And Just Like That, Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Just Forever Redefined A Key Next Generation Relationship

This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of "Star Trek: Picard" season 3.

Previously in the pages of /Film, it was argued that Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) was often given the short shrift on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." While Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) was often given complex and interesting stories, Dr. Crusher was only given a few episodes of her own, more often filling out an ensemble than leading it. I have argued that Dr. Crusher rarely got her own stories because, frankly, she was too complete a character. Her moral code was very clear. She was already the chief medical officer on the Enterprise, so her career was where she wanted it to be. She was an adult who made good decisions. In short, she had her s*** together. Because of these qualities, writers seemed stymied as to what her overall personal drama might be. She was the mother of a teenage son, but stories about the two of them relating became less common as he grew up. 

The richest unexplored drama of Dr. Crusher was perhaps her relationship with the captain. He, too, has his s*** together, and both of them were intelligent leaders. They had a past as well, albeit a dark one; Picard was leading the away mission on which Crusher's first husband was killed. Despite this, the two had clearly grown close and frequently expressed their attraction to one another. In the episode "Allegiance" (March 26, 1990), a duplicate of Picard asked if there was any hope of a relationship. Crusher admitted that it's a fun idea, but remaining professional colleagues was preferable. These notions would come back in "Attached" (November 8, 1993) where Picard and Beverly were psychically linked ... and discovered the depths of their mutual affection. 

Oh yes, and Beverly kissed Picard — deliberately and romantically — in NextGen's final episode. And now, that relationship has been taken to the next level.

Will they? Won't they? They did. They regret it.

In "Seventeen Seconds," the newest episode of "Star Trek: Picard," it is revealed Picard and Dr. Crusher did indeed consummate their relationship, much to their mutual chagrin. Picard mentioned in an earlier episode that he and Beverly attempted to instigate a romantic relationship about five time to date, and it simply never took. One can look at each character and see how a relationship would be perfect ... and just as immediately how it would be a bad idea. With two powerful, intelligent people, neither would necessarily want to cede to the other. They complemented each other well as colleagues, but wouldn't necessarily mesh outside the purview of Starfleet. 

When Crusher and Picard finally confront one another in "Seventeen Seconds," it's an outpouring of animosity. As it turns out, the last time Picard and Crusher saw each other was over 20 years before during an ill-fated sexual tryst. Beverly became pregnant with her son, Jack, and never wanted to tell Picard about his existence. Jack (Ed Speelers) is now grown, and travels the galaxy with his mom distributing medicine to worlds outside of the Federation. 

Why didn't Beverly call Jean-Luc? Why aren't they married or living together as a family unit? As it so happens, it was Picard's career — and it's propensity for constant crisis — that drove a wedge between them. Beverly says that she was able to protect her own son, but the son of a famous Starfleet admiral who is often kidnapped or in mortal peril? Not so easy. Picard is naturally upset that Dr. Crusher kept the secret from him, saying that he cannot be penalized for his absentee fatherhood when he was never told he had a child. 

The history

The reunion of Jean-Luc and Beverly in "Star Trek: Picard" may be more satisfying than any on-screen romance from back in the 1990s. Let us Trekkies cast our minds briefly into a fictional eighth season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." In this fictional season, Picard and Dr. Crusher began dating in earnest, or perhaps even married. They shared quarters, confided in one another, and struggled with maintaining a relationship despite their dangerous job. One can almost sense how out-of-character that would have been for both of them. It's hard to picture scenes of Picard going back to his quarters after a shift and experiencing connubial bliss, or Dr. Crusher clocking out and putting her feet up and coming home to a nice meal replicated by her husband. These two were always too professional for that sort of domesticity. 

Seeing them having tried — and failed — feels more correct. It's also fair that they, when reunited, would lay out their mutual grievances openly. 

The Picard/Crusher relationship was always mildly frustrating in the same way that many long-term will-they-won't-they relationships are on any long-running TV series. The tension can only last so long before it is broken by sex or romance. But after the tension is broken, the following drama is rarely as interesting as all the speculation that led up to it. In this regard, one might also think of Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) from "The X-Files." The tension is the more exciting thing. Once they get married, at least from a teleplay-writing perspective, the thrill is gone. 

Picard and Crusher tried. It didn't work out. And that feels very true to the characters.