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Wesley Crusher: Star Trek’s most misunderstood character explained

Need a refresher on Star Trek's Wesley Crusher? No problem. Let's dive into his entire character history, fate after TNG, and much more.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek TNG

Wesley Crusher is Star Trek’s most over-hated character. Admittedly, going to bat for him isn’t the easiest position to take, such is the level of disdain that’s been directed at him for many decades.

But even in Star Trek, there’s a big distinction between a character who’s annoying because they’re badly written and a character who’s annoying because that’s the intention. Wesley Crusher falls into the latter category, making him a much more fascinating Star Trek character than he gets credit for. So, here’s everything you need to know about his journey across the Star Trek timeline, best moments, exit, and more.

Who is Wesley Crusher?

Wesley Crusher is a main character in Star Trek: The Next Generation, played by actor Wil Wheaton.

Star Trek fans first met Wesley (the son of Beverly and Jack Crusher) in the Star Trek series‘ first episode, ‘Encounter at Farpoint.’ With a large role in the first season especially, he was one of the faces with the most screen time, though the character quickly became disliked for his arrogance and smugness.

Throughout the show, this mellowed out as Wesley matured, and the character was given an official role aboard the ship (acting ensign) before he departed from the Enterprise in season 4. Wheaton returned as Wesley Crusher in guest spots and most recently made a cameo appearance in Picard season 2.

Now, we regard Wesley Crusher as one of the characters with the best arcs and most growth throughout the whole of Star Trek. He went from an eager-to-impress young boy still hurt over the death of his father to an adult who fought to discover his own path in life.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek TNG

Wesley Crusher’s time aboard the USS Enterprise explained

Wesley Crusher joined the USS Enterprise-D alongside his mother, Doctor Beverly Crusher, when she was recruited by the newly-appointed Captain Picard to serve as the ship’s Chief Medical Officer.

He was 15 but demonstrated an immediate eagerness to be involved in the ship’s duties, as well as a penchant for snazzy jumpers. A pivotal moment in Wesley’s early period aboard the USS Enterprise-D was meeting a seemingly interdimensional being called the Traveler, who claimed that Wesley possessed enormous, unexplainable potential. Wesley assisted the Traveler in resolving a crisis aboard the ship (which saw it flung to a distant corner of the galaxy), earning the respect of the crew.

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After this, while Captain Picard had initially viewed Wesley with a degree of frustration and scorn, he began to allow the teen to take on some responsibilities. Alongside serving as an acting ensign, Wesley continued with his regular studies too and could often be seen in the presence of Geordi and Data, learning from their experience and helping them with research.

This gave Wesley lots of experience to draw from in his application to Starfleet Academy, though he failed his first attempt at an entrance exam. Despite this setback, he maintained his commitment to joining the Academy and was promoted by Picard to the title of ensign (no longer just an acting ensign) a year before he became a cadet at the Academy.

Once Wesley joined the Academy, he returned to the Enterprise-D only intermittently. He slowly became disillusioned with his choice to join the Academy after his experience with Nova Squadron saw him punished and severely reprimanded by Picard.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek TNG

How did Wesley Crusher leave Star Trek?

Wesley Crusher left Starfleet permanently in the episode ‘Journey’s End,’ during which he resigned to be mentored by the Traveler after fundamentally disagreeing with Starfleet’s orders.

This was the culmination of months of dissatisfaction and not finding Starfleet Academy as rewarding as he thought it would be. The final straw that saw him quit was when he opposed Starfleet’s displacement of colonists, bringing him into direct conflict with Captain Picard. This was coupled with a vision experienced by Wesley, in which his deceased father, Jack, urged him not to follow in his footsteps and join Starfleet.

So, instead, Wesley re-joined with the Traveler to explore multiple realities across time and space and to find his own path. However, in the Star Trek movie Nemesis, we see Wesley during Riker and Troi’s wedding in a Starfleet dress uniform, suggesting that he rejoined for a short period.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek Picard season 2

What happened to Wesley Crusher after TNG?

After the events of TNG, Wesley Crusher journeyed with the Traveler throughout time and space.

That’s really as much as we know, and the exact details of Wesley’s experience with the Traveler remain ambiguous. In Picard season 2, we see that Wesley has become a more experienced and senior Traveler, and he recruits Kore Soong to join him.

This suggests that Wesley had some seniority here and that the organization was more important than we’d previously thought.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek TNG

What are the best Wesley Crusher episodes?

Wesley Crusher has several great episodes, mostly in the latter seasons of the show as he matures. However, there are some earlier standout moments too.

The best Wesley Crusher episodes:

  • ‘Coming of Age’ season 1 episode 19
  • ‘Pen Pals’ season 2 episode 15
  • ‘The Game’ season 5 episode 6
  • ‘The First Duty’ season 5 episode 19
  • ‘Journey’s End’ season 7 episode 20

If you want to follow Wesley’s growth as a character, these five episodes are a good starting point. ‘Coming of Age’ marks his first attempt to join Starfleet and shows his realization that while he might be the cleverest kid on the Enterprise, he’s not quite as special as he’d assumed.

In ‘Pen Pals’ this maturity continues as he learns to take responsibility and juggle interpersonal conflict. ‘The Game’ acts as the mid-point in his character arc, coming at a point where he’s joined Starfleet Academy and is starting to show signs of struggling while also demonstrating his new-found independence and conviction.

In ‘The First Duty’, we see Wesley fall foul of Starfleet after he participated in the cover-up of an accident, and in ‘Journey’s End,’ he finally quits Starfleet after realizing it’s not the right path for him.

To watch Wesley’s Traveler arc, start with season 1’s ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’, then season 4’s ‘Remember Me’, and finally, season 7’s ‘Journey’s End.’

That’s everything you need to know about Wesley Crusher. For more on Star Trek, check out our guide to the potential Star Trek Legacy release date and our ranking of the Star Trek captains, as well as our guide to the best TV series of all time. Or, see what’s new on Paramount Plus this month, before looking ahead to the release of Deadpool 3.