Wil Wheaton Explains How His Star Trek: The Next Generation Exit Helped Him Appreciate Wesley Crusher’s Return To The Franchise

Star Trek: Picard shocked fans when Wil Wheaton’s Wesley Crusher re-emerged in the franchise at the end of the streaming show's most recent season. Now he’s back and with the possibility of more Wesley adventures across all the new seasons of other Star Trek shows coming down the stretch, Wheaton is feeling grateful that things worked out for him the way they did. 

Surprisingly, Wil Wheaton revealed to me in our conversation ahead of Star Trek: Picard’s Season 2 finale that had he not left The Next Generation to pursue other things, he might not be in the position he’s in now. Wheaton explained that because of how things worked out then, he can better appreciate this new chapter of Wesley Crusher's life on screen: 

If I had remained on Next Generation – which is a thing I lamented a lot for years, leaving the show – I would have been part of it, but I would have been part of only The Next Generation. In my role now as the host of The Ready Room, I have this opportunity of a member of legacy Star Trek, as a lifelong fan of Star Trek, as the guy who played Wesley Crusher who is now an adult to sit in a place where I get to touch every single Star Trek series. I get to interact with everybody in the universe.

Wil Wheaton touched on the most exciting part of Wesley Crusher's return: that he's capable of traversing space and time. It's a super cool role with a lot of potential in the Star Trek franchise, and one Wheaton indicated he might not have seen the value in decades earlier:

If Wesley Crusher, through his abilities as a Time Lord, were given the opportunity, he could kind of go anywhere and go into any of those places. I never would have been ready for that when I was younger, and I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. I wouldn’t have known how to appreciate the opportunity and the privilege of being a small part of every show instead of a slightly larger part of a single show. I am in a place now where I can appreciate this, and I can love it, and I can extract maximum value from it and get the most amazing experience out of the entire thing.

Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wil Wheaton wouldn’t have been able to see the potential he now has in 2022 as a Traveler. While Crusher’s cameo in Picard was small, his abilities as a Traveler allow him to traverse time and space at will. This essentially means he can appear on any currently airing Trek series at any time, which is a massive and rare perk for a Trek actor. Wheaton appreciates that role and the fact that Paramount+ subscribers can still check him out in The Ready Room, where he breaks down the biggest goings-on in the franchise following episodes.  

Star Trek fans are well-aware that Wil Wheaton went through hard times during his first stint as Wesley Crusher. Wheaton faced criticism from fans for his character, and even popular stars of the franchise had critical things to say. Decades later, he’s grown a lot and confirmed that he is thrilled to return as Wesley Crusher: 

It feels really good. There’s a lot of parallels in my life and Wesley’s story in that we both have been placed on paths that we did not expect to be on. That we didn’t choose, right? Everyone in Wesley’s life expected him to be a Starfleet Captain, and then this creature came along and said he’s actually destined for more than that… and the people in Wesley’s life, his mother and his father figures, they listened to that person. They listened to and respected Wesley when he was like, 'I gotta go do this thing on my own. I gotta go explore the universe.' I did that kind of metaphorically. Quitting acting and going to school, and working for technology, and becoming a writer and both of our paths led us off on these journeys that come back to Star Trek at this moment in interesting ways that very much parallel each other.

We don’t know if or when Wil Wheaton will re-appear in Star Trek, but it seems logical he’d re-appear with some of his old co-stars when The Next Generation cast appears in Picard Season 3. Wheaton only gave the smallest of detail when asked about it, but reassured TNG fans they’re in for a treat. Here’s hoping he’ll be back there, and in many other Star Trek shows for years to come. 

Wil Wheaton’s latest appearance in Star Trek: Picard can be found by checking the Season 2 finale out on Paramount+. With Wheaton’s return, the floor is open for the franchise to blow minds with more surprising cameos, and we can only guess who will show up next. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick contains multitudes and balances his time reporting on big happenings in the world of Star Trek, the WWE, reality television, and other sci-fi shows.