She was one of those special people who appeared on “Star Trek: The Original Series” and “The Next Generation.” Fans can almost count those folks on one hand. This, of course, does not include the main TOS cast members like Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForest Kelley (McCoy), and James Doohan (Scotty), who made cameos on Next Gen.
Diana Muldaur appeared on two episodes of “The Original Series,” and she played different roles. First, she guest-starred on the second season episode, “Return to Tomorrow,” as Ann Mulhall. Then she guested on “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” On this show, she was Dr. Miranda Jones, which aired in the third and final season of “The Original Series.”
Muldaur then returned to the franchise in 1988, when she took on the role of Dr. Katherine Pulaski. This character replaced Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) on the show. She served as the chief medical officer aboard the Enterprise for Season 2.
Why Did Muldaur Replace McFadden?
After the first season concluded, McFadden left the show and was replaced by Muldaur. There are many theories as to why this happened, including multiple guesses from Trek fans. But the best source to ask what happened was McFadden herself.
“They felt that they had too many women,” McFadden told Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service. “My agent said that I was the third most popular character on the show at the time. I felt pretty confident.”
An article from WhatCulture also states that Maurice Hurley, the showrunner of TNG for the first two seasons, argued with McFadden over where young Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) got his advice from. Eventually, she was written out of the show and replaced by Muldaur’s Dr. Pulaski.
Pulaski Disliked by the Fans
During the show’s second season, Pulaski was the ship’s primary doctor and appeared in all but two episodes. Fans did not take to her, and some compared her to a “crotchety McCoy in a female body.” A few fans even wondered if this new character was supposed to be McCoy to the new Mr. Spock — Data. Even those fans who liked Pulaski said that “she came across as patronizing and looking down at Data.”
Muldaur knew this. She told the Los Angeles Times in 1988 that her role was “to aggravate” on the show.
“They’re using me to aggravate Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) from time to time and to upset our dear Data (the android played by Brent Spiner) a great deal,” said Muldaur in the interview. “I don’t deal with him as a human but as a machine, and that upsets the rest of the crew. I’m kind of a pain in the neck.”
Muldaur Didn’t Plan to Stay Long
In a 2013 interview with StarTrek.com, Muldaur said that she never thought her part on “The Next Generation” was supposed to be a long-term gig.
“I think it was just starting, but I never really planned to be there very long,” said Muldaur. “As it turns out, I used the show where I aged to show to the ‘L.A. Law’ people, to get ‘L.A. Law.’ That’s the film they looked at.”
“We could really just take off, and fun things happened,” Muldaur said of working with Dorn.
McFadden Returned for Season 3
After the end of season 2, thanks to a “letter-writing campaign, support from Stewart, and a personal invitation from Rick Berman,” McFadden returned to the show. Muldaur went on to work on “L.A. Law” and in other productions.
Muldaur spoke thoughtfully about both of her times with Trek and told authors Mark A. Altman and Ed Gross that she wondered how long the show’s appeal would endure.
“I just wish we could be around forever and ever, so we can see how long it lasts,” said Muldaur in the book “The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years.”