Star Trek Fan-Favorite Character Thought They Were Comic Relief

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

While Star Trek: The Next Generation had an amazing cast, the writers didn’t always give Dr. Crusher enough to do. Played by the talented Gates McFadden, this character is relatively serious most of the time, which is arguably fitting because the character is a widowed mother who also has to deal with the craziest diseases in the cosmos. Ironically, though, McFadden thought Dr. Crusher would be a comedic character for a simple reason: during her audition, she was reading lines from the infamous episode “The Naked Now.”

McFadden Loves Comedy

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Before she was cast in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gates McFadden had some experience performing in dramas, including TV shows like Another World and The Edge of Night. However, she preferred the more comedic roles, and she dazzled with brief roles in The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Cosby Show (both as Cheryl McFadden). When she auditioned for Star Trek, she was actually relieved because she was given some very comedic material to work with.

The Naked Now

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What Gates McFadden had no way of knowing was that the script she received for the audition was not representative of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and most certainly not representative of her own character. The script was for “The Naked Now,” a follow-up to an old Original Series episode where we saw how different TNG characters would act when infected with something that basically made them completely drunk. At different points, the normally very serious Picard and Dr. Crusher alternate between giggling and flirting.

The Least Funny Character

Understandably, this led Gates McFadden to believe that Dr. Crusher would be a funny character, an impression that she later said was heightened when she read through the pilot script. There’s a decent chance this was an earlier version of that script, as the finished TNG pilot episode “Encounter At Farpoint” doesn’t really have any comedy moments for the character. Eventually, McFadden made peace with the fact that Dr. Crusher was going to be a generally serious role, but she never stopped trying to inject comedy where she could.

She Tried To Add The Funny

In a 1992 interview, Gates McFadden said of Dr. Crusher that “there’s nothing funny about her” and that “I keep trying to put in the comedy and the pratfalls, but it’s hard.” Her efforts were likely made that much harder by the fact that The Next Generation was a generally very serious show. In retrospect, though, her instincts were solid, and Dr. Crusher was at her best when given something funny to do.

When She Was Allowed To Be Funny, She Killed

For example, her snarky back and forth with Q in “Deja Q” is perfect, made even better by the fact that Gates McFadden and John de Lancie were already good friends before getting cast in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In “Data’s Day,” she is amusingly captivating as she teaches Data how to tap dance (using her own killer dance skills, by the way). And while not written as a comedy, McFadden makes “Sub Rosa” (the ep where Dr. Crusher can’t stop banging a ghost man who lives in a candle) hilarious, especially with lines like “I did fall asleep reading a particularly erotic chapter in my grandmother’s journal.”

Here’s The Ghost Candle Joke You Knew Was On The Way

gates mcfadden

The prognosis is simple: Gates McFadden may have been wrong about Dr. Crusher being a comedic character, but she ultimately made the dancing doctor funnier than the writers ever intended. If you’d like to light a candle in remembrance of how great she made this character, go right ahead. However, if you see a sexy Scottish guy in old-timey clothing comes out of the candle, you better clear your schedule for the rest of the night–maybe the rest of the week.