The Controversial Star Trek Episode Gates McFadden Wishes She Could Do Differently

There's two unshakeable truths that most "Star Trek fans" hold concerning "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The first is that it's top-tier Trek, only eclipsed by its sister show "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." The second is that the show has a ratio of truly great episodes to ... not-so-great episodes. For every gamechanger like the "Best of Both Worlds" two-parter (which served as my own introduction to "The Next Generation"), there's a clunker like the season 1 episode "Justice," where Wesley Crusher is put on trial for stepping on flowers. And in case you don't remember that, I'm not joking — that was an actual episode of the series. 

And one cast member has ideas on how she would have handled a certain episode many fans don't like to remember.

During an interview with Inverse, Gates McFadden — best known for her role on the series as Dr. Beverly Crusher — discussed her new podcast "Gates McFadden Investigates: Who Do You Think You Are?," where she talks with her fellow "Next Generation" cast members. The interview touched on an extremely controversial "Next Generation" episode, and McFadden's feelings about it.

The Host Not Taken

In the season 4 episode "The Host," Dr. Crusher fell in love with the Trill meditator Odan, but soon faces trouble when Odan — secretly a symbiotic alien — vacates his host body after a fatal incident and bonds with Commander William Riker. Ultimately, Odan finds a permanent host in a female Trill, leaving Crusher to not pursue a relationship. 

The episode has been a source of controversy in the years following its release, and McFadden discussed her own thoughts on the production and Crusher's state of mind:

"First of all, you're given a script and that's your script. You can only change so much. And I think that if anyone actually thought about it, they would see that it's way too fast for Crusher to be able to process all that has happened. This person who looks like a normal human being dies just as you're really getting close and love them. Okay, then you're told no, no, put my thing, this parasite [Trill symbiont] into another body. It could have been anybody's body. But she doesn't know that as soon as that it's in another body that she's going to be attracted to that person."

So Many Ideas, So Little Time

Ultimately, McFadden said that she wished there was more time to explore what Crusher was feeling:

"There was a tremendous amount that Crusher had to process that wasn't seen. I don't think people saw the full amount of things that she was expected to process."

McFadden does have a point. Back when "The Next Generation" was on the air, streaming wasn't even a twinkle in Hollywood execs' eyes. You had to watch the episode when it first aired or wait for reruns. And it would be some time before genre shows embraced the concept of the ongoing arc — something that another sci-fi show, "Babylon 5" (not to mention (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine") would popularize. If "The Vow" was made today, I think that the events of the episode could lend themselves to a multi-part story and would have given Crusher more time to process some very complicated feelings. And if McFadden ever shows up on "Star Trek: Picard" in some capacity, I hope she has the chance to further flesh out the good doctor.