In eukaryotic cells, primary transcripts are processed and bound by proteins before export to the cytoplasm. Nuclear production of export-competent messenger ribonucleoprotein particles (mRNPs) is a complicated process, and mRNP biogenic events that function sub-optimally are rapidly attacked by surveillance leading to degradation of the mRNA. Export of nuclear mRNAs is therefore constantly challenged by the opposing force of mRNA retention and decay. This balance ensures that only 'perfect' transcripts persist, and that non-functional and potentially deleterious transcripts are removed early in their biogenesis. Thus, eukaryotic systems of mRNP quality control can be viewed as simple Darwinian principles operating at the molecular level.