Friday, April 23, 2021

Star Trek: Final Mission

Episode: "Final Mission"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 9
Original Air Date: November 19, 1990

Wesley Crusher has finally been accepted to Starfleet Academy.  For a last hurrah, Picard invites the young Ensign to accompany him on an away mission.  Unfortunately, their shuttle crashes and their symbolic expedition becomes a fight for survival.  

"Final Mission" is Wes's final episode as a principal cast member on The Next Generation.  Wil Wheaton asked to be released from his contract in order to pursue other opportunities.  He would return as a guest star and also for one film but as a series regular, he was done.

It's no secret, the Wesley Crusher character never quite worked.  It's not the actor's fault.  Wil Wheaton was Gordie Lachance in Stand by Me so I will always love Wil Wheaton.  The actor himself has written and spoken extensively about the flaws in the Wesley role.  Don't be too sad for him, either.  Wheaton holds an exalted position within Geekdom for life.

In my opinion, the problem with Wes is that he was never allowed to be a real kid.  Creator Gene Roddenberry was too caught up in the idea of seeing himself in Wes and therefore pushed to make him special.  A wunderkind storyline emerged, one that justified Wes's undeserved place on the bridge but in reality, only made him more nauseating.  Even when he was allowed to be human, he was too sweet, too naive.  There was no edge to Wes.  It was as if the writers had never known a true, flesh and blood teenager in their lives.  And wardrobe certainly didn't do him any favors: the terrible sweaters the first season, then the ill-fitting Starfleet uniforms thereafter.

Wes was never replaced so the principal cast of eight was reduced to seven where it would remain for the rest of the series.  In some ways, Jake Sisko follows in his footsteps in DS9 but Jake serves a different narrative purpose in the later series and, for that and several other reasons, works much better.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Acting Notes

Nick Tate played the role of Dirgo, the pilot of the ill-fated shuttle.  He was born June 18, 1942 in Sydney.  His career began in Australian television.

His best known gigs were the British series Space: 1999 and Australia's Sons and Daughters.  In the US, he made guest appearances on such series as The X-Files, Murder, She Wrote and Lost.  Film credits include Cry Freedom, Hook and The Great Gatsby.  Tate is also known for his voiceover work on high profile theatrical trailers.  You've undoubtedly seen one.  Here's the full list.

12 comments:

  1. I think the idea of hating Wesley is a kind of self-fulfilling phenomenon. I don’t think the character really deserves the hate. He was if anything following in the footsteps of Will Robinson, and was older and therefore more credible, and even in the first season is humbled when attempting to enter Starfleet Academy. It’s easy to see special (or obnoxious) (or annoying, if you’re Picard, who at least readily admitted dislike for children in general, whether or not they were the offspring of his best friend and would-be lover...) in a vacuum. Just imagine a version of Star Trek where he was actually constantly bullied. But then the whole regular cast (just imagine Worf...!) sticking up for him. So if anything, his image was a consequence of that peculiar hopeful vision Star Trek always tries to project about the future.

    Anyway, it’s appropriate for his last regular appearance to be Wesley chasing Picard’s approval one last time. (Er, “The First Duty,” in which Wesley definitely looks bad, victim to actually befriending the bully. There’s a whole backstory there that would’ve been exactly what you were looking for.)

    Also worth noting: Wesley is a blink-and-you-miss-it visual cameo in Nemesis; no lines, alas.

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    1. Tony, I did my best to be objective with Wes this time through. He still doesn't work. I roll my eyes too frequently. Jake gets to be a real teenager and it makes all the difference.

      The First Duty is a good one. Season 5, in general, is pretty solid.

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  2. I remember a little of the first season and didn't watch enough of Wesley to know about him or them. It was great to read this review.

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  3. I never hated Wesley, just the writers :)

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    1. Yup. And Wil Wheaton would be the first to agree with you about the writing.

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  4. I didn't know that Nick Tate appeared on TNG. His role in this episode was kind of forgettable, but he was awesome as Bilby on DS9 (original owner of Chester the cat!), and of course as the hot-headed Australian pilot Alan Carter on Space: 1999.

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    1. I will say this many times: DS9 is nearly always better.

      I don't know Space: 1999. Now I'm curious.

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  5. siempre nos aportas algo desconocido, al menos en mi caso

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    1. I try. I enjoy learning these things, then sharing them.

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  6. You're right the character of Wes never worked. But I give Will Wheaton high credit that by this point in the series he had made something solid with his character.

    In fact in at least one of the Star Trek novels set several years after Nemesis his character and abilities are crucial to saving the galaxy.

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    1. I've never explored the novels. The comic books a bit, yes. Maybe someday.

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