Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “The Dauphin”

“The Dauphin”
Written by Scott Rubenstein & Leonard Mlodinow
Directed by Rob Bowman

Season 2, Episode 10
Original air date: February 20, 1989
Star date: 42568.8

Mission summary

The Enterprise picks up two mysterious otherworlders: a teenager and head of state named Salia, and her overbearing, somewhat slithery governess Anya. Troi thinks the two may not be what they seem, but can’t offer any more details or else it’ll ruin the twist. The two are headed to their home planet of Daled IV after a long period of exile. Salia’s parents were on opposite sides of a massive civil war that has engulfed the planet. They died shortly after her birth, and now it’s up to the dauphin to start the healing. Unfortunately she’s been in isolation her whole life and has built up a swell of hormones, so a chance encounter with Wesley and his superconductive magnet sparks a powerful attraction*.

*Believe it or not, I didn’t write this stuff.

And it’s True Wuv! Wesley can’t stop thinking about Salia. He calls in Data to ask about her (asking a lieutenant commander to scope out chicks for you: totally within protocol), can’t focus at work and cocks up his task in Engineering (poor Geordi has to do everything himself), and asks Worf for a primer on Klingon dating rituals (which sound awfully Jersey Shore). Sadly, the only one with real advice is Riker, who takes him to the love doctor herself: Guinan. I can’t help but repost the whole exchange, because it’s brilliant:

RIKER: Now, the first words out of your mouth are the most important. You may want to start with something like this. [To Guinan.] You are the most beautiful woman in the galaxy. But that might not work.
GUINAN: Yes. Yes, it would.
RIKER: You don’t know how long I’ve longed to tell you that.
GUINAN: But you were afraid?
RIKER: Yes.
GUINAN: Of me?
RIKER: Of us. Of what we might become.
WESLEY: Commander?
RIKER: Or that you might think that was a line.
GUINAN: Maybe I do think it’s a line.
RIKER: Then you think I’m not sincere?
GUINAN: I didn’t say that. There’s nothing wrong with a line. It’s like a knock at the door.
RIKER: Then you’re inviting me in?
GUINAN: I’m not sending you away.
RIKER: That’s more than I expected.
GUINAN: Is it as much as you hoped?
RIKER: To hope is to recognize the possibility. I had only dreams.
GUINAN: Dreams can be dangerous.
RIKER: Not these dreams. I dream of a galaxy where your eyes are stars, and the universe worships the night.
GUINAN: Careful. Putting me on a pedestal so high, you may not be able to reach me.
RIKER: Then I’ll learn how to fly. You are the heart in my day and the soul in my night.
WESLEY: I don’t think this is my style.
GUINAN: Shut up, kid. Tell me more about my eyes.

Meanwhile, Salia is going a little stir crazy. She can’t stop thinking about Wesley, the ship, the universe out there–and is worried about her mission and her role. She gets no choice in her own life, and Anya, recognizing the danger, cracks down on Salia’s privileges and freedoms so she can’t have any more tastes of the life unavailable to her.

It’s stifling work, though, so she decides to take a pleasure tour of the ship and point out potential dangers–a minute defocused area in Engineering, and a patient in Sickbay with Andronesian encephalitis. She pisses off Geordi but tries to kill the patient–wouldn’t want the dauphin to get infected! And that’s when we discover…. she’s an allasomorph!  It’s Daledian for “Budget Cuts!”

A poorly costumed Anya has a mixed-gender fight with Worf, and wins. She smugly agrees not to kill the patient and Picard orders her to house arrest in her luxurious quarters until she can learn to behave more reasonably. Unbeknownst to her, though, Wesley showed up at Salia’s door while the babysitter was away and the two have been having the date of a lifetime. First he introduces her to chocolate, then he takes her to the holodeck, and finally they end up at Ten Forward. But as the evening goes on, Salia seems more and more depressed, making Wesley feel self-conscious. Is it him? (It is.) Salia confesses so much awe and wonder at the world he lives in. He says she can stay on the Enterprise if she chooses, they can sail the seven galaxies together!–but this just sends her into tears and she runs from the room.

SALIA: Stay away from me! I’m sorry.
WESLEY: I don’t understand.
SALIA: I can’t stay here! I can’t have this life! I want it more than anything, but I can’t have it!
WESLEY: Salia, nothing is impossible.
SALIA: Not for you.
WESLEY: There’s a way. I know there is!

Actually, there isn’t! Anya finds Salia and locks her up in her room, and Picard calls Wesley into his office to tell him to stay away from her for diplomatic reasons. But now that Salia has had a taste of the Wes she can’t seem to live without him. She sneaks out again to find him in his quarters playing Battleship with himself (his life isn’t as glamorous as it seemed, okay?). The two share a kiss just as Anya finds them, enraged, and both “morph” to crappy costumes for some lady-wrestling. Wesley is terrified. A guilty-looking Salia leaves, and the Enterprise finally arrives at its destination.

Salia feels pretty badly for lying to Wes about being human and all, so she finds him again to apologize but he angrily turns her away, refusing to give her the goodbye she wanted. She walks to the transporter pad, alone. But Wes shows up at the last minute with some chocolate mousse and an apology, gets to see her revert to her natural state of pure energy before she beams back to take her place among her people.

A sulking Wesley cries on Guinan’s shoulder:

WESLEY: Seeing her on the transporter pad, it was like seeing pure light. I miss her. I feel empty.
GUINAN: I know that sensation. But there’ll come a time when all you remember is the love.
WESLEY: I’m never going to feel this way about anyone else.
GUINAN: You’re right.
WESLEY: I didn’t expect you to say that.
GUINAN: There’ll be others, but every time you feel love it’ll will be different. Every time, it’s different.
WESLEY: Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier.
GUINAN: It’s not supposed to.

Analysis

This is basically a less charming version of Roman Holiday. As in that film, a lot of flaws are forgiven with good performances, great comedy, and a heart-tugging final act. As not at all in that film, the two main romantic leads have absolutely no chemistry.

The main story’s solid, if a little inexplicable. How exactly is this girl going to unite two warring factions she’s never so much as seen? Who’s been leading them in the meantime? Will it be a coup? If the two “cultures” grow on opposite sides of a planet like that, wouldn’t they be different species by now? It’d be like us going to war with the octopus. They live in the sea! We live on land! There’s nothing to fight over!

If we take Salia’s role at face value (as I suppose we must), Salia’s angst is believably depressing. Her situation is genuinely shitty and as someone who doesn’t necessarily sympathize with privileged royalty, I did feel for her. She’s like a futuristic Princess de Cleves, expressing the same melancholic, inescapable feeling of doom that aristocratic women struggled with for centuries. As a more realistic twist on “Elaan of Troyius” it certainly works, and it also wins by allowing a young woman to feel conflicted about a duty other than marriage (I AM LOOKING AT YOU, TROI). It’s also a pleasure to have her as an audience stand-in–open and inviting of the world of Star Trek, and yet never able to be part of it (but there’s always hope, they say).

The side plots and tangents are full of gems, too. I’ll never forget Riker and Guinan’s back-and-forth; it’s pitch-perfect both as comedy and satire of conventional romances. I like Worf’s 101 on Klingon dating (Michael Dorn: owning crap characterization since 1987), and his friendly antagonism with Anya is fabulous and there should have been more of it. I didn’t understand why the episode shuttled Picard, though. If anyone can understand the sacrifice of a personal life for duty, it’s him. But Guinan’s pat-pat at the end of the episode manages honesty by avoiding cliche, and always makes me nod along.

Essentially everything works except the romance. I still can’t buy it. The two of them are neutered and bloodless. Their wuv is too asexual, too sterile. It feels completely manufactured. Wesley is too much a kid and Salia, sadly, looks like 30 and like she’d be better off having a romp with Riker. It also glosses over the awkwardness and difficulty of young love. Once Wesley gets his in (by showing up…that’s all it takes, apparently), it’s pretty much smooth sailing, which bears no resemblance to any first dates I know. And it feels weird to me that Wesley solicits every Tom, Dick, and Harry for dating advice (things I never did: CHECK), but Salia doesn’t even Google it.

Is the problem Wesley? Is it their age? Would it have worked if they had been adults, or the story had been given to actors with more chemistry? The elements are all there, but it doesn’t quiet come together.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1-6)

Thread Alert: WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS?! Seriously, just tell me who did it, and I promise I won’t be mad.

Best Line: WESLEY: Are you telling me to go yell at Salia?
WORF: No. Men do not roar. Women roar. Then they hurl heavy objects. And claw at you.
WESLEY: What does the man do?
WORF: He reads love poetry. [Pause.] He ducks a lot.

Trivia/Other Notes: Best known trivia: Jaime Hubbard was Wil Wheaton’s first kiss. The actress is ten years older than Wheaton and this is what he has to say about the experience:  “I used to get a lot of mileage out of this joke I’d tell at conventions. The first girl that Wesley fell in love with turned out to be a shape-shifter who turned into a hideous monster, y’know after he had exposed his soul to her. Which happened a lot to me in my personal life. And I was glad Star Trek was able to capture that parallel.”

The title refers to the dauphins of France. There were a lot of Louis…es.

Rob Bowman thought the mighty morphin’ costumes looked terrible (he was right!) so he tried to minimize their screen time.

Paddi Edwards, who plays Anya, has a very distinct voice. You may know her as Flotsam and Jetsam or the voice of Gozer. (Remember, kids: if someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes.)


Previous episode: Season 2, Episode 9 – “The Measure of a Man.”

Next episode: Season 2, Episode 11 – “Contagion.”

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

About Torie Atkinson

Torie Atkinson is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former Tor.com blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.