Wesley Crusher has never been the most popular Star Trek character. As we all know, the most popular Star Trek character in franchise history is Morn, the chatty Lurian barfly at Quark’s bar on Deep Space Nine. But Wesley Crusher has always been something of a whipping boy for fans, who seemed off-put by the character from his introduction in the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Encounter at Farpoint.” Something about his combination of youthful earnestness and the repeated heavy-handed monologues that Wesley would someday be the most important being in the universe turned fans off; happily, Star Trek fans did not seem to transfer that animosity to the actor playing him, beloved blogger/podcaster/nerd Wil Wheaton. And after we finally got an appearance by a grown Wesley Crusher in the season two finale of Picard, it turned out that someone does love Wesley: Star Trek showrunners.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Star Trek shows would eventually begin to squabble over who gets to use who. There are currently more Star Trek shows on air at the same time than at any other time in franchise history (Picard, Discovery, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds, for the record) and they currently range over a century of continuity and there is a whole bunch of time travel stuff going on. It is a tiny bit surprising that Wesley Crusher would be the character that got Star Trek shows into a behind-the-scenes war. Here’s a clip from Star Trek on Paramount+ that gets into it a bit:
What a strange new world this is in which Wesley Crusher is the belle of the ball for Star Trek. The franchise has never been shy about returning characters. The Next Generation brought back Spock and Scotty from The Original Series, Deep Space Nine brought back a whole slew of Klingon warriors (including Word from TNG), Voyager brought back Riker for an episode, the entire premise of Strange New Worlds is based on reusing the pre-Kirk crew of the Enterprise. Prodigy brought back Voyager’s Captain Janeway, first as a hologram, then as the real deal. Picard season three is apparently bringing back everyone Jean-Luc has ever met in his life, with the notable exception of one Wesley Crusher.
It seems that multiple Star Trek series were interested in getting a Wesley Crusher appearance due to his presumed ascension as a time and space bending cosmic being known as a “Traveler,” which should allow the character to show up pretty much wherever and whenever they would like. Picard utilized said abilities to have Wesley recruit Kore Soong into the ranks of cosmic beings unfettered by time (which seems like a good gig to get). Presumably, that also helped Picard with the extensive trimming of the cast they seem to be doing prior to the third and final season. It will be interesting to see if the apparently fervent desire for Wesley Crusher appearances will continue past this sudden spike, but who knows? Star Trek can always use another time and space controlling alien entity handy.