Gates McFadden starred as Dr. Beverly Crusher for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation before rumored disagreements with Maurice Hurley who was the head writer during the first season. The friction was enough to have Gates McFadden out for season two so casting had to find another actress who could become the next doctor of the Enterprise.
Whoopi Goldberg has been a longtime fan of Star Trek and when she discovered the opening, she asked Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman if she could become the next Chief Medical Officer. While both men were interested in having Goldberg on the series, neither thought she was the right fit for the ship’s next doctor. But with the introduction of Ten Forward, they did think she would be a great bartender who would actually become a different type of ship’s counselor.
Fortunately, McFadden’s departure didn’t last long, and while she was gone, Diana Muldaur filled in as Dr. Katherine Pulaski. But at the end of Season two, Maurice Hurley left, and Rick Berman asked Gates McFadden to return to the role she had originated. Thankfully for The Next Generation fans, she agreed, and she kept the role for the remainder of the series.
Having seen Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan, it would be difficult for fans to imagine her as anyone else aboard the Enterprise. Perhaps she would have made an excellent doctor, but would there have been as much wisdom imparted? Would she have had the same air of mystery that always made fans want to know more about her? That’s debatable.
One thing is for sure, we were fortunate that McFadden returned to TNG and that the series created a tailor-made role for Goldberg. Star Trek: The Next Generation would not have been the same without either characters.