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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21 comments on this review

unan
Sun, Aug 19, 2012, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
1 star! NO PLOT
xaaos
Wed, Nov 14, 2012, 6:29am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Shannon
Sun, Jul 26, 2015, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
I have mixed feelings about this episode. I like the originality of the story, but the execution is a bit rough. Yes, yes, Wesley can be quite annoying at times, but he's older now and bit more mature, and his storylines in Season 2 definitely improved, along with his acting... Some good moments in this episode. I laughed at Worf's telling Wesley to "go to quarters, beg like a human." Too funny. And the scene in Ten Forward with Riker and Guinan was well written and acted as well. Anya was a bit much to swallow, as she was way too overprotective... All in all, not a bad episode. 2.5 stars.
Diamond Dave
Tue, Aug 25, 2015, 1:34pm (UTC -5)
Wesley falls in love - isn't that a phrase to strike fear into the heart... But this is surprisingly good in many ways. The relationship between Salia and Wesley is played with tact, and her underlying duty adds a doomed element to their interplay. The wonderful scene between Riker and Guinan, and Worf's enthusiastic endorsement of Klingon mating practice, are true highlights.

On the debit side, the unfortunate creature effects are frankly ridiculous, and the character of Anya so overblown as to overpower what is actually quite a clever concept. That this is something of a missed opportunity for an episode that sounds so unpromising on paper is a triumph in itself. 2.5 stars.
grumpy_otter
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 7:27am (UTC -5)
Everyone has covered the flaws in this well, but I still like it. I love Wil Wheaton, so that has obscured the hatred I used to have for Wesley. I think he's cute in this.

I couldn't find it again, but I once read something Wil Wheaton wrote about this episode. Jaime Hubbard is 10 years older than him, and he was really nervous working with her like this. But he managed to power through. I also think he said she was a really nice person. In any case, I think he said he really enjoyed doing this episode. (And of course, my memory of all that could be completely wrong!)

I think Jaime Hubbard was brilliant in this--and this was her first acting role! She did a great job in portraying Salia's dilemma and feelings of duty. (And Hubbard is apparently now working as a psychotherapist. I can totally see that--her empathy as she portrayed Salia was evident.)

One thing I hate hate hate--they should never have shown us what Salia's true form was. I remember feeling awe the first time I saw this and we see the reflection of light on Wesley's face. That was enough--just like Marcellus Wallace's briefcase. But then the camera actually shows us Salia--and she's a poofy light bulb. I have no skill at creating original stories--but I think I would be a great editor. "The Perfect Storm" should have cut when the ship climbed the giant wave and gone directly to the memorial at that point. Showing too much just because you can is often a disservice to our sense of awe.
nothingoriginal55
Thu, Apr 28, 2016, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
i liked this one a lot more than i thought inwould. a low point was riker and guinans scene. Worf had some good scenes in this one.
petulant
Fri, May 13, 2016, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
I found it completely unbelievable that Wesley went around the ship asking everyone for advice on girls, what teenager does that!
Odyssey47
Wed, Aug 10, 2016, 6:38pm (UTC -5)
No one mentioned the best part of the episode. Worf doesn't try to hit the shapeshifter when it's in the form of the monster, he waits till it's in the form of the old lady again and he pulls back like he's going to backhand her. Gets me in stitches every time.
Zg
Sun, Dec 25, 2016, 7:11pm (UTC -5)
I think there are a lot of layers to this episode that go unnoticed or at the very least, understated. Not only love, but duty and measure of responsibility. This extends past just Wesley and Salia but also onto Anya and Worf. It shys a bit from its potential to play up the young love angle but I would have liked a bit more input from the rest of the crew.

A lot of people don't like Wesley but I think he portrayed well... himself quite well. He's just a boy. Saying things like a girl is perfect on first contact is reasonably real. My only major gripe with this episode was this whole angle about how Salia being a shapeshifter was some sort of revealed betrayal to Wesley who is the TNG poster boy for diversity acceptance.
Brendan
Tue, Mar 28, 2017, 1:40am (UTC -5)
I don't know I kinda liked Anya overpowering Worf as some disgusting screeching monster then trash talking him as a small older lady.

"You underestimated me in your sickbay. That is usually fatal." I like this line and how she delivers it, It doesn't sound like she's bluffing. I do agree though that there's little chance the Enterprise would put up with such dangerous behaviour
borusa
Wed, Mar 29, 2017, 3:42pm (UTC -5)
In this week's episode of Space 1999 Maya finds herself abducted from Moonbase Alpha and press ganged into ending a war between two factions on a desolate planet.

Worse still Maya cannot even escape her fate by using her metamorphic abilities because her 'minder' turns out to be another Psychon.

Oh sorry-this was actually a TNG episode-are we sure though cos all those bug eyed monsters looked as crap as the ones Catherine Schell turned into in Space 1999.

Wesley kisses a gurl-oh for Pete's sake!

1 star
R.J.
Wed, Mar 29, 2017, 8:32pm (UTC -5)
^ Ha! You win the internet.
Rahul
Tue, May 2, 2017, 5:34pm (UTC -5)
This was a pretty terrible episode. I think the first commenter @unan sums it up just fine. So what is the plot? Transporting 2 shapeshifting aliens and teenage boy Wes happens to fall in love with one of them and has to get over lost love.
The highlights of the episode are Worf on the Klingon mating ritual and Riker/Guinan play acting - i.e. few and far between.
I have no issue with Wes being a teenager and falling for a girl -- but that can't be the predominant part of a TNG episode. The whole shapeshifter thing was stupid and unnecessary.
What is worthy also is that here's this "humanoid girl" who is supposed to fill a role to bridge 2 warring factions or races and how she longs for a different role but ultimately recognizes her purpose. But that aspect gets lost in the "Wes gets a crush" story and the over-protective shapeshifting guardian.
I don't see how Jammer rates this 2.5/4 stars. It was downright tedious. And after just watching "The Measure of a Man" borderline intolerable. For me 1/4 stars.
Mosasaur
Sat, May 6, 2017, 11:38am (UTC -5)
It's interesting watching this in HD since it's more clear that the actress playing Salia is quite a bit older than Wil Wheaton. (Apparently she's a decade older.) And goodness. this is a stunningly beautiful woman. She's also quite charismatic, with a genuine smile that keeps the episode from being as dire as it could've been had they cast someone not able to convince of the character's interest in Wesley.

You know what, I like this episode. It's nothing spectacular, but there are some good moments. I like visual of Worf being challenged and threatened by an old woman. I like the monsters, as cheesy as they are. The sudden appearance of the bug-eyed Ewok thing before we know that these are shapeshifters is pretty unsettling. I like Riker and Guinan's, and Worf's scenes as they give increasingly unhelpful advice.

I even like how Wesley is written. He's still a weird and sort of creepy kid, but not in the blandly agreeable, "aw shucks" way that makes the character such an empty vessel most of the time. When he's on the holodeck waxing romantic about exploring space you get a sense of the Wesley that the show usually only goes as far as suggesting. It's a little off-putting how it seems like he's already decided that Salia is going to be staying on the Enterprise, but of course he would.
Steven
Sun, Jun 18, 2017, 1:10pm (UTC -5)
I am with grumpy_otter on this one: I like Wil Wheaton. This is the episode where he shines the most. He comes across as a genuinely nice and relatable person; every teenager who watches this episode will be able to put himself into Wesley's shoes and fantasize about meeting a girl like Salia himself, having his first romance. Although teenagers should not be considered the primary audience of Star Trek, it's appropriate to have an episode like that once in a while.

Sometimes, the appeal of an episode entirely boils down to the performance of the lead actors and the plot becomes secondary. "The Dauphin" was an episode like that. Both Wheaton and the guest actress showed a great performance.

The 2.5 stars are justified.

Side note on the Wesley character: I never hated him as much as other people did; the main fault was how the "child prodigy" angle was written in season 1. They could have done it much more subtly, especially in "The Naked Now", where Wesley shuts the adults out of the engine room, takes control of the ship, AND saves the day in the end. To be fair, it wasn't the only awful thing about this episode; Data getting intoxicated like the rest of the crew didn't make any sense either (leading to his quickie with Tasha Yar, which was in later episodes romanticized to have been a meaningful, intimate encounter). The character considerably improves until the middle of the season; so do yourself a favor and try to forget about those early episodes, when you think about Wesley.

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