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TV Legends Revealed | Did ‘Star Trek: TNG’ Fire Denise Crosby Over ‘Playboy’ Spread?

Celebrity CityTV URBAN LEGEND: Was Denise Crosby fired from Star Trek: The Next Generation because she posed nude in Playboy?

While posing nude in Playboy has launched the careers of a number of actresses, like Jenny McCarthy, Carmen Electra and Pamela Anderson (although a strange turn of events had already made Anderson popular in Canada, as I featured in an old Football Legends Revealed), it can also cause problems when they audition for “family” programming.

In the May 1988 issue of Playboy (which would have been released around March 1988), there was a nude pictorial spread of Denise Crosby, who played Lt. Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation, then in its first season. Yar’s character was killed off in an April 1988 episode. Reader Drew G. wrote in to ask:

One legend I heard, many years ago, that I have always wondered about, and maybe this was covered already and I missed it, was that Denise Crosby’s Lt. Yar character was killed off in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation because she had appeared nude in a Playboy magazine. While I thought it unlikely that Gene Roddenberry would have done this it wouldn’t be unprecedented.

So is it true?

No, it is not.

denisecrosby3First, while Crosby appeared in the May 1988 issue of Playboy, the spread was a reprinting of a pictorial that she had done for the March 1979 issue, early in her career as a model, with the selling point being “Here’s Bing Crosby’s granddaughter … nude!” So she had already posed nude when she was hired for the series. (Playboy reprinted the photos nine years later without letting Crosby know. She told People magazine at the time, “It’s a bit exploitative of Playboy to do that, I suppose. But I’m not bitter about it.”)

Secondly, and more importantly, Crosby wasn’t fired from Star Trek: The Next Generation; she quit the show. She spoke about her decision to leave the show on last year:

I was miserable. I couldn’t wait to get off that show. I was dying. This was not an overnight decision. I was grateful to have made that many episodes, but I didn’t want to spend the next six years going “Aye, aye, captain,” and standing there, in the same uniform, in the same position on the bridge. It just scared the hell out of me that this was what I was going to be doing for the next X-amount of years. I think you have to take your chances. I was really young. I didn’t have to make house payments or put kids through private school or support people. I was free to make those kinds of decisions. I’d been in acting school really dreaming of playing all kinds of different things. Whether it’ll happen or not, you don’t know, but you’ve got to give yourself a chance. God forbid you go through your life thinking, “What if?”

denisecrosbyplayboy1She said as much to People in 1988: “I didn’t want just to say, ‘The frequency’s open, sir,’ for five years.”

Crosby specifically recalled, however, that she left on good terms with Roddenberry, explaining to

There was no animosity. I don’t know that anybody really wanted me to go. I think it stirred up a lot of things in all the other cast members. I’m not exactly sure what, but you’ve got to question your own commitment or your own place, what you’re doing there. I think it stirs up stuff. However, Gene and I were very clear about what was going on. He said to me, ‘I don’t want you to go, but I get it. I get why you’re leaving. I was a young writer at one time and I was hungry and I was frustrated, and I get that.’

Crosby returned to Star Trek: The Next Generation for a few episodes, both as Yar (including the acclaimed time-travel story “Yesterday’s Enterprise”) and as Sela, the half-Romulan daughter of Yar (via time travel and alternate timelines; think the X-Men‘s Rachel Grey’s relationship with Cyclops and Jean Grey).

The legend is …


Thanks to reader Drew for the suggestion!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is

Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music!

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  • Frankie Addiego

    I went to a Star Trek convention hoping to get her to sign it and I was as nervous as I’d be if I was asking her out on a date. She said she couldn’t sign it (kids, contracts, that sort-of thing) but wasn’t angry with me and signed something else.

  • Bass Guitar Hero

    Yeah, there was nothing scandalous or acrimonious about Crosby’s leaving (she even waved a quick blink-and-you-miss-it goodbye at the end of her penultimate episode).

    But I don’t blame Crosby for leaving when she did–in the first season, there really wasn’t much to Yar other than she was very no-nonsense (“The Naked Now” episode notwithstanding). Her departure did wonders for Michael Dorn’s Worf, but I tend to think it was just a case of the writers pegging Yar as someone without a life outside her duties, IMO.

  • SJNeal

    I’d never heard the Playboy rumor (though I knew the spread existed), in fact it’s her convo with Roddenberry that I’ve heard recited ad nauseam.
    It’s also interesting that after Per Semetary flopped, she really didn’t do anything besides make more TNG appearances and those Trekkies documentaries. And I don’t mean that to sound mean; I liked Yar’s character, and Crosby seems like a really nice lady.

  • David Fullam

    Wow, so desperate to leave, even more to come back when no one ultimately cared who she was. Guess masturbating on a night stick in Red Shoe Diaries didn’t pay the bills.

  • Bob

    Pics or it didn’t happen.

  • the Dagman

    She also appeared topless in the movie 48Hrs, years before TNG. And so did Annette O’Toole for that matter.

  • bjwanlund

    I always had a theory that Denise left because of her experience filming the TNG episode “Code of Honor”. There is no headache remedy strong enough to wipe that incredibly forgettable episode from memory, I’m afraid.

  • Ray, 2nd of S

    And if anyone actually thinks that the release of those pictures circa March 1988 was the reason, here’s something to consider: Memory Alpha states that the “Revised final draft script” was done by the start of February. ( I presume they would have to finished filming weeks before airing in order to finish sound dubbing, visual effects and editing. In 1988.

  • Andy E. Nystrom

    There’s a contradiction in that second sentence.

  • Dandru

    The bigger issue, of course, is that it was a GOOD thing she left the show, regardless of why she left. She’s a horrible actor and Yar was a lame character. The show was a thousand times better without her whining performance getting in the way.

  • kalorama

    So this story told me two things I didn’t know: Denise Crosby had a nude spread in Playboy and she’s Bing Crosby’s granddaughter.

    The Internet: Fun AND informative.

  • trlkly

    So who is it who knows enough about Star Trek to know who Denise Crosby is, but does not know the story about why she left? How in the world did this rumor get started? It’s not like she’s ever been even remotely secretive about this.

  • trlkly

    Says the guy who thinks he’s so important he put his real name for a comic blog–while trying to troll it.

    This is the case in point that people don’t have a problem being assholes on the Internet even if they use their real names.

  • trlkly

    The show was better, but I don’t know how you can blame her for that. She played the character she was given. Sure, she wasn’t some great actor that could rise above a poorly written character, but few actors are.

    She’s also been nothing but nice and humble about the whole thing, and I don’t see why you feel the need to exaggerate and call her “horrible,” instead of just saying she wasn’t all that good.

  • kalorama

    Well, not everybody who watched the show was a diehard Trek geek who scoured the Web for every interview and scrap of info on the actors/creators. Some people just watch TV shows to be entertained and don’t really give them much thought beyond that.

  • John E Cupach

    What I’m wondering……what did she expect from Star Trek? If I was hired to be on a Star Trek TV show I would expect to stand around on the bridge in uniform most of the time.

  • Melwing

    I have been a life-long Star Trek fan (and predominantly TNG), and I would consider myself quite a knowledgeable ‘geek’ about it. And I, for one, had never even wondered about this ‘story’ you assume we’d all know about.

  • George Mitchell

    Yeah, but aside from Data and that Wesley Crusher guy, no one had a character arc. (The other exception is Picard, but that’s only because of the movie).

    TNG showrunners didn’t allow for much character growth, she may have saw that and just bailed and instead of standing around for the next five years.

    She only came back when she got to play a better character.

  • bbinny

    She went on the play the mayor of Key West in “Key West”, one of the first Fox shows. It didn’t last long but, god help me, I always loved that show.

  • Alex

    I always wondered what it would of been like if she had stayed. The show was around for 7 years and they could of done something with her. I wonder what would of happened with Worf, then.

  • trlkly

    Those people would not know who Denise Crosby is. That was the entire point of what I was saying. To know that she played Tasha Yar is something that only makes sense if you are a strong fan. It’s not like she’s famous or anything.

  • trlkly

    First off, you don’t have to have thought about it to have heard about it. I hadn’t either. But it comes up in pretty much any documentary that talks about Season 1.

    Second, if you haven’t ever thought about this question, then you weren’t one of the people who spread this rumor. My question is, how in the world could have started or had anyone believe it, when it’s so easy to find out what happened?

  • Melwing

    Your first question was “So who is it who knows enough about Star Trek to know who Denise Crosby is, but does not know the story about why she left?” and that is what I was responding to. Just to explain. Carry on.

  • Keyser Soze

    Jesus CHRIST that episode. An embarrassment not just to Star Trek, not just to television, but all of humanity. I hope whoever was responsible for that episode was fired and never worked in show business again. And that the whole thing can be thrown down the “it never happened” memory hole where “Threshold”, Star Trek: Nemesis, and all of Enterprise now reside.

  • bjwanlund

    That director guy was fired from the episode, but he (unfortunately) worked in show business again. According to Wil Wheaton’s book Memories of the Future Volume 1, the guy went on to direct a number of episodes of In The Heat Of The Night, the last series Carroll O’Connor worked on as a regular. And there is no memory hole deep enough to throw both Star Trek Nemesis AND Code of Honor into. Trying to stuff Enterprise into that memory hole would be impossible IMO because Nemesis and Code of Honor were just that bad. At least Nemesis had 1 good thing going for it, but the rest of the movie didn’t support that at all.

  • Hobgoblin238

    Sadly David is correct. To this day no one cares about her.

  • charles

    Much too often the knee jerk reaction of some genius director / producer is to kill the character to rationalize the loss or blatant firing of a cast member, or sometimes just for the evilz. Mostly this is due to the inability to think outside the box. There is this tradition in the military that goes back ages. It is called “transfer”, in the real world it happens all the time. During my time in the navy I had 6 transfers. Nobody in the navy stays in one place longer than 5 years. But that would be too boring for the S&M idiots in charge.

  • Billy

    Don’t want to repeat what others have already said, but to me, I didn’t like her character on TNG and I didn’t like DC as a person, either. To me, her career went straight down after her departure. LOL, they replaced her in season two with that A hole actor, (Diana Muldaur), that’s so hyper feminist and devoid of human warmth that her own mother would have hated her; she didn’t last, because everyone except Betty Freidan hated her. Yar and Pulaski were the same character, some kind of idealic hyper feminist that no normal man would be sexually attracted to, because in their eyes, being an A hole is the zenith of being a true woman of equality, absurd as that idea is. To each his own, but DC made a horrible mistake, only surpassed by whomever cast her, (and Muldaur), in the first place. I hope such a “feminist” and high strung brat enjoyed being a virtual homemaker, which is what her TNG decision cost her. Glad she’s happy…