As the Chief Medical Officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Doctor Beverly Crusher dealt with an abundance of diverse challenges that would have been far too much for most surgeons to bear. From the common cold to Borg encounters, Crusher needed to prepare contingency plans for every possible situation. The doctor’s experiences extended well beyond medical matters, as she served as both a valued senior staff member and a trusted advisor for Captain Picard.
While Crusher worked marvels in sickbay, her compassion and humanity shone through in many other ways. We may not be able to dive into each miracle that the doctor performed, but let’s rank the most prominent instances where Crusher’s actions ultimately proved vital to “saving the day.”
7. Outwitting Invaders in “Conspiracy”
When parasitic aliens attempted to infiltrate the Federation, the mysterious beings dispatched an infected Admiral Quinn to bring one of their kin to Crusher so it could assume control over the doctor. The plot demonstrated Crusher’s vital position on the flagship, but Riker’s interference threw a wrench in the invaders’ efforts and provided the doctor with the opportunity to study Quinn. After identifying the tell-tale gills that marked the officers who were infested by the creatures, Crusher warned the captain about the dangerous situation. Most importantly, the CMO devised the scheme wherein Riker pretended to succumb to the parasites in order to rescue Picard. The doctor’s plan represented a superb combination of her medical prowess and Starfleet’s standard tactical training. Without Crusher’s ingenuity and quick-thinking, the aliens might have overtaken the Enterprise and undermined the Federation.
6. Countering Terrorism in “The High Ground”
Crusher’s dedication to treating citizens wounded in a terrorist attack resulted in her being captured by Ansata separatists on Rutia IV, but the doctor faced her imprisonment with bravery and stoicism. Kyril Finn, the group’s leader and Crusher’s impromptu jailer, accused Starfleet of allying itself with the Rutian government, but the CMO repeatedly emphasized her mission’s merciful nature. Despite the cruel circumstances, Crusher willingly diagnosed the Ansata who suffered from an illness caused by dimensional shifting and sought to ease their pain.
Although the doctor acknowledged Finn’s perspective, she refused to give in to the notion that fear and violence were viable solutions, even when the Ansata launched an assault on the Enterprise that could have killed Wesley. Crusher’s voice of reason failed to fully penetrate Finn’s harsh exterior before he perished at the hands of the Rutian police, but the doctor’s pleas did convince an Ansata boy to lower his weapon. While the outcome was far from ideal, Crusher’s commitment to her ethics saved the young man’s life.
5. Rehabilitating a Race in “Transfigurations”
The theme of valuing the treatment of individuals continued when the Enterprise rescued an enigmatic patient dubbed “John Doe” in the Zeta Gelis star cluster. Crusher devoted her skills to the apparently hopeless case and, with assistance from the alien’s regenerative abilities, was granted the chance to get to know John in the process. Star Trek’s wonderous 24th century medicine often restores victims so swiftly that they depart sickbay almost immediately after enduring horrific injuries, but “Transfigurations” offered a much-needed glimpse of a doctor collaborating with her patient through a more prolonged rehabilitation.
The episode underlined the concept that Crusher’s medical proficiency consisted of much more than simply relaying technobabble and waving a device over a wound to treat her wards. What began on a small-scale soon yielded an unexpected conclusion, as John remembered that he had fled Zalkon to avoid persecution and become the first of his kind to undergo a natural metamorphosis. Crusher’s kind acts opened the door for an entire species to enter a new realm of existence. How’s that for a day at the office?
4. Taking Command in “Descent” and “Descent, Part II”
A certified bridge officer, Crusher assumed control over the Enterprise when Picard and the majority of the crew beamed down to search for Data after the ship encountered an unorthodox band of Borg drones. The CMO orchestrated an emergency extraction while under fire from a Borg vessel and retreated long enough to send a buoy to notify Starfleet about the situation. Crusher valiantly elected to return for her comrades, masterfully overseeing a ragtag command structure that included both novice personnel and veteran officers. The doctor gained the temporary bridge staff’s trust as she outmaneuvered the enemy and executed a risky strategy within a star’s corona to destroy the Borg ship. Her tactical genius aside, Crusher exuded a well-earned degree of confidence, guided those who looked to her for leadership, and kept the Enterprise safe from harm.
3. Finding Oneself in “Remember Me”
As crew members began disappearing from the Enterprise due to a seemingly rogue warp bubble, a perplexed Crusher learned that only she recalled that those particular individuals had even existed. The CMO confronted doubts about her sanity from all corners, yet she exhibited a level-headed approach to the problem and brilliantly deduced that she was actually the one who was trapped in the warp bubble. With the problem uncovered, Crusher applied a scientific train of thought to hypothesize that a vortex she observed had been a gateway opened by Wesley and La Forge to allow her to return to reality. The ship itself might not have been in mortal danger in this episode, but Crusher’s mental fortitude and problem-solving capabilities lead to her own freedom. As the old proverb says, “Physician, heal thyself.”
2. Cracking the Case in “Suspicions”
Data’s interest in Sherlock Holmes garnered significant attention, but Crusher displayed her own aptitude as a detective following the alleged suicide of Ferengi scientist Doctor Reyga. Impressed by Reyga’s work with metaphasic fields, the doctor took it upon herself to act as a “scientific diplomat,” and gathered experts together to confer about the Ferengi’s research. Reyga’s death did not sit right with the CMO, prompting her to investigate the case and perform an unauthorized autopsy on the Ferengi. Crusher’s willingness to go against the grain and disobey the captain’s orders spoke to the doctor’s devotion to the truth, regardless of the cost to her own career. Crusher even put her life on the line to test Reyga’s metaphasic shielding, a course of action that exposed the Takaran Jo’Bril as the actual murderer. The lesson here? Don’t stand in the doctor’s way when she believes in a cause and ventures out to pursue justice.
1. Voicing Humanity in “I, Borg”
In an intriguing twist, Crusher’s brightest moment only slightly related to her medical training. When an away team located the wounded Borg known as Hugh in the Argolis Cluster, the CMO strongly advocated on the drone’s behalf on multiple occasions. Crusher overcame protests from both Picard and Worf about the dangers of even treating Hugh to begin with. Upon hearing that the captain intended to infect the drone with an invasive program to disrupt the Collective, the doctor immediately objected and accurately described the plan to be a form of genocide. Crusher emphatically pointed out that they were discussing an injured boy, not a weapon. The doctor’s steadfast declarations served as the crew’s moral compass and evinced the very values that the Federation claimed to uphold. Picard and the crew eventually came to agree with the CMO’s assessment, but Crusher’s conscience had been true from the start. Without the doctor’s ardent defense, Picard’s destructive strategy would have haunted the captain for the rest of his life and spelled doom for Hugh.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who contributes articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.