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In season 2 of TNG, Dr. Crusher was replaced with Dr. Pulaski. In season 3, Dr Crusher came back. The best information I can find is http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060712160302AAAZRqd. But there must be better more complete information out there.

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And here's a quote from a fan site -- far from reliable. enworld.org/forum/media-lounge-miscellaneous-geek-topics/… –  ThePopMachine Sep 3 '12 at 16:52
    
But I liked Pulaski more than Crusher... –  Izkata Sep 3 '12 at 17:05
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@Izkata, no one liked Pulaski. –  Jack B Nimble Sep 3 '12 at 19:09
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@JackBNimble: Probably due to her disrespectful attitude towards Data. You could say she was a speciest (in analogy to "racist") prick. –  bitmask Sep 4 '12 at 16:30
    
"after a phone call from her co-star Patrick Stewart, McFadden changed her mind" - that voice can do anything. –  Paul D. Waite Apr 23 '13 at 11:44
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3 Answers 3

up vote 38 down vote accepted

In universe, she was offered a position at Starfleet Medical. She worked with Calvin Hutchinson (the Commander that Data learned small talk in order to interact with in "Starship Mine"), but her actual role there was never explained. According to Memory-Beta, the (quasi-canonical) novels indicate she was actually the head of Starfleet Medical. When she returned, not a lot was said, but in "Evolution" it seems like she told Picard that she may have returned so that she wasn't separated from Wesley:

PICARD: If you're concerned about Wesley, I see no evidence that there's a problem.

BEVERLY: I know. In a funny kind of way... that's exactly my point. We talk. We smile. It's almost too polite.

PICARD: Beverly, this is simply a matter of time. I know how difficult it was to be away.

BEVERLY (vulnerable): Tell me about him.

Out-of-universe, according to some recent reports, there was some sort of problem between Gates McFadden and producer/writer Maurice Hurley. I've heard this characterized in some places as sexual harassment, but I'm not sure that's based on any actual allegations. Rick Berman did say he was at the center of it, though:

Gates McFadden fired at end of first season because head writer Maurice Hurley "he had a real bone to pick" with Gates and din’t like her acting, Berman brought Gates back for 3rd season after Hurley left

(That quote is from the summary here.)

This comment also cites her hair (of all things) as costing lots of time and money to keep styled right to avoid continuity problems. Not sure I buy it, but there it is.

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So... Who gave the downvote? This answer is quoting one of the executive producers of TNG, and seems to explain why the other answer qualifies itself as the "official" explanation - as though this is true explanation that they didn't want known at the time.. –  Izkata Sep 4 '12 at 2:33
    
Dunno who gave any down vote, but this is one of the best explanations so far: Dispute with staff + character costs are definitely at the top of the list of reasons to write a character out of a TV series; it's all about the money at the end of the year. Maintaining McFadden's Locks for continuity most certainly incurred many $$ in retakes for the early seasons. –  Joey T Sep 4 '12 at 2:49
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Well, McFadden did suck at acting. –  bitmask Sep 4 '12 at 16:27
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She wasn't much worse than other actors on TNG. –  Brian Ortiz Sep 5 '12 at 17:52
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According to Memory Alpha, Crusher was written off the show due to difficulties that the writers were having with her:

Officially, the difficulties in developing Crusher's character led to her character's departure by the second season. Unlike Natasha Yar, however, the TNG writing staff reassigned Crusher to Starfleet Medical, leaving open the possibility for her return. The writing staff's dissatisfaction with the Pulaski character, fan pressure via a letter-writing campaign, and support from Patrick Stewart allowed this to happen during the third season.

This quote also says it was due to the staff not liking Pulaski, and both the fans and Patrick Stewart wanted Crusher back on the show.

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What were the difficulties with teh Crusher character? Was it Gates McFadden? Or was it something else? –  OghmaOsiris Sep 3 '12 at 21:18
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I only know what's in the wiki. From the sounds of it, it looks like the writers didn't know what to do with the character, not anything against the actress. –  Andy Sep 4 '12 at 1:44
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According to comments on the Season 2 Blu Ray, Gates McFadden was very vocal about the tendency of the scripts to run sexist in the first season, which created tension between her and the writers and producers. Patrick Stewart, on at least one occasion, stood up for her and added his voice to the complain leading a script to be largely changed.

With Hollywood largely STILL being a "boys club", especially behind the scenes, it's not hard to imagine how she would be fired for speaking up in such a fashion, which is seriously disappointing. ESPECIALLY concerning "Star Trek".

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