Gates McFadden: Some Star Trek: TNG Producers Weren’t Receptive To Ideas From Women, Early On

In a new podcast interview with the CBC from Ottawa Comic Con, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Gates McFadden said she felt producers on the show were not receptive to her ideas for her character, Dr. Beverly Crusher. She offered up a specific example involving creator Gene Roddenberry:

Sometime really early on I brought the book Awakenings to Gene [Roddenberry] and I said this would be an amazing episode … I had always loved Dr. Oliver Sacks’ writing and I found it fascinating and I really wanted my character to be a neurologist, with working with the brain and all of that. And I had to talked to him about it and gave him the book and then nothing happened and a couple of years later the movie came out. Maybe he had done something about it, but we never had a discussion about it.

McFadden went on to say that the fact that she’s a woman was likely a big part of the reason TNG producers weren’t receptive to her:

I didn’t feel particularly that they were receptive to a female walking in and telling them about a great script idea. That was number one. Maybe I am wrong. A woman can’t just walk into the producer’s office and throw her feet up on the couch and say “hey let’s just hang a minute” and “how about this?” Maybe you can now, but you sure couldn’t then. It would have seemed like a come-on or something. I was trying to navigate stuff and I was always was somebody filled with ideas.

Gates McFadden’s return to Star Trek: The Next Generation  in the first episode of Season 3

During the same podcast, McFadden was candid when asked if her outspokenness in the press during the first season of the show led to her being fired before season two:

I think that totally contributed to my being let go the second season … I was from a background where you were encouraged to speak up with your ideas. It was about being passionate about what you were doing, it wasn’t about criticizing what you were doing … I think I lacked an awareness of how it could come off in a different way. It could be threatening to somebody.

You can listen to the full podcast below, where she talks about trying to inject some humor into Beverly Crusher, how she felt left out of the onscreen mentoring of Wesley Crusher, and the rumors that Picard was possibly Wesley’s real father, among other topics.

More from McFadden as she defends Wesley: “I love my space son!”

Yesterday McFadden held a Q&A at Ottawa Comic Con with Star Trek: Enterprise‘s John Billingsley. During the event she was asked a question about acting as a mother and she used the opportunity to give a strong rebuke to critics of Wesley Crusher, noting, “I raised that boy!” (Video courtesy of Matthew Jason Dever.)

McFadden will be at Ottawa Comic Con all weekend, where she’ll be available for photos and autographs. More details at ottawacomiccon.com.

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49 Comments on "Gates McFadden: Some Star Trek: TNG Producers Weren’t Receptive To Ideas From Women, Early On"

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It’s not surprising, and pretty depressing… Reminds me of Marina Sirtis’s comments about how she was happy to get a proper uniform like everyone else later in the show, rather than the various cleavage-baring outfits they put her in. And Denise Crosby left because her character was under-utilized. Doesn’t sound like good working conditions for any of them, at least as far as the production staff is concerned.

The irony is that Troi looked far more attractive in that uniform then she did in those ridiculous costumes.

I thought Gates did a fantastic job directing the episode “Genesis.” Sure it’s a dumb concept, but her direction is top notch. The scenes with monster Worf hunting Picard are still pretty creepy.

Crusher was best doctor. Her son was screwed over so manu times. I want Wesley and the Traveler to repair the Star Trek universe. Undo the reimagined universe and prevent Descovery. Beverly can be the Celestial Madonna. Just a thought

Gates is obviously an intelligent woman , and I have heard so much about the Boy’s Own Writing Den & Producer’s Club from the TNG to Enterprise Era , which certainly is abhorrent ! Even Nu-Trek seems to continue this trend of the Exclusion Zone for Intelligent Women . So will the new Star Trek Series be a Discovery of a New sort , or not ?!

To be fair, Voyager was pretty great with this, and so was Deep Space Nine. (Enterprise was just a step backwards). Nu Trek even tries- giving Uhura a much bigger role than is at all reasonable for a Communications officer to have- but their main problem is that they insist on remaking TOS, which only had one woman in the cast whose position on the ship does not lend itself to being integral to the story, and there’s only so much you can do with guest characters. I thought Star Trek Beyond did a great job with Jayla, but if Star Trek would move beyond trying to remake things and into creating new casts whose demographics they can create from scratch, they’d probably have a lot better success and representing women. Which is exactly what Discovery looks like is trying to do.

They may have done better with roles, but it’s still at odds with the costuming choices. Tight bodysuits with high-heels, lack of sleeves and therefore lack of rank striping (which was thankfully fixed in Beyond), and obviously the ridiculous and out of place underwear scene with Carol Marcus… All totally unnecessary things.

I was hoping the Nu-Movies would move beyond Kirk as a womaniser , with the focus on his intelligence . But being a man , I can admire a pretty attractive woman , but Trek generally lacks roles for strong female role-models .

While I’m sure she’s right about how producers listened to women… just look at how the women characters were written -or rather not- in the early seasons of the show… the idea to make Crusher a neurologist as a specialty is idiotic and short-sighted.

As the chief medical officer, one is a specialist in public health and general practitioners on boats and in the military. Being a ship’s CMO is really a very broad-based specialization in itself.

What a myopic, ignorant, and naive suggestion outside the bounds of the universe that was created. Was being the CMO of the Flagship not accomplished enough? If the producers are guilty of anything here, its likely not explaining the need to stay within the gravity of the organization and universe that was built.

Let get this straight, Gene Roddenberry was always a perv ;) even in TOS. ESPECIALLY in TOS

Yeah… I’ll take it with a grain of salt. Maybe her ideas weren’t really all that good? It’s like when people say Hilary Clinton didn’t get elected because of sexism… Right, THAT was the reason… Obviously it’s easier to blame something like that then to have to reflect and come to the conclusion: well, maybe my input just wasn’t good enough.

I alway wondered why DC Fontana had no trouble getting Roddenberry’s ear in the first series but in the second, nada.

Gerrold claimed it was Gene’s attorney, Maizlish, in the role of Rasputin that was responsible for all the friction.

I agree. Too many “isms” in order to attempt to explain your very own personal failures. I love Star Trek with the exception of the new JJ Abrams iteration and the socially-engineered version. I have all the books, all the movies, and all the TV series, but I refuse to watch the new movies and will never watch the proposed TV show.

Your close-mindedness just means your loss. The Abrams films “saved Star Trek” for the second (or was it the third) time, and also have the added virtue of being really terrific movies, that are both true to the original’s basic themes and ideas but presented in a fully engaging modern cinematic energetic style. Oh well….

Socially engineered? As in acknowledging that gay people and black women exist? I always wonder why someone so prejudiced would even like a show like star trek which makes very clear that such nonsense is WRONG.

Actually she didn’t get in because if the electoral college she won the popular vote.

She won cause of California. I guess 1 state should run the country. Considering Liberals are all about equality and fairness they should be for the electoral college. That is the purpose for it.

Got a source for that? And if trump had won because of one state would your attitude be the same?

https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/california-president-clinton-trump

Hillary got almost 2.9 million more votes than trump but she got almost 4.3 million more votes in California alone. California does get more electoral votes than any other state as it should but they don’t get to override so many other states simply by having such a large population. I made sure I used the NY Times cause I know you wouldn’t believe anything from a source even remotely not on the left.

Spoken like a man.

Spoken like a sexist woman. Don’t get your way so blame the man and sexism.

the show runners on ds9 seemed to be more receptive.

Is this bash Trek weekend?

That’s every weekend.

In the first season, renewals for the second season wasn’t guaranteed.
If TNG only lasted a season, it would have made sense for all of the cast to “inject themselves” more into the story, or specific scenes.
They want to get noticed by other show-runners on the big networks.
If TNG tanked, they would have wanted to get other roles.
Because they are creative, and they realize the “business” is merciless.
It’s no secret Gene Roddenberry was a womanizer.
TV producers in the 60’s had a lot of power and influence.
Producers routinely used the casting couch and actresses would sometimes willingly participate.
(There were only 3 networks, remember!)

My wife and I got to volunteer at STNV. We were 1st and 2nd AD’s
We were taking a break during filming and the writers were riffing ideas and dialog changes.
They were (the writers) struggling about a few lines of dialog for one scene. They all happened to be males.
My wife came up with the dialog for the scene and it was written into the final product.
She was so proud to be able to get into that “boy’s club” and have her ideas used.
I was proud of her, too.

Or maybe Gates, just maybe, your ideas were stupid. Who names their kid “Gates” anyway. Does she have a brother named “Fence” and another named “Doorway”

Before the panty bunching party begins over my comment, yes I realize that’s not her real given first name.

Jamie Oliver named one of his kids Boo! Another Bear!

Gates is surely not as bad as those!

In other words you didnt know that until after you posted and then decided to walk it back. lol

Her real name is Cheryl.

Her real name is Kylie!!!!

The article states that Gates McFadden felt the Star Trek producers weren’t receptive to ideas from women. Then you scroll down and the next article is an interview with DC Fontana. See the contradiction?

She actually said on Twitter this morning that this article, especially the headline, is a bit misleading and taken out of context . . .

Always blame sexism and racism when you don’t get your way.

I was thinking it but didn’t want to say it but yes, I agree.

Only a true bigot would deny that prejudice exists.

Of course it does but not at every corner. Only an idiot would immediately blame someone else for their failings and not take personal responsibility. When something goes wrong for me in my life I always look to see if it was my fault or there was something that I could have done differently. Self reflection is a good thing. Too many people don’t try it.

At end of the day, there’s a chain of command (apologies for the pun) and, in a series that was the level of behind-the-scenes disaster that early Star Trek: TNG was, I doubt anyone’s unasked-for contribution – male, female or three-armed green-skinned alien from Betelgeuse – was particularly welcome on that sinking ship. Sometimes, keeping one’s mouth shut is appreciated more. I doubt it was about ‘-isms,’ but rather being a pain in the behind.

It’s sad that many of you are quick to blame her rather than the men she’s complaining about, because you can’t take her complaints seriously or at face value. And what I’m also gathering from many of these comments is that sexism only seems to exist or is only valid when it’s women attacking men, which is obviously going to make such comments inherently sexist. And then using DC Fontana as a deflection? You realize she was one of very few female writers to get credit for her work at the time, right? And that she felt she had to use “DC” (or other actual male names) rather than Dorothy to get her work noticed. Weak excuse.

Ashley,

I think it was important to get that out that in the era where she plied her trade that she had to resort to that.

But I’m a little confused about what you are trying to say about that in relation to Roddenberry? I mean you do realize that DC or no DC that he was very much aware that she was a woman? He even took the network brass to task for bypassing him and talking to directly her like she was “the help.”

I’m saying just because Gene was agreeable with DC, doesn’t mean there wasn’t any sexist behavior during the production of TOS and TNG. He could be nice to a woman and still be generally sexist. And I’m sure others in the production staff displayed sexist behavior.

Ashley,

If by that you mean people are complex and can have high ideals and aspirations on the one hand while undermining those good intentions with thoughtless mindless acts, I certainly agree.

However, I will note that in the 60s both Grace Lee Whitney and DC Fontana intimate that the worst of the sexism stemmed from the high offices at NBC and Paramount.

Wouldn’t be too surprised. Early seasons of TNG sounds like it was hell on earth. No wonder both her and Denise Crosby left. But obviously things must have been better because she was convinced to come back and Crosby came back as a guest star but no more than that considering they killed off her character.

Tiger2,

Re:…but no more than that considering they killed off her character.

Don’t you mean but no more than that considering that they RESURRECTED her character in YESTERDAY’S ENTERPRISE and she lived to go into the past with the returning Enterprise C where she lived to give birth to a daughter?

Just a different perspective… Sometimes, and I’m not saying this is true here but it at least should be considered, sometimes someone is quick to play the bias card. “They didn’t listen to me because I’m (insert protected group here)”. There very well could be other reasons at play they just aren’t privy to or don’t consider. Such attitudes, sadly, are still present but they are getting more and more uncommon. So when people still rattle on about such things more and more often I have to start thinking there might be something else at play here.

And for the record, they did hire her back….

Is she an idiot? She wanted to adapt a book into a episode? LOL maybe it was because she is a woman that she didn’t understand that this is an idiotic idea?

It’s not that Roddenberry wasn’t interested, it just needed to be discussed over a BJ…

Before I agree to that, there’s a good chance the ideas where… shit. And then got better so the producers became receptive? Just throwing that out there.

And to be honest, she was BORING. Palanski was FAR more interesting and added some needed confrontation to the show.

sorry my englishe is a little carzy, do not stress. I think madame mfadden is a very nice lady, a real charm delight. I very like her red hairs

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