Interesting idea in the OP about why Muldaur never bonded with the cast.
On screen, there seemed to be an ensemble problem. Then again, Muldaur was never credited as part of the ensemble to begin with, which was always going to be an elephant in the room with Pulaski. Maybe if she had come back for season three, she could have joined the ensemble proper, but for season two, Pulaski always seemed grafted onto the cast.
USS Kongo wrote:
^ I wonder if the TNG producers were going for a more "Spock/McCoy" feel with Pulaski and Data--and if that was the case, they forgot one important thing: Spock wasn't an innocent; he often gave as good as he got with McCoy.
Seeing Pulaski verbally pick on the child-like Data was about as fun as watching somebody kick a puppy. You're right not to blame Muldaur, since she was just following what was written for her.
I liked Dr. Pulaski. She took no bullshit and as for picking on Data, that didn't last long. I honestly thought she brought a little needed conflict. I don't dislike Crusher, but it seemed like Pulaski had more character development in one season than Crusher did in six of them.
Well, I like Crusher too, but you're right about Pulaski having more character development. IIRC, Unnatural Selection
was the turning point. Some Trek fans repeatedly point out that TNG had no character arcs whatsoever. However, Pulaski's was a definite exception, whether by accident, design, or from correcting an initial conception of her that just wasn't going to work in the long run.
As for the part about much needed conflict, yes, absolutely. Evidently, the writers were trying to make 24th century humanity seem more realistic by adding some interpersonal conflict, something sorely missing from season one, beyond "Shut up, Wesley". It's just that the interpersonal conflict involving Pulaski misfired in more ways than one. Also, that way of bringing dramatic tension was usually centered around her, so that Pulaski came off like a cranky old aunt grafted onto the Cleavers.