Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The Dauphin
This week's TNG season 2 look-back features a loved-up Wesley Crusher and a giant furry ape thing. Hurrah!
This review contains spoilers.
2.10 The Dauphin
This week, the Enterprise is once again assigned the task of being a glorified taxi for an ambassador who does nothing but cause trouble for the rest of the crew. Yep, that's right, it's Stock Plot #5, another great idea from the people who brought you such infinitely reusable story structures as "the transporter malfunctions", "the holodeck malfunctions" and "Lwaxana Troi malfunctions".
Anyway, Picard welcomes on board Salia, the future leader of the war-torn planet Daled IV, and her aging, over-protective guardian Anya. While touring the ship, the delegation bumps into Wesley Crusher, who is doing the important business of carrying a single magnet around. Salia recognises the magnet from the textbooks she's read (yep, honestly) and because of the excessively sheltered life she's led, falls immediately in love with Wesley, who is similarly head over heels. Oh good, it's a Wesley episode, said absolutely no-one ever.
After the distracted Wesley bungles his work in Engineering, La Forge suggests he goes and talks to Salia. Unsure what to say, he asks advice of various crew members, none of whom have anything useful to say. Frustrated, he decides to just go and be himself (terrible advice, when you're him) and when he reaches her quarters, she invites him in for replicated coffee. It's fair to say they hit it off.
Meanwhile, Anya is touring the ship and complaining that everything is a potential death trap. Just like those clowns in Brussels, right guys? Right? Is this thing on? Anyway, the whole tour is cut short when Anya demands that an ill and potentially contagious patient in sickbay is put to death to ensure Salia isn't harmed. To demonstrate how serious she is about this, she turns into a giant furry ape thing that even Toho would've rejected for looking unrealistic. Picard is outraged and talks her down, confining her to the pair's quarters along with Salia.
Of course, Salia isn't in her quarters. She's in the holodeck with Wesley while he's telling her about all the amazing places he's visited while on his gap yah before he goes to Starfleet Academy. The pair head to ten-forward where Wesley tries to cause an interstellar incident by convincing her to quit her job as head of a planet she hasn't yet visited, presumably reasoning that his happiness is more important than the wars she'll stop by unifying the planet's warring factions. Annoyed and confused, she runs out of Ten-Forward crying and goes back to Anya.
Picard instructs Wesley not to meet Salia again, but she sneaks into his quarters and gives him the "show me more of this earth custom you call kissing" routine. They've barely begun the first quarter of tonsil-hockey before Anya turns up and tries to separate the pair by turning into that giant ape-thingy (a bucket of water would've done the trick, really.) Salia tells Wesley to stand back, and reveals that she too is a shape-shifting Allasomorph. They sort of roar at each other, before turning back into humans. Probably because the costumes aren't good enough to have any kind of actual fight in.
Finally, the Enterprise has reached its destination. Wesley gets angry at Salia for hiding her true nature, but eventually the two reconcile and he sees her off to the planet. Before beaming down, she transforms into her true form: a glowing tube of energy. Wesley is enthralled but probably aware, deep down, that it would be difficult to form a lasting relationship with a tube of light. After Salia has gone, Guinan gives Wesley a pep talk that essentially amounts to "stop crying, mate, we've all been there." She is indeed wise.
TNG WTF: Few people would accuse TNG of being too ambitious with its prosthetics over the years. In fact, for the most part "alien" tends to mean "human with a weird nose/forehead/ears". But every so often they decide to push the boundaries, and that reminds us why they do the weird nose thing instead. The various forms the Allasomorph characters take contain some of the worst alien costumes TNG has done since the Anticans and Selay delegates from Lonely Among Us. They're enough to make George Lucas say "no, that's too stupid".
TNG LOL: Considering how bland TNG was in its early days, it's nice to see that the show's found a sense of humour by this point. Most of the laughs are intentional, whether it's Worf's description of Klingon courting ("Men do not roar. Women roar. Then they hurl heavy objects…") while Riker demonstrating his chat-up techniques on Guinan is funny twice over: once because it's hilariously over-the-top, and again because Whoopi Goldberg breaks character for a moment at the end when Wesley tries to halt the display ("Shut up kid! Tell me more about my eyes…")
Time Until Meeting: No meetings. Although I'll let it off because the episode is essentially about a diplomatic issue, meaning there's plenty of bureaucracy.
Captain's Log: As episodes go, it's bland and inoffensive, although by the time you've reached the third act things are starting to feel a bit repetitive. The problem is that the script doesn't really know what its central conflict is. They try to play up the idea of Salia as someone bound by her duty, but ultimately there's no drama there because at no point does it seem as though she's going to abandon her fate. Meanwhile, Anya is so over-the-top in being "protective" that she seems more like a dangerous psychopath. And then for the first half of the episode they're sort of playing with the mystery of who/what Anya really is, but they make only the barest gestures towards that storyline before the answer is revealed. It's all over the place, and comes over as shallow and directionless as a result.
On the other hand, the sequence of Wesley asking for romantic advice from Data/Worf/Riker is brilliant, and Guinan's speech about falling in love at the end is nice and philosophical. But let's face it, this episode is The Princess Diaries In Space, and who wants to see that (okay, wait, bad example. I should've said who wants to see that with Wesley Crusher.)
Watch or Skip? Realistically, you can skip it. There are a few good laughs, but ultimately it's a Wesley episode. If you want to see a Wesley romance, they do a similar story better with Ashley Judd in season five.
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