Wil Wheaton: Why He Quit On Star Trek

Wil Wheaton played Wesley Crusher for the first four seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and then saw his character take leave for Starfleet Academy and its Nova Squadron.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

Wil Wheaton

Was it his decision or the decision of the producers? Wil Wheaton played Wesley Crusher for the first four seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and then saw his character take leave for Starfleet Academy and its Nova Squadron. He appeared briefly in the series’ final three seasons and since that time hasn’t appeared on screen in a Star Trek movie or TV show. So, what has Wil Wheaton been up to?


Stand By Me

Wil Wheaton had been around for a few years before he got his huge break playing Gordie Lachance in the Rob Reiner film Stand by Me, which was based on the Stephen King novella The Body, which was part of King’s 1982 best-seller Different Seasons.

While Wil Wheaton had seen time in shows such as Highway to Heaven and movies like The Last Starfighter, Hambone and Hillie, The Defiant Ones, and Long Time Gone, Stand by Me pushed Wheaton into the limelight and Star Trek took advantage of his rising star and snagged him.


Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton was a precocious 15-year-old when he took on the role of Wesley Crusher. Fans weren’t in love with his character, feeling that a kid who has trouble getting into Starfleet Academy and who is surrounded by the best of the best of Starfleet’s crew members, shouldn’t always be the one able to figure out the solution to whatever troubles they have gotten themselves into.

Though Wil Wheaton’s character was heavily featured in the series’ first season, the following three seasons downplayed Crusher’s involvement in many of the stories. Following the series fourth season, Wheaton left the show.

Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton on the bridge of the Enterprise

There has been plenty of scuttlebutt concerning Wil Wheaton’s departure, was it his doing? Was it the producers doing? Was his lack of popularity the reason? After hearing Wheaton talk about it, it is clear that it was his decision to step away.

Wil Wheaton was at the TNG Exposed at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo with the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation cast when a surprise guest in the audience stood up and asked him about how he felt being back with the TNG cast on stage. That surprise guest was his long-time friend Aaron Douglas, an actor who had similar issues when he played Galen Tyrol on Battlestar Galactica. Wheaton then opened up about leaving the show. It was heartfelt, honest, and very moving.

Wesley Crusher
Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher

“I left Star Trek: The Next Generation when I was 18 years old, and initially I thought it was a really smart business career move,” he explained to the audience and castmates. “In some ways it was, and in more ways it wasn’t. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much I was going to miss [my cast mates] and how much I was going to miss the spacesuit that I hated wearing and the helmet hair, that I couldn’t stand putting on. After I left the show… I just sort of [said], ‘I’m going to go out into the world and do my own thing,’ and I didn’t see anybody. That went on for awhile.”

Wil Wheaton continued, “After that ended, I just felt really ashamed of myself. I felt like I just couldn’t go to the set — I felt like I couldn’t look them in the eye, and that I couldn’t invite them to my wedding. Years after that, I sort of saw them at a few conventions and I just, you know, I just sort of [said], ‘I apologize for being a kid’… [and] everyone said, ‘Yeah, you were just a kid, you were always welcome, you’re always part of us.'”

What comes next are some tears and definite laughs as LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge) took to the mic to let Wil Wheaton know how he truly felt about him. He started with, “I never fuckin liked you Wil,” to the laughs of all. The entire heartfelt revelation and aftermath can be seen below. Watch it to the end.

Wil Wheaton’s Deleted Return To Star Trek

Wil Wheaton tried to Star Trek at one point. He was originally supposed to be part of Star Trek: Nemesis, the last big screen outing for the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew. He even filmed scenes as Wesley Crusher, but all of them were cut from the movie.

All that’s left of Wil Wheaton’s return to Star Trek is a deleted scene on the Star Trek: Nemesis Director’s Cut DVD in which Wesley Crusher appears in a background shot at Riker and Troi’s wedding. Squint or you’ll miss him.


Dark Matter

Unfortunately for Wil Wheaton, life after The Next Generation wasn’t what he thought it might be. The saying “too big for your britches” comes to mind. That’s not to say that Wheaton hasn’t enjoyed working in Hollywood since his time ended on TNG but it definitely took a different turn for the actor.

Following Star Trek: The Next Generation, Wil Wheaton stepped away from the acting world and found himself working for a company called NewTek and pushing a video editing program called Video Toaster 4000, one of the very first video editing programs on the market. That didn’t last and Wheaton decided to jump back into the acting game after spending five years in acting school.

Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton kept busy post-Star Trek. He has had recurring roles on shows like Dark Matter, Leverage, Eureka, and The Big Bang Theory. He has done plenty of work on both the big and small screens while also turning his attention to voice work, which includes animation, video games, and audiobooks. On the animated side, Wheaton has been part of Teen Titans, Teen Titans Go!, Family Guy, Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, Legion of Super Heroes, Ben 10: Alien Force, Miles from Tomorrowland, Stretch Armstrong & the Flex Fighters, and Transformers: Power of the Primes among the many animated projects.

His video game work has been just as impressive, lending his vocal talents to games such as the Grand Theft Auto franchise, the Ghost Recon franchise, and DC Universe Online. He has also been part of a huge number of audiobooks that include Ready Player One, If They Ever Happened Upon My Lair, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Looking for Alaska, and Full Throttle.


Wil Wheaton has made a return to Star Trek, sort of. He’s not playing Wesley Crusher or even on the Enterprise, instead he is the host of a Star Trek: Picard after show called The Ready Room. Wil appears after each episode of the show and interviews cast members and creatives involved, as they discuss each episode.

However, with all the talk surrounding Star Trek: Picard and the recent return of some of The Next Generation favorites (Data, Riker, Troi) as well as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, what about Wesley Crusher making a cameo? For Wil Wheaton’s part, he doesn’t think they’d ever ask him BUT if they did, “I think it is very unlikely they will ask me to participate in it,” Wheaton said via Cinemablend. “I mean, I think it is just extraordinarily unlikely that will happen. If they did, I would say ‘yes,’ of course.”

He then followed it up with a more thoughtful answer, If they did, I would say ‘yes,’ of course. I think all of us would say ‘yes.’ I think all of us, if we were given the opportunity to put on the spacesuits again and go work together and bring those characters back as they would be thirty years later, we would all say ‘yes.’ And I don’t think it’s because we want the work. I don’t think it’s because we need the money. I don’t think it’s because we don’t have other things to do. It’s because we love each other so much, and an opportunity, even for a day, to return emotionally to some of the best times of our lives, I think that we would jump at that opportunity.”

Some of his former castmates already have said yes and perhaps he is just letting those “in charge” know he is ready, willing, and able to jump back into Wesley Crusher’s skin if he were to be asked. Maybe one day we’ll see Wesley Crusher back at the helm of the Enterprise.