Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Next Generation 2x10 "The Dauphin"

rating: **

via Don Rockwell
Not Ashley Judd, but she'll do.

Decent character work for Wesley, especially considering how annoying he was in the first season, that's what awaits you in "The Dauphin."

The object of his affection is the princess (in effect) of a world struggling to find peace between warring factions.  There's shape-shifting involved, Worf nudging toward the Worf who's actually recognizable from later seasons, and Guinan once again proving sage advice.  And because this is a strange crew indeed, none of them knowing what to do about love.  Seriously, that's kind of weird, right?  Although maybe yet another conscious step away from that lothario Kirk...

The story of a first love can be kind of rote, but it allows Wesley to guide the episode away from its own particular context and into a feel for what the series would be like once it finally figured itself out (hence: that note above about Worf), meaning trips to Ten Forward that don't necessarily have to do with Guinan, but merely as a place that would take on great social significance, where a lot of guest characters would be brought, actually, but also where a lot of the main characters would talk about what's going on.

In a weird kind of way, "Dauphin" ignores most of what makes Wesley a specific character (the later episode I reference in my latest clever caption, "The Game," is a Wesley romance that does feature Wesley as a specific character) but in doing so allows the viewer to view him differently, as a guide into the series, not as a surrogate for young fans but merely as someone capable of giving a tour without it seeming like work.  Who else was going to be able to do that?  And so once again, this is the second season struggling inch for inch to discover what truly makes Next Generation work.  All too often, the third season is given all the credit.  But the groundwork begins in episodes like "Dauphin."

It's all too rare when Star Trek can use tropes in an episode, seem like the tropes are the only thing it really has on its mind, but ultimately transcend those tropes.  This is one of those instances.  But those tropes have their moments, too.

four quarter analysis
franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Diana Muldaur
Colm Meaney
Whoopi Goldberg

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