Star Trek: The Next Generation Star Defends Despised Episode

With Gates McFadden back in action on Star Trek: Picard, the actor can now laugh about one of the most infamous episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Gates McFadden and Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation
Photo: Paramount

This post contains light spoilers for Star Trek: Picard season three.

It’s a good time to be a fan of Dr. Beverly Crusher. After getting relegated to the background of the four movies released after Star Trek: The Next Generation, Starfleet’s best doctor is at the center of the current season of Star Trek: Picard. The story finds Picard and his former Number One William T. Riker coming to rescue Dr. Crusher and her best son Jack, leading to surprising revelations about her relationship with Jean-Luc. We’re only a few episodes into the season so far, but it’s already shaping up to be one of Crusher’s best stories, right up there with “Remember Me” and “The Big Goodbye.”

And it’s from that perspective that Crusher actor Gates McFadden can look back at one of her most infamous episodes. Although people of refined taste see the value in “Sub Rosa,” the episode has long been a staple of “Worst TNG Episode” lists. The episode follows Beverly Crusher as she arrives on Planet Scotland for her grandmother’s funeral. While going through her grandmother’s belongings, Crusher discovers a candle haunted by a ghost called Ronin, who immediately seduces her.

McFadden has long maintained a sense of humor about the ep, but she spoke about it in stronger terms in a recent interview with TrekMovie. The interviewers noted that McFadden got to joke about the episode when Lower Decks star Tawny Newsome dropped by her podcast Gates McFadden InvestiGates, but that Voyager‘s Kate Mulgrew had no idea about “Sub Rosa.” When asked if she was embarrassed by having to describe the ep, McFadden laughed it off.

Ad – content continues below

“No, I think it’s just fun,” she insisted. “What’s great is how my evolution on the episode has been. Because I do now think it’s hilarious.” Even as she acknowledged that “Sub Rosa” has “turned out to be this cult thing” (a cult of people with refined tastes, I’d say), McFadden insists upon the humor of the whole thing. “You know, you just have to laugh at yourself and laugh at what’s gone on and I just can’t get upset by something like that.”

Less laughable has been the latest fan controversy involving Beverly Crusher, namely her decision to hide her son Jack from his father, Jean-Luc Picard. McFadden revealed that she talked about her character’s decision with showrunner Terry Matalas, saying, “it’s not cool if she’s blamed as a selfish woman who just wanted the baby for herself.” But while McFadden would not have made a decision similar to her character, she also reminds viewers that Crusher is in a more complex situation.

“I think people have to just wait and see,” she explained. “I think that Crusher goes by instinct a lot. And I think she had a very strong instinct. So she was trying to protect the child. But that’s all I’ll say.”

In short, we’ll have to wait a bit before we can fully appreciate Crusher’s decision regarding Jack and Jean-Luc. And really, even if the rationale behind the decision doesn’t work for you, McFadden’s feelings about “Sub Rosa” show that you can learn to laugh at even the most outrageous decision. Eventually.