The episode begins with the Enterprise on a mission to pick up a sixteen year old girl who is destined to be the leader that brings peace to Daled IV from a hostile desert planet where she has been spending her life studying for the role. As she's being led through the ship, she encounters Wesley, who is in the process of assisting Geordi with minor repairs on the warp engine. Wesley, being a teenage boy in an 80s television show, instantly develops a crush on her so severe he finds himself unable to do basic tasks, and is told to pursue his crush by Geordi. This leads to getting advice from various members of the crew, such as Riker and Guinan (who proceed to cheesily flirt with each other as a demonstration and quickly forget that Wesley is even there).
Salia, meanwhile, is struggling with her responsibilities; she desires the freedom to make her own choices, while her overprotective governess Anya (who seen reveals herself as a shapeshifter) insists that she focus only on her studies and the monumental position she's going to undertake. As a result she's more than happy to spend time with Wesley when he approaches her, telling him about her problems and joining him on the holodeck for a sort of quasi-date after learning about the replicator from him.
Anya's overprotective nature and ability to shapeshift into deadly forms ends up causing friction with the crew, when she demands that they murder a crewman who is sick so that his illness won't risk infecting Salia. She becomes agitated when discovering that Salia has gone missing (with Wesley), but soon enough Salia has a crisis over her obligations and runs out on Wesley when he insists she could stay on the Enterprise instead of going to be a leader.
Despite both Anya's and Picard's demand that Wesley and Salia discontinue their relationship, the two of them meet up again and reconnect, even sharing a kiss. Soon after this Anya intervenes, threatening Wesley in one of her forms from before. When Wesley refuses to run out of the room to safety, Salia reveals that she too is a shapeshifter, turning into another monstrous form to protect him from Anya. Wesley and Salia discuss this later, Salia explaining that she isn't even human at all, but she and her governess took those forms to comfort the crew. Despite his (somewhat strange at this point) doubts that an alien species can feel love the same way, she insists that her emotions are genuine in human form and later on the two part on good terms. Wesley ends up talking to Guinan to sort through his feelings on the whole ordeal.
Tropes specific to this episode include:
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: "So you took this form for our benefit? That's why you wanted to know what species we are."
- Bilingual Dialogue: Between Salia and Anya when the latter is in her mutant-Ewok form.
- The Chains of Commanding: Salia feels like she's being strangled by these.
- Cultural Posturing: Anya constantly complains that the Enterprise is so primitive. Which is odd since everything else about the situation makes it pretty obvious her race is massively less advanced; the whole plot is about the Enterprise stepping in because they don't have any their own ships that can ferry passengers from their colony in a reasonable time frame.
- Distracted by the Sexy: After seeing Salia for the first time, Wesley spends the next few scenes in a daze and unable to focus on his work. Geordi gives him the rest of the day off so he can get to know her.
- Energy Being: Anya and Salia's Shapeshifter Default Form is a vaguely humanoid silhouette of shifting white and purple light.
- Gratuitous French: The title of the episode should actually be "The Dauphine", since "dauphin" is the masculine form of the word rather than the feminine.
- If You Won't, I Will: Anya orders Pulaski to kill a patient with the flu because he might pose a small chance of infecting Salia. When Pulaski (naturally) refuses, Anya says this just before shapeshifting.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Anya may seem overly protective of Salia, but she really cares for her.
- Knight Templar Parent: Salia, who although not Anya's real parent seems to look after her like one. This includes trying to murder anything that could technically pose a threat to her or her mission, from a sick patient to a lovestruck teenage boy like Wesley.
- Love Across Battlelines: Salia's parents.
- Mama Bear: Anya is very protective of Salia, and jumps to transforming into her mutant-Wookie form whenever she thinks she might be in danger.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Salia assures Wesley that while she's in a human form, she experiences human emotions, including genuine attraction to him.
- Oh, Crap!: Wesley when Anya shows up in his quarters in monster form. And again when Salia morphs.
- Shapeshifter Showdown: Between Salia and Anya in Wesley's quarters.
- Shapeshifting: Both Salia and Anya have this ability.
- Shipper on Deck: Guinan supports Wesley's courtship of Salia.
- Shout-Out: In the digitally remastered version of the episode, the one moon of Daled IV we see onscreen looks rather like◊ the Death Star.
- Tidally Locked Planet: Daled IV. One distinct culture developed on the day side and a different one on the night side. Their differences led to a world war that the Enterprise is trying to put an end to. As a daughter of parents from both sides, Salia is expected to bridge the gap.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Wesley's bizarre little episode after learning the truth about Salia, where (despite having made contact with all manner of alien life prior to this episode) he's convinced Salia isn't capable of really loving him because she's a shapeshifter. It kind of feels like the fans who hated him took over the writing for this scene. Towards the end, he softens up and sees her off.
- Violently Protective Girlfriend: Salia briefly prepares to protect Wesley from Anya by transforming into another ferocious monster.
- Worthy Opponent: Worf and Anya acknowledge each other as this at the end, in contrast to earlier where each insists the other wouldn't be a match for them.