gazing through trees in sorrow hardly a sound till tomorrow

I saw Menage A Trois last night on TNG, which is the episode where Picard gives Wesley his field promotion to Ensign, complete with cool regular spacesuit and slightly-less-dorky haircut. I’d forgotten the promotion happened in that episode, because, despite fantastic performances from all the actors (especially Majel) the bulk of that story just feels a little too close to slashy fan fiction for me. In my mind, I’d uncoupled the B story about Wesley from the A story about Riker, Troi, Lwaxana, and the Ferengis.

There’s a scene in that episode where Wesley thinks he’s leaving the
Enterprise to go to Starfleet Academy, and as he walks across the back
of the bridge, behind Worf and to the turbolift, he turns around and
slowly looks at the bridge, you know, sort of taking the whole thing in
like he’s seeing it for the last time and wants to remember.

When I saw that last night, it reminded me of the first time I went on
Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas, and how I did exactly the same
thing. Art imitating life imitating art.

Most of you who are TNG fans already know this, but it’s a cool story that I’ll tell anyway: Gene Roddenberry, who created Star Trek and was a good friend of mine while I worked on the show, was field-promoted to Ensign during World War II, and when Wesley was field-promoted on TNG, Gene came to the bridge one afternoon, gathered the cast and crew together, kicked out the set photographer, and shut down production for a few minutes to present me with the bars he’d received when he was promoted in the real military.

I can connect with that memory right now as if I’m watching it on a television all over again: Gene presents me with his bars, everyone breaks out into applause, and I feel like I really didn’t deserve it — I was just an actor, after all.

I was too young and immature to fully absorb the magnitude of the
gesture, but I recall that Gene shook my hand, then pulled me into him for a big hug, and I felt that sense of pride and embarassment that
you get when your dad brags on you in front of everyone at the family
reunion for making the final out that won the All-City Championship, but you secretly know that you just held up your glove and the ball managed to find its way into the pocket.

I remember that Paramount wanted to make a big publicity deal out of it, and have a camera crew from Entertainment Tonight and a bunch of photographers there, but Gene wanted it to be a private, "family" moment. I always thought that was cool of him, and illustrates how seriously he took that moment; though I wish I had pictures from that day, if there’d been a photographer or film crew there, it would have cheapened the moment. I think Gene knew that and kept it real long before "keeping it real" was a popular pastime on MySpace.

58 thoughts on “gazing through trees in sorrow hardly a sound till tomorrow”

  1. I remember that episode so well. I know that when you came out in your cool ensign uniform, I was like “yeah, Wesley!” Unlike a lot of those ‘fans,’ I didn’t keep shooting you down. I was pro-Wes no matter what.
    Fond memories!
    :)

  2. You post made me think that sometimes they indeed manage to cast the right people for series. Although, sometimes they don’t and then just try to copy someone. Wesley Crusher, on the contrary, was very original. There was no such character on the original enterprise, as far as I can remember.

  3. I remember that episode so well. I know that when you came out in your cool ensign uniform, I was like “yeah, Wesley!” Unlike a lot of those ‘fans,’ I didn’t keep shooting you down. I was pro-Wes no matter what.
    Fond memories!
    :)

  4. I remember that episode so well. I know that when you came out in your cool ensign uniform, I was like “yeah, Wesley!” Unlike a lot of those ‘fans,’ I didn’t keep shooting you down. I was pro-Wes no matter what.
    Fond memories!
    :)

  5. I remember that episode so well. I know that when you came out in your cool ensign uniform, I was like “yeah, Wesley!” Unlike a lot of those ‘fans,’ I didn’t keep shooting you down. I was pro-Wes no matter what.
    Fond memories!
    :)

  6. This is the reason that I enjoy this blog so much, so many people of different ages and backgrounds, even the guy that tried to pull the smoking gun thing(because so many teenagers have a grasp of rank!).
    I really enjoyed reading that story, you were able to communicate the event with enough emotion that I could complete feel the sentiment that you felt that moment. You are a great storyteller, it brought a tear(sniff, sniff) to my eye.

  7. A few Years ago Joss Whedon gave me a doughnut Roseanne Bar threw at his head. It was a tender moment. I prob shouldn’t have eaten it but it was quite delicious.
    Make sure you don’t eat that pin Wil, you’ll regret it.

  8. I never knew this story before… but I’m very happy that you told it on WWDN… It’s absolutely amazing. I never knew that Gene Roddenberry received a field commission (that’s a big thing) during WWII… let alone served in the military. The experience you had really goes to show not only how much the character of Wesley Crusher meant to him, but how much you meant to him as a person. Absolutely amazing… And I’ll have to admit: like other readers, this story actually brought a tear to my eye, too.

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