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Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Denise Crosby on Tasha Ya, fandom and life with Star Trek

As Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Tasha Yar, Denise Crosby provided fandom with its watershed moment when her character died toward the end of Season One, but her legacy lives on… 

Part of the original cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Denise Crosby has had a career spanning 30 years, most notably as Tactical Officer and Security Chief Lieutenant Tasha Yar. Her death left a ripple in the Trek universe, back from time to time, most memorably in ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise‘ – one of the show’s most celebrated episodes. SciFiNow caught up with Denise to talk about her departure from the show, her documentary Trekkies and why she loves Star Trek fans.

SciFiNow: Is it true you auditioned for Troi until Gene Roddenberry got you to read for Tasha? 

Denise Crosby: The initial audition was for Deanna Troi. Very little information was given to us – there was no script available, so we were kept in the dark. We knew it was a Star Trek reboot, but that was almost all. They were really secretive and protective.

I got the audition to read for this part of ship’s shrink, and originally she was very different. She was described as this kind of arctic ice queen with this very cool and Nordic presence, and that was much more like me.

The original concept for Tasha was along the lines of Vasquez from Aliens. So we [Marina Sirtis, who played Troi] both went for a couple of auditions as those characters. When we finally got in the room with Gene Roddenberry, he liked both of us as actors very much, and had this idea to switch us. I don’t think it was particularly premeditated; it just kind of happened that he liked what we saw.

What was it like to play such a strong female character? 

It was fantastic in theory and concept. I loved the idea of playing this fierce warrior with a fragile side, and I was always trying to find ways to illustrate that. I just wish they had elaborated more on her character. I guess I started to feel that they weren’t going to write for her.

Was that the clincher behind your decision to leave the show, and how did Gene Roddenberry take the news?

It was, and Gene was completely understanding. I didn’t leave out of anger or a particular incident; it was out of hunger to make a mark and continue with my dreams.

Your death scene still divides fans. How do you feel about it now?

I understood the meaning and why it happened; her death was designed to be unprovoked and random. However, I think the effect let some people down; people want to see their heroes fight. The funeral scene was beautiful – thankfully, I was the last to have the camera turn to me, because I couldn’t keep a dry eye.

If you had stayed, were there other relationships you would have liked to explore?

I would like to have developed that relationship with Worf, not in a romantic way, but as best friends. It would be such a clash to have this blonde woman and Klingon as best friends. Every time you’d see us we’d be physical with each other, just beating the shit out of each other.

You also devised the character of Sela, Tasha’s daughter. How did it come to you?

It occurred to me, what if after Tasha had gone back in this ripple in time and space and had a child? My idea was that she was pregnant with Castillo’s child, but then the producers changed it to where she had been held captive by the Romulans and had a child.

How did you enjoy being back for the finale, ‘All Good Things’?

I was so happy to be included in that episode, and it was always interesting to me whenever I came back to see how much things had changed and how much had stayed the same. In a way I became a barometer for how things had moved on. Everybody had always had laughs and been goofy on set, but when they said ‘action’ the guys were on it. But yeah, there was a more familial tone by the end. I felt like an outsider a little because I hadn’t been in the trenches with them for seven years, but it was great.

What made you want to explore Trek fandom with the documentary Trekkies

The fandom is what makes Star Trek so unique. The fans and Trek have a unique symbiotic relationship unlike any other show, and if not for the sake of fans, Star Trek wouldn’t exist. Before we did Trekkies, I realised that little had been revealed about fans. There were a lot of assumptions people made about Trek fans – that they were a bunch of losers living in their parents’ basements, so many stereotypes.

What do you really love about Star Trek? 

What I really love about Star Trek the most is the continued enjoyment that people get from it. Their inspiration inspires me – it’s just this wonderful give and take between fans and show. I’ve had an extraordinary career and life through Star Trek, and continue to do so.

This article first appeared in SciFiNow issue 89. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation is available now on Blu-ray. Get all the latest sci-fi news with every issue of SciFiNow. 

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