Mon
Jul 25 2011 12:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Skin of Evil”

She’s dead, Jean-Luc“Skin of Evil”
Written by Joseph Stefano and Hannah Louise Shearer
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Season 1, Episode 22
Production episode 40271-122
Original air date: April 25, 1988
Stardate: 41601.3

Captain’s Log: Shuttlecraft 13 is on its way back with Troi from a conference when it starts to lose power. The Enterprise is doing maintenance on the warp drive, and by the time Chief Engineer Lynch can get the dilithium crystals back where they belong, the shuttle has crashed. The transporter can’t lock on the two shuttle inhabitants — Troi and Lieutenant Prieto, the pilot — so Riker, Data, Yar, and Crusher beam down. Their way is blocked by an oil slick that appears to be sentient.

When they try to simply walk past the creature — who calls himself Armus — he attacks Yar and kills her. Riker and Data fire on it, to no effect. The away team beams back, but Crusher is unable to revive Yar — Armus apparently damaged her nervous system beyond repair.

On the planet, Armus tries to taunt Troi, but Troi gives as good as she gets. Armus claims that he killed Yar to amuse himself, but Troi’s empathy sees through that, knowing that it was intended to amuse him, but failed.

A second team beams down, with La Forge in Yar’s place. Riker tries to negotiate, but Armus is capricious and cruel. He lets Crusher speak to Troi, but no more — then he knocks La Forge’s VISOR to the ground, taunting him with lost sight, and finally envelopes Riker.

Armus reveals to Troi that he was created by a species that was able to bring all the negativity in their psyches to the fore and cast it out in this one creature, which they abandoned on this world. Data sums it up best: he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Picard beams down to further negotiate with Armus. The crew refuses to give in to his bullying, which frustrates him. Armus disgorges Riker and lets the away team beam back. Picard leads Armus on by pretending to allow him transport off the planet if he can speak to Troi. The counselor tells him that making him confront his rage weakens him, and Picard is able to, basically, taunt him until he screams. The energy field lowers when he’s pissed off, enough that Worf is able to beam Troi, Prieto, and Picard back.

The episode ends with a memorial service for Yar, which includes a prerecorded message for each person in the opening credits.

Armus, the oil slick of DOOM!Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Often forgotten regarding a story mostly remembered for Yar’s death, is that this was one of Troi’s better episodes. She plays Armus like a two-dollar banjo, getting Armus to open up to her, manipulating him while psychoanalyzing him. She also forces him to confront his rage, which causes his energy field to fluctuate, which is what enables her eventual rescue.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Chief Engineer Leland T. Lynch has to manually restart the dilithium crystal chamber, skipping the checklist and the final checks. Given that we’re talking the annihilation of matter and antimatter, Picard basically asked Lynch to risk blowing the ship up.

The Boy!?: Wes takes over Worf’s generic “bridge officer” function after Yar’s death, and he helps Worf track the energy signature given off by Armus.

If I Only Had a Brain...: Yar refers to Data as “my friend.” One assumes that’s friends with benefits, given the events of “The Naked Now.” Supposedly in an earlier draft of the script, Yar said to Data that “it happened.”

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf has bet in Yar’s favor in an upcoming martial arts competition — that she obviously doesn’t live to participate in. Worf is made acting head of security, despite the fact that Yar’s deputy chief of security (whoever that might be) should have taken over. Worf also shows remarkable good sense in declining to go on the second away team, believing that he can best help Troi and Prieto from the bridge.

Welcome Aboard: Ron Gans gives Armus a cartoony deep voice that manages to completely undercut the creature’s menace. Mart McChesney gets guest star billing for mostly just sitting in an uncomfortable oil-slick suit and gesturing occasionally. Walker Boone is the fourth and final member of the First Season Chief Engineer Derby, following MacDougal in “The Naked Now,” Argyle in “Where No One Has Gone Before” and “Datalore,” and Logan in “The Arsenal of Freedom.” His tetchiness and insistence on referring to himself by his full name make him come across as unnecessarily snotty, but he also proves himself quite the miracle worker by getting the warp engines up and running. I’m actually kind of sorry we didn’t see more of this character.

Lt. Commander Leland T. Lynch is very proud of his name.

I Believe I Said That: “I find my thoughts are not for Tasha, but for myself. I keep thinking, how empty it will be without her presence. Did I miss the point?”

“No you didn’t, Data. You got it.”

Data wondering if he understood the reason for the memorial service at the end, and Picard reassuring him.

Trivial Matters: This is the first time a main Trek character has died and stayed dead. An alternate-reality version of Yar would show up in “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” in part to give the character a “proper” death, that alternate Yar’s daughter Sela would appear in the two-parters “Redemption” and “Unification,” and Yar would return in the finale “All Good Things…” during the first-season parts.

Star Trek Corps of Engineers Leland T. Lynch was revealed to have served for a time as the head of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers in the novella The Future Begins by Steve Mollmann & Michael Schuster, which is in the Star Trek: Corps of Engineers: What’s Past compilation.

One of the early TNG novels, Survivors by Jean Lorrah, focused on Yar and Data, and had to have a framing sequence hastily added to account for the former character’s death. That novel also delved into Yar’s backstory, hinted at but never revealed, though that was superseded by the fourth-season episode “Legacy.”

Make it So: “Data! Data, something’s got meeeeee!” An episode that should’ve been a lot better, undermined to many by the pointless death of a main character, but far more undermined by a disastrous portrayal of Armus.

The loss of Yar is unfortunate. While it’s true the character as portrayed didn’t live up to the character as envisioned — Yar was the most interesting person in the TNG bible — that’s also true of a lot of characters. Denise Crosby has never been the best actor in the universe, but Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, and Marina Sirtis weren’t any great shakes in the first season, either, and their characters didn’t blow the doors off. They got better with time, and there’s every reason to believe the same would’ve been true for Crosby had she remained.

Frankly, I’ve never gone along with the complaints about how Yar is killed. Klingon feelings notwithstanding, there’s no such thing as a “good” death, and Yar going out in a blaze of glory isn’t inherently any better than being casually snuffed out by a sadistic oil slick. In fact, Yar’s death is in keeping with the deaths of security people throughout Trek history — the only difference is that this one’s listed in the opening credits. So that is not this episode’s problem — I actually prefer this random, pointless death to the clichéd-up-the-wazoo one she would get in the third season’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” though many, including the cast and crew of the show and a large chunk of the fanbase, disagree with me.

No, the problem is that Armus fails in every possible way as a villain, and that’s entirely on the backs of the people doing the visual effects and the voice casting. As written, Armus is a formidable and fascinating villain. As dramatized, he’s either a slightly burbling oil slick, a doofy-looking humanform oil slick, or cheesy-looking black mass that reminds us all of the sorry state of CGI in 1988. It’s not a coincidence that the most effective scenes are the ones on the shuttle with Troi talking to Armus, which are the only Armus scenes where we don’t actually see the creature.

To make matters worse, Ron Gans sounds like a dopey bad guy out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon rather than an embodiment of all that is evil in a species. If they’d gotten David Warner or John Vickery or John Schuck or J.G. Hertzler, or somebody with an awesome voice who could have made Armus a true terror, this episode might not have been viewed as such a failure.

But, sadly, a failure it is, despite it being one of the best Troi vehicles, despite some excellent work by Sir Patrick Stewart when he confronts and manipulates Armus.

 

Warp factor rating: 3.


Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a great deal of Star Trek fiction, ranging from novels to comics to short stories to novellas, but never once wrote the character of Tasha Yar. His latest novels are Unicorn Precinct, SCPD: The Case of the Claw, and the upcoming Guilt in Innocence, part of the Scattered Earth shared-world science fiction series. Go to Keith’s web site, which is a gateway to his blog, Facebook, Twitter, and much more.

38 comments
JasonD
1. JasonD
I was 5 years ld when this episode first aired, but I remember one thing from it very clearly. My mother was a huge Trekkie from back in the 60's, and she and I would watch TNG together every week, but this episode almost made her stop watching completely. She was righteously pissed that they killed off a strong "I am Woman, hear me roar" character and left Troi and Random Crewperson #85 alone. She had this big conspiracy in mind that a character like Yar was too intimidating for the typical fan to be able to enjoy, so "They" killed her off and replaced her with the Klingon. I just thought it was funny, because I was 5. Looking back on it though, it was definitely a waste of a character with a lot of potential, which makes me thankful for the expanded universe novels and whatnot.
JasonD
2. don3comp
"Hey, Tin Man!"

Something I always wondered: where and when did Armus see "The Wizard of Oz?" One of the inhabitants of his makers' planets must have seen it on computer...interesting that the phrase "Tin Man" would again be important in a couple of seasons.

I remember reading somewhere that Denise Crosby wanted her character killed off, rather than written out any other way. I disagree about "Yesterday's Enterprise"--I found Yar's wish to choose her manner of dying moving--but I agree that this one could have been really interesting if it had been much better done. It's all down to the painfully obvious (frankly, 1960s-level) visual effects. (Okay, looking back I also find the fact that there's a competition "in a few days" somewhat obvious forshadowing.) I think a novel about the people who created Armus could be interesting, especially if they have to come to terms with their decision to try to deal with their negative emotions in the way that they did.

Despite this episode's faults, I'm embarrased to remember that I cried my eyes out during the memorial scene! I'm glad that wasn't the last we saw of Yar. I never knew the writers had Yar say "it happened" to Data, I wish they'd kept that line. Interesting that Data would eventually have loved and lost both Yar sisters.

By the way, I hadn't noticed that the shuttle number was 13. Nice horror cliche! I think this was co-written by the writer of "Psycho."
Joel Cunningham
3. jec81
it's worth noting that the show didn't intentionally kill off yar. denise crosby wanted to do a movie and thought that TNG wasn't using her to the best of her ability, so she asked to leave the show.

while it looks like a massive error in hindsight, she rarely got to do anything during the first season other than say "hailing frequencies open, captain." i wish she had stuck around (never a big worf fan), but you can't blame the producers for killing the character. quibble about the method perhaps...

i think this is a decent episode. i agree that the special effects are lacking but it is interesting that the villain is totally irredemable and that yar is killed so arbitrarily that you keep expecting them to fix it.

did think it lame that wesley was included in tasha's memorial. like she cares about that dweeb.
JasonD
4. don3comp
Another trivial matter: according to the episode's wikipedia page, Armus was named for writer/producer Burton Armus.
JasonD
5. don3comp
Keith and Jec81: It is indeed interesting that for the first of very few times in "Trek" (TNG at least)," the villain has "no redeeming features." The only other purely evil villain I remember is the Cardassian who tortures Picard in "Chain of Command."
JasonD
6. Lsana
@don3comp,

While Armus didn't have any redeeming features, I did think he had a point in wanting vengeance on his creators. That was what was unsatisfying about this episode for me: that whoever it was that thought it was a good idea to create a sentient embodiement of pure evil and just leave him sitting around never got any sort of comuppence.
j p
7. sps49
And why did Yar need to die? She could've been called to help her sister, she could've been transferred to another posting, she could've resigned. The crap Yesterday's Enterprise could've been redone as a capture while she was traveling or something, and the character (beloved by many for some reason) could be used again, if desired.
Robert Evans
8. bobsandiego
When Armus gave his backstory my first and still most compelling thought is it was left over after the smug Organians accended into their god-like state.
Michael Poteet
9. MikePoteet
The memorial scene still makes me tear up, every time, some 20+ years later. That alone makes this episode one of my favorites. Sure, Armus could've been done better (perhaps -- I actually don't think the voice is miscast; and this was very early days of CGI, so I'm not sure what more the creative team could've done); but as a concept, he is intriguing; and, as Keith points out, we get some great acting by Marina Sirtis, who is finally given something interesting to work with. I think it deserves a whole lot more than a "3" -- maybe somewhere around a 6 or 7?
Chin Bawambi
10. bawambi
I never understood why people preferred Tasha to Worf. I disliked nearly every episode she was in and thought Yesterday's Enterprise was much worse than it could have been because of Crosby's acting. While Unification and Redemption are two of my favorites they really suffer because of her.
Joel Cunningham
11. jec81
it isn't so much that i prefer tasha than that i am slightly bored by klingons in general. michael dorn is a great actor though.

it is hard to blame her acting too much because she had almost nothing to do in season 1 and sela was a terrible character. i never watched her in UE with a critical eye. it is quite possible she is bad though.

but what do i know? i like pulaski.
JasonD
12. John R. Ellis
What the heck is "formidable and fascinating" about a villain who admits he's basically a collection of icky thoughts?

Somehow, that strikes me as something that's just as lame in writing as it would be no matter how they tried to depict it on camera, and I'm not very enthusiastic about "Beings of Pure ____" in fiction to begin with.

A forgettable, awful episode. I hated it as a kid, hate it even more as an adult. Just a waste.
JasonD
13. Mike S.
Well, we learn in "Redemption 2" that Yar didn't exactly get a hero's death the second time, either. I liked both of her deaths, if that's possible.

I do however, dislike this episode, for all of the reasons mentioned. I always wondered if Armus looking like an oil slick, was a pseudo-commentary on the oil industry in general. If so, it was a very poor one. Your "opening credits" critisims normally doesn't bother me as much, but it sure does with regards to Yar's memorial service. Her holographic image has no time to talk to any of her security officers, but the young acting ensign, she can talk to.

This is one of those episodes that has some good things, but they are cancled out by everything that is wrong. It's the opposite of most TNG episodes, which are flawed, but are more then cancled out by what is right with them.
JasonD
14. Pendard
Six-year-old me didn't think they really killed her. My dad warned me, before the episode began, that she was going to die -- it has been spoiled in our local newspaper. And she certainly appeared to die and everything, but I had seen "Hide and Q," I wasn't going to fall for that crap a second time. Then when the episode ended, I cried for about an hour. I held out hope for another full week that Tasha would magically be back the following week. When I saw her name in the opening credits of "We'll Always Have Paris" (they didn't remove it from the title sequence until season two) I was sure I had been right, and then my hopes were dashed all over again that week (but there were three Datas doing really exciting things with antimatter, so that cheered me up).
Michael Poteet
15. MikePoteet
@14 Pendard - I loved your memories of this episode in its first airing. Made me smile. :-)

I remember my surprise with next week's episode was thinking the guy who fences with Picard at the beginning ("What was that technique?" "The technique of a desperate man") just had to be the new security chief. After all, they weren't really going to leave a continuity thread like that hanging, were they? (I guess I'd forgotten that Worf was promoted to acting security chief as soon as Yar died.)
JasonD
16. Christopher L. Bennett
Tasha's death scene in sickbay has made me cry every single time I've seen it, thanks largely to Ron Jones's intense, poignant scoring, built around a soulful Tasha Yar theme that recurs in the memorial scene. It underlines the power of a good character leitmotif, something which was forgotten later in the show.

I'm with Keith about the death itself. I think it's missing the point to demand that characters we like should only get "noble" or "meaningful" deaths. That's not what death is. Death is arbitrary and pointless and painful and frustrating and unfair. That's why it's a bad thing. And stories that sanitize and glorify it by making it heroic and meaningful are stories that lie to their audience. Although I disagree completely that Tasha's death was meaningless. Armus's decision to kill her was meaningless, but Tasha's death was in the performance of her duty, the result of an effort to save her crewmates, and that is profoundly meaningful. Whether she succeeded or not doesn't matter; what matters is that she tried, that she acted selflessly and devoted her life to helping others. Bringing Tasha back later to give her a more conventionally "heroic" sacrifice just cheapened her original death. It rejected the simple, realistic message of "Skin of Evil" -- that exploring space is dangerous and any one of our heroes could be killed at any time -- in favor of a more romanticized, sanitized, grossly dishonest view of death and danger, where redshirts can be casually tossed aside without a thought but main characters get a special exemption and only die if it's glamorous and uplifting enough.

But I also agree that Armus was a disappointing antagonist. Not so much due to the effects -- I grew up with cheesy '60s and '70s effects and am used to thinking of them as just suggestions and using my imagination to take them the rest of the way -- but due to the concept. Aliens that discarded their evil side as a sentient puddle of goo? That's just mystical twaddle that has no place in a moderately plausible universe like ST, where everything is supposed to have a logical scientific explanation even if it's based in junk science. This felt more like something out of a fairy tale or a cartoon.

I never really thought about how strong a Troi episode this is, but you're right, she does get a rare chance to shine here. It is a very psychological story, with Armus being more a metaphor than a character, and it's cool seeing Troi and Picard win by psyching out their adversary rather than using brute force. I also like that they ultimately treat Armus with pity rather than vengeance, refusing to sink to its level. They win by being better than it is. It may have the power to kill, but that's the only power it has, and that's what makes it inferior. Any mindless force of nature can destroy; it's the pettiest, emptiest form of power. Winning through intelligence, reason, even compassion, is wielding real power. By refusing to embrace vengeance and hate, they deny Armus's power over them and leave it ineffectual.
JasonD
17. Smart Alex
I sure did like that Armus fellow in this episode. I think he gets a bad rap. What would have been really cool was if they had replaced Tasha with Armus as the new security chief. Forget that lamo, Worf! I mean, can you imagine a more badass Starfleet officer than Armus? Or, better yet, if Armus had killed Captain Picard and taken his rightful place as captain of the Enterprise, that would have been the best. Captain Armus of the USS Enterprise is here to kick a** and take names! What up, punks!
Keith DeCandido
18. krad
Christopher: What you said, regarding death, but I like the concept of Armus, and it's no more ridiculous than the transporter splitting Kirk into his "good" and "evil" sides -- in fact, it's pretty much exactly the same thing, which makes you wonder if the species that dumped Armus on the planet are now a bunch of ineffectual wusses........
JasonD
19. JYHASH
I always found this episode interesting, if anything because it was a first season episode and they killed off a main character. Being an actor, I can see how if you aren't enjoying what you do on stage, that you should leave, but then again there are always mitigating factors: This was TV. This was acting for a living. This was STAR TREK. I can't think of Crosby as anything but inherently stupid for making that decision. Yes it gave us Yesterday's Enterprise, but it cost her what could've been a sweet gig.

Anyway, this is one I've been meaning to rewatch via Netflix (now that they're streaming), but I somehow was remembering it as a more taught and thrill-laced storyline.

Meanwhile, Tasha Yar was rebooted as a better character in the SCE novels: Domenica Corsi. She's far more interesting, has a great deal of character development, and I'm sure a fair sight prettier. At least someone wrote the "Blonde Security Woman" right...
Keith DeCandido
20. krad
JYHASH: As the creator of Domenica Corsi, I thank you. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
JasonD
21. Pendard
@Christopher (#16): Rumor has it that Gene Roddenberry felt exactly the same way as you did about Tasha's death. I believe I read in the Star Trek TNG Companion (may have been somewhere else) that he personally vetoed a heroic death in favor of something senseless, because he believed death was always senseless. It was one of many anti-dramatic ideas that he worked into his conception of the Star Trek universe. Like it or not (I do), Roddenberry had a very clear idea of what he wanted to say with the Star Trek universe, and the concept frequently overrode things that would have been helpful from a narrative point of view (such as conflict between the characters, or a heroic death for Tasha Yar).

Also, I don't agree with you about the idea of Armus being ridiculous. Yes, the science that created him was unusually metaphysical, but in the early days, the Star Trek universe was a place where anything could happen. In later years, the new worlds stopped being so strange and I think the show really suffered for it. The stories got a by-the-numbers feeling -- the universe of the show was completely defined and nothing surprising ever happened. TNG season 1 has many faults, but one thing it got right was you always felt like there was something new to discover. By the time TNG ended, that feeling had all but gone. It returned very infrequently on DS9, and practically never on Voyager and Enterprise.

@Smart Alex (#17): Armus as a TNG regular! What a fabulous idea! It's such an clear and obvious choice! I can only guess that it's what the writers intended all along, but Rick Berman nixed the idea when he saw the projections for cleaning black tar out of the Enterprise's beige carpets every week.
Michael Poteet
22. MikePoteet
Not to be a pedantic nerd (oh, who am I kidding), but, technically, "our" Tasha Yar was not brought back for a more heroic death. An alternate Tasha was told by Guinan -- somewhat erroneously, as Christopher's comments above prove -- that she died "a meaningless death," and thus (ostensibly) got to have a more heroic death. (Forgive me if someone already split this hair and I just missed it.)

Personally, I approve of the way both Tashas died. And, when you think about it, they're not all that dissimilar. Both Tashas died by choosing to place themselves in harm's way to help others. "Greater love hath no man..."

And, personally, my favorite Denise Crosby return remains Trekkies!
JasonD
23. John R. Ellis
Good point, Mike. As Fredric Brown points out in What Mad Universe, an alternate universe counterpart is not the exact same person anymore than two identical twins are the same person. The "Yesterday's Enterprise" Tasha was never used to retcon or reverse the fate of the Tasha from the prime timeline.

Plus, keep in mind that the opinions put forth by fictional characters are not necessarily the opinions of the author writing them. While Star Trek is guilty more often than not of characters being mouthpieces, in this case I think it's more Guinan sees some kinds of death as being deep and meaningful compared to others more than the episode writer themself thought that way. Just a thought.
Michael Burke
24. Ludon
This is one episode I have no desire to see again. For a brief period after I first saw it I called it "Skin Of Awful" There's no one thing that I can point to that I didn't like about it. It's just that there's no one thing that I can point to that I liked about it.

And with the discussion of pointless death. I think the best (television) example of a pointless death was Henry Blake in M*A*S*H. His tour is over. He's getting out of the army and his plane out of Korea gets shot down. Now that was a pointless death that can make you think about how unfair death can seem.
JasonD
25. JohnArmstrong
No-one is going to mention that Joesph Stefano was the co-prudcer and main writer of the original Outer Limits? I'd have preferred the Zanti Misfits, but the oil slick is pretty much a full-on Outer Limits bad guy
JasonD
26. Nita999
Even as a child watching the original broadcast of TNG, I thought Denise Crosby's dreadful overacting was distracting and often brought scenes to a grinding halt (eg. the penalty box scene from Hide and Q....) Yes, she wasn't the only one with that problem, and maybe Code of Honor just biased me, but I thought the series was better off without her. Ok, so Armus the evil oil slick was a lame call, but it beats the hell out of having her go off to another plane of existance after a spirit quest like Wesley eventually did. Tasha's death also provided growth for Data's character and a common loss for the crew. I really could have done without her weak return as variations on Tasha in later episodes. The blonde Romulan thing made me wish Armus would come oozing back to finish her off.
JasonD
27. Anony
The concept killed the episode. Even now I remember finding the whole thing horribly boring. Slick-man pops up, slick-man pops down, repeat.

Removing Yar did a lot for Worf's character. I didn't find her appealing, and I thought the memorial service was overblown at such an early point in the series. But the pointless way she dies isn't the problem here. It's the pointless way she's written out. She's supposed to mean more to the viewers than random redshirt #12. The espisode is centered around the oil embodiment of evil. It doesn't properly explore the theme of arbitrary death, making her death pointless to the story as well as the events within it. Ironically, in a universe where main characters take priority and all stories have messages, a story about pointless death needs to dig especially deep for meaning when it randomly kills major characters. Kirk's son dies pointlessly...well, not literally...but the emotional impact of that is much stronger and suits the tone of the movie at that point.
Nicky Kay
28. NickyKV2
I could never take this seriously because Armis sounded too like the after-shave Aramis. I was perfectly happy to see the demise of the annoying bonde bint - well, she was annoying. This episode is sometimes made out to be a Toy Story, but she was her usual pathetic self and blubbed a lot with bad hair. How the hell could the captain of a star ship take advice from a manic depressive hysteric?

There were some interesting ideas in play in the episode. I quite liked the idea thart one can become so pure that we slough off our outer evil. But what the episode never dealt with was: "What happened next?" They left BP on a dead planet. Doesn't really say much for those guys, does it?

The end was astonishingly dreadful. Who the heck wrote this shite? "Will Riker, you are the best". No. He's a twat. It was appalling rubbish.
Justin Devlin
29. EnsignJayburd
@Krad - I'm with you on Tasha's death. I thought it was perfect actually as it was in no way cliché'd, except for the way in which you mentioned (the dead security guard). Props to Denise Crosby, too, for "meeting death with her eyes open" but actually showing herself dead on screen with her eyes closed. I am sick to death (no pun intended) of actors playing dead with their eyes open. It rarely happens that way.

I agree that Armus was handled really poorly, but that aside I really like this episode, because I thought the idea of Armus was a good one and that the character was written well. It was just portrayed horribly.

I believe this is also the first time we've seen "direct reticular stimulation" or whatever they called it, i.e. the medical staff jolting the brain instead of the heart of someone who had died.

Another totally random thought: Marina Sirtis was not only excellent in this episode, but quite beautiful in her sadness.

@8 - I totally agree! The Organians were the first thing I thought of as well. They seem the perfect race to create something like Armus

@16 - Great post! I agree with all points except the concept of Armus. As I said, I like the concept.

@24 - I agree about Henry Blake and M.A.S.H. And that show was a comedy. Go figure that one out.

@28 - At least she wasn't a moistened bint lobbing a scimitar at you...
Michael Burke
30. Ludon
@EnsignJayburd

That one is easy to figure out. M*A*S*H was more than just a comedy. It was satire, often with strong social commentary.
JasonD
31. LM
Even though I am kind of late to the game (I got my husband the complete series for his birthday and we are now making our way through - this is my first time watching most of the episodes, although I have seen a handful of episodes) I wanted to comment on a few things:

"Supposedly in an earlier draft of the script, Yar said to Data that “it happened.”" - YES! That is canon now in my head!! Data is actually one of my very favorite characters, so maybe I'm a little biased, but I kept waiting and waiting for her to say that in her memorial! While 'in real life' I would have some qualms with the idea of having sex with a machine, I kind of suspend that while watching the show and it actually really bothered me that she says 'it never happened' because she was "drunk"...it just seems like a really heartless and insensitive thing to say, especially because for Data it did seem like a meaningful encounter (I found Brett Spiner's acting for this episode really touching, actually...he really did seem affected by her death). Although I know that we tend to view being drunk as an impediment to true consent, especially if the other party is not...I am not totally sure how that applies when both people are under the same influence though. In my mind I'd like to think it was something they both wanted and was meaningful for both of them, although I don't want to make that generalization for anybody who feels like they were taken advantage of while drunk.

I also completely agree with Chris at 16 - I wanted to comment that I actually really liked how she died and was impressed with that aspect of the episode. Instead of making a big deal out of it, she was causually snuffed out while trying to do her job. She knew it was a risk, but she still wanted to try and save her crewmembers and do her job. It doesn't matter that it wasn't glorious (whatever that means) or that Armus had no real reason to kill her - that's the point. Death is cruel and senseless, and there are definitely murderers out there who do not view their murders/victims as anything significant (ie, the 'But For Me, it Was Tuesday' trope). While I do feel that Tasha wasn't quite given enough to do on the show - and perhaps as the show evolved they might have worked this out better had she stayed - I think her death was perfect for her character and she did go out with honor and selflessness and love (I have not seen this other episode others are speaking of so I can't comment on that...)

Minor quibble - I was kind of hoping Data would retort that he was not made of tin, haha. And also that he is not a robot, he's an android! Or are all androids robots, but not all robots are androids?
JasonD
32. LM
At my comment above, I feel the need to correct my typo - I meant Brent Spiner, of course!
JasonD
33. Thissalantine
Being a fan of the original series, I can overlook a little overacting at times. It's part of the charm of the writing, the franchise. I've come to expect it in places. The only time I really mind is when it's BAD overacting, which is why I sorta did a Southern good ol' girl whoopdie woop when Tasha bit it. Star Trek's never been about writing for strong women, and the Tasha character was a cliche' nestled into a stereotype of what a strong woman is. As progressive as the West Coast is in aspects, the gender gap is still showing it's 1950's perfect-makeup-teased-hair-get-your-lipstick-on-before-the-hubby-arrives-home-from-work nonsensical drivel in writing for 'strong' women. (Just write for humans, you dodoheads, gender's got nothing to do with strength). Tasha made me cringe, Janeway made me yawn, Kirk made me dream of pirates, and Picard made me dream of Shakespeare. Oh, and Data made me dream of The Three Stooges. =p Anyway, seeya Tasha, wish your dad were still around to give you a few pointers.
JasonD
34. Thissalantine
Oh, and Dr. Crusher repeatedly zapping Tasha's corpse over and over and over and over in an attempt to re-animate... COMEDY GOLD!! BzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzT!
JasonD
35. DarthSkeptical
People are so weird. They want a drama that's not "safe", but then bitch when a show tries to do something really brave.

The killing of Yar did a lot of good for TNG. It made a lie of the received wisdom, "That character can't die because they're in the opening credits." Following this up with the sudden transfer of Dr. Crusher just a few episodes later made me think that no one was sacrosanct. It's honestly a high point of season 1, for me. It helped turn TNG into must-watch TV, because it perpetrated the sense that the very next episode might be the one where insert name here died. Though this sense had dissipated by about season 5, I do think the effects of Yar's death were still very much felt by the first airing of "Best of Both Worlds". One of the reasons that the "I am Locutus of Borg" ending works so well is that it could have been the irrevocable truth. We'd only just been reminded of the mortality of Tasha Yar in "Yesterday's Enterprise". There was every chance in the world that Tasha's death might have been foreshadowing for the biggie. It was my very active theory in the season 3/4 break that Picard might actually be done. In the internet-less past, wasn't it possible that someone had seen Sir Patrick on the telly and offered him a fat contract to do something else? Was the show actually indivisible from its captain?

"Skin of Evil" simply introduced the valuable dramatic commodity known as doubt. It made Star Trek dangerous. Of course that sense of peril would have been heightened even more if we'd been given a reason to actually care about Yar during her 22 episode run. But neither Crosby nor the writers were up to the task. She was just a cypher in clichéd feminist clothing — hardly a patch on the varied depictions of feminine strength that were to come on ST. We hardly had to wait long. Suzie Plakson would show us what Yar was probably supposed to be in "The Emissary" just a year later.

So for me what's funny about the episode isn't the Armus voiceover. I kinda dig that evil doesn't have a sterotypical baritone. Indeed, I'd defend the actor's choices because Armus is said to be looking for amusement. He's a more dangerous version of a trickster than the embodiment of Satan. So I don't buy the Armus hate. What's funny to me is the last scene. That dreadful fake memorial. Leaving aside the sheer improbability of a recording that would name only the people who happened to attend the ceremony — and the fact that boring, unimaginative Tasha could only come up with that crappy little hill, despite the vast resources of the holodeck — is the fact that none of Yar's observations make any damned sense. How does she know Riker is "the best"? Cause he can dock with the saucer section manually? Cause he dressed like a whore on Angel One? When has Troi shown Yar how to be "feminine"? Scratch that. Why would Yar need Troi's help? Maybe Tasha just forgot the events of "The Naked Now". And where's the root for Picard-as-father-figure? They've been serving together for only a few months. How is any of Yar's reverse-eulogy earned?

Aside from this Splendarrrific ending, though, "Skin of Evil" is a satisfying blend of Original Series' "funkiness" and ahead-of-its-time narrative bravery. And as you've pointed out, Keith, it's not really a Yar episode at all, but a Troi one. Fittingly, even her last episode, Denise Crosby was handily upstaged.
JasonD
36. Scott M
A big problem I had with the episode was that, instead of the characters actually having to deal with the idea of the evil within us (as we saw in TOS' "The Enemy Within"), it just turned into a manipulation-fest. So the point was that we can deal with evil by distracting it until we can escape? It felt like an episode with potential that was just reduced to being a monster-of-the-week show.
JasonD
37. ellisk
I disliked Tasha when TNG first ran, but looking back at the first season in order, I have come to like her. Now, somehow, like Sofia Coppola as Mary Corleone in Godfather 3, her limited acting range makes her seem more real to me, and I would wish we'd seen more of her. I always liked this episode. You can disparage Armus all you want, with his cartoony voice and drippy appearance, but he did kill Tasha with a gloopy wave of his "arm", and that alone made him more than bad-ass enough to get my attention. And the idea that a creature exists that is a compilation of the cast-off negative aspects of an entire species--that idea, to me, says something about the way evil exists in our species today, almost as a separate entity that we ignore and with whom we fail to deal.
JasonD
38. diletsint
I also recently rewatched this episode and wholeheartedly agree that what might have been a compelling character was so thoroughly botched in execution that it ruined the episode. Actually when I heard him explain how he came to be my thought immediately went to the Schwarzenegger-DeVito movie 'Twins', where Arnold was genetically sculpted to have only good characteristics, while his brother was nothing but leftovers, or 'I'm the crap!?' as I seem to recall him asking as the reality dawned on him.

I also, like you, appreciate the seeming arbitrariness of her death—it rang true for me. In fact, I hate this particular episode so much (again just because of the stupidness of the villain and the fact I don't care to experience him again) I prefer to reconstruct TNG's first season in my mind without that episode (same goes for a few others from that year) without that episode at all. For me, it's just as well she died off screen somewhere, and no more or less arbitrary than the way she went ON screen. To similar ends, I actually kind of like the 'Yesterday's Enterprise' story they gave Tasha. In a way I thought they tied the two deaths together nicely through the meditation on meaningful and meaningless death in the scene with Guinan.

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