Paramount+'s Star Trek: Lower Decks surprised fans when Jonathan Frakes' Will Riker and Marina Sirtis' Deanna Troi made unexpected appearances on the animated streaming series, thus opening up the door for more exciting cameos from Star Trek: The Next Generation stars in the future. This theoretically includes Wil Wheaton's polarizing, but ultimately lovable, character Wesley Crusher, whom Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan recently confessed to being a big fan of.
I had the chance to speak to Mike McMahan ahead of the physical Blu-ray and DVD release of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, with our conversation tapping into areas of the Star Trek canon that would be ideal to retcon or change up for storytelling purposes. McMahan then brought up Wesley Crusher, and shared how he'd love to have Wil Wheaton on the Paramount+ series if he could just figure out how to tie it all in with the existing lore.
I’m still trying to find an elegant way to get Wes back on the show, because he’s off with The Traveler, and I think we want to be in canon and also play with it. We have our own rules where it’s 'what’s something we can bend versus what’s something that, to me, feels like we can’t touch it?' You don’t want to take huge swings and affect stuff too much. You like to kind of dance in the margins. I talk about the show being kind of like the comic strips that were in the margins of MAD Magazine where it’s like we’re doing what we want - we’re having our fun, it feels like a fit - but we’re not taking away from anything else that you love about Star Trek. You just embrace it and you kind of magnify it.
Mike McMahan doesn't want to totally change franchise canon just to bring Wesley Crusher to Star Trek: Lower Decks, which creates something of a narrative problem. Wesley resigned from Starfleet and, as mentioned by McMahan, ultimately joined The Traveler to further explore powers that The Traveler believed were manifesting inside of Wesley. If that ended up being the case, then Wesley's powers would allow him to one day be able to manipulate space, time, and warp fields, all by using the power of his mind.
Wesley Crusher left with The Traveler in Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 7, though Will Wheaton returned a brief appearance during the wedding scene in the movie Star Trek: Nemesis. Not a whole lot has been done with the character to follow up on that time period, and given Wil Wheaton's continued work within science fiction, as well as his general voice acting work, this feels like it could feasibly happen one day. If only those practical elements were the only ones to worry about.
Mike McMahan continued the conversation with how he'd love to have Wil Wheaton portray the character on Star Trek: Lower Decks, provided there was a way to maintain Wesley's story:
I just love Wil Wheaton and I love that character and I would love to find a way to not step on what exists with that character. That’s one of the things where I just feel like I need more of a confidence to educate myself more about what the appropriate way to tackle that would be. For the most part we treat TNG, Deep Space Nine, all the series, Voyager. It’s more fun to treat them as the rule books of the stuff that we are honoring and not changing. As we grow [Star Trek: Lower Decks], we have to be even more careful than ever before to not change stuff or retcon stuff. You know like, Beverly Crusher falling in love with a candle, that’s good for us! That’s helpful for us. You don’t want to change that stuff, you know? So yeah I think just figuring out Wes of it all is still the thing I just need to wrap my head around and figure out how to do right.
While we didn't get a chance to discuss it, it's worth noting that there is a particular deleted scene from Star Trek: Nemesis that's directly connected to the context of this situation. In the deleted scene, Welsey revealed to Jean-Luc Picard that he had taken a position on the USS Titan, which meant he rejoined Starfleet at some point under Riker's command. Season 1 of Star Trek: Lower Decks ended with Bradward Boimler aboard the USS Titan, and around the same time period Wesley Crusher could've been there. Since the scene was deleted, though, I'm not sure if it truly qualifies as canon, and I'd assume it's a "no" if McMahan still hasn't found a way to crack the nut of bringing Wil Wheaton back to Star Trek.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 (which is also available to stream on Paramount+) is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Steelbook as of Tuesday, May 18. Fans can get a sneak preview at some of the awesome behind-the-scenes info jammed into the disc by checking out our exclusive preview of how one segment of the opening credits resulted in weeks of debate.