Star Trek: In defense of Wil Wheaton’s Wesley Crusher
With Wil Wheaton’s statement last week saying he feels like he’s done with the character of Wesley Crusher some people reacted with relief, Wesley would finally ‘Shut Up’, but to some Star Trek fans this announcement is sad.
Wesley Crusher may be the most hated character in Star Trek history, and sometimes with good reason, he was by many definitions written as something between a Mary Sue and Deus Ex Machina. The brilliant but annoying child that nobody aboard the Enterprise wanted to take seriously no matter how many times he saved their collective butts.
But for a subset of Star Trek fans Wesley Crusher was an important character and dare I even say a good one.
Let’s start with the obvious, Wil Wheaton was great.
There can be no denying that the writing of Wesley wasn’t quite up to par, it was obvious at the worst of times that the writers had no idea what to do with a kid, no idea what a teenager in his position would say or do at any given time. Add to that the basis for the character was Gene Roddenberry trying to add his younger self into the storyline, so of course he was always going to be the perfect, super-smart kid.
With that in mind we already know Wil is a great actor, his work around that time was praised by both fans and critics alike, so it’s not like he suddenly forgot how to act on one show, the writing was simply stiff (to be kind), add to that the work he’s done since and can you honestly say it’s not a pleasure to see him pop up in The Big Bang Theory, Eureka or The Guild?
He’s also done a fantastic work as a voice actor and book reader on Audible among other services, and if you’ve never enjoyed one of his own books, I particularly enjoyed his autobiographical work, you should.
The character was great, if you fit a certain demographic and disposition.
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There have been several pieces written, particularly in the past few years, talking about how Wesley Crusher was their character on the show, and for many of us in the same age range as Wil Wheaton who were becoming or growing into Trekkies during the run of Star Trek The Next Generation we feel much the same.
Wesley was a sometimes awkward, annoying, smartass, dumb, clumsy, ignorant, overbearing, know-it-all kid, but weren’t we all, at the very least, some of those things sometimes?
Wesley was us, he was what many of us would have been, sure we can look at him and say “I wouldn’t be annoying like that to the Captain, I’d have played it cool” but put yourself in his shoes for a minute.
Wesley lost his father to a Starfleet away mission, something his mother still goes on regularly, he’s the son of a Doctor which means he has a parent who doesn’t have a lot of free time for him. His dream is to be in Starfleet, just like his dad, but his first time being allowed to explore the bridge he gets yelled at by the man who sent his father on the mission that killed him.
So would you be nervous? Awkward?
Would you want to prove yourself worthy of your dream?
Damn right you would… I would.
Add to that some of us were some degree of nerdy, some degree of smart, some degree of dreamers. Wesley was at times as much US as he was Gene and for that reason to some in the Star Trek community Wesley Crusher is an important character.
I for one was sad to see Wil announce that he is donewith Wesley. No, I never thought we’d be looking forward to CBS All-Access Presents Star Trek: Wesley, but I can’t say I hate the idea, I kind of like it, really. What happened to Wesley when he left Starfleet? How did he end up in a uniform for Riker and Troi’s wedding? What’s he up to now? Can he do all the neat stuff we imagine the traveler can?
Maybe a guest spot on Star Trek: Picard thought? Akin to a student returning to his hometown and grabbing a drink with his former favourite teacher and role model, although by the time of Star Trek Picard the former Captain may well be or have been Wesley’s step-father, which makes their interaction seem even more realistic a possibility if Wil Wheaton were game for it.
Even though he may never don the ugly sweaters of Wesley Crusher I for one am a fan of Wil Wheaton and would love to see him in something Star Trek again.