This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, our subject is Wesley Crusher from TNG.
Wesley begins his journey aboard the Enterprise as a passenger. He was the teenage son of Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher, but he found his way on the bridge often by shadowing bridge officers in work-study programs. Following his outstanding work on the propulsion system with The Traveler, Picard granted him the commission of acting ensign.
Although Wesley was just as likely to destroy the ship with nanites as he was to save the day, the character allowed the screenwriters to experiment with many mentorship stories and growing pains stories. Wesley was granted the rank of full ensign by Picard before leaving the ship to enroll at Starfleet Academy.
While at the Academy, Crusher saves the ship against from a mind control device while on holiday. He also loses an entire year of academic credit for his role in the cover up of the performance of a banned flight maneuver called the Kolvoord Starburst, which sours him on his future in Starfleet.
As a result, when The Traveler shows up again and offers to mentor Crusher, he takes the opportunity to lead a much different and unique life. Little more is heard from Crusher following this departure, although we do know that he possibly rejoins Starfleet by the time Riker and Troi become married. His possible futures as a Traveler and in Starfleet aboard the U.S.S. Titan have been retconned by the books.
Wesley was named after Gene Roddenberry's middle name, which is also Wesley. Wesley was almost slated to be a female character named Leslie, but the writers switched back during casting. Crusher's tendency to dominate episodes and have pretentious or overwrought dialogue makes him one of the least favorite characters in Star Trek lore, but he is certainly an integral part of what TNG is all about.
The best episodes featuring Crusher include: The First Duty from season 5, Pen Pals from season 2, and Justice from season 1.
Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Final Mission in season 4:
Ensign Wesley Crusher: [to Picard]
Sir, in the past three years, I've lived more than most people do in a
lifetime. I think I'm very lucky, no matter what happens. How many
people get to serve with Jean-Luc Picard?
Actor: Wil Wheaton played the role of Crusher, and he has recently had a resurgence of acting appearances in web series like Tabletop and The Guild as well as TV series Eureka and The Big Bang Theory.
Until next time, live long and prosper...