Published Jan 25, 2023
Mapping Jack Crusher’s Journey on Star Trek: The Next Generation
A look at how the late Starfleet officer's spirit impacted the lives of Picard, Beverly Crusher, and Wesley.
By Jay Stobie
A Tragic Background
The Star Trek: The Next Generation premiere “Encounter at Farpoint” introduced us to Captain Picard and the U.S.S. Enterprise-D’s crew, but it also provided key information about Jack Crusher. Wesley revealed that Picard had brought Jack’s body home after his death, and the captain soon learned that Jack’s son would be living on his ship.
Despite his lack of experience with children, Picard loosened up a bit once he found out Wesley’s identity, allowing the boy to enter the Bridge and sit in the center seat. At one point, Picard believed Dr. Crusher might find it difficult to work with a captain whose presence reminded her of a personal tragedy, but the chief medical officer had actually requested the posting. The feature-length episode essentially established the dynamic between Jack and these three central TNG characters.
Facing the Past
In “Coming of Age,” Wesley underwent testing to get into Starfleet Academy and felt apprehension over the psych evaluation. As Wesley waited for the final test to begin, an explosion occurred in a nearby lab, leaving two people trapped among the rubble. With a limited time to evacuate the men, young Crusher endured a trying circumstance that only allowed him to rescue one victim.
The ordeal turned out to be Wesley’s psych test, as his instructor pointed out that the candidate’s greatest fear had centered upon whether or not he could make that type of life-or-death decision. The truth suddenly dawned on Wesley, who realized the predicament reflected what Picard was forced to go through when Jack Crusher died.
A Holographic Message
The Enterprise-D stopped over at Earth in “Family,” giving Dr. Crusher the chance to go through a box of items that Jack had left behind on the U.S.S. Stargazer. Among the relics was a holographic message Jack recorded shortly after Wesley’s birth, a tradition he had hoped to continue throughout his son’s life.
Beverly struggled with whether or not it would benefit Wesley to share the message, ultimately opting to give him the recording. Young Crusher played the program in the Holodeck, watching as a holographic rendition of Jack conveyed his passion for Starfleet, detailed his regret that duty would probably take him away from Wesley, explained the connection he felt with his son, and promised that he would always be a part of him. The message stirred up many emotions in Wesley, but he clearly felt that he benefited from hearing his father’s words.
Haunted by History
In “Violations,” a telepathic historian probed Dr. Crusher’s memories without her permission, finding a traumatic recollection of accompanying Picard to see Jack’s body in the morgue. Crusher remembered telling Picard that she needed to view her husband as a way to face the fact that he was truly gone, though the pain associated with the visit obviously weighed heavily on the doctor’s subconscious even all those years later.
Outfitted with devices that caused them to sense each other’s thoughts in “Attached,” Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard managed to sift through some very personal feelings. Beverly admitted a level of attraction had existed between her and Jean-Luc, but she didn’t realize that Picard had been in love with her. Jean-Luc felt guilty for having affection for his best friend’s wife, and his shame intensified in the wake of Jack’s accidental death.
Crusher finally understood that this is why the captain exhibited discomfort about her serving on the Enterprise-D in “Encounter at Farpoint,” though Picard confessed that his romantic thoughts had long since passed and he was pleased to consider Beverly a friend. Once the implants were removed, the two nevertheless questioned whether these recently disclosed revelations should motivate them to explore those old feelings.
The Vision Quest
Wesley took a break from Starfleet Academy to visit the Enterprise-D in “Journey’s End,” but he was no longer the enthusiastic, wide-eyed boy the crew had seen grow up on the ship. Wesley suffered through uncertainty over his future, and his behavior concerned Captain Picard and his mother. On a trip to a colony Picard was tasked to evacuate, Wesley met a man named Lakanta. Following Lakanta’s lead, the cadet initiated a vision quest in which an image of Jack Crusher told him that he needed to pursue his own path, not his father’s Starfleet career.
This prompted Wesley to resign from the Academy, an act that Beverly supported once her son elaborated on his reasoning. In reality, Lakanta turned out to be The Traveler, a being who had recognized Wesley’s true potential several years earlier. Upon discovering he could explore other planes of existence, Wesley elected to join the Travelers and begin an entirely new journey.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer and consultant who has contributed articles to StarTrek.com, Star Trek Explorer, and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and StarWars.com. Jay can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.