Over the years, Star Trek has featured many diverse and complex alien life forms and civilizations. He brought a stunning array of futuristic technologies (some of the most influential technologies from real life are based on them) and favorite characters on the small screen. With all these great space heroes, pioneers of the utopian vision of the future of humanity, there will definitely be some characters who were supposed to become fan favorites, but, unfortunately, were met with irritation. No one illustrates this like Wesley Crusher.
Wesley, the young son of the ship’s chief medical officer Beverly Crusher, took the brunt of the criticism of the “Next Generation”. Many fans find him spoiled, annoying and clumsy. The problem with his character was not discovered specifically in the universe, as he never did anything wrong, at least not any more than other characters. Many people call a bad character reception a reaction to Wil Wheaton’s poor acting abilities. Although he was great in other roles, such as “Stay with Me,” Wheaton wasn’t the best fit for TNG’s dynamic and busy filming schedule.
The problem mainly rested on the screenwriters. Wesley had a lot of chances to be a great character, Wheaton’s game and all that stuff that happens sometimes. The episode “First Duty” has some of Wesley Crusher’s best moments. Pockets of greatness shine through his many performances. However, they are often overshadowed by the gruesome lyrics on display throughout most of Wesley Crusher’s tenure on the series.
The writers of the series, mostly during the first few seasons under the direction of Gene Roddenberry, continued to insist on a utopian narrative about the future and continued to insist that Wesley embody the narrative of the prodigy. In this vision, he would not only be extremely smart for his age, but would outwit most of the highly skilled and experienced adults around him many times. Of course, this just doesn’t make sense in the context of the USS Enterprise. Fans continued to find his presence annoying, as he repeatedly showed his mother, other adults, and even experts with a certain flattering and arrogant aura.
While it’s fair to say that the writers didn’t do the character justice, there were also some external, out-of-universe factors that derailed Wesley’s potential. During the first season, there was a strike in the Writers Guild. This meant that the first season of TNG was much worse than the subsequent ones. The producers had to recycle the old stuff; for example, they took what was supposed to be just one episode where Wesley saves the ship and turned it into a staggering 6 episodes. It all started with a small fan service for all the younger fans who watched the show and saw how a child of their age saves all the adults. But it was stretched and gave the character the unwanted title of an arrogant ship rescuer. While it probably would have been great for one episode, repeatedly showing the Federation flagship saved by a child was too much.
Wesley also highlights a serious problem with TNG. This problem arose in the first season, and somehow she managed to remain a significant part even when everything else in her improved. Part of the show’s utopian vision was that it was a time of lasting peace. Instead of Starfleet being a military force and the USS Enterprise being a warship, they were all peaceful explorers now. The Enterprise itself, destined to be the pinnacle of Starfleet’s ingenuity and strength, was more like a luxury yacht with all the comforts of home on board, including family. The Federation believed that the space was now safe, despite the staggeringly high number of incidents and deaths all the time. Thus, it was considered acceptable that the officers would be allowed to take their family, including children, with them. It was an incredibly dangerous idea, but during the show it was constantly hushed up — how a ship that is almost destroyed and attacked almost every week can have children on board. Wesley took on all the hate because of this strange decision, as he was the only recurring children’s character. Every time he was on the bridge, he reminded the audience that these children should not be allowed into such a dangerous situation.
For all these reasons, Wesley’s character has always seemed out of place. Coming up with it, the writers and producers wanted the children’s character to be liked from scratch by all the children who will watch the series. They hoped that young viewers would identify with him more than with a bunch of stuffy old men. He was Will Robinson in the series. However, the problem was that by the time the show was released, this archetype had already gone out of fashion. All the characteristics designed to make it more attractive to children have made it unbearable for adults.