Monday, February 21, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 2: The Dauphin

Airdate: February 20, 1989
35 of 176 produced
35 of 176 aired


Tasked with ferrying the future leader of Daled IV from her training world to her final destination, the Enterprise will be in a position to discover whether the honor of this young female will survive the most power force in the universe... the raging hormones of a teen-aged boy.  

Now, Wes, I know you're a little creeped out by allasomorphs. But once you get to window number 4, you should feel a lot better about things...


Matthew: I see this as a tale of two episodes - a Wesley episode and a Star Trek episode. Which is it, wnd how does it function in each respect? Well, after a completely straight "love story" teaser, it seems pretty clear that, for the most part, this is going to be a Wesley story. While it has a sci-fi wrinkle (the girl's a shape shifter, no spoiler alert necessary after 20+ years), the story is really a comedy of manners. Will the young buck gain access to the young princess' nether regions, or won't he?

Kevin: What I have always enjoyed most about working with you Matt is your ability to so daintily discuss such delicate subjects. I agree the science fiction is pretty lightweight here. We'll revisit "hot chick has alien secret" a few more times. The Voyager episode "The Disease" springs to mind. They all really only function to create some tension for the relationship. Her secret alien secret could have easily had been having a kind-of sort-of boyfriend on Daled IV, but they totally broke up last summer, or something, just to complete the teenage love narrative.

Matthew: OK, so how does it function as a Wesley show? I think it's less annoying than some. Wesley got some charming scenes to play against Salia, Riker, Guinan, and Worf. This isn't the sort of episode I want to see all the time, but every once in a blue moon it is nice to have a lighter tale that allows for scenes like this. Only problem? We've already had "The Outrageous Okona," which is very similar tonally. This is probably more successful, though. Wesley asking the crew for love advice gives us funny scenes of Worf howling, Geordi shooing him out of Engineering, Riker wooing Guinan, and so on. I wonder if Riker and Big G did the horizontal mambo off camera?

Kevin: I've said this before, but once you lay enough ground work for your characters, you can sustain an episode on the strength of a character story alone. The payoff is that down the road, you do a harder science fiction story without sacrificing character moments since these episodes play into the characters interactions. This is not the best example of this, but it's not a failure by any stretch. I agree the comedy scenes were sweet, and Guinan's advice at the end was rather touching. Do you notice how I've spent this whole paragraph avoiding Matt's question? Yep. Gonna keep right on doing that.

Matthew: I enjoyed the fracas between Worf and Anya. I kind of wish they'd been allowed to fight more than they did. There were some good Worf lines that fit well with his RDM characterization later.  I had some nagging questions about the political situation being referenced. The Federation and Daled IV have no formal contact? If that's the case, how in the heck did they arrange to transport the dignitaries to the training planet so many years ago? How did they arrange for this return trip? Also, if they can't generate the terawatt needed to communicate with the planet, how can they beam Salia and Anya down through the atmosphere? I find it very hard to believe that no one else had heard of Allasomorphs (though apparently Wesley browses the "galactic zoological catalog" all the time), but also that, if it were such a secret, that Anya would give up the secret so easily, and with so little provocation.  I also enjoyed the idea of a tidally locked planet with two separately evolving cultures.

Kevin: If they can't communicate with Daled IV, how did they agree to the assignment in the first place? I like the idea of the tidally locked planet, and there are several of them in the Star Trek universe. The politics suffer from a touch of the season 1 and 2 pitfalls of being a conflict about which I care nothing. It's only useful purpose is to give Salia a reason she can't stay. Beyond that, it's pretty forgettable.

Matthew: Favorite line of the episode: "Believe me, Ten Forward isn't an illusion." Oh, Wes, you dog. Least favorite: Troi senses curiously specific deception when she says "they aren't what they say they are." Really? There's an emotion for that?

Kevin: I always read that as humanoid brains in general share certain common traits she can detect and she detected something different. She was deducing deception, not sensing it.

Matthew: As a "Wesley Story," some aspects of the love story seemed a little lame. I'm down with the infatuation happening quickly - very realistic for 16 year olds. But then Wesley veers kinda racist at the end, saying it matters what form she takes. But then, by the end, Wesley says "I loved you." Really? Already? It was just too quick. It would have been better if there had been indications of more time passing, like the trip took a few weeks. Maybe there could have been some sneaking out, gettin' busy, and so on..

Kevin: Star Trek's relationship to relationships is a long a rocky one. They're either wholly unconsummated, or treated with the leering sexuality of adolescent male fantasy. The relationship in this episode, absent the speed problem, is pretty credible. The holodeck scene was nice and it makes sense that's what Wesley would use to try and impress a girl. The chocolate mousse scene was a bit standard, but effective nonetheless. And by the way, and not just because of the gay thing, but I would have liked to see Salia have casually assumed a male persona, even just in her quarters. It's always nagged me that aliens that are as alien as you can get are not only bi-gendered, but that those genders comport with human norms. One other nitpick. The title of the episode should really be "The Dauphine," the feminine form of the French word for "dolphin." It was used as a title for a crown prince.


Matthew: I think Wil Wheaton was very good in this episode. Of course he was helped by not being given lines on the order of "Adults." But overall, his performance was very identifiable, and even charming in a dorky sort of way. 

Kevin: You have only to dust off your VHS of Stand By Me to remind yourself that Wil Wheaton got his start playing awkward nerd with a credible emotional center. When the writers tried to give him something worth saying, he delivered. This whole season, he's been pretty good.

Matthew: Both guest stars were effective, as well. Paddi Edwards was great as Anya - crusty and nasty, but with a hint of tenderness. Of course, it always helps when you can morph into a gorgeous BFF chickadee form, with a teal knit cut-out sex-slave outfit. Jamie Hubbard was also good as Salia. The trick with casting a love interest is that he or she has to be attractive to the audience. We have to understand why the character falls for them. The acting and chemistry worked.

Kevin: I agree on Anya's alter persona. She could have totally gone after Wesley herself. Despite being ten years Wil Wheaton's senior, Salia managed to portray a similar innocence really well.

Production Values

Matthew: This is a bottle show, so it really comes down to optical effects, set dressings, and costumes. As far as opticals go, we get an early "morphing" effect, which I thought looked pretty good. Of course, the final forms were very TOS in quality, so it wasn't all good. The glowing "light bulb" effect on Salia's native form was just so-so.

Kevin: I agree fully on the TOS comparison. The episode could have been a little more fun if their natural form were more actively repellent, like insectoid or something. That could have added some layers to the plot. The asteroid field on the holodeck was decently achieved, though I still don't understand how asteroids make music.

Matthew: I thought we got a pretty decent 80's outfit on Salia. I could see wanting to bone her, even with the tapered legs and all. I have already mentioned her teen-aged friend. I think I should say no more about that. (Boi-oi-oing!) There was a silly looking blue neon ring in Wesley's quarters. Also, as video goes, there was a weird black spot in bottom of frame when Wesley talked with Guinan.


Matthew: I am torn between a 2 and a 3 on this one. There isn't a lot of sci-fi, and the political element was half-baked. But Wesley was charming and fun to watch, and the rest of the crew got to flex some comic muscle. I guess some of it comes down to the question - is this better than "The Outrageous Okona?" It is. The comedy is better. The story is warmer and easier to identify with. So I think this just barely squeaks into 3 territory. This may be my borderline case going forward.

Kevin: This is a tough call for me as well. I think the character moments are nice, but the politic storyline is DOA and it slows down the episode. I'm going to give this a "low" 3 as well. Whatever its other flaws, Wil Wheaton does have an endearing earnestness. That makes for a total of 6.


  1. This is really a case a typical Trek problem of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. We already know about shape-shifters in Kirk's time (via Star Trek VI). However, while this happens much earlier in the timeline, this movie production wouldn't come until two years following this episode.

    I hate when the writers screw each other like that!

    Though, I would have loved to see Salia turn herself into another Wesley (also like in Star Trek VI). But, that prolly would have been too much for my fragile teenage mind and body!

    I would very much like to see a book storyline relating to possible links between Salia/Anya/Daled IV, Martia from STVI and the Founders of the Dominion!!

  2. You just want Wil Wheaton to say the lines to himself:

    "I can't believe I kissed you."
    "Must have been your lifelong ambition."

    But I agree, like I said, at some point, Salia should have totally been a dude for a minute. Then there could have been a whole "Wesley questions his sexuality" arc. It would have been Kurt from Glee 20 years ago.

  3. When., at the end of her pretend-come on with Riker, Guinan says to Wesley "shut up kid" - it was kind of a turn off as Whoopie Goldberg broke character. For a second I was taken out of Star Trek and the moment, no longer seeing Guinan but actually Whoopie Goldberg being herself. It really changes the role and person you are playing when you break character.