Star Trek: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Wesley Crusher

Have you ever wondered about Star Trek's wonderchild?

Star Trek Wesley Crusher
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Poor young Wesley Crusher. He wasn't the most popular character, and that's putting it mildly. His own mother told him to "shut up" in front of everyone on the bridge, after all. Fans have been extremely vocal over the years in their dislike for Wesley, and that from the very beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unfortunately, that hate also seeped over to be directed at the actor who played him, Wil Wheaton.

We're not going to try to convince you here that Wesley is, in fact, the greatest thing since replicated bread, but times have changed, a statement especially true for those who now travel outside of the regular temporal flow of things. Wesley is a character back in demand, as is Wheaton — far more popular than before. Sure, it would have been nice to see him in Star Trek: Picard's third season, but who knows, he might just pop up in the fifth and final of Star Trek: Discovery.

Over the years on The Next Generation, Wesley went from all-round goody-two-shoes (tap or otherwise from his mother), and savant smarter than all the adults in the sector, to a bit of a rebel in search of a cause — one he eventually found with that bloke from Tau Alpha C. He also had a particularly unique relationship with Captain Picard and loved a good wedding.

Wil Wheaton told Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum that whilst on set, he (more than once) pretended to beam onto the Enterprise, then walked down the corridor to engineering to turn on the lights of the warp core. In that moment, he was the life-long Star Trek fan "making the engines of the Enterprise start." In that sense, we're all a lot like Wheaton, and no doubt just a bit like Wesley too.

10. The Mozart Effect

Star Trek Wesley Crusher
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As fans have often pointed out, Wesley is a somewhat implausible character. He's the 'genius kid' who somehow managed to save the ship on countless occasions, the most egregious example of which came in Where No One Has Gone Before, wherein the Traveller memorably compared the teen to Mozart. Behind the fan hate for Wesley was the unrelatability of a precocious wonderchild whose biggest flaw in the beginning was nodding off during one of his nanotechnology experiments. For many, Wesley was the archetypal 'Mary Sue'.

It is not without a degree of historical irony that Star Trek: The Next Generation should have a 'Mary Sue' in its midst. It was, in fact, Star Trek that had defined the trope through its fanfiction. In a 1973 edition of her Trek fanzine Menagerie, Paula Smith published a parody piece entitled A Trekkie's TaleShort and to the point, the story began as follows:

'Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky,' thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise. 'Here I am, the youngest lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen and a half years old.'

Through blistering satire, Smith had put a name to a character-type that she saw as all too prevalent in Trek fanfiction at the time — the absurdly hyper-competent, highly unrealistic, poorly written, and usually female, character beloved by all. Since, 'Mary Sue' has been applied beyond the realms of Star Trek as a descriptor for any character deemed unreasonably skilled and extremely admirable in just about every way. In male form, the 'Mary Sue' has equally come to be called the 'Gary Stu' or 'Marty Stu'.

It doesn't take the genius of a Mary Sue either to see a lot of Wesley in Smith's description. More Mary Sue than Mary Sue, in early development of the character, it was even suggested that "Wesley should be 'Acting' Lieutenant" (a demotion from "Commander," apparently), as per a memo from Robert Justman to Gene Roddenberry dated 8th November 1986 via The Trek Files.

The hate for Wesley has now been tempered to a degree, not least thanks to Wil Wheaton himself in recent years. Nevertheless, that initial characterisation and backlash still remains as a historical oddity. Wesley will always be the wunderkind, as the Traveller went on to describe, "not with music, but with the equally lovely intricacies of time, energy, propulsion…"

'Well, gee whiz, let's write a symphony on the strings of the universe!' the OG Mary Sue might have replied.

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Jack Kiely is a writer with a PhD in French and almost certainly an unhealthy obsession with Star Trek.