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.
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