Wil Wheaton has, rather famously, gotten a lot of crap for what is likely one of his more famous roles (consider ST:TNG’s Crusher and Gordie from Stand by Me) pre-1995-ish. One of his more famous stories of crap that he has been given involves William “Fucking” Shatner himself (you can check Wheaton’s blog for the story, but I’m not sure which iteration it might be on… but it’s also in one of his books – go buy one!)
Anyway, not that a character on a show that has been out of production for (checks IMDB) about 18 years really needs to be defended, but if I’m remembering correctly Wheaton mentioned still getting crap about the character from “fans” of the institution that has become Star Trek. Glazing past the possible mental issues of those unable to differentiate “role” from “actor,” or the douche-y nature of those that can but don’t make the distinction, allow me a few pixels to suggest why Wesley Crusher is actually a good character (even if some of the scripting was less than ideal).
Caveat: this will contain reasons why I liked the character when I watched it during it’s original run. I’ve not watched episodes recently, but can imagine a certain amount of generational transferrance will still be valid (you’ll see what I mean in a minute).
1) He was a kid. Hear me out. Science fiction has a rather fanatical fan base. Many of those fans – especially now – are drawn in as children. Any character that can provide even a sliver of kid-trying-to-get-by-in-the-adult-world is likely to be another gateway to fandom for the younger set (at worst), or some kind of empathetic role-model for handling situations (at best).
2) He was smart. See # 1, above. A non-zero number of kids that really get into science fiction/fantasy have bouts of social awkwardness, or grasp at concepts and think in bigger terms than some of their peers. Many might pursue the sciences simply as an extension of their interest in SF.
Where I’m going with this is, for someone watching the show and in a simlar age category as Wesley Crusher, there is a (potential) relatability: a signal to younger viewers that it’s okay to be smart, that it is possible for a kid to keep up with adults, that it’s okay to think in different terms than adults. And that’s not a bad thing.