Monday, June 6, 2016

TNG Re-Watch: The Dauphin

A few years ago I worked for an environmental education farm in Kentucky. My job was to teach groups of kids (and sometimes adults) about farm life and to expose them to various aspects of nature. A lot of the kids were from the burbs or inner city (Cincinnati) and couldn't tell a goat from a dog and I let them put their hands all over both. I did birthday parties, school tours, summer camps, and—my favorite—winter camp. Sure, the lush greenness of a Kentucky summer can't be beat (except by the lush greenness of a North Carolina mountain summer) but there was something really nice about sitting in a cold barn with a warm goat and a bunch of kids (human children not goat babies—although there were always plenty of goat babies also) making hot chocolate, decorating pine cone ornaments, and talking about life.
Ok. I worked at this farm for four years and apparently have no pictures of myself with small goats (or any goats.) This is a travesty but I have changed computers about three times since then so I guess some stuff got lost in the shuffle. Just use your imagination and pretend this idyllic girl with goat painting is me. 

One of these winter camps, I found myself sitting next to a 6th grade girl in the early morning as we milked a goat named Mandy. She'd been to the camp in previous years and she chattered to me as if I were the same farmer she'd hung out with last year and the year before (and, in her defense, we were mostly all 20-something college student chicks with hairy legs and company t-shirts) and she said, "Here's an update. It's been an interesting year. I started playing trombone. I'm down one grandpa. But I'm up one puppy. Huzzah!"

She actually said, "Huzzah!"

The kid was homeschooled. Obviously. And I loved her.

Encountering a homeschooled kid in the wild was always, to me, very similar to encountering someone from Tennessee or Virginia now that I live in SoCal. No, we aren't from exactly from the same place, but there are certain environmental/socio-cultural touchstones that we both understand. And, because of that, I feel a certain kind of kinship with them.

The homeschool kids I met and befriended when I was younger were typically really bright, curious, highly-educated, compassionate people. They were also typically very open, tactless, and truthful. They were a lot like someone with Asperger's. They were a lot like me.

Obviously I can't speak for the wide swath of homeschooled folks out there but the kids I usually encountered (and this was pre-wide-spread internet usage) hadn't got caught up in the same social games I'd been trying to avoid. They didn't give a shit about side ponytails or light up shoes or who they were supposed to listen to on the radio. They liked what they liked (or what their parents or big sister) liked and they told you about it with zero hesitation or apology. Even when these kids were homeschooled for really intense religious reasons and they eerily spouted bible stories with the same sort of practical recitation they might lay down the state capitals in alphabetical order, I couldn't help liking them.

And I guess maybe that's why I can't help liking this awkward, gangly episode of The Next Generation. Because this girl right here:
is every gawky, curious, compassionate, open-hearted, frank homeschooler I ever sat next to and smiled when they said, "Huzzah."

The actresses who play Salia and Anya (Salia's over-protective matron/best friend/confidant) both do a fantastic job in this weird little Westley-centric, rompy episode.

Escorting a female ruler to her new home where she will then presumably lead her people to peace and prosperity is a tried and tested story for Trek. Usually the lady ruler has a love affair with the Cap or possibly the first mate but here, because it's 2nd season TNG, it's Wesley.

Much like a homeschooler in bygone days, I don't know or care what other people think about this episode—though I can likely guess. I realize that focusing on a silly teenager and his silly teenage problems/innocence/mistakes/puberty was a mistake for TNG's early years. It wasn't Saved By The Bell (what possibly could be?) and it shouldn't have tried to be. Nevertheless, just like a girl I once befriended on a hiking trip who played five instruments, spoke three languages and had really strong opinions about the Franco Spanish Civi War but no clue who "Clarissa" was or why she was explaining it all, I have a soft spot in my heart for The Dauphin.

Oh, also, this one gets bonus points for this scene:


  1. I don't think it was a mistake to focus on Wesley in the early seasons. The problem was that the show didn't really know what to do with him. It's hard to write about kid geniuses in the one environment where they'll be hard-pressed to stand out, because a Star Trek show tends to feature, well, a lot of geniuses...

    1. I think you're right, actually. As a kid I really liked Wesley and sometimes I forget that now that I'm a grown up and I can see where they had a hard time finding stuff for him to do because, you're right, Wesley was pretty much an infallible genius on a ship full of infallible geniuses. That circumstance doesn't naturally lend itself to interesting character problems/conflict/stories. And that was a problem of early TNG in general. I think Trek did a great job with the kids in later series so, I think you're right, kids aren't really the issue. Jake and Nog were especially well developed and had their own meaningful stories and I'll always love Naomi Wildman and the Borg kids.

  2. Had to laugh...I know these kids. I am knee deep in them here in the near South. (Two of them are mine.) And I love that they are their own people, whoever they decide to be. I liked Wesley too, though I kind of wish they'd given him an...hmm...edge, something to triumph over, like Barclay who was a genius but couldn't tell anyone without stammering. Imagine if Wesley had that. But he was so sweet and so good at everything. There was nothing to crack open our hearts to him, except his awkwardness. That was almost enough.

    Love the Riker-Guinan exchange. Tears.

  3. I love this post so much! I was homeschooled, and you nailed descriptions of various homeschoolers (from extremely religious to slightly socially-awkward). I laughed out loud at parts! I am very appreciative of the way you portray us in such a positive light! Thank you! And I love this episode, too!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...