I don’t know much about brain scans…

Each entry in Memories of the Future is broken up into sections: the synopsis, some quotable dialog, the obligatory technobabble, a behind the scenes memory, the bottom line, and a final grade.

I'm striving to strike just the right balance among the main sections, and working very hard to be humors, reflective, and insightful in the appropriate places. I'm done with the synopses (the largest part of the book) and today and tomorrow I'm working on the behind the scenes and bottom line sections.

I've worked my way up to The Battle today, and I wanted to share its Behind The Scenes part:

I haven’t watched this episode in over a decade, but it’s probably one of the most important for me to see, because it clearly illustrates exactly why Wesley Crusher went from mildly annoying to vehemently hated character so quickly: First of all, acting ensign or not, having Wesley rush into the middle of the bridge and effectively tell Riker, “Hey, I figured this out before you all did because I’m so fucking smart” is quite possibly the worst way to help the audience accept that this kid is going to be part of the main crew. Having Wesley interrupt the ship’s first officer and then ignore the chain of command to tell another senior officer what to do is equally brilliant. Then the writers go for the win and have Wesley spout off some technobabble about being in Engineering and “playing around with boosting sensor output,” because everyone knows that “playing around” with something as important as the long range sensors is always a good idea.

Look, introducing Wesley – a teenager – as part of the main crew is like introducing a new product that consumers may not like. How the new product is framed and presented is incredibly important, because they must be convinced that the new product doesn’t threaten the things they are used to and love. I don’t think it is possible for the writers to have failed more spectacularly on any of those points than they did in this episode. We only get one chance to make a first impression, and what’s the first impression of Wesley as Acting Ensign Crusher? He “plays around” with things that are vital to the safety and operation of the ship, which implies a lack of respect for them. He barges onto the bridge, where Picard has made it very clear until the previous episode that he’s unwelcome, which implies a lack of respect for Picard. He interrupts and then ignores Riker, and breaks the chain of command to tell Geordi what to do.

Because that’s not bad enough, Wesley comes in at a crucial point in the third act, points out that he “glanced” at some brain scans which he doesn’t “really know anything about,” and magically deduced exactly what their origin is. To complete Wesley’s perfectly brilliant introduction to the audience, they actually have him make a snarky comment to himself after Troi and Dr. Crusher have left the scene. When they get back to the bridge, Troi – who is supposed to be an intelligent, qualified Starfleet officer – doesn’t even know what Wesley was talking about! Gosh, writers, what’s not to like?

The damage is done and it’s irreparable; we’ve made our first impression on an already skeptical audience (who, don’t forget, have had to endure some truly atrocious episodes) and we can’t ever take it back. After watching this episode, I finally understand – no, I grok – exactly why so many people hated Wesley so much. Hell, I played him for seven years and probably have more invested in him than anyone else in the world, and even I hated him while I watched this episode.

And, totally unrelated, in case you missed these two things on Twitter:

Me: OMG I'm trying to work, and the dogs are driving me nuts. Anne: With a little ship's wheel?

RT @AHGreenwood "…sometimes the best thing about following @wilw is Anne." It's also the best thing about BEING @wilw. :)

Anne and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in November. That's awesome.

67 thoughts on “I don’t know much about brain scans…”

  1. TNG from the outset seemed very conflicted about how children fit into the universe.
    On the one hand, we’re supposed to see a brave, idealistic future where children and families fearlessly share the risk of space exploration and military deployment because of an overriding belief in family integrity being critical to individual achievement, a belief in personal autonomy and responsibility that is so strong that society recognizes a basic human right for spouses and children to be there, and where average children are intellectually advanced enough to be doing calculus as preteens.
    On the other hand, and predominantly, we see adults who are unfailing polite and tolerant of diverse peoples being condescending dicks to Wesley (and only Wesley). As for family, we never see enough of Wesley and Beverly’s relationship to really get much out of it, but in what we do get it’s never really clear that she is any influence on him or him on her. They just coexist. What is the point of having this premise and this relationship if nothing is done with it?
    It might have been interesting to see the first thing instead of the second thing.

  2. When I was a kid, I both loved and hated Wesley. I loved him because he was a kid, like me, on the Enterprise. I hated him because my god, he was a self-centered annoying brat sometimes.
    Looking back, I was also a self-centered annoying brat sometimes, so it’s more a case of pot calling kettle black.
    Many years later, I see what Roddenberry tried to do with Wesley, and wonder how it could have worked out better in the hands of better writers unafraid to let Mister Crusher grow over time. . . something like what they did with Jake Sisko and especially Nog in DS9. I watch episodes like “Siege of AR-588″ and I wonder what “The Battle” might have looked like if handled as deftly as that. . .

  3. Hey I always thought Wesley was just misunderstood. He didn’t really show any disrespect to anybody..he just knew what he knew and he just had to get it out! He was a kid for heaven sake! Kids don’t always think about the chain of command! Yes the stuff he did was annoying, but he was a kid! On top of everything else he was a genius and he didn’t think about manors and such!

  4. PS
    Congrats on your 10th anniversary…my 9th is October 7th this year. My hubby and I went to see Mission to Mars on our first date! We never miss reruns when we are home to watch and its like this…a rerun of TNG is better than a first run of most anything else!

  5. Congrats on your 10th anniversary! These days thats a lifetime! My hubs and I were married 9 years ago on October 7th. We are “Older” Married when he was 46 and I was 51.

  6. So you’re calling my whole family stupid? We loved Wesley and never got the dissing going on, but now that even you are doing it…hmmmm.

  7. I’m thinking… how else is Westley going to serve on the Enterprise? You want your underage character on the bridge. How are you possibly going to get him there?
    There is NO possible way. The un-annoying Westley grows up peacefully, goes to Starfleet Academy for 4-12 years, serves as bottom rung science officer on the USS Hunk of Shit for 15 years, and then is transferred to the Enterprise after LeForge retires?
    Picard is a “no bullshit” officer and that is why we respect him so much. But he also knows when to give into the bullshit, because he is also brilliant. He has formed the opinion the Westley is a stupid kid. Westley is not a stupid kid and refuses to live his life on the USS Hunk of Shit. He has to prove himself to Picard. He has to take chances. He is also an immature twerp. I can say from personal experience that intelligence and twerpiness tend to go hand in hand.
    So what would you have done? How would you have written it? Maybe the writers went a little overboard, but I’m not coming up with another way to write it. Can you?

  8. Yep almost. I’m 13. But I’m turnin 14 this year! lol. Yeah most people in this generation can’t get down with the REALLY cool stuff. So I guess your a teacher then? That’s awesome. And wow you are old enough to be my mom! Haha that’s hilarious. I can usually relate to people your age better than people my age because I do live and breathe the 80s and that’s the generation you guys grew up in. I definitely want my children to love Star Trek also. I really hope they turn out unique. I don’t like blending in and I don’t want my children to. And thanks for all the kind words. I wish you were MY Aunt!! Your neice don’t know how lucky she is!! =]

  9. Do you know how long it took me to find the post again after seeing it then continuing to read comments before coming back to answer this.
    I may be spelling this wrong but Salia. Let me tell you, when I was 12 and saw it for the first time, I also wanted to be her.

  10. Given that Star Trek is basically Age of Sail in space, they could have used the British Navy’s system: basically, a young man who wanted to join the Navy could either serve on a ship for a certain number of years as an officer’s batman (personal servant, not a crime-fighting superhero, sadly), or join the Royal Naval Academy. In fact, the writers did allude to this a bit throughout the series, when they mention that Wesley’s service on the Enterprise gave him Academy credit.
    That first scene, where Wesley barges onto the bridge and starts throwing his weight around, made sense in context. The ending, where he basically does the same thing, was irritating because he hadn’t learned anything. It would have been much more fair to the character, to the other cast, and to the fans if that scene had been phrased a bit differently: instead of, “Oh, I glanced at this and because I’m so awesome I found out that it was yada yada yada,” Wes could have walked in on his mom looking at the brainscan for one of several other reasons (maybe even just asking if she’d be back for dinner), make the connection, click click click. . . and then take that information to LaForge, who then sees the connection, passes it onto Riker, who then slaps his forehead and goes “‘Doh!”

  11. I jumped to the end to say at, as someone who also celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary in November, congratulations. At the risk of sounding sappy, I never really realized what I could be until a little over a decade ago. So good on you for a decade down, many more to go!

  12. I agree.
    Children are like farts – your own are divine, you tolerate your friends’ (specially if they were drunk when they made them, in which case it can even be quite funny) and other people’s are, for the most part, gross.
    Hah!

  13. …and the white Americans so hated their Native precursors upon the land, that they gave them their only begotten Geek Son, to piss them off royally after 200 years they was travelling dark cold space, looking for a planet to chill the fuck out on.
    And Wesley saw all this, and he was verily cooler than the tossers who dissed our Just an Geek, and the air and the water did go about their way, and yay he did show up also at Riker and Troi’s marriage, which was really odd, though I don’t think they asked him to join in…. and then he did do an most excellent blog, to shew unto them the world the error of their ways, and then the Native Americans did finally break out the vodka, and we all got drunk thereupon and threw up.
    Amen! ;)

  14. “Given that Star Trek is basically Age of Sail in space, they could have used the British Navy’s system: ….”
    All rum, sodomy, and the lash?
    No, that would have been SO wrong (although if you know any fanfic, point me that way…)
    No.
    Wrong!
    Naughty Mocaw….
    No-one got keel-hauled either!
    (Q may have, but we all KNOW he’d have loved it!)

  15. Hey Wil–just found your blog a few days ago. I’m enjoying it immensely. I know I’m late to the game on this post, but I just went online to startrek.com to find what episode “The Battle” was. I used to be a big enough geek that I knew each episode by name and what season they were in, but that particular talent seems to have left me.
    Anyway, in case you didn’t know, startrek.com lists all of the episodes in order and gives a brief sentence to describe what that episode was about. Here’s the sentence they use to describe the episode titled “Justice.”
    “Wesley is sentenced to death.”
    What my mind put together was:
    “Justice: Wesley is sentenced to death.”
    P.S. Been a fan of yours since Stand By Me.

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