A ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation‘ Reunion panel was hosted at Denver Comic Con this year with Levar Burton, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, William Shatner, Denise Crosby, Gates MacFadden, and Marina Sirtis in attendance. Questions were your typical ones. “What’s your favorite episode?” was followed by “What advice do you have for aspiring actors?”
The last question, however, derailed the panel from what we usually see. It was from a female fan who was concerned that ‘Star Trek’ female characters were stereotypes and not strong.
The actresses had different opinions on the matter.
Marina Sirits, who played Deanna Troi, was quick to cut this line of thought off, stating that she loved Deanna Troi and thought she was very strong. “You have to remember,” she said, “‘Star Trek’ was set in the 24th century, but it was written by 20th century men,”
“Hey, I did fly that ship straight into the sun,” objected Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher), pointing out that her character had some interesting moments on the show.
“We did some ridiculous things,” stated Sirtis. “But we also did some great things.” Sirtis then said that before ‘The Next Generation,’ strong women were ugly, and ‘Star Trek’ broke the mold by having beautiful women who were also strong. Here, MacFadden interjected that there were other great women before them and paid homage.
Denise Crosby, who played, Tasha Yar, however, agreed with the two initially, stating that while she did feel her character was a strong one, she just wished there were more parts for her character to play outside of the console area. She also knew that with Roddenberry at the helm, that would not happen:
“I couldn’t be in the background for the next six years saying ‘Hailing Frequencies Open’. That character had such strength and depth and originality, and I was so behind her. I thought she was an amazing character….Gene Roddenberry (the creator of ‘Star Trek’) had a very specific template that he was writing to, and he himself explained this to me one-on-one. It was not ever going to change. He passed away in the middle of the series, and it did change. Had I stayed on the show, Tasha would have changed.”
Crosby finished her thoughts by saying, “It was heartbreaking and a big decision to walk away from her.”
“We all wanted more,” added McFadden. “Tasha and Crusher never even had one scene together.”
At this point, McFadden explained the absence of her character from the series adding:
“I basically got fired by not being asked back because I argued about my character not being as strong as I wanted her to be. So that’s why I wasn’t there the second season. It drove Roddenberry nuts. I went bye bye, and then [he passed away] and then they asked me back.”
Then Crosby said “We were fighting for our lives on that show.”
While all three women did agree that on some level their characters weren’t the usual stereotypical females, the fact that McFadden was asked back after Roddenberry died, insinuated in the same way Crosby did, that without Roddenberry, female characters on the show went to different and new directions, as well as become much stronger characters.
What do you think? Do you think women on ‘TNG’ were written better or worse because of Roddenberry?