Star Trek Guide

Star Trek's Future Can Perfectly Redeem Wesley Crusher

The future of Star Trek can redeem the oft-maligned, some might say misunderstood, Wesley Crusher. Introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Wil Wheaton's Wesley Crusher was the child prodigy of the Enterprise, and the son of chief medical officer, Beverly Crusher. Fan reaction to Wesley was notoriously negative, with critics citing the character's annoying personality and uncanny habit of saving the day as irksome traits. While it's fair to say that Wesley Crusher wasn't the most well-written character in Star Trek: The Next Generation, it's also true that some of the backlash derived simply from having a teenager on the bridge of the Enterprise.

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Unfortunately, the criticism of Wesley as a character seeped over to Wil Wheaton himself, and the actor has spoken openly in recent years about his struggles dealing with such intense scrutiny at a young age. Since Star Trek, Wheaton has appeared as an exaggerated (hopefully) version of himself in The Big Bang Theory, a role that made light of the Wesley Crusher criticism. Expanding his profile as an actor, blogger, writer and general voice in the realm of geekdom, Wheaton has long since stepped out of Wesley's shadow, and perhaps because of this, recently expressed an interest in returning to the Star Trek fold as part of the new animated series, Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Once upon a time, the return of Wesley Crusher in Star Trek might've seemed unlikely, but Star Trek: Lower Decks provides the perfect backdrop to reintroduce the character. As Wheaton himself points out, making a comeback in animated form comes with certain practical benefits. After Wesley departed with The Traveler, he became somewhat of a mystical figure. The character made a cameo in Star Trek: Nemesis, hinting that Wesley had since joined Starfleet, but there remains a cloud of mystery over Wesley's time with the traveler, and those transcendent qualities would be better served in animation than in a more serious, grounded outlet such as Star Trek: Picard.

The irreverent comedic stylings of Star Trek: Lower Decks feel like fertile ground for a future Wesley to explore. Wil Wheaton showcased his comic chops in The Big Bang Theory, and Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1 has been packed with knowing references to wider Trek lore, along with a few meta nods for long-time fans. This lighter tone would give a returning Wesley Crusher more freedom than he was afforded in The Next Generation, and the show could even reference the Wesley criticism directly, turning the backlash into a gag in true "we can laugh about it now" fashionStar Trek: Lower Decks has occasionally dipped into parody territory, and mocking the contemporary fan reaction to Wesley Crusher would fit the show's remit. Star Trek: Lower Decks has name-dropped The Traveler and made several references to the Q race wreaking havoc in the galaxy. A post-Traveler Wesley could perform the same function, appearing as a special guest to give Boimler and Mariner a headache before disappearing into the ether once again.

A live-action return for Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: Picard season 2 remains a welcome proposition. A Jean-Luc Picard reunion with Wesley as a fully-grown adult might afford Wil Wheaton's character a measure of redemption after his tarnished teenage stint in The Next Generation. However, the intense, darker tone of Picard's solo series doesn't fit Wesley Crusher as naturally as the colorful, ground-level world of Star Trek: Lower Decks.

There's a certain poetic similarity between Wesley Crusher and Star Trek: Lower Decks. Both triggered a decisive reaction after debuting, receiving backlash from Star Trek fans who deemed them too much of a departure for the franchise. Since premiering in August, Star Trek: Lower Decks has been heavily criticized by fans, many of whom accuse the animated series of not being "real Star Trek." Since that's a position Wesley Crusher can probably empathize with, there's surely fun to be had if ever the two collided.

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