Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Dauphin"

**1/2

Air date: 2/20/1989
Written by Scott Rubenstein & Leonard Mlodinow
Directed by Robert Bowman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In what might've been the most inevitable story concept in early TNG annals, the overly naive Wesley Crusher falls in love with the lovely Salia (Jaime Hubbard), a 16-year-old girl who has been raised from a very young age to rule the planet where the Enterprise is now transporting her. Salia is accompanied by her grandmotherly-like guardian Anya (Paddi Edwards), whose insistence that Salia stay focused on her destined duty (rather than on boys) plays like a mission of monomania.

I could take obvious potshots at the much-targeted Wesley Crusher for the sake of cheap entertainment value, but the fact of the matter is that I need to accord the character a certain level of fairness. So I'll start with the (surprisingly tempered and fair) potshot and then move on to the positive: Wesley is too obviously painted as a naïve boy, with that overly anxious Wil Wheaton smile and wonderment. (Yes, Wesley is young; does it need to be hammered over our heads with zero subtlety? I don't think it does.)

On the other hand, Wesley's naïvete does make for relevant story material and a different point of view vis-à-vis the rest of the bridge crew. The Wesley-falls-in-love story is handled with tact and innocence, which I will note as being to the episode's credit even as I admit my own personal impatience as a more cynical television viewer. I liked a scene where he seeks Riker's and Guinan's help, and they end up in a role-playing game that ultimately ignores Wesley's questions ("Shut up, kid").

What I really could've done without, however, is Anya's overprotectiveness, which takes on a ludicrous zeal that borders on the laughable. When Anya finds out a patient in sickbay has a disease that has an infinitesimal chance to infect Salia (on the order of nearly zero percent), she orders Pulaski to kill the patient and then turns into a bug-eyed monster that looks like it crawled out of a 1950s serial. Way too goofy. And one wonders why the Enterprise would even grant passage to such gross, arrogant presumption.

But there are some good character moments here, like Worf's grudging respect for Anya as a warrior/opponent, and especially the plight of Salia herself, who must forgo the pleasures of living her own life in favor of fulfilling her destined responsibilities. (That Salia herself is a shapeshifter is almost beside the point in terms of her character's arc.) Guinan's closing dialog with Wesley about the mutable nature of love is also fairly palatable.

Previous episode: The Measure of a Man
Next episode: Contagion

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8 comments on this review

unan - Sun, Aug 19, 2012 - 9:00pm (USA Central)
1 star! NO PLOT
xaaos - Wed, Nov 14, 2012 - 6:29am (USA Central)
This episode got me into TNG many years before. I still remember the fright I felt as a kid when that old lady transformed into that monster. I still like this episode after so many years, it has a lot of good scenes, especially the one between Riker and Guinan in Ten Forward. Wes is sympathetic and cute in this episode.

Oh, I forgot: Worf's screaming scared the hell out of me aswell. xD His face while describing the flirting ritual is priceless!

"raaaaaaaaaahhhhh"
- "That is how the Klingon lures a mate."
- "Are you telling me to go yell at Salia?"
- "No. Men do not roar. Women roar...and they hurl heavy objects...and claw at you..."
- "What does the man do?"
- "He reads love poetry." [Worf regains his composure.] "He ducks a lot."
mike - Sun, Mar 3, 2013 - 10:38pm (USA Central)
This is one of the episodes I never watch and the reason can be summed up in one word: Wesley. I simply don't like the character. It's completely implausible that a 16 year old boy would be at the helm of Starfleet's flap ship. Are we suppose to believe that with a ship fuel of Academy trained officers, nobody else is better qualified to pilot the Enterprise? Why Roddenberry invented this character is beyond me. I certainly don't intend to waste my time watching him fret over teenage crush.
Rikko - Mon, Mar 4, 2013 - 8:45am (USA Central)
What really kills "The Dauphin" for me it's the bug-eyed monsters, was it really necessary? I guess the point was to show Wesley's point of view to the audience. Something like "what you thought it was pretty, it's actually nasty and scary inside". Still, it would have been better without that "metaphor".

Even then, I liked Wesley in this episode. All in all, it makes the boy genious all the more human. I think it was a first then, Wesley being proven wrong about something.

@ Xaxaos: That was some hilarious stuff, probably the best part of the episode. Worf was really into it.

@ Mike: What you say was exactly the same problem I had with Wesley Crusher during the first season. Everytime he saved the day, the rest of the crew must act like utter idiots to compensate, so Wes was like the only working mind there. It didn't feel natural at all.

But I'd say he got a lot better as a character starting from this season. I couldn't buy him saving the crew in "The Naked Now", but I can see Crusher being a friend of Geordi since both of them are huge engineering nerds.



William B - Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - 5:14am (USA Central)
You know, I actually like Wesley, some of the time, and I think I might like him more than Jammer does overall. But wow, I found this episode very hard to get through -- much more than "The Outrageous Okona" for example.

Basically, this really is not a one-hour episode plot. The episode's plot is that the Enterprise transports Salia and Anya to the other planet. Wesley and Salia briefly have a doomed romance. Anya is belligerent. Then they get to the planet. Meanwhile, the Ent crew gradually determine that the inhabitants of both planets are Alasomorphs, including Salia. That is the whole episode.

As is not atypical of a "doomed romance" story, nothing that happens in the episode ends with things particularly different than they were at the beginning; but in order to make this seem like it's actually a one hour show, information is portioned out at an alarmingly slow rate. Is the fact that Salia is a shapeshifter such a shock that it needs to be saved for the episode's end? Or do we have to wait 20 minutes before *we* find out that Anya is a shapeshifter and the crew does? Notably, the fact that Anya and Salia are shapeshifters doesn't affect the core plot at all -- which is that Wesley falls for a princess whose duty is to Her People and who can never have a normal life, which would be exactly the same whether she's humanoid or not. The real meat of the episode should be in the doomed romance and the tragedy of Salia, not in any of this irrelevant and extremely poorly F/X'd material.

I don't mind "princess doomed to miss out on a normal life" stories when done well -- I watched "Roman Holiday" lately, and "The Perfect Mate" which superficially is a similar story is an episode I think is one of the show's most underrated. But it's a particularly difficult match between Salia and Wesley's dopey idealism. Wesley just *keeps saying* how Salia will be able to go explore the stars and go to planets when she could simply tell him that she can't. The heartbreak is so *obvious* that it's difficult to get through all these scenes, and the writing and acting is deathly dull.

Also -- "Seeing her on the transporter pad, it was like seeing pure light." - child prodigy in time and space Wesley Crusher

Anyway. The Riker/Guinan flirting scene is fantastic, and I like Worf's yell and description of love poetry. I also very much like the Worf/Anya bond that eventually forms. (And there is something awesome and funny about Anya casually telling Pulaski to kill the patient so that he doesn't infect anyone else.)

1.5 stars.
T'Paul - Sat, May 25, 2013 - 7:28pm (USA Central)
Agree that the Klingon mating ritual bit was great... I like this episode because it took some risks with the aliens, they weren't the typical human look alikes, and Worf's granny-nemesis was an unusual challenger for him... not bad in my opinion, although like all early TNG a tad cheesy.
SkepticalMI - Thu, Sep 19, 2013 - 10:07pm (USA Central)
5 minutes of comedy gold surrounded by pure dreck. The 5 minutes should be obvious: Worf, Data, and Riker's advice to Wesley. The rest? Boring...

Wesley and Saria's "romance" sounds like it was written by a 12 year old. "She's perfect. Absolutely perfect." You met her for 15 seconds!!!

Hey, maybe that's really how teenager's think. But this isn't a TV show for 12 year old girls. Do we really care about My First Crush? An awkward teenage crush just makes for awkward and painful viewing.

Shapeshifters? Enh, whatever. Obviously expolored in far more detail in DS9. Not this episode's fault, of course, but if I recall correctly I wasn't that impressed way back when I first saw this episode long before I ever heard of Odo. It just wasn't that interesting.

OK, so the discovery that Anya could sneak out of her quarters was interesting. For 5 seconds. Then forcefield around quarters and problem solved. Yawn.

It doesn't help that the guest stars were poorly acted. Salia was not convincing as a ruler at all, and only moderately more convincing as a lovestruck teen. And Anya? Ridiculously over the top. I kept waiting for her to say "If you only knew the power of the Dark Side."

Just awful all around. Easily the worst episode of the season so far (and right after the best so far!) Maybe that's the theme for Season 2: maddeningly inconsistent. All the elements are there for the series to reach its fullest potential, and there are plenty of truly classic episodes. But it can also be as cringeworthy as some of Season 1 in between these excellent episodes.
Moegreen - Sun, Dec 8, 2013 - 12:04pm (USA Central)
I suggest doing an addendum to each review, episode by episode of how the extras are handled in TNG. Call it 'Extra Lense'. I love this show but the general direction of their behaviour and responses is preposterous. In this episode Worf primal screams on the brudge and nobody even turns to look. Classic.

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