she was entranced by a being who had also seduced her grandmother.
In the original casting call, Beverly is defined by her relationship to others – both Captain Picard, and her daughter (because yes, originally Wesley was…Leslie). Fortunately, the character developed more on her own through time and was not simply defined by Picard, her deceased husband, her son, and other male characters. Furthermore, her relationship with Picard – platonic and otherwise – matured over time.
Despite being one of the most assertive and opinionated characters on the crew, Crusher has the capacity to be incredibly diplomatic. Sensitive to the needs of her patients, she is a good listener and communicates with them in a way that lest them know she is on their side.
“ST:TNG” is full of people who analyze, think, and feel their way through things. There are risk-takers like Riker, and nervous personalities like Barclay, but Beverly Crusher is different. She follows the ethical course of action and acts as an advocate for her patients. She puts in extra hours to find answers; she takes on the responsibility of helping people.
I’m starting to wonder if maybe the hate towards Beverly has little to do with her gender and personality and much to do with the fact that she’s the doctor we’d like, but don’t really have in our lives.
What are your feelings on the CMO of the Enterprise-D?