Gates McFadden Wanted To Make Dr. Crusher More Physical In Star Trek: The Next Generation

The third season of "Star Trek: Picard" is set to debut on Paramount+ on February 16, and many recognizable characters from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" will be returning. LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, and Gates McFadden will reprise their NextGen roles, while Brent Spiner will be playing Lore, Data's evil android twin. Additionally, Daniel Davis will also come back as Moriarity, the sentient holodeck version of Sherlock Holmes' nemesis. There is no word as to the return of other main cast members Wil Wheaton, Diana Muldaur, or Denise Crosby, but seeing as "Picard" is currently rolling hard with its nostalgia, there's every reason to believe one or all of them will also appear. 

The characters, of course, are all older, wiser, and in different places in their lives. Most dramatically, as seen in previews, Dr. Crusher (McFadden) appears to have moved from medicine into vigilantism. She is seen wielding weapons, and is seemingly the one who will desperately contact Picard (Patrick Stewart) to enlist him in One Final Mission. 

McFadden has gone on record with how disappointed she was with Dr. Crusher's lack of character development on "Next Generation." Dr. Crusher was resolute, mature, and sophisticated, leaving writers seemingly at a loss when it came to developing stories for her. Despite a few standout episodes, Dr. Crusher rarely got moments to shine. It seems that the new season of "Picard" seeks to rectify that, transforming the character into a violent woman of action. In a recent interview with the Wrap, McFadden stated how pleased she was with her character's shift, and how much fun it is to finally kick some butt.

Crusher, bruiser

McFadden was not shy, saying: "I love kicking ass, first of all," and that she "had a fantastic time working on this show." 

McFadden got her start in dance, and enjoyed an extensive career on the stage prior to first appearing on "Star Trek" in 1987. McFadden felt that, with her stage training and dance experience, she would be able to contribute to the show's action scenes more. As the chief medical officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise, however, she was mostly relegated to sickbay, rarely getting into scrapes or being present during firefights. The episode "Higher Ground" (January 29, 1990) had Dr. Crusher butting heads with a group of alien terrorists, but that was, sadly, only one episode. McFadden wanted Dr. Crusher to be more active, saying: 

"As a choreographer, I've done dance, combat, I really did want to not have a makeup kit on me while on the away team. I wanted to actually have some things I could use to be helpful."

It seems that Dr. Crusher was pitched to McFadden — by "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, of all people — as being more active in the series. McFadden was infamously fired at the end of the first season of "Next Generation," largely due to bitter conflicts with one of the show's producers, Maurice Hurley. After Hurley left, McFadden was re-hired for the third season and continued as Dr. Crusher through to the show's conclusion (as well as in four feature films). 

When she returned, however, she felt that the show's writers transformed her from being an "action doctor" into a warmer, calmer, more caring figure. Not a bad character development, by any means, but certainly different from what Roddenberry had initially said. 

Dr. Crusher's journey

McFadden recalled Dr. Crusher's shift, saying: 

"I felt like with the switch between second and third season, I felt I came back and it was a much more matronly character. ... And I felt it took several years to return to what I was told the character is by [Gene Roddenberry]. For me, it was that kind of a journey."

The previews for the third season of "Picard" depict Dr. Crusher holding weapons, sending emergency distress calls, and — in a cryptic scene — cryogenically frozen in some sort of hypersleep pod. Little is known about the new season's story, but it seems like Dr. Crusher will certainly have a lot to do. Indeed, the general vibe is very similar to the bulk of the "Star Trek" feature films, in that it's about a powerful, violence-bent supervillain (in this case, played by Amanda Plummer) who aims to destroy the federation for reasons of revenge. This was also the central conceit of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," "Star Trek: Nemesis," the 2009 "Star Trek" film, "Star Trek Into Darkness" (which also featured Khan), and "Star Trek Beyond." 

"Star Trek: Picard," taking its cues from the more action-forward corners of the "Star Trek" universe, features a great deal of mayhem, and each of its characters regularly commits murder; this is the show that also transformed Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) into a vigilante. If McFadden wanted to be an action star, this is certainly the show on which to do it. No doubt every single character, Picard included, will have an opportunity to fire weapons. Damn the diplomacy, full speed ahead.