As Dr. Beverly Crusher, Gates McFadden is the caretaker of the Star Trek: Next Generation crew; an attractive, brilliant, widowed single mother, who is responsible for the lives placed in her hands every day. Behind Dr. Crushers blue eyes and mane of red hair lies a dancer, a romantic, a theatrical director and a comedian. These are talents that Dr. Crusher possesses in addition to her medical knowledge.
Gates McFadden, Crusher’s real-life alter ego, has cultivated these same talents since the earliest days of her childhood in tiny Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
As a child, McFadden’s love of acting was perhaps rivalled by her love of dance. McFadden’s earliest dance teachers were not traditional. One had been a ballerina and the other; LaDonna had spent her life with the circus. “I grew up thinking most dancers knew how to ride the unicycle, tap dance and do handsprings. Consequentially I was a bit of an oddball to other dancers.” During her teens, while her friends were out dating, McFadden spent her time practising unicycle riding and kick-line dancing.
In her professional career, pre-Star Trek era, McFadden often worked at The Jim Henson Company, working behind the scenes of Labyrinth (as director of choreography and puppet movement), The Muppets Take Manhattan (choreographer and a brief on-screen appearance), and uncredited work on Dreamchild (again supervising choreography and puppet movement).
McFadden eventually became known as, Dr. Beverly Crusher, the voice of compassion in the Enterprise. Crusher’s sense of justice is often at odds with the other officers in the command structure. Once you understand the character and the person, you realise that Crusher the doctor is often difficult to distinguish from McFadden the actress. Crusher has the captain’s ear and perhaps his heart and she has the power to relieve him from duty. McFadden has been called the “earth-mother of the crew”, holding a unique position amongst the cast as confidant, friend and colleague.