a matter of perspective

I just watched, for the first time in over 20 years, the third season blooper reel from Star Trek The Next Generation. It’s going to be included on the Blu-Ray disc, and I get to see it before it’s released to offer any notes or concerns that will be politely ignored.

It’s very, very funny. By the third season, we were all a very close-knit family on the set, and when we messed up, we laughed about it and reset the scene.

Well, everyone, that is, but me. In this reel, when I screw up, I get angry at myself. I try to laugh, but it’s clear that I am frustrated beyond belief. I say, “I am so sorry,” but without any of the 10th Doctor’s charm. My frustration and embarrassment is palpable.

When I watched this just now, I viscerally remembered being that awkward 15 and then 16 year-old kid, with the awful helmet hair, the uncomfortable grey spacesuit with the embarrassing muscle suit underneath it, and almost crippling desire to be the kind of cool I was never going to be. I remembered how, when I was on the bridge spouting nothing but technobabble (which was a large percentage of what Wesley got to do in Season 3, so much so that it lead to my asking to be written off the show), it was so hard to remember because it didn’t mean anything, and that was frustrating on a number of levels. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to perform a character, and most of what I remember doing that season was plotting courses and saying “Aye, sir.” In the blissful, arrogant ignorance of being a teenager, it never occurred to me that there were eight regular cast members, and everyone except the Holy Trinity of Picard, Riker and Data had their turn spouting technobabble and saying “Aye, sir.” I was the only one who was too young and foolish to understand. I was the only one who was too young and foolish to attempt to understand.

Wesley (and I) did get to do some really great things in Season 3: The Bonding is fantastic and Ron Moore wrote a couple of magnificent scenes for Wesley in that episode, Evolution was pretty awesome (and I got to work a lot with Whoopi, which was as totally cool as you’d expect it to be, and got real character growth from writer Michael Piller), and Yesterday’s Enterprise remains one of my favourite episodes of all time. But, like youth being wasted on the young, most of what made that season awesome was wasted on me.

Season 3 and part of Season 4 are really tough for me to watch, because I regret being such a tool back then. I wish I could go back in time and tell that kid to relax and enjoy what was a pretty awesome job, but I know that he wouldn’t listen to me any more than he’d have listened to anyone else. He was a confused, weird, awkward nerd trying so hard to be an adult, and failing spectacularly.

I wish I could go back in time and have a talk with that kid, but I learned something important from Star Trek when Picard told Riker: “There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of… there were loose threads… untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads… it had unraveled the tapestry of my life.

I will continue to simultaneously feel ashamed of myself, embarrassed by myself, but compassionate towards myself. That kid was doing the best that he could, and I’ll keep trying to accept that. Maybe one day, I’ll even make peace with it.

 

71 thoughts on “a matter of perspective”

  1. Of course, you were not wrong in your perception of being pushed aside. The first season of TNG could have been subtitled, “A Boy and His Ship.” Wesley Crusher was an important and focal character. No doubt this was intended by Gene Roddenberry. But by the third season, Wesley’s storyline was no longer central. Don’t sell your younger self short – you knew what was going on. Anybody would feel frustrated and angry. You hadn’t done anything to deserve it. Anyone might have struggled with a sense of injustice and how to respond.

  2. I just want to give you a hug and a brownie. The best part of growing up is that you get to take all those awkward and awesome parts of you when you were a child/teenager and use that to mold yourself into the adult you. Now of course the adult you has stuff that upsets you and stuff that you wish you could do over. Case and point I am still mad at myself for eating my babysitters jar of gourmet peanut butter. Not just because I couldn’t crap for a week but also because it was a terrible thing to do. I was four. I moved on and that experience although not ideal is something that I have incorporated into my life, not the peanut butter eating itself but the not being a jerky Mc-jerkins part.

  3. I learned something from DS9 Emissary when the wormhole entities talk to Sisko:

    TACTICAL: But this is your existence.
    SISKO: But it’s difficult to be here, more difficult than any other memory.
    TACTICAL: Why?
    SISKO: Because, because this was the day that I lost Jennifer. I don’t want to be here.
    JENNIFER: Then why do you exist here?
    SISKO: I don’t understand.
    JENNIFER: You exist here.

  4. Hey, Wil, thank you for your thoughts. I’ve only very recently begun to forgive my past, owing mostly to the fact that I’m now happy. The Tapestry Quote is one I often think about as well.

    My question is, (and this is from a hypothetical, rather than from a fanboy perspective) if they did another Star Trek show now, and asked you to come back and play an elder Wesley, A) Would you do it, and B) do you think it would help you resolve some of those past issues?

  5. I think the difficult thing for you compared with other people is that your awkwardness and mistakes were captured on film. The rest of us just have memories which fade over time and help us feel as if we weren’t really that tool-y.

  6. Having watched the episode “The Game” earlier this evening… I suspect the producers and writers knew what was going on. I mean, hey, you got to make out with Ashley Judd.

  7. Well we are all people we all grow ad learn.

    At least you didn’t dash off in a rage through the studio back door only to find that I you have locked yourself out in your t-shirt in the snow… And you had to walk a mile around the backlit to get back in.

    You behave the way you do for self preservation and growth. Realizing that the way you’ve tried to do just that in a certain way that was immature, daft or hurtful only makes you better as a person. Assuming you learn from it and act differently the next time.

    I learned from that mistake… Always check to see if there’s a door handle on the outside of the door when I decide to dash of in an angry frustrated mood ;)

  8. You know I gotta say, you seem in general to give yourself an awful hard time regarding Acting on TNG and playing Wesley in general. I never saw any of that in the character when I watched the show. I’m not kissing ass here; Wesley was one of my favorite characters. I mean who doesn’t love a kid close to your own age that knows nearly as much as the adults on a starship, routinely comes up with ways to save the ship that no one else figures out and gets to Kiss Robin Leffler!

    What I saw in the Character was a kid who matured into a young man on a Starship, with ALL the processes that goes along with that. Now, intentional or not, it made for great stories, great TV and a great character. You were a kid maturing into a young man, acting the part of a kid maturing into a young man. From where I sat, you played it perfectly.

    “Guilt is like a bag of fucking bricks. All you gotta do is set it down…”

    Who are you carrying all those bricks for anyway?

    Cuz, we don’t see em’

    JP

  9. I think most of us carry embarassments like that around with us … as a high school teacher I try to contiunally remember some of the stupid crap I did and the way I acted so as to cut my kids a break when I see them doing similar stuff.

  10. Wil:

    Hindsight is always 20-20. Stop beating yourself up. The important thing is that you have experience now that enables you to recognize how you’ve grown (both as an actor and a person) since your Trek days. And as for you being a petulant teen on-set, you were acting your age, and your fellow cast members knew it – probably because they remembered how they themselves behaved at the same age.

    Remember what Levar told you recently: “Yeah, you were a pain in the ass, but you were OUR pain in the ass.”

  11. One of my favorite episodes was “Remember Me” , Stardate 44161.2, with the Traveler (Eric Menyuk). Wesley’s experiment causes his mother to be trapped in a warp bubble. Picard requests “Tea, Earl Gray, Hot”. He also displays the “Picard Maneuver”.

  12. Yeah. I agree with some of the comments above.

    You need to let this go, dude. It’s been 25 years. I say this with double-barrel frankness: nobody cares. If there’s anyone out there who still has some axe to grind over Wesley then THEY need to get a life.

    You did what you felt was best at the time. Who the fuck can blame you for that? And frankly, you weren’t nearly as bad as you think.

    But you need to step up and be done with it. This owns you. It plagues you. Like a kid who’s discussing an abusive parent. And like an abused child you keep going back to the scene by still staying in or near the genre in this “walking wounded” sort of way. Asking the genre to finally accept you and stop hurting you. Step up, take all your Trek shit and put it in a barrel and burn it. Physically and metaphorically. Seriously. Burn it right the fuck down.

  13. All of us have need of extending compassion to our teenage selves, as arrogant and clueless and unself-aware as we must needs be to survive being a teenager. Few of us have the evidence of that self out there for everyone else to comment on, long after they have left being a teenager behind. Haters gonna hate – no need to do that to yourself. You handled being a teenager in the public better than most. And you continue to be a man living in the public eye with grace and integrity. My hat is off to you, Wil.

  14. I’ve caught up with a few Season One episodes of late, and, you know what, given that everybody was finding their feet, individually and collectively, you really didn’t disgrace yourself at all, despite your tender years, and how teenagers can be a bit dickish sometimes…it is the nature of the beast. You were, if nothing else, believable, and, considering how so much of your dialogue was technobabble, that’s no small feat.

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