I’ve had a rough few weeks, and I knew I needed to call a doctor. Not just any doctor, but Doctor Crusher, who as you know if you read my review of “Bound,” is my imaginary feminist sidekick.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a theme in TNG that the episodes that feature Doctor Crusher are good Doctor Crusher episodes, and even good feminist episodes, but not really great episodes overall.
I ended up watching two of these – “Remember Me” and “Suspicions.” I’ll start with “Suspicions,” in which Crusher turns private eye trying to investigate the death of a scientist working on controversial research.
The Ferengi scientist, Dr. Reyva, claims to have invented shielding that will allow a shuttle to penetrate a sun’s corona safely. Crusher believes him and invites a group of other open-minded scientists to observe his experiments and potentially collaborate.
Unfortunately, the first experiment goes horribly awry as Takaran scientist Jo’Bril is killed when the shielding fails. Reyva pleads for another chance and volunteers to do another mission himself, but is found dead before he can go, seemingly having committed suicide.
Crusher investigates the other scientists, believing someone sabotaged Jo’Bril’s shuttle and killed Reyva. She’s nearly kicked out of Starfleet for violating family wishes, Ferengi cultural rites and Picard’s direct orders by performing an autopsy on Reyva.
Crusher has clearly not heard the proverb, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” because next she steals a shuttle to test Reyva’s modifications herself, disobeys direct orders to return to the Enterprise, and nearly gets killed by Revya’s murderer – Jo’Bril. Turns out he wasn’t dead but merely in a state of hibernation, motivated to sabotage the experiment to pursue the research himself.
Crusher fights and kills Jo’Bril by blowing a hole in his stomach with a phaser, which is pretty bad-ass, even if it doesn’t fit with what phasers usually do to people (stun, vaporize or make them drop dead).
At the end, Bev gets her job back, because…she was right about her suspicions? She still pointlessly autopsied a guy against orders and his family’s wishes, stole Federation property, and almost got herself killed – if Jo’Bril hadn’t been stowed away and after her, the experiment was still a huge risk.
Keith DeCandido’s Tor.com review has a much more exhaustive list of things that don’t make sense about this episode, including:
Why does the test require somebody to be in the shuttle? Why not send in a remotely controlled shuttle, or one with a preprogrammed flight plan? Why risk sending a person into the corona of a star at all? If the shield failed during Jo’Bril’s flight, why didn’t the shuttle incinerate? If it was just an atmospheric problem, why not put someone in a space suit and try again?
But none of this is why I’m here. So without further ado, here are the things that work about “Suspicions” from a feminist perspective:
1. Go Guinan!
This whole episode is framed by a conversation Guinan has with Crusher. Guinan starts by going to Crusher’s quarters to ask her to treat her tennis elbow, and Crusher says she isn’t a doctor on the ship anymore. Of course, Guinan already knows this and, as we find out at the end, doesn’t play tennis, but of course she convinces Crusher to tell her what’s going on. She might be behaving a bit too nonchalant given that two people have just died, but I don’t care. I want a webseries spinoff where Guinan goes around to various crewmembers’ quarters and tricks them into sharing their secrets and turning things around.
That said, Troi feels underused in this episode given what’s happening. Maybe Troi and Guinan could’ve tag-teamed Crusher. Troi could’ve brought a bit more seriousness to the situation and it would’ve been a rare chance for us to see her doing her actual job.
2. Diverse Scientists
Not only does “Suspicions” let us see another side of Crusher, portraying her as more of a scientist than a caregiver; it also shows us a diverse team of scientists, including five species and two other women. One is Dr. T’Pan, the director of the Vulcan Science Academy, which is a freakin’ big deal. The other is Kurak, a Klingon warp-field specialist (Fun Fact!: Kurak is played by Tricia O’Neil, who also played Captain Rachel Garrett in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and Obsidian Order official Korinas in DS9).
3. Crusher and Ogawa: BFFs
I always like seeing female friendships on Trek, and this episode has a couple fun scenes where Ogawa helps Crusher out after she’s been relieved of duty:
Ogawa: I can see how important this is to you.
Crusher: I don’t want you to get involved in this.
Ogawa: Is that an order, Doctor?
Ogawa: Too bad you’re not my boss now.
4. BAMF Crusher
“Suspicions” lets us see Crusher going up against everyone in pursuit of justice. As much as even I don’t agree with everything she does, it’s powerful to see a woman character having such strength of conviction when almost everyone else is telling her to let it go.
She also gets to kick major ass, which is something we don’t often get to see TNG ladies do, post-Yar. Going back to Kurak for a moment, I so love the part where Crusher’s trying to question her, so she throws Crusher against a wall, hard. Crusher is having none of this and totally intimidates this super tough Klingon with sheer force of will:
Kurak: I have heard enough accusations! Now I will have your silence.
Crusher: Well, you’re going to have to throw me a lot harder than that if you want to get it.
At the end, she’s ambushed by the armed and much larger Jo’Bril, but distracts him long enough to make the shuttle lurch and wrestle the phaser away from him.
As much as I think the whole plot of this episode is weak and wish we’d had more stronger vehicles for Doctor Crusher, there are moments of awesome that I particularly appreciate as a feminist.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Mostly because of Guinan’s scenes with Doctor Crusher but also because of Crusher and Ogawa talking about the autopsy and Crusher interrogating Kurak about Reyva’s death.