If she’s credited as Cheryl McFadden, she’s generally doing choreography. If she’s credited as Gates McFadden, she’s generally acting. There’s some overlap, but in general, she’s kept that as a policy. And that may be why so few people realize how impressive her career really is, since mostly they know her as Beverly Crusher and don’t realize how much more there is to her than that. And yeah, she’s done eleven movies, four of which are Star Trek. She’s done twenty-five TV shows, and the vast majority of her actual time on camera is as Dr. Crusher. But if you know what she’s done behind the scenes, you’re all the more impressed with her.
Today’s image isn’t a joke. It really is where I think of her first, because we had The Muppets Take Manhattan on VHS when I was a kid, and I saw it a lot. Possibly dozens of times. And, yes, this overlapped with my childhood introduction to Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show that debuted when I was in elementary school and had made it to syndication by the time I was in junior high. I’m sure a lot of us bounced back and forth between TNG and the Muppets and were amazed when we realized that Mr. Price’s secretary was Dr. Crusher.
Fewer of us, I think, were aware that The Muppets Take Manhattan was not McFadden’s only time working with Henson. She choreographed Labyrinth. Not just that exquisite ballroom scene but even some of the puppetry. The problem, of course, is that “choreographer” is one of those careers that’s frankly hard to trace though easily accessible sources, and so it’s hard to say what beyond that she’s done in that aspect of her career. Though goodness knows that’s quite a lot all by itself.
Honestly, Dr. Crusher is one of those things that would be a heck of a career all by itself, too. TNG is the version of Star Trek with the most options for female characters. If Denise Crosby didn’t get given much to do as Tasha Yar, it did leave the opening for her later character of Sela, who’s very different from the other women. Pulaski was Bones But A Woman. Troi was Mystic Guide, at least in theory. Guinan was Wise Elder. Lwaxana Troi was both Horny Old Woman and Embarrassing Mom, depending on what the plot required. And there were a whole bunch of female characters who showed up once or twice and got assorted personalities. And so if Crusher was Team Mom, well, at least she was the only one on the show?
Also, they let Crusher be a mother, the actual mother of a teenager, who had her own interests. Including romantic ones. And if the Crusher Has Ghost Sex episode is awkward and weird, well, there’s always her relationship with Picard. Not everyone likes how they handled it, but at least it was allowed to be there. McFadden apparently has Stories about how hard it could be to be a woman in Star Trek, but I still think that, when the writers really thought about it, she got more to do than any other woman on the history of the series.