The Redemption of Wesley Crusher

If, like myself, you were sitting in front of your television on September 28, 1987, anxiously awaiting the first new Star Trek regular show in 18 years. The result, Star Trek: The Next Generation, was perhaps not what we would have wished for but it was new Trek all the same. But there were some problems, not the least of which was the character of Wesley Crusher.

Introduced as the son of Chief Medical Officer, Beverly Crusher, Wesley was a teenaged genius who was apparently smarter than everyone else, including the android Data. Wesley was played by young Wil Wheaton who was not prepared for what followed.

Almost immediately, fan reaction to Wesley rose from a quiet murmur to a roar. Wesley had become one of the most hated characters in Star Trek history prompting internet groups named “DieWesleyDie”. The fault was not Wheaton’s as the writers of Star Trek’s first year seemed to have little idea of what to do with the character either than using him to provide the ‘last minute solution’ that saved the Enterprise. Many fans could not wait for Wesley to leave which finally happened in season five’s “The First Duty” which actually made the character far more interesting than he had ever been before.

Once Wesley was officially gone, Wheaton himself had some issues to resolve. The almost pathological loathing of Wesley by a small, but vocal, group of Trek fans had caused Wheaton to develop anger issues as well as doubts about his acting career. For many, that was the last time we saw Wheaton until recently. Since that time on Star Trek, Wheaton has completely redefined himself and emerged not only as a confident actor but as a spokesman for fans and geek culture.

So what the heck happened?

Simply put, Wheaton has overcome the spectre of Wesley Crusher by just being true to himself. Along the way, he has revealed that he has a great interest in all things geek, a vital understanding of what it means to be a nerd and an outsider, and that Wheaton has a strong moral code and a self-deprecating sense of humor.

Since starting his own blog, Wheaton has embraced social media, becoming a force on Twitter. He currently has over 2 millions followers and posts regularly on a variety of topics. In addition, Wheaton co-starred in several seasons of the web series, The Guild, playing a rival games player which helped cement his growing media presence. Recently, he has also starred on episodes of the geek nirvana show, The Big Bang Theory, as himself.

In the almost 20 years since Wesley departed the Enterprise, Wheaton has done something that few actors have been able to do: avoid being typecast in an unpopular role. That he has done that through hard work, honest opinions and a deep love of all things geeky, make Wil Wheaton a far better person than Wesley Crusher ever had a chance to be.  Wheaton has become the type of guy we all would like to hang around with and the type of friend we’d all like to be to others.  I don’t know if we’d say that about Wesley.

(Today, July 29th, is Wil Wheaton’s birthday so it seemed an appropriate time to post this.  Also, Wheaton has asked that everyone make today “Don’t Be a Dick” Day which, considering the internet being what it is, may be an unreachable goal.)

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About Sam Gafford
My name is Sam Gafford and I've been doing critical work on William Hope Hodgson for many years. I wrote the article "Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson" in which I presented evidence that WHH wrote his novels in the reverse order in which they were published. I've recently written an article on Hodgson's confrontation with Houdini and am currently working on a book length study of WHH.

2 Responses to The Redemption of Wesley Crusher

  1. Ronny says:

    Happy Birthday to Wil. I happened to watch an episode of his web-show “Tabletop” the other day. They played GLOOM! (the card game) and one of the players was Amber Benson of Buffy fame. As they played they each had to provide a story that explained the horrific events that were occurring. It was chock full of fascinating, and often grotesque, stories. It was great, and I don’t think there is another celebrity around that would feel so confident in what he loves to create a show where he or she play’s obscure board games.

  2. dbpyritohedron says:

    I have a very twisted view of Wesley Crusher. I hated the character with a passion for much of the series. I was especially pissed off when he actually created a new sentient life form (they were nanites). BUT… when they wrapped up The Traveler arc I was happy enough. Crusher was meant to be more than just gifted, he was meant to evolve beyond normal human limits. Maybe this was a total retcon, but it worked for me. Of course that episode featured Native Americans struggling to keep their land and it also included Cardassians. It was a marvelous episode.

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