Star Trek: Lower Decks has always been big on franchise callbacks and references, as well as welcoming back actors from past shows to reprise their most iconic roles in two dimensions. After seeing how Jonathan Frakes loved his comedic portrayal as Riker, it seems the stars are just as thrilled as viewers to see their characters in the animated Paramount+ series. That trend continued with Wil Wheaton, as CinemaBlend talked to showrunner Mike McMahan about bringing Wesley Crusher back for a colorful cameo.
I had a chance to chat with McMahan ahead for the Season 4 finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks, and also about finally bringing Wil Wheaton's Wesley Crusher into the show. Readers may or may not be aware that the showrunner has brainstormed ideas for bringing Wes back for years, and they've had conversations about making it happen down the stretch. Now, as those with Paramount+ subscriptions are enjoying the cameo, McMahan spoke about how the conversation went down when he pitched the return to Wil Wheaton, telling me:
I called him, and I was like, ‘Well, I have something I want you to do on Lower Decks, but it's not big. It's little, but it's important.’ I sent the material to him and he was like, ‘Are you kidding? This is amazing!’ Like, he totally got it, and I have been dying to get him in there. I always want more and more and more with everybody, and I finally found more with Robert Duncan Mcneill for only the quick Tom Paris stuff. And now I'm like, ‘Oh yeah, now I get to make him so much more.’ But yeah, getting to work with Wil finally, we did it. It only took, you know, what was it? 40 episodes?
When Mike McMahan spoke to CinemaBlend about paying homage to Wesley Crusher back in 2021, he mentioned part of the difficulty in doing a cameo was due to the character's situation in canon. Crusher set off with The Traveler during Star Trek: The Next Generation, which ultimately resulted in the shocking Season 2 finale appearance he made in the Picard. McMahan had to find a way to incorporate Wheaton, without upsetting the Traveler storyline or altering the trajectory of the character's path that led to Picard.
Star Trek: Lower Decks' Mike McMahan Breaks Down Season 4’s Ending And One Major Character’s Surprising Fate
Star Trek: Lower Decks' "Old Friends, New Planets" solved this issue by bringing in Wesley Crusher before he departed with The Traveler. Crusher appeared in a flashback to Starfleet Academy, where he was seen alongside his friends in Nova Squadron. This worked because the big bad of Season 4 turned out to be his old buddy at the academy, Nick Locarno.
The cameo doesn't set up future appearances by Wesley Crusher, but as previously mentioned, the character's re-emergence as a Traveler in Star Trek: Picard does. Travelers seem as unbound to the laws of time and space as members of the Q Continuum are, so it's totally plausible the adult Crusher with all his Traveler powers could appear aboard Lower Decks' Cerritos.
Star Trek: Lower Decks will return for Season 5, so there is an opportunity for future Wesley Crusher adventures if that's in the cards. With that said, there's no telling what upcoming Trek project the actor could be caught up in, so we can only wait and see when or if we may see Wil Wheaton's iconic character in the universe again.
Paramount+ is the home for Star Trek, so be sure to binge Lower Decks or even recommend it to a friend or two. There's also plenty of other great shows to enjoy on the platform, so maybe look around and try to find something new to watch.