A workers state with executive dysfunction

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Adam Riggio
    April 27, 2015 @ 1:22 am

    Wesley Crusher. I think you've said in this blog what needed to be said. Yet it's not as if anyone in Star Trek fandom ever found him all that great. I was profoundly irritated by him even at age 6. I always considered it as being because he was so smug, but you identified all its social aspects too.

    I remember on the extras of the Doctor Who did for Earthshock, the one where Adric dies, Steven Moffat said that nobody likes boy geniuses, and that they were terrible ideas for characters in general. Of course, Adric was so egocentric and irritating that he made Wesley Crusher look like Han Solo.

    Wesley's problem was that he embodied all the worst aspects of our mainstream culture: self-centred, lacking empathy, entitled, and ignorant of what his flaws were. And the show never calls him on it to any deep extent.


  2. Ross
    April 27, 2015 @ 2:32 am

    Yet it's not as if anyone in Star Trek fandom ever found him all that great

    I know two people who did. One of them even wrote fanfic about Mary Sue the Girl Genius Who Was Totally Also An Acting Ensign on the Enterprise who Wesley Fell In Love With and Who Dies Tragically In The Modified Version of This Particular Episode.

    (Come to think of it, she also wrote similar fanfic about Adric)


  3. tom jones
    April 27, 2015 @ 6:23 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  4. K. Jones
    April 27, 2015 @ 8:29 am

    Adam, I'll at least some time down the road argue that there are elements of calling Wesley out on his failings when The First Duty rolls around. Not that any of the lessons that could've been learned there stuck around. But that's an episode to deride for launching another dozen missed opportunities another day.

    I can remember every dry, painful moment of stock, tropish "we've crashed in a desert survival scenario" parts of the A-Plot here, from memory. The water trap. The boy genius using resonance to turn it off. The funky crystals and energy shots. The dumb provincial space hick who just don't get science and rational logic, whose sole existence is to make Wesley's (and to a lesser extent Picard's) entitled lives of privilege look heroic instead of snooty.

    But I can't remember a single moment of the B-Plot. I mean I'm sure there had to be at least some Riker and Doctor Crusher moments, right? Possibly even interesting moments.

    Season 4 is an interesting phase. If I've mentioned the show losing its newness and bite, and softening and getting comfortable – that seems to have essentially been a completed process by mid-Season 3. With 4 we're entering a new part of that – a possible sense of complacency or resting on its laurels and not trying hard anymore. We're seeing cliches and stock tropes being doubled-down on. And we're seeing 2 dull episodes to every 1 decent one, instead of a more 50/50 balance. But it's set to change in two episodes time, for me.

    Meanwhile I'm really curious where Josh might go next episode. I have a hunch, and can't wait to see if I've guessed right.


  5. Jacob Nanfito
    April 27, 2015 @ 12:25 pm

    I've admitted here elsewhere that I liked Wesley when I was a youngster. I'm going to continue to reveal my Trek uncoolness by admitting that, when I first began watching this show (aged 11-13) this was one of my favorite episodes. A. I thought the fountain forcefield thingy was cool and B. I related to Wesley's search for a father. I had similar feelings, and really wanted to make my absent father(s) proud of me somehow. I guess trite and hackneyed drama is an appropriate way to express those feelings when you're 13.

    I haven't watched it in decades, though, so I'm unsure what adult me would make of it.


  6. Daru
    May 4, 2015 @ 10:03 pm

    "And here we see the primary disconnect between me and the sort of people who write for and about Star Trek. They look at what Wesley Crusher embodies as things to valorize, glorify and decorate while I think they mark him as the sort of person who needs to be nailed to the fucking wall with a phaser rifle pointed at him."

    All of the problems behind this character and the inherent blinkered sense of privilege is also a perfect encapsulation of the current problems with the Hugo awards. Thanks for a great essay.


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