Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard, including the entirety of Season 1 and, most significantly, casting information for Season 2. There are also spoilers for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Over the course of Star Trek: Picard Season 1, we learned a little about some of Picard’s former crewmates from his time aboard the Enterprise-D. We saw Riker and Troi appear in person in the episode Nepenthe, as well as a version of Data. In the episode Maps and Legends, new character Zhaban – an ally of Picard’s – mentioned La Forge and Worf by name, seemingly confirming that both are still alive… at least as of the early part of Season 1! The only main characters from The Next Generation whose fates were not confirmed, and who were not even mentioned, were Dr Beverly Crusher and her son Wesley.
I don’t necessarily expect to see Wesley Crusher return, though I would suggest that actor Wil Wheaton’s continued involvement with Star Trek means it’s a possibility, at least on the production side. But given the close relationship between Picard and Beverly Crusher, I wasn’t alone in wondering what her absence from Season 1 might mean.
The teaser for Picard Season 2, which debuted at last month’s First Contact Day digital event, included a lingering shot over a model of the USS Stargazer – the ship Picard commanded prior to the events of The Next Generation. This, combined with Picard discussing the possibility of time travel in voiceover, seems to hint that the ship may play a role in Season 2. This is significant for the Picard-Crusher conversation, because while Picard was in command of the Stargazer, Dr Crusher’s husband Jack was killed. This event was mentioned a couple of times in The Next Generation, and it was arguably hinted at that Picard felt responsible for Jack’s death.
It may even have been the death of Jack Crusher that stopped Dr Crusher and Picard taking their relationship any further, at least in events we saw on screen. So a return to the USS Stargazer could potentially have brought back memories for Picard of Beverly Crusher, and there was scope for us to learn more about what happened to her after we last saw her in Star Trek: Nemesis.
However, recent comments by Gates McFadden – the actress who played Dr Crusher in The Next Generation and four films – seem to rule that out, at least in Season 2. Though no character return should be seen as guaranteed, after Riker and Troi came back in Season 1, and with Season 2 seeming to at least acknowledge areas of Picard’s past that may be connected to his relationship with Dr Crusher, it wasn’t an unreasonable guess to think she might appear, and thus I’m a little surprised to hear Gates McFadden ruling it out with the season still in relatively early production.
Though we should be careful about assigning motivations, McFadden is about to launch her own podcast, and it was in that capacity that she spoke to website TrekMovie. Generating attention drives clicks and brings in listeners, and while I don’t doubt that McFadden was being honest about her non-appearance in Picard Season 2, we also have to consider in context what she’s saying and what she’s trying to do by talking about it so openly.
Ever since Star Trek: Picard was announced, practically every former Star Trek actor under the sun has expressed interest in reprising their role, and some have outright lobbied ViacomCBS and the creative team in charge of the franchise to make it happen. In short, by discussing her non-appearance in Season 2, McFadden may be hoping to generate buzz around a future return to the role in Season 3, or in another potential Star Trek project. And again, as with the launch of the podcast, we have to take into account why she chose this moment to talk about it.
In a way this is a pretty big spoiler, because now we know that Dr Crusher won’t be appearing in Season 2 – at least, not in any form we’d recognise. Given the season’s apparent time travel aspect and possible return to the USS Stargazer, I’m at least a little surprised by that. But perhaps there’s still scope to learn more about Dr Crusher and what became of her after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, even if she doesn’t appear in person.
During The Next Generation’s second season, Gates McFadden’s absence was explained away by saying that Dr Crusher was working at Starfleet Medical on Earth. It seems plausible that she might’ve returned to that role following the disbanding of the Enterprise-E’s crew. If she continued to work with Picard in the years before the attack on Mars, there’s the possibility that their relationship took a romantic turn. It’s a shame we won’t get to see for ourselves in Season 2, though.
There is, of course, the possibility that Dr Crusher will be mentioned, as La Forge and Worf were in Season 1. If that’s the case, her presence wouldn’t be necessary in order for us to know at least whether she’s still alive in this era – I’m assuming she is until I hear anything to the contrary! And it’s also possible that, if the series is going to indulge in some serious time travel, that the role of a younger Dr Crusher will be recast for the new season. The supporting roles of Bruce Maddox and Icheb were recast in Season 1, and we’ve seen Discovery win a great deal of praise for the recasting of Captain Pike and Spock in Season 2, so the possibility of the role being recast certainly exists. I would think, though, that unless Gates McFadden has somehow talked herself out of returning to the role, if Picard Season 2 wanted Dr Crusher circa 2399-2400, the producers would approach her to reprise the role.
So it was a bit of a surprise, as I keep saying! However, with John de Lancie returning as Q and Whoopi Goldberg coming back as Guinan, perhaps the producers decided that the show risked being overwhelmed with too many classic characters, or that there wasn’t enough time to do justice to Dr Crusher’s return. As with Riker and Troi last season, Dr Crusher would really need at least one entire episode in which she and her relationship with Picard could be a major story element. In a ten-episode season that has a lot of other storylines running, perhaps the producers decided that was too much.
And if that’s the case, I have to say I’m pleased – because it means the writers and producers have learned a lesson from Season 1. I’ve mentioned on a few occasions that I felt Season 1 of Picard did not conclude in particularly strong fashion. Too many storylines were abruptly dropped or not given any meaningful conclusion, and while Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 in particular was a very emotional episode with some fantastic moments, the finale as a whole left a lot on the table.
Dr Crusher could be essential to the story of a future season of Picard. Or, like Riker and Troi last season, she could simply be incidental. If the latter is true, the season as a whole needs to be structured in such a way that taking an episode off to visit her doesn’t have implications for the remainder of the story. And if it happens to be the case that the story of Season 2 is too full to fit Dr Crusher in, then that’s okay. I’d rather wait and see her return in a truly meaningful way than either have a rushed cameo or feel that the episode in which she featured was detrimental to the main story of the season overall – which, sorry to say because it’s an outstanding episode in its own right, is kind of how I feel about Season 1’s Nepenthe.
As always, I encourage you to check out Gates McFadden’s full comments (which can be seen on TrekMovie and appear in their podcast) for context, and to see for yourself exactly what she had to say. This is just my take on the situation! Given that Dr Crusher was very close to the top of my list of characters I considered plausible for Picard Season 2, and considering how amazing it would be to spend some more time with the dancing doctor, it’s a bit of a surprise – and perhaps even a little disappointing – that she isn’t returning.
Regardless, I hope that Dr Crusher can return to Star Trek in future, when a suitable role can be found for her. Hopefully there will be more seasons of Picard to come, and perhaps even more shows and/or films set in this era. Any such project could bring Dr Crusher back, and she would be very welcome!
Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Season 2 is currently filming and is targeting a 2022 broadcast. Gates McFadden was speaking exclusively to the website TrekMovie and the full interview may be found there. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.