One constant in the sci-fi /fantasy fan bases is that while these stories may be created by adults, and heavily feature adults in lead roles, they appeal greatly to younger audience members and readers. It is for this reason that all too often creators will add a younger character to the story to appeal to that audience. These characters give the stories a since of wonder and fascination that would be otherwise missing from a cynical adult point of view, and also allow for meaningful exposition for ethos not familiar with the story or the world the characters live in.
Thus Batman had Robin, Superman had Jimmy Olsen, Captain America had Bucky
Barnes, Indiana Jones had Short Round, and the newer James Bond films with Daniel Craig envisioned Q as a tech-savvy young wunderkind. However while the characters became popular, and in some instances, such as Robin and Bucky, went on to be heroes on their own right, others were not so well received. One of the most infamous examples came in Star Trek with Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was a young, over eager ensign who was written as an author avatar for Gene Rodenberry, and seemed so perfect that he could even out think the captain.
Contrast this with the reception of another young character on Star Trek, the ensign Pavel Chekov on the original series. While Chekov was young and eager, he didn’t come across as an annoying kid. While he was a skilled navigator, he never tried to show up more experienced characters, like Spock or Dr. McCoy in their respective fields. He was a character who could appeal to kids, but one not meant exclusively for them. As Rodenberry noted,
“We may well find our most important secondary character this season, certainly one which might give us our best entre to youth, is Chekov. The studio has been sufficiently impressed by the volume of Chekov fan response to sign him to a contract, one of the few secondary characters we have so optioned in our third season… most of us…tend to forget that Kirk and Spock and the others actually seem rather “middle aged” to the large youthful segment of our audiences. We badly need a young man aboard the Enterprise—we need youthful attitudes and perspectives. Chekov can be used potently here.” Continue reading