I’ve been asked to write an article on the women of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I think in order to give each of the four women I’ve chosen their proper due; I’m going to break this article up into a four part series with each part focusing on a different woman. Choosing the four women however was easy. When you think of TNG, I’m betting the first four ladies who come to mind are Dr. Beverly Crusher, Tasha Yar, Counselor Troi and of course, the irrepressible, imitated but never duplicated Lwaxana Troi.
The first woman whose history I wanted to delve deeper into was Dr. Beverly Crusher. The only things I knew about her before I wrote this article were that she had served previously with Captain Picard, was married to a man named Jack and had a son named Wesley. Also that she had some of the most gorgeous red hair I’ve ever seen.
According to Memory Alpha, Dr. Crusher was born in a place known as Copernicus City, on Earth’s moon, although she later moved to Caldos Colony after the death of both of her parents during a medical crisis on Arvada III. While on Caldos Colony, she lived with her grandmother Felisa (fondly known as “Nana”) and it was her grandmother’s prowess with healing plants and herbs that inspired Beverly to become a doctor herself.
Later, while attending Starfleet Academy, she met and fell in love with a young officer named Jack Crusher whom she eventually married and had a son with. While serving on the “Stargazer”, Jack’s commanding officer was none other than Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Picard eventually became close friends with both Jack and Beverly. It was during this tour of duty aboard the “Stargazer” in which Picard falls in love with Beverly, though he doesn’t admit it until much later. Sadly, while under Picard’s command, Jack was killed during an incident. Leaving Beverly a widow and young Wesley without his father.
I think that, what with losing her parents at a young age and then becoming a widow after only a few years of marriage, Beverly became a very strong, almost stubborn person. She seemed like the kind of person who knew when her duty had to be done and went on about it without much of a fuss. She had to be strong, not only for herself but for her son which she would end up raising for the most part alone. I say for the most part because I think that once she came aboard the Enterprise-D, she had some help from her fellow crew members. It was clear from the moment he was assigned to be an acting ensign that several of the other crew members (most notably Geordi LaForge, Cmdr. Riker and Lt. Data) stepped up to help Wesley through the difficult trials of not only being an adolescent aboard a starship but the only junior crew member to have his own mother aboard.
Dr. Crusher is the ultimate modern post-feminist woman. She embodies the “I can do everything and have everything” ideal of the feminist movement by being married (at least for a little while), having an exciting, high-ranking job and having a child. Beverly Crusher, with her independent spirit and can-do attitude is like a poster child for feminists everywhere who believe that not only can they do everything the boys can do, but they can do it better. I think sometimes she felt like she was letting Wesley down by trying to keep so many balls in the air and that she wasn’t the best parent, but I don’t know of any parent who hasn’t felt guilty of not being a super parent from time to time.
I think Beverly Crusher has been a perennial favorite among Trekkies, especially female Trekkies, not only because of her beauty but her strength as well. She clearly has a very stubborn aspect to her personality which serves her well. She strongly believes in the Hippocratic Oath (First Do No Harm) and is determined to do anything she can to help her patients. My favorite example of this is in the episode “Ethics” in which Worf has a paralyzing back injury. Although Dr. Russell (following in the footsteps of Dr. Pulaski, who is a bit on the controversial side, I’ve always felt) thinks that he can be totally healed by creating a replicated spine, Beverly argues against it because the replicating technique hasn’t been proved yet and she’s not eager to test out something that may cause more harm than good on Worf. Even though Dr. Russell makes a convincing argument for her ideas, Dr. Crusher stands firm in her decision. Although she does ultimately leave the choice of being paralyzed or trying the risky operation up to Worf, you can tell she’s not really all that comfortable with the unproven technology.
I also think that there is a romantic aspect to the character of Dr. Crusher. She falls in love only a few times throughout the series but you can tell that when she falls in love, she falls quickly and hard. But she doesn’t just fall for anyone. Her first love was obviously her husband Jack whom she still holds a candle for in a way. She loves and respects his memory always but she doesn’t let that stop her from falling in love again when the right man (or being, in the case of the Trill ambassador Odan) comes along.
And underneath it all, there is a great affection for Captain Picard whom she considers a very close friend. In a lot of the fan fiction I’ve read, the writers have come up with situations in which Picard and Beverly ultimately get together and I think that they are definitely on to something. Throughout the series, you see Picard and Beverly come close to making that leap from co-workers and good friends to romantic partners. Beverly, however, is very careful about crossing that line and I think though she may have wanted to, she never really could force herself to do so although there are hints that she did in fact, let herself become romantically involved with Picard on occasion.
Beverly Crusher was a very complex character who embodied the best of Starfleet tradition and showed great empathy to her patients at the same time. She tried to keep her personal feelings from getting in the way although they did sometimes seem to hamper her. I think that Beverly Crusher will be one of those characters who will always be remembered for her wit, her charm and her great store of kindness for those who called her “Doctor”.