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Make It So #1: A Truly Tortured Star Trek Character

Make It So #1: A Truly Tortured Star Trek Character

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I've always referred to them as 'torture Beverly episodes'. In Star Trek, from Next Generation (NextGen) on, there always seems to be a character the writers seem to take some perverse pleasure in torturing in one way or another.

On Deep Space Nine it was Chief of Operations, Miles Edward O'Brien and Star Trek: Voyager it was young Ensign Harry Kim. But, my favorite of all tortured characters was Doctor Beverly Crusher, played by Gates McFadden, from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It was Beverly who was the first truly tortured Star Trek character. And I know what you're saying, 'a truly torture Star Trek character? It doesn't make any sense.'

But, give me a moment to explain what I mean.

The true torturing of Doctor Beverly Crusher really began during the first season primarily focusing around her son, Wesley. Wesley was often kidnapped, arrested, or being buttered up by the local aliens for dinner. So, Wesley was the instrument for torturing Doctor Crusher when he wasn't busy saving the ship from destruction.

In the episode, "When the Bough Breaks" Wesley is kidnapped to become the future leader of a dying planet known as Aldea. So while this episode is not necessarily directly torturing Dr. Crusher, but it does so indirectly through the use of Wesley.

Was Wesley Dr. Crusher Achilles' heel? Was this just the beginning of the end for Dr. Crusher?

Yes and no. During the second season, Gates McFadden didn't return to NextGen, and was instead replaced with crusty old Doctor Katherine Pulaski, played by Diana Muldaur.

I'm sorry to say that torturing Dr. Pulaski just wasn't the same as torturing Beverly, even if Dr. Pulaski did deserve it for the treatment she gave Data. Thankfully, when Star Trek: The Next Generation got back on track during the third season with Beverly's return, that's when the real fun began.

The episode known as "The High Ground" specifically focused around Dr. Crusher and her roll as a Federation doctor in helping the government of Rutia during a long civil war with extremist separatists. When Dr. Crusher is kidnapped during an attack on a local café, she discovers she's been taken to the separatists' hideout. The separatists' leader, a terrorist known as Finn, attempts to persuade her to help them cure the separatists of internal damage from a new transporter technology that they're using.

The primary torture of this episode is the fact that Dr. Crusher is strangely attracted to Finn, while at the same time she is afraid of him and what he might do to her and/or the Enterprise.

When the terrorists decide to destroy the Enterprise, Beverly is extremely torn because Wesley is still on board the ship, not to mention all her medical equipment. When the terrorists are not able to destroy the Enterprise, they kidnap Captain Picard. Dr Crusher again finds herself torn between her loyalty to the Captain and her compassion for the separatists and their leader.

In "Transfigurations", Dr. Crusher is given a love interest who is ripped from her at the last moment.

But perhaps the most torturous episode of Doctor Beverly Crusher was an episode known as "Remember Me".

Unbeknownst to Dr. Crusher, she becomes trapped in a sub-space bubble during an experiment in Engineering. Talk about being in your own little world.

So, when people around her begin to disappear with no trace, evidence, or even memories that the person ever existed. She begins thinking there is some mysterious force working against the crew, and that she's the only person who is not affected by this strange phenomenon. In the end she and Captain Picard are the only two people left on the Enterprise, until finally he disappears too. Alone, with only the computer to talk to, she discovers that the universe is collapsing around her. When the entire universe is only the bridge of the Enterprise, she escapes at the last moment.

Other great torture Beverly episodes occurred the fourth season. In the episode, "The Host", she falls desperately in love with a handsome young male Trill, known as Odon. But, as with all great Star Trek romances, not all is it appears. Odon is, in fact, a symbiotic being that is a living inside a humanoid host; 'Doctor Beverly' as Odon calls her, has fallen in love with a giant Tequila worm. I mean, it doesn't sound like torture to me, but if you think about it, it really is.

To take Dr. Crusher's character to the brink of happiness and snap back at last second to me seems like a serious torture job. The best part of the episode is the fact that the worm ends up being planted in a new host which happens to be a woman.

During season 5, in "Violations", the Enterprise is hosting a group of telepathic aliens who are collecting memories for a memory archive for their home planet. One of the aliens attacks Counselor Troi and after Dr. Crusher begins to discover the truth he attacks her by making her relive a twisted memory of the death of her husband and having to identify his body with Captain Picard. The the most twisted part is that Captain Picard has hair.

One of the last "torture Beverly episodes" is "Sub Rosa", during season 7, which intertwines a sick romance fantasy with a torture Beverly episode.

Dr. Crusher returns to her grandmother's colony to oddly fall in love with the man who actually lives inside a candle. This mysterious man actually had a long-term relationship with Beverly's mother and grandmother before her.

This alien entity lives inside certain energy patterns and begins to fuses her body that with energy to use her as a way to live. At the climax of the episode Dr. Crusher's dead grandmother reanimates and calls out to Beverly in a last attempt to stop her from destroying the energy being who lives inside the candle.

I think some of some quicker torture episodes where it was more of a afterthought were episodes like, 'Timescape', during season 6, where she was shot point-blank in the stomach with the phaser during an alternate timeline. The episode 'Night Terrors', during season 4, where she haucinates she is surrounded by live corpses who all want 'a piece of candy'.

I'm sure you're asking yourself as Doctor Beverly crusher ever had great moment other than being tortured?

Actually, yes.

In the episode, "Suspicions", during season 6, Dr. Crusher takes on a group of scientists who are skeptical of the new shield technology developed by Doctor Reyga, a Ferengi scientist. When Dr. Reyga dies during a test flight Dr. Crusher risks her career to find out the truth.

In season 7, the first episode out the door was known as "Attached" where Captain Picard and Beverly are kidnapped by xenophobic group of aliens. The aliens attach a mind probe to read the crew members thoughts, but before they can, Jean-Luc and Beverly escape.

The episode actually sets up a romantic relationship between the Captain and Beverly that appeared during the first season and begins to deepen the bonds between them.

So, that actually brings me to one of my favorite Star Trek episodes ever.

I can easily say my favorite 'Doctor Beverly' episode was "Ethics", which ran during the 5th Season of NextGen. "Ethics" was a dramatic look at the emotional bond and professional dilemma of a doctor faced with a patient who can't be cured using conventional medicine and wants to die.

The show basically goes like this: Worf's spine is severely injured by a falling cargo container in the shuttle bay. He wakes to find that several of his vertebrae in his back had been destroyed and has no chance of regaining the use of his legs. Even though a medical expert is brought in Worf can't be helped by standard medicine. Worf being the true Klingon that he is, thinks that committing suicide is a better than living as the paraplegic.

The "Ethics" story works on many different levels. First, Beverly has to wrestle with her moral convictions of whether or not a patient has the right to die or should be required to live. Next, Commander Riker has to decide whether to help Worf commit suicide or not, and finally Beverly has to battle with Dr. Toby Russell who doesn't stop at trying untested medical procedures on her patients for the sake of collecting data.

I have always enjoyed the episodes with Beverly. She has been a tortured sole in the Star Trek universe. But at the same time she's been a determined, resolute, and true Star Trek character who's made her mark television. May Doctor Beverly Crusher continue to make great medicine in that great big universe known as Star Trek.

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