For nearly forty years, the world benefited from the vision of one man, a vision of a Trek across the stars. A world where all that is good in us has surpassed all that which was corrupt. Drugs, crime, disease, poverty, and bigotry have all been put away by humanity in this near-utopian future. We have Gene Roddenberry to thank for this ray of hope, but he isn't the only one we have to thank for this glimpse of hope. We have the faces of Star Trek to thank as well: Shatner, Nimoy, Kelly, Stewart, Mulgrew, Frakes, Spiner, and so many others. These actors receive constant kudos from the fans, both for their performances as well as bringing us to new and fantastic worlds each week.
All but one. One actor tied to the Star Trek franchise has yet to receive accolades for his performance and contributions. One actor still remains among one of the most disliked actors of Star Trek. Not bad for a franchise. Unless your name is Wil Wheaton.
Why do we hate this actor so vehemently? Why does the very mention of this actor bring forth disdainful comments about his role in the science fiction program that most agree is one of the finest television shows of our time. Whenever a conversation gravitated toward this actor, there was almost never anything positive to say about Mr. Wheaton. He was even compared to Mark Hammil's performance in A New Hope, with great emphasis on Wil and Hammil's shared geekiness. That awkward gait, the frustrated curl of his lip, the awful hair; nothing was sacred when it came to dissing the actor behind young Mr. Crusher. Even in the scripted dialog, Wheaton was dissed, as his character was often referred to as "the boy". Yet we are unable to honestly understand what it was that we disliked about Wil Wheaton.
Amazingly, the answer becomes clearer as we dissect the character known as Wesley Crusher. For starters, he was a geek. He knew all sorts of things about matters scientific. He dabbled with alien bacterial cultures, collected the entire Time-Life series of petri dishes, and was always a top student in class. He even seemed to love math!
His love life wasn't anything to sneeze at either. Even Commander Data got more action than he did! Whenever Wesley was attracted to a pretty girl, it never lasted very long. It would almost always involve extraterrestrial, non-human, or inter-dimensional girls in relationships that could never work out. Even Commander Tucker had more luck than that, what with getting pregnant, and all.
Furthermore, he was this awkward teenager who was a nervous, shy, socially-limited young man who still lived with his mom. He lacked confidence and was insecure. In fact, he was the kind of kid that was picked on at school. He was the nerd, the brain-freak, the one that never got laid.
When you boil all that down, this becomes the exact definition of a Star Trek fan. Wil Wheaton played a character that was the carbon copy of many Trek fans. Here was a kid that we all hated, simply because he was everything we didn't want to acknowledge about ourselves. Wesley was the ultimate Trek geek, and we hated him for that. We didn't hate Wil Wheaton because he was a bad actor. We hated Wil Wheaton because he held up the mirror that reflected who we were; a reflection of everything we hated about ourselves, because deep down, we knew that we brought all this upon ourselves.
It wasn't Roddenberry's fault that we would spend ungodly sums of money on toys, and merchandise. It wasn't his fault that we immersed ourselves in a world of fantasy when others our age went off to war, college, or even a married life. While the rest of the world moved boldly on, we as fans remained trapped in a juvenile fantasy and we felt guilty about that. And when Wesley Crusher first appeared on our small screens, we immediately loathed this caricature of ourselves displayed for all the world to see.
Next time you see Wil perform on screen or on stage, don't confuse him for a role he played on television so many years ago. Instead, when we watch him slap together a fully-operational PC in under thirty minutes on the Screen Savers television program, let's not forget that underneath that mask of a geeky dork running down the hallways of the Starship Enterprise, there lies the face of a father, and a husband, who was also a great actor. Instead of looking upon the actor with disdain for holding up the looking glass, let's thank him for reminding us that we still live in a world that needs us in order to achieve the future that Roddenberry so kindly gave us a glimpse of.
Thank you Wil. Thank you very much.