talk about your dream of horses

I’m so close to letting Memories of the Future Volume One leave the nest, I’m already starting to miss the taste of partially-digested bugs in my throat.

So far, I’ve shared parts that are from the recaps, but the other half of each entry is more analysis and reflection on each episode, and that’s what I think makes this book special. Anyone can tell jokes about the show, but there are only nine of us in the world who can talk about what it was like to be regular cast members. This is from Datalore, which I loved when I was a kid, but is just riddled with plot holes I couldn’t see twenty years ago:

The pitch was awesome: “We find Data’s evil twin brother, who he never knew he had, and hilarity ensues.” Sure, there’s nothing original about the evil twin story, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be told again in an interesting way, especially with a cool character like Data, played by a great character actor like Brent Spiner, supported by a brilliant dramatic actor like Patrick Stewart. How could they screw up this story this badly?

I think it comes down to lazy writing that has things happen because they’re supposed to happen, rather than having them happen organically. The characters are credulous when they should be skeptical, the audience isn’t surprised by anything after the second act, and there are story problems that should have never gotten past the first draft.

Personally, I hated the way they handled Wesley in this episode. He’s already on his way to becoming a hated character, and the writers cranked it up to Warp 11. It was stupid of them to have Picard give him an adult responsibility and then dismissively treat him like a child when he carried it out. It undermines both of the characters—how is the audience supposed to take either of them seriously? Maybe the idea was that Wesley would prove Picard wrong, with a big payoff at the end when Picard apologies or something and their relationship grows as a result. But all we get is one line in the cargo bay when Picard says, “Can you return to duty?” Really? That’s it? How about, “Hey, can you kiss my ass, Captain? How does that work for you? I was right about everything, bitch!”

Erm, sorry.

It’s not all bad, of course. The art direction in this episode is some of the best we’ve seen so far. When Dr. Crusher works with Argyle to put Lore together, it’s one of the first times we got to see some really awesome technology on the Enterprise. Sure, we’d seen some spiffy visual effects in other episodes, but this was the first time we got to see just how advanced the Enterprise-D was.

I went to the Nebula Awards dinner on Saturday night, where I got to present the award for best script.

I wanted some kind of introduction, so a few minutes before I walked up to the podium, I came up with this:

“Everyone I know who is successful reads books. Everyone I know who is successful and interesting reads science fiction and fantasy. As a parent, you can imagine how important it is to me that my kids read science fiction and fantasy, so I’ve used television and movies as a gateway drug.

“The nominees for Best Script are…”

I’m not going to lie: I felt pretty good about that, especially considering that I came up with it pretty much on the fly.

The whole evening was really cool. Because it wasn’t awesome enough to be in the same room as Larry Niven, Robert Silverberg, Joe Haldeman, and other authors who I felt unworthy to even look at, much less speak to, Anne and I got to sit with David Gerrold.

Fun fact: David wrote and sold The Trouble with Tribbles when he was 19. Anne asked him how he had the courage to do that, and David told her, “Because nobody told me I couldn’t.” That’s so awesome, and everyone who is creative should commit that to memory.

We were talking about all kinds of writerly stuff, and I mentioned to David that I was working on this book. As I started to describe it to him, I could see that he wasn’t into it, but was too polite to tell me why.

After a minute, he said, “You have to be careful with your tell-all book, because –”

“Ah, that’s why he wasn’t into it.” I thought.

“It’s not a tell-all book. I hate those things,” I said. “It’s more like you’re flipping through your high school yearbook with your friends.”

I called on all my improv skills and held an imaginary book in my hands.

“It’s like, ‘Hey! I remember this, and I remember that, and did you know that this funny thing happened there, and … oh god … I can’t believe I thought that was cool…'”

His face lit up. “That sounds like a book I’d like to read.”

I’ve talked to a few of my friends from the show about their memories from season one, and they’ve shared amusing and insightful memories with me that I think readers are going to really enjoy. It may push the release back a little bit, but I’m going to try to talk with David, too, because he was there from the very beginning. Did you know that he suggested me for the role of Wesley? If he hadn’t done that, I don’t know that I’d have ever worn a pumpkin-colored sweater.

Despite that, though, I’m extremely grateful to David for convincing Bob Justman and Gene Roddenberry to take a chance on me.

41 thoughts on “talk about your dream of horses”

  1. “Did you know that he suggested me for the role of Wesley? If he hadn’t done that, I don’t know that I’d have ever worn a pumpkin-colored sweater.
    Despite that, though, I’m extremely grateful to David for convincing Bob Justman and Gene Roddenberry to take a chance on me.”
    Something to simultaneously thank him for and grit your teeth?
    I kid of course.
    I had been starting to track down and read your episode commentary articles, but if the book is this close I think I’ll just wait for it to come out and read the full shiny stories. Looking forward to it.

  2. The tidbits that you’ve, oh, so carefully, been releasing have me solidly in pre-squee mode about this book, Wil.
    I’m one of the (hopefully not many) readers of your blog that just hasn’t managed to keep enough room on the plastic for copies of your books, so far (They will be mine. Oh, yes, they *will* be mine…!), but I’m going to MAKE room, dammit, for this!

  3. You can love something and recognise its flaws at the same time.
    When my sister bought me Phil Farrand’s Nitpicker’s Guide, I kept it in the coffee table so I could haul it out every time I watched an episode of ST:TNG. Some episodes are works of art (while others, not so much), but they all became fresh again when I could watch them through the eyes of another fan. Sure, there was a lot of “I never noticed that plot hole before; what were they smoking?” and a lot of “Hey, this guy thinks this episode is pretty awesome too!”, but the real treat was when I’d be forced to reconsider some element of an episode in a new light and gain a whole different appreciation for it.
    I really look forward to your book for the same reason; that you’ve got the inside scoop as part of the creative team behind the show will only make it that much more enjoyable.

  4. Nice to know David Gerrold is pretty cool – it was “Trouble with Tribbles” that got me into Star Trek back in the olden 70s.
    (Wil, thank you again for the Happy Birthday autograph on Friday night and for letting me dork out a little. I finally read Just A Geek yesterday, in one sitting (it was a quiet day). Fantasmic. Honest. And yes, Uncle Willy definitely still rocks, even better than before. Looking forward to catching up with everyone else in reading Happiest Days of Our Lives and Sunken Treasure.)

  5. “Because nobody told me I couldn’t” Priceless.
    I have to say, from my experience the tendency to nay say with dismissal rather than pointed questioning is the first sign that someone is a dick. David Gerrold wrote my favorite and oft quoted lines of OS Trek. And that he brought you into the fold is just more kudos for him.
    This is going to be an awesome book for all of us who wish we could have quietly crowded onto the set and mess things up with Heisenberg observation. Best of all, not once will we have t o hear about Aunt Ester’s Grand Canyon trip! :) :)

  6. I love your intro for the best script award. Gateway drug, indeed. I’m currently writing a piece on films inspiring reading, and I’m currently reading His Dark Materials (how did I miss those?) because I saw the movie made from the first book some time ago. Funny how that works.
    Some people (Shall we call them literary snobs? Yes, I think we shall.) might say that movies are watered-down cheap imitations of books and therefore have no place in this world. While I can certainly understand the former opinion, the latter is so short-sighted it makes me cringe.
    I’ve read tons of books because I liked the movies that they inspired. The reverse is only true in a few cases.
    And if a film or television show gets one kid turned on to reading, well, I’d call that a win.
    Script on, script writers, script on.

    Oh, and I’m looking forward to the Future.

  7. I did not know that Gerrold recommended you for Wesley. That is interesting.
    I read a list recently that credited Gerrold for inventing the term “computer virus”. I think it was in “When HARLIE was One.”
    Gerrold can be therapy for writers block. As great a writer as he is, he has delayed the release of the next book in the Chtorr series for over a decade.
    On another note, the whole first season of TNG was full of Wesley saying smart things and getting shut down by adults. They didn’t exactly say, “Shut up, Wesley” but they might as well have. I’m not sure what the goal was with that. Watching them again as an adult, it seems strange and out of place.

  8. Wesley was probably the most inconsistently approached character on the show; almost like they didn’t know what to do with him. Strangely, though, I never hated him, and the more I watch the show back the more I like him – particularly in later seasons. It’s really interesting to hear the insights of the actor who played him though.
    The First Duty is, in my opinion, one of the best episodes of The Next Generation, and was a far more human approach to Wesley than taken in the some of the earlier seasons – I don’t know if you’d agree with that.
    Personally I wish they’d included him in the movies and really developed him.

  9. Just picked up “Dancing Barefoot”… good read. Waiting for “Just a Geek” and now it sounds like I’m going to have to read MOTF too. Yer killing me, I might have to mortgage the cats. ;-)
    Seriously though, thanks for this. Fascinating insights.

  10. I feel the same way. I actually always liked that character because I identified with him to a certain extent. But I was young at the time. Probably about 9 when I started watching, which I guess would have been around season 3 and I was watching the whole series in scattershot re-runs.
    I remember my first TV critic came in the season 1 “clip show” finale and I thought “How lame is this crap…they’re just replaying clips from other episodes!”.
    Go figure that this was to become a lifelong hatred for all clip shows and my least favorite trek episode of all time.

  11. Was Wesley a hated character? We loved the episodes Wesley was in and they were some of our favorites, plus, produced some of the best interaction. I’ve watched all TNG episodes over and over as has my entire family and we ALL liked your character. We loved The Traveler especially. My daughter and I saw you speak at the latfod sat. and we both thought, wow, Wil really IS Wesley. In that you were brilliant.

  12. Hated character?! I was a HUGE fan of Wesley. I especially liked the episode when he had to protect Picard (who was injured) in that cave, from some weird phenomenon (some deadly force–it’s been a while). Plus I loved the episode where his character was tested at Starfleet Academy during that cover-up. And, finally, probably my favorite episode with him is where he basically tells everyone to go to hell–he’s tired of living up to other people’s expectations. He went to Starfleet Academy for the same reasons some people go to law school–he figured it’s just what he was supposed to do. When he realized he wanted something else entirely–it was a moment many of us could relate to, I think. And, okay, maybe he was surly and obnoxious about it–but I didn’t hate him for that. :)

  13. It’s really neat to know David suggested you for the show. That’s one of those, “Hey, cool!” things that I’ve come to expect from your stories.
    Also, I never understood why the writer’s couldn’t get Wesley “right.” Trek novel writers did a much better job, FWIW. I read a slew of Wesley themed Trek novels when I was a kid and he was a very interesting character in those.
    Looking forward to the book, a lot!
    Cheers!

  14. I agree with the gateway drug- I became interested in reading because of a show called Wishbone, and because I really, really wanted to be able to read the TV guide.
    Wesley is also one of my all-time favorite characters on TNG, second only to Data.
    That guy wrote a script for STAR TREK when he was only 19?!?!
    egads, I’ve let the world tell me it’s too complicated to do these things :-O

  15. Wil, you likely know this already, but David finally got his “Blood & Fire” TNG script — the one with a gay couple on the Enterprise, and the AIDS allegory — put on film.
    It was re-adapted for the TOS cast, and Part 1 of the two-part episode is currently available at Star Trek: Phase II. Part 2 should be up in the next month or so.

  16. Well…since some other people brought it up, as a thirteen year old girl (which still makes you a year older than me…haha), I loved the idea of a teenager being a Starfleet officer. Even if he was only an “acting” Ensign. I was all “Go Wesley!” because he was the only character I could relate with in my demographic, how in the world could I have hated Wesley?
    I’m not going to lie and say that I had pictures of you from Teen Beat magazine all over my walls, because it would be a bold-faced lie. My walls at that time were reserved for Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and the like. If I even dared to put Wesley Crusher up there, my friends totally would have busted my hypothetical balls. Besides, I totally had a crush on Frakes, and my older sister had a crush on Patrick Stewart, which I thought was creepy at first, but after the second or third season, I was right on board the Patrick Stewart train with her. It didn’t matter to me that he was my Dad’s age, we loved his bald head to death.
    Which incidentally, is kinda where I started *not* liking Wesley Crusher anymore. Not because of your acting abilities, but because the stories that they wrote for you and Gates McFadden in particular were mostly fluff, based on bullshit plot lines that no one gave a shit about. When I found out that you were quitting the show, I actually understood why you’d want to do it.
    I hid my inner geek from most of the people that I considered to be my friends at the time, but to the ones that shared my love of Star Trek, my (mostly guy) friends were totally ranting on you, saying things to the effect of “Who the hell does he think he is? Mr. Too Cool to be on Star Trek Anymore? Good fucking riddance! I’ve always hated that tool, anyway!” I tried to plead your case, man, but being a girl meant that I was totally biased and harbored a secret crush on you to my mostly guy friends.
    None of us had the kind of money to own a computer, so I’m quite certain that they weren’t taking any part in the usenet hate mongering groups against you at the time, but they all seemed to have bugs up their asses about you and totally worshiped Worf for some reason.
    You’ve earned your redemption, though, almost every single one of my mostly guy friends from High School totally geek out right along with me about you now. I’m so anticipating this book in the worst possible way. After reading the episode reviews and seeing you re-enact the one for
    Datalore, I have to say that I am very impressed at how well you’re pulling these off. “Wheee! I’m in Starfleet!” Genius. Just pure genius.

  17. I was following the Nebulas on the SFAW website. Cheryl Morgan set up a live blog for it. Yes, It was totally geeky. :) When they announced the script presenter, we all laughed. It seemed appropriate that it was you. And the bit about “Everyone I know who is successful reads books. Everyone I know who is successful and interesting reads science fiction and fantasy.” even got repeated to us, so I would say it went over well at the awards ceremony.
    Oh, that sounds like its going to be a fun book.
    You are a good writer and I’m pleased that it is you putting all the memories on paper.
    Now I can’t wait! Open, Open, Open…

  18. Looking forward to your book. The insider stuff can be even more interesting than the actual shows. This is doubly true of the “special” episodes (short bus special, not extra-kick-ass-season-finale-effects-budget episodes). And since your prior efforts have been good reads, I have high hopes for this one.
    BTW, did Gerrold mention when A Method for Madness might be coming out? I’ve been waiting for that for over 15 frakin’ years! My copies of the first four books are getting pretty beat up.

  19. I think I can shed some light on why the character of Wesley wasn’t well received by everyone who watched the show when it came out. When Star Trek: The Next Generation came out, I was 23 and had grown up on reruns of the original series. I remember that a few of my friends and I thought, at the time, that Wesley was Gene Roddenberry’s vanity character. We weren’t happy with Wesley because of that pre-conceived notion. I don’t pretend to speak for all those out there who “hated” the character of Wesley. And I’d have to say that I wouldn’t characterize my feelings at the time as hate. I am certainly very sorry that the negativity intended toward the character was frequently transferred to the actor. And still is sometimes. I really like the Wil Wheaton I know today and I can separate the man from the characters he plays. (Good thing, too, because Floyd on Criminal Minds was really scary.)

  20. Ack! The crazy psychopathic serial killer guy? He scared the effing crap out of me! The entire time I was watching the episode, not once did it cross my mind “Why is Wesley Crusher beating that poor man with a bat and making him watch while he’s raping his wife repeatedly?” It was a little bit more like this: “Oh my fucking GOD this guy is fucked up in the head!” Nobody in this entire galaxy would ever associate Floyd with Wesley Crusher. I was seriously creeped the hell out. Wheaton scared the living shit out of me!
    But this is hardly new. When he played Walter, the homeless crackhead guy on CSI, I actually had to convince my Mom that he was the same guy who played Wesley Crusher. She kept saying “No…no! That can’t be him!” and I reiterated myself again “Yeah, Mom, that’s Wil Wheaton.” She was so convinced that it wasn’t Wil, that when it came back on in a rerun, I made her watch the guest star credits. After that, she said “I would have NEVER recognized him if you didn’t point it out to me. He’s a really good actor!” “Yeah, Mom, I’ve been telling you that for ages.”
    After the Criminal Minds episode, she was equally freaked the hell out by him. God bless her senior citizen heart, her beloved “Weasel” (her nickname for Wesley back in the day) was all grown up and scaring the crap out of her. You gotta admit, he plays a pretty good creep, which is so UNLIKE Wesley that it’s somewhat disturbing, yet totally awesome at the same time. He’s an excellent actor/author. And so awesomely funny all at the same time.

  21. I’m looking forward to the book. As a pretty die hard trekie I only missed episodes when deployed. Funny, I remember eating dinner on TV trays and watching the original as a kid. I do have a question though. I’m watching a rerun on scifi and I gotta ask, what’s with those pants? Didn’t they make you a new outfit as you grew?

  22. Hey Wil, this is my first post here. I thought I’d chime in with something related to the Wesley bashing. I started watching The Next Generation around 1990, when I was only five years old. I was obsessed, and Wesley was my favorite character, because he was the one I could most identify with age-wise. I aspired to be a smartass kid genius just like him!
    Even nowadays, with a slightly more mature perspective on things, I don’t mind Wesley. Maybe early on, he could get a bit annoying at times, but his character continued to be more thought out and better written as Next Gen pressed on beyond the first season. I hope the fact that your book is called Memories of the Future Volume One means that you will be doing write-ups of later episodes featuring Wesley? There’s many from the later seasons that I’d love to hear your take on.

  23. Wil wrote “…Maybe the idea was that Wesley would prove Picard wrong, with a big payoff at the end when Picard apologies or something and their relationship grows as a result. But all we get is one line in the cargo bay when Picard says, “Can you return to duty?””
    I thought that one line was better than a long apology scene. Unfortunately, it was not preceded by a believable (or satisfying) cause for the apology. Plus, the scene wasn’t well constructed. Done correctly – with the appropriate unspoken subtle interaction showing that both understand what happened – it could have been a powerful scene.

  24. “Because nobody told me I couldn’t.” That’s something that can be said about many great feats.
    Geek Story follows: In the late 70s I worked at a small software startup and the head programmer had been in the field since the 50s, including stints at IBM working on OS/360 and at EDS as a troubleshooter. He never went to college and was a self taught programmer. Normally, IBM wouldn’t hire someone without a degree for a programming job, but they sought him out for OS/360. Why? Because while he was a computer operator at mid-sized company, he didn’t like the operating system on the mainframe. So he rewrote it. Alone. In assembler. 100% compatible with the manufacturer’s OS. He did it because nobody told him it was impossible for an autodidact to duplicate the work of 100s of programmers. The OS was distributed free by a user society and came to the attention of IBM. You might say he beat Linux to the punch by 35-40 years.

  25. Wil,
    Very cool that you got to talk to David Gerrold. He has recently been an inspiration to me, via his story turned movie, Martian Child.
    I agree with other posters that the Character of Wesley was mishandled. I also felt they were some of the best episodes too. To be frank, nothing like a kid (of any age) to get you in touch with the human side of life. That’s how I always viewed Wesley. As a voice in the show, from a part of the galaxy that is typically under-represented in the genre.
    I haven’t read or even looked for any of your books, having only recently been reading your blog. I am really enjoying the blog, I am pleased beyond all accounts that you are doing so well, and will look forward to reminescing over the “yearbook” with you!
    Cheers – Daleus

  26. Yes, I too am looking forward to the book, and since he’s speaking in publisher speak, “really soon” actually means “whenever we get around to doing it.” But I’ll quit the ball busting, because I’ve never published a novel before and I can only imagine how many hours are spent rewriting and editing a publication before it’s deemed worthy to hit the presses.
    Wil, just do your thing, man, it’s going great so far as I can tell. But just warn Prove to Everyone that if he shows his face around here again that I’m gonna kick him in the junk. J/K. Seriously, Prove to Everyone’s been kicked in the junk enough, don’t you agree? This is totally Whil Wheaton’s show now. I think I’ll go and kick William Fucking Shatner in the junk, instead. Ya know, just because he’s still annoying the crap out of me with a dead cat on his head telling people how they should plan their fucking vacations.

  27. My geek senses are telling me that Wesley didn’t start wearing an official Starfleet uniform until The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, but I could be completely wrong about that since I’m relying on my memory alone here. You can just Google it, I suppose…ya know, for confirmation and all that.

  28. “Maybe the idea was that Wesley would prove Picard wrong, with a big payoff at the end when Picard apologies(sp) or something and their relationship grows as a result.”
    Just wanted to give you a hand with the copy editing and point out a typo.

  29. Robert Silverberg. Wow. Akin to a god, indeed. I’ve been reading him for 20 years, and I was like 30 years late- he’s kinda the Gordie Howe of science fiction/fantasy. He’s one of those people that I would give up my left nut just to be in their head for a while- just so I could see how he does what he does from the inside.
    Wil, unworthy or not, I don’t suppose you got to chat with him, did you? (or at any other point for that matter)

  30. kananik said “… point out a typo.”
    A prof. at Towson commented (I got this
    from a commenter in a language and editing blog):
    “there is no such thing as
    typos. Only errors in proofreading.”
    H. George Hahn, III.

  31. I don’t remember which episode even though it was just on the other night. doh! About the only TV I watch anymore is scifi and the news. As far as people not liking the character I had no idea. A Wesley haters club? Most likely just a bunch of wannabes. I mean, how cool is it to be a regular on Star Trek? Besides Wil was a good actor even back then and he didn’t turn out to be an ass like lots of others. Just a regular guy like the rest of us. In fact, I remember taking my kids to Disneyland and seeing him and his friends there. If you didn’t recognize him you would never know. That is true coolness not to mention character.

  32. Most definitely. He’s a very grounded person, and a nerd, which is why he never ran with the crowd that snorted/injected/ingested/whatever their paychecks and royalties away. To this very day I will never forget the day that I read in the newspaper that River Phoenix OD’d outside the Viper Room. I was sincerely shocked. He had always appeared to be so wholesome, you know? And yes, I have seen the A&E Biography narrated by Wil, and yes I cried like a baby, but that’s besides the point.
    My guy friends in HS – there really weren’t many girls in my school that appreciated Star Trek, which in a class of almost 700 students, you’d think there would be more than just me and one other girl who at least admitted she was a fan – were totally hardcore Worf fans. I guess they thought Klingons were really cool or something, I really never got it. I loved Worf, too. I loved the entire cast and was sad to see Wesley go. Whenever he came back for a guest appearance, it was always a treat, for me at least.
    The Wesley haters back then probably did talk smack on him out of jealousy. Like I said earlier, a lot of my guy friends from HS that I’ve kept in touch with are fans of Wil Wheaton now. It’s all about separating the man from the character, and he turned out to be a really great man. Great husband, awesome father, brilliant author, fantastic actor, and just a really honest all around great guy in general. I am so glad that I found this out for myself the first time I logged onto WWdN a little more than 5 years ago now.

  33. That last mention of the orange sweater literally made me laugh. Suddenly and loudly and for a while. Because as many years as it’s been since I broke up with Star Trek, I instantly knew the exact sweater.
    I always said, people in the 24th century had terrible fashion sense. Though the orange was better than the gray with the primary stripes across the shoulders.
    ……….Why am I still talking about this? Nevermind.

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