Wesley Crusher was the most divisive Enterprise addition in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Why did actor Wil Wheaton finally leave the show?
- Wil Wheaton quit Star Trek: The Next Generation due to emotional abuse and a desire to prove his worth outside of the show.
- The writers of TNG struggled to develop Wesley Crusher’s character, failing to create a relatable figure for young audience members.
- Despite not appearing in Star Trek: Picard season 3, Wil Wheaton remains a fixture in Hollywood and the Star Trek franchise through guest appearances, voiceover work, and his own aftershow.
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Why did Wil Wheaton quit Star Trek: The Next Generation? Introduced in TNG’s series premiere, “Encounter at Farpoint,” Wesley was the highly intelligent prodigal son of Chief Medical Officer Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden). Having a teenager on the USS Enterprise-D bridge thinking he knew better than the adults (and usually proving he did) grated on fans, who made no secret of how they’d grown weary of Wesley. After appearing regularly throughout The Next Generation‘s first four seasons, Wesley Crusher left the Enterprise for Starfleet Academy in TNG season 4, but he made guest spots in seasons 5 and 7, as well as Star Trek: Nemesis.
Due to the horrible backlash he experienced from Star Trek: The Next Generation viewers, Wil Wheaton initially kept his distance from Starfleet matters after quitting Star Trek. But as the actor grew older and fans saw more of the man behind Wesley Crusher, that relationship did a 180-degree flip. Not only is Wil Wheaton now bona fide Star Trek royalty, but he’s become increasingly open about leaving the Enterprise and the ensuing emotional aftermath. Here’s the real explanation behind the Wesley Crusher Star Trek issue.
The Real Reason Wil Wheaton Quit Star Trek
When Wil Wheaton left Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1990, he was only 18 years old. In his recently updated memoir, Still Just a Geek, he recalls being a 16-year-old and thinking: “I’m going to prove to everyone that I can do more with my life than just be on Star Trek.” Wheaton has been open about the emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of his parents. His mother lived vicariously through his fame and his father didn’t care that acting wasn’t how child Wil wanted to spend all of his time. His parents spent the money he earned and, as Wheaton notes in his book, he “felt like the only way [he] could earn their attention and approval was to be the best in the world at acting.” So he left Star Trek to become a movie star, to prove his worth, and to make his parents proud.
Before jumping aboard the Enterprise, Wheaton was known from Stand By Me‘s cast, but commitments to Star Trek meant turning down sizable movie roles. Wheaton was cast in 1989’s Valmont and only needed to be written out of a single The Next Generation episode to accommodate shooting in France. Wheaton believes that arrangement would’ve been no problem under Gene Roddenberry, but The Next Generation‘s newly appointed leadership allegedly claimed the episode in question was pivotal to Wesley, and simply couldn’t happen without his involvement, causing the actor to begrudgingly turn Valmont down. Wheaton was then dismayed to discover he’d been written out of the episode he actually requested leave from — something the actor interpreted as a “message.”
Looking back at Star Trek: TNG, it’s apparent that the writers didn’t quite know what to do with Wesley Crusher. As one of the few young people on this ship full of experienced Starfleet officers, he should have been someone for young audience members to relate to. Just as the team behind TNG failed Wesley Crusher, the people who should’ve been his biggest supporters failed Wil Wheaton.
Wil Wheaton’s Picard Season 2 Cameo (But Not Season 3)
Wil Wheaton made a shocking return to Star Trek when he cameoed in Star Trek: Picard season 2’s finale. Now a time and space hopping Traveler, Wesley appeared in Los Angeles 2024 to recruit Kore Soong (Isa Briones) into the ranks of the Travelers. It seemed like a first step toward a bona fide Wesley Crusher Star Trek comeback. When the news broke that the actors from Star Trek: The Next Generation would be appearing in Star Trek: Picard season 3, it was naturally assumed Wheaton’s Wesley Crusher would join his old USS Enterprise-D cast mates.
However, between the reunited cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the introduction of several new characters, including Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers), the son of Admiral Jean-Luc Picard and Dr. Beverly Crusher, adding Wesley as a Traveler into that mix may simply have been too much. Though the creators behind Picard have not revealed the exact reason Wheaton was not asked to return, Wheaton himself revealed a potential explanation on his social media pages. He points out that the Travelers are not supposed to visit people from their past. This may just be Wheaton’s own head canon, but it makes sense that Wesley would understand and respect this rule.
What Wil Wheaton Has Done Since Star Trek
From guest appearances on a number of shows to his own Star Trek aftershow, Wheaton very much remains a fixture of Hollywood and of Star Trek. After a couple of appearances in later seasons of The Next Generation, he made another brief appearance as Wesley in the feature film Star Trek: Nemesis. Though Wheaton didn’t appear in Star Trek: Picard season 3, he did get to chat with members of the cast and crew for his Star Trek aftershow, The Ready Room. On this show, Wil covers all of the currently-running Star Trek shows and interviews many of the creators and cast members. Wheaton has also done a ton of voiceover work for various animated shows, video games, and audiobooks. He has played minor characters on several popular television shows, and had a long-running role playing a version of himself on The Big Bang Theory.
In Still a Geek, he mentions that he doesn’t “have the passion for acting that he [has] for writing,” so it’s no surprise that he does a bit of that, too. Of course, there is the aforementioned annotated memoir, but he also wrote a short story for the Star Wars anthology From a Certain Point of View and posts regularly on his blog and social media pages. Though he may not be the mega-movie star he once wanted to be (or rather, his parents wanted him to be), he still gets to be a part of a franchise he clearly loves. Wil Wheaton will always be a part of the Star Trek: The Next Generation family.