Star Trek fans have been copying Captain Picard’s infamous line “shut up, Wesley” as a way of yelling at Wil Wheaton for many years now. But there was one time when the character didn’t shut up, and it almost ruined this Paramount franchise. This all occurred in the second season TNG episode “The Samaritan Snare,” when Wesley Crusher asks whether Picard’s anecdote about his good old days was “before the Klingons joined the Federation.”
“Was this before the Klingons joined the Federation?”-Wil Wheaton’s line from Star Trek: The Next Generation that almost changed everything
When it came to this episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Wil Wheaton wasn’t ad libbing when he mentioned Klingons joining the Federation. Originally, this was a plan the producers and writers had put into motion, and if you look carefully, you can see a combined Federation/Klingon flag in the episode “Heart of Glory.”
Soon, everyone involved ended up dropping the idea, and fans have spent decades trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for Wesley’s question about the Klingons.
For example, some Star Trek fans feel like Wil Wheaton’s character was referring to the Klingon alliance with the Federation rather than actually joining with them. Others think the young character might have been referring to the Klingons joining the Federation in peace negotiations (something that seemed impossible until the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).
There are even fringe theories that Wesley, who is destined to become a Traveler through space and time, may have gotten a glimpse of a possible future: in Star Trek: Enterprise, Archer learns that in an alternate 26th-century future, the Klingons have joined the Federation.
The Klingon Civil War
Speaking of alternate realities, we couldn’t help but ponder all of the future Star Trek storylines involving the Klingons that Wil Wheaton’s simple line would have ruined. For example, in the two-part TNG episode “Redemption,” Worf ends up resigning his Starfleet commission so that he can take part in the Klingon Civil War to determine the next Chancellor.
It was a big deal because Worf had to choose between his heritage and his found family, and we would have lost all this drama (and probably the entire Civil War story) if the Klingons were already part of the Federation.
Of course, Worf only joined the war to help clear his father’s name (his dead father ended up taking the blame for the crimes of Duras, who betrayed the Klingons to the Romulans and got many killed, including himself). If Star Trek had built future stories off of Wil Wheaton’s brief line, we wouldn’t get all the great cloak-and-dagger stuff with Worf and Picard wandering the Klingon homeworld and getting to the bottom of things.
We’d also lose the very poignant ending to “Sins of the Father” where Worf chooses not to publicly bust this myth and accepts dishonor in the name of keeping a fragile Klingon Empire together.
Worf’s Journey on DS9
Some of the best Klingon episodes come from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and those stories would largely be undone if Wil Wheaton’s line remained canon. For example, we wouldn’t get to see the brief return of Federation/Klingon hostilities in “The Way of the Warrior” if they were part of the same organization, and we would have lost out on the later significance of Captain Sisko negotiating to restore the treaty between these empires in “By Inferno’s Light.”
We most certainly would have lost storylines like “Tacking Into the Wind,” in which Worf straight up fights and then kills Gowron to install a better leader (Martok) as chancellor.
Depending on exactly when in Star Trek’s past the Klingons would have joined the Federation, Wil Wheaton’s throwaway line would have ruined much of the characterization of Worf on The Next Generation and B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. While moody (mostly Worf) and rebellious (mostly Torres) in their own way, each of these characters carries an extra few chips on their shoulders because, as the only Klingons in Starfleet, they feel like they can never really fit in.
However, it wouldn’t really make much sense for these characters to experience friction and prejudice from others in Starfleet in their early days if the Klingons were already Federation members in good standing.
Ultimately, the idea that Star Trek would have had Klingons as part of the Federation is interesting to think about, but we’d lose more than we gained if this Wil Wheaton line had defined the next few decades. Fortunately, the writers eventually looked at that line and they realized what fans of the show knew from the very first episode: Wesley does need to shut up, and it’s okay not to let the precocious boy genius have the final word on everything.