Star Trek: The Next Generation

“Skin of Evil”

1.5 stars.

Air date: 4/25/1988
Teleplay by Joseph Stefano and Hannah Louise Shearer
Story by Joseph Stefano
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan

Review Text

A shuttle carrying Counselor Troi (and some poor guy named Ben that the episode doesn't care about because he doesn't also have awesome boobs) crashes on a planet. The away team beams down to rescue the survivors but encounters Armus (Mart McChesney), who initially resembles a miniature tar pit. He turns out to be an intelligent, albeit hopelessly embittered, being who can rise up and take humanoid form, and who has a voice that sounds like Megatron, only deeper and meaner. Maybe he's Unicron.

He also has the power to do ... well, whatever the plot requires him to do, including killing people at will and creating forcefields that prevent the beam-up of the shuttle survivors. Armus' biggest claim to fame is that he kills Tasha Yar, who dies a rather ignominious death, which is ignominious in no small part because of that goofy splotch on her cheek during the ER sequence — one of few TNG season-one moments to actually use hand-held cameras. (Things must really be bad when the hand-held cameras come out.)

You know, there really should be a "Skin of Evil" drinking game where you drink every time Armus rises up into humanoid form from his tar pit or descends back down, or every time he covers or uncovers the crashed shuttlecraft. Because it's a lot. If anyone sells that game, I expect royalties. Armus is occasionally amusing, simply because he's such an incredible bastard that you almost have to like him — or else hate Troi for trying to disarm him with her psychobabble. Come to think of it, maybe I'd just rather hate Troi in this episode.

The battle of wills (wits?) with Armus goes on for too long and gets too repetitive. (Did I mention that the scenes of Troi trying to counsel Armus really tried my patience?) The episode, at the very least, does not try to redeem Armus, and leaves him stranded and as unhappy as ever. Yar gets a holodeck funeral, which is well-intended, yes, but way too cloying and pushy. But what else would you expect from TNG?

Previous episode: Symbiosis
Next episode: We'll Always Have Paris

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128 comments on this post

    I actually thought "Skin of Evil" was a bit better than most seem to make it. The sudden death of Tasha, while somewhat anticlimatic, was still a shock. The Troi/Armus scenes weren't as powerful as they wanted to be, but the funeral scene for Tasha at the end was fine, I felt.
    And, as you pointed out, the episode "does not try to redeem Armus, and leaves him stranded and as unhappy as ever," which is another thing I liked about it, including Picard's great line("I'm not taking you anywhere") and his following log entry revealing that the shuttle has been destroyed to prevent Armus from leaving and declare Vegra II off limits.
    Of course the best part is that this 'lemon' led to the 'lemonade' that was "Yesterday's Enterprise."

    Mostly spot on, but I have to disagree on "skin of evil". It isn't perfect by any means, but such a bastard of a villain is rare for tng, especially season 1. And yar's death is admittedly meaningless, making this episode further removed from season 1 foppery. Plus it holds interest if unevenly due to the high tension. 6/10

    Using Jammer's scale, I would give this 3 stars. It was entertaining, did not have a cheap ending, was truly sci-fi, and did demonstrate some human values (stand up to evil, not give in to it).

    I wish Starfleet would have learned a lesson from this incident though. Their hand phasers were ineffective -- their backup weapon? Nothing! Starfleet should have immediately did some R&D on different types of weapons! Somewhat frustratingly, this same situation happened again later (e.g. hand phasers ineffective) and Starfleet never learned! These humans more advanced than 20th century my foot!

    The only redeeming quality of this episode is the death of Tasha Tar, imo. I was done with the driving force of the plot by the third time the bad guy raised and uttered its 'uugh' and 'aargh' for what seemed like forever. At least we got plenty of meme material: Riker's 'Data, something's got meeee!'- and Picard saying at one time 'forever... alone'. Now, how convenient that when they see Tasha' holographic will, she only talked about the few guys that were there. No more friends? what a sorry life she had.

    "A shuttle carrying Counselor Troi (and some poor guy named Ben that the episode doesn't care about because he doesn't also have awesome boobs)"

    So true! First, Beverly asks Troi is she is all right. But no question for poor Ben.

    Then Picard teleports into the shuttle, and Ben is still in the same position, Troi didn't even try to put him in a more comfortable one.

    And when the Enterprise beams up the shuttle's crew, we only see Troi's beaming, and not a single moment for Ben.

    The funeral scene was overplayed and way too corny. And only the protagonists were there? Why not any other crewmen? Didn't she have any friends in security team?

    Best part of the episode is the fact that Worf takes her place as Chief of security. Tbh, I won't miss Tasha at all. Go Worf!

    Armus is a novel adversary.

    Yar's death comes almost too soon and is unexpected. But voltage (microvolts)??

    If anything, Yar's prerecorded message that assumes nobody's moved to new assignments is a tad contrived and mawkish... and, of course, has the Windows XP wallpaper in the background... TNG really was ahead of its time.

    The questionable pacing between the mush-fest with Troi, Picard's stern attitude, and Armus' trickery with the crew, and not to mention newly-appointed Worf coming across a little too cowardly to be believed...

    2.5 of 4 stars, despite being remarkably watchable...

    P.S. Great bit about the boobs; Yar did have the best...

    I go back and forth on this one, and I was all set to agree with the 1.5 rating, but I think I'll go up to 2. This is a bad episode for Yar, and poorly paced. But Armus as a total bastard actually works well for me -- as well as the central idea of him being cast off from being the worst of a society. I think that one could even argue that Armus is a parallel to Yar -- Tasha came from Turkana IV, which was, indeed, a planet formed up of the worst of the worst of humanity and the Federation, and she managed to pull herself into being a good person with Starfleet's help. Armus is what Yar could have let herself become -- consumed by loneliness and not unjustified anger, letting the worst traits of its background define it and taking that out on others. It's somehow particularly tragic that he kills Yar, but on some level it makes sense that he targets her, since she represents the thing that Armus cannot do, which is rise above the circumstances of its creation. (Note: I don't mean that Armus literally recognizes these traits in Yar or anything -- it's more of a point of thematic interest.) I find some of the scenes between Armus and Troi fairly engaging, actually, and Armus' attempt to torment the crew by, for example, having Data point in various directions with his phaser, works for me too. It still ultimately does not work -- the episode is padded out because there simply is not enough material here, and it's hard to get through the funeral scene which is where the episode's emotional stakes actually are. And yet, there is something here.

    I think this episode went a long way to establishing the camaraderie between the crew that would eventually give TNG its special atmosphere. Also, it was 'good' to see a death handled like it actually meant something, rather than nameless people just disappearing off. A tad weak, yes, like other season 1 TNG, but certainly not awful, and definitely a little meaningful, more so than in many other sister-series episodes at this point of time, even our Jammer's beloved DS9, and certainly more so than VOY. I'd go for at least 2.5.

    So who drops his phaser into Armus when Riker gets sucked in? It really looks like Data's holster is empty. Clutzy android. Overall its a pretty slow episode though I'd give it 2.5 stars at least as its still more dramatic and important to the show than most of the first season.

    I must be one of the few people who actually liked Tasha and wish she'd stayed around a lot longer. TNG's first season was, let's be honest, pretty dire and seems horribly dated now in every respect; consider how much the other characters developed in the subsequent six years, something Tasha never got the chance to do. I think she could have become a great character. After all, even Picard was quite weak in season 1. Anyway, one of the most widely criticised aspects of Skin of Evil is that Tasha's death was 'meaningless'. I actually see this as a plus point. The Heroic Sacrificial (tm) Death has been way, way, WAY overused in sci-fi - actually in all genres of fiction - and I for one get quite tired of it. I loved that Star Trek was brave enough to give such a swift, pointless and arbitrary death to a main character. Because the painful reality is that most sudden deaths are just like that, and I really appreciated seeing Star Trek reflect this for once.

    The only good thing about this mushy episode was the death of Tasha Yar, and not because it was done well. Yar was not only a fairly non-descript character, but her presence kept Worf largely in the footlights. Denise Crosby's departure turned out to be a boon for Michael Dorn, as Yar's death paved way for a much larger - and satisfying - role for our favorite Klingon. episode? One star.

    I just finished rewatching this episode after a long time. I have to say, despite vividly remembering not being too keen on it when i first saw it, it definitely left a better impression on me now. Despite the age of TNG, the visual effects still work reasonably well which definitely helps on an episode that relies so much on them. After all, Watching Armus do it's thing is undeniably central to this episode. Reading the comments, i also fully have to agree with most statements, especially rob's. It is quite refreshing to see an actual unredeemable villian in star trek for once. One might argue many more were to follow but although that may be true upon their introduction, in most cases, later developments in the franchise destroyed that aspect for most adversaries. Even the borg tended to display some human elements by the end of Voyager (geesh, thanks Berman). I also have to agree with the, admittedly pointless and low-key, death of Tasha be fitting for the episode and the character of Armus, making this a strong point. Even so, it's never a good sign when the initial impression wasn't good. Still, in retrospect, i'd have to rate this one 3 on the jammer scale.

    Well, I have to disagree with the J-Man on this one. A solid 3 stars for me.

    This is *the* episode that made the world of TNG seem real. Tasha Yar dies and there's no miraculous fix. ("Yesterday's Enterprise" doesn't count because it's an alternate timeline and she dies again ultimately.) None of the major players of any Star Trek up to this point ever really died, not even Spock. This episode shattered that precedent. And the loss is felt throughout the rest of the series. Episodes like "The Measure of a Man", "The Bonding", "Ethics" and "All Good Things…", proved she was not forgotten by our heroes. Compare this to the exit of Kes on Star Trek: Voyager.

    Could they have toned down the funeral to make it less maudlin? Sure, but it's still heartfelt (Marina Sirtis was not faking the tears).

    Other things that work:

    *Counselor Troi saves the day in this episode. She's actually useful and she does it by using her counseling skills!

    *The scene where the crew is upset in the briefing room and are talking all at once. Picard taps on the table to remind them that they have to focus on the mission.

    *The scene where Picard was pushing Armus's buttons was nicely played, and just as he beams away says: "I am not taking you anywhere"--as if passing sentence on the creature for Tasha's murder. Very pulse pounding…

    *…which brings me to Ron Jones memorable score that injects true passion to the episode. As it has been stated, it's such a stark contrast from the later seasons.

    *And finally, this is a well directed and edited episode that and moves smoother than a lot of the saggier episodes of TNG's first season.

    Everyone has pretty well covered the strengths and weaknesses of this episode--I wanted to bring up something different. The legend around Trekland is that Denis Crosby became increasingly dissatisfied with her diminishing role and made the choice to leave the show in the first season.

    However, as best I understand, that assumption is based on comments Crosby made after the fact rather than any official statements.

    While re-watching Season One, it occurred to me that Crosby's role was purposefully diminished because she was an appallingly bad actress. Far Point was rough for everybody, but all the actors except Crosby seemed to find their niche by the midpoint of the season. Sirtis toned down the theatrics, Spiner became less glib, Stewart became less grouchy. Crosby just stayed stilted.

    Even in Yesterday's Enterprise, her line delivery seemed very fake. Trying to accept she was some kind of kick-ass warrior was painful.

    I tried to find any comments from the production staff regarding her departure--it seems they stayed silent, which would suggest to me they were trying to be kind and allowed her to leave for the reasons SHE thought. But if she'd been great, I imagine they would have fought to keep her.

    I don't hate Crosby--in fact, I am kind of glad her success was limited because it gave her the incentive to do the excellent "Trekkies."

    I thought Crosby was ok as Yar. I always saw the character as "damaged"...her brutal childhood left her a loner who is slow to trust and cannot forgive. She would have no friends of lesser rank, and very few, period.

    Ironically, Sirtis originally read for that role (then named Marla Hernandez), and Crosby read for the role of Deanna Troi.

    I think Yar could have been my favourite character but a show like TNG was the wrong vehicle for her backstory. Not to knock TNG, I honestly love it and DS9 in totally different ways, but the show just wasn't the right format for a character like hers. You need time to see just how damaged she would be and how little trust she lacks, and see her grow to accept her childhood and go in new directions.

    I do think she was poorly cast though. I think I read they initially had a Vazquez from Aliens type character in mind. But a blonde Vazquez? Maybe if she had been a reboot Starbuck kind of person, but Denise Crosby was just all wrong.

    I can't comment too directly on her acting, but I see she's about to appear on The Walking Dead (at 57!) so we can see if she got better with age. And let's face it, first season scripts didn't give her much to work with. It's a shame, I can imagine an alternate universe where her character really found her feet and became awesome.

    Crosby was in an episode of Dexter a few years ago. She did well, but I couldn't help but snigger at the irony that her character showed up, only to be killed. It may be in her contract.

    We haven't focused enough on Armus. Intriguing: a being composed of 100% negativity ... of all a society's negative aspects ... and putting them into one big glop ... and then dumping it on to an uninhabited planet never to interact with other beings. Can we do that with us? Please?

    Also, should we feel sorry for it? (alone, angry, etc.) It can't change, but, should we anyway?

    I actually thought this ep was not bad. Tasha's death was terrible and anticlimatic, but I kind of liked the rest of the episode. It felt like an old TOS script, right down to the captain's speech which helped defeat Armus - much like "Day of the Dove" when Kirk and Kang basically laughed the evil alien off the ship.

    The worst flaw was the manner of Tasha's death. She should have gone out with phasers firing, rather than dying meaninglessly, which was lampshaded in "Yesterday's Enterprise" - I like to think the writers were admitting they screwed up here. Considering that it's now relatively commonplace for TV shows to kill off prominent characters just for shock value, I wonder if this ep started a trend.

    The voice of Armus reminded me of the voice of the Beast entity in the Doctor Who two parter "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit".

    The best part about this episode was the series loosing a misscast/horribly written full time character.

    On to Worf as head of security!!

    What stuck with me about this episode was the final scene between Data and Picard.
    Data: "My thoughts center on how I will miss Tasha. Did I miss the point of the funeral?"
    Picard: "No. You got it.".

    Subtly reinforced one of the central core elements of TNG: Data learning about humanity as a literary method for studying it.
    And also one of the scenes that subtly thrust Data up there next to Picard as the central characters of the show.

    "Now, how convenient that when they see Tasha' holographic will, she only talked about the few guys that were there. No more friends? what a sorry life she had."

    Most people would be lucky to have as many true friends--significant enough to be personally addressed in a 'funeral' record--if that's what they all were to her.

    And the natural presumption would be that they were there *because* they were so addressed.

    @Carrots: Isn't that the plot of Ghostbusters 2...?

    Anyway, I don't... hate this episode. I don't think it's GOOD, though. The constant showdowns grow tiresome, and nothing really feels like it's progressing anywhere until the end of the hour. Tasha dying early on (I forgot how early) works, giving the show a bit of a jolt that becomes legit creepy when Riker gets pulled into the tar (although that could just be 6-year-old me talking, who was terrified of Armus). Armus himself is menacing at times but comes off as childish at others. I suppose that's the point, but a bit more nuance there could have made it more interesting. I'm not asking for Dark Knight's Joker, but... something more than "I AM A SKIN OF EVIL".

    I will say that I found Armus's backstory fascinating, though, in that mix of truth and myth sort of way. It's not on par with the Vorta backstory from DS9 (not even on the green, actually), but it has that same idea as a kernel-of-truth-wrapped-in-a-creation-myth. Admirable, but probably less thought out than I'm giving it credit for.

    Ugh, look I want to hate this one because of how ridiculous it comes off but I'm really having a hard time actively disliking it. Its heart is in the right place and I think the hour has that subtle horror vibe that makes early TNG unique among the rest of Trek (see also: "Where Silence Has Lease", "Time Squared", "Q Who", and "The Royale"). 2-1/2 stars. Recommended but with a huge glaring asterisk to remind you that this is still TNG S1 we're talking about.

    A year ago (almost to the day), my father was driving to work, lost control of his car and crashed into a truck. He was killed instantly. To quote Guinan, it was « an empty death. A death without purpose. » I am sharing this for it may help you understand my change of opinion regarding this episode.

    Sure, Armus is still one of the most uninteresting and implausible villains in the entire Trek canon. I feel bad for Lt. Prieto who may as well be wallpaper. I also fell bad for Frakes having to be covered in printer’s ink and metamucil. Apparently LeVar Burton went over to him after they shot it and said « I would never have done that! »

    But the sudden death of Tasha is arguably the bravest moment of the season, if not the series. Having her go out in a blaze of glory would have been a hoary cliche. Most deaths in real life don’t have a purpose, they’re just a result of circumstances. It’s a gut-punch that stays with you and makes you realize how precious life is. It even makes up for all the silly « redshirt » deaths in TOS, because you can imagine them being ‘real’ people too.

    This episode is also an opportunity to gaze at Patrick Stewarts amazing acting chops. No matter how bad the dialogue is, he can make you believe it. His "Au revoir, Tasha" brought a tear to my eye.

    So 3.5 stars for Tasha’s death, 1.5 stars for Armus. Overall grade: 2.5

    P.S. Even in the remastered version, Tasha still has that fake-looking blood sploch on her cheek. This is an instance where I feel the Okuda's tenet of preserving the original artist's intent went a bit too far.

    Thanks for that, Nic, especially for sharing about your own harrowing experience. I agree that the concept (if not necessarily the execution) of Tasha dying randomly is not a bad idea at all, and true to life.

    I agree with Nic. The fact the death is "meaningless" is the point (as in the case of Course Oblivion - though I'm not a fan of that episode, I do appreciate what they were going for with the ending). I was 7 when I saw this episode and it had a profound impact on me. Like Conspiracy a few episodes later, it's marvellously un-Trekkian - irredeemable badness exists and good people die for no "meaningful" reason. There's a unsettling rawness and viscerality to both episodes that I find very effective and powerful.

    The episode is mostly stupid, but noteworthy for setting up the premise that even main characters can die permanenently (a premise which would never be followed up on for the whole series) and for the touching memorial service scene.

    And by touching, I mean extremely depressing.

    Just how sad is it that Yar, a woman in her early 20s who usually appeared friendly and rather upbeat to the other crew members, had a prerecorded message for her friends to be read out after her death? Yes, the life on an exploration vessel can be dangerous, but I have never seen anyone else on the Enterprise do such a thing. I guess it's one of the damages Yar received from her upbringing on Turkana IV, where death was probably ever-present.

    Still, how sad is it that in her message, the only people she addresses are her fellow bridge officers, whom she has just known for a few months? How lonely is this woman?

    How broken is her relationship to her sister, whom she doesn't even mention (well, obviously the writers hadn't come up with the idea of her sister until much later)?

    How sad is it for Data, who thinks that their drunken romp in "The Naked Now" gave them a special connection (which will be brought up again in "The Measure of a Man" and "Legacy"), that she doesn't say anything about their relationship?

    And of course: How sad is it for Geordie, who had the hots for Yar in "The Naked Now" and "Hide and Q", that she is the first in a long list of failed romantic encounters during his seven year run on the Enterprise?

    I guess I'll go cry myself to sleep now...

    I never interpreted the final Holodeck scene as being a "recording" that Tasha made when she was alive. My feeling was that they programmed the Holodeck to say what they thought she would want to say. It certainly explains why she only adresses those who are present, and why the message is a tad impersonal.

    Of all the ways to kill off a main character, this had to be the absolute worst. The whole concept of Armus was just absurd, his scenes with Troi are beyond annoying, and having him swallow then throw up Riker was just plain ridiculous... About the only thing good about this episode was getting rid of Yar, as she was pretty irrelevant since Denise Crosby was never given much to do (save that awful episode Code of Honor). This allowed for Worf to play a much more prominent role, a great benefit to the show... I did like the last scene, it was well written.

    OK, at its heart this is an episode with all the production values of a TOS episode, a ridiculous villain, horribly stilted dialogue and terrible acting.

    And yet, and yet... it actually manages to kill off a major character, which in today's Game of Thrones world is now becoming a cliche of its own but back then was an incredibly ballsy move. And the way it was handled - in such an abrupt and arbitrary way - is particularly noteworthy.

    I remember being rather affected by the funeral back when I first saw this as a kid, but today it now seems rather mawkish. So it's a terrible episode then... but a brave one nonetheless. 1.5 stars.

    Dax's death should have been more like this, she should have just died with one of those sparky computers going off, rather then the big villain killing her in church.

    In re watching this first season, I'm really starting to appreciate Worf more and more and Michael Dorn's abilities.

    I liked this episode. It's a solid 3 star outing for me.

    I couldn't stand Troi and her inane psychobabble for most of season 1, but in this case it actually worked. Given a near omnipotent foe with no obvious weakness, her insights into his psychology were actually pertinent and his response was at least plausible. I liked how uncompromising the episode was with Armis being portrayed as this sadistic bastard - quite a change from the moral grey zone most Trek characters (even villains) have occupied.

    I thought Armis himself (in terms of his appearance) was a creative idea, far more interesting than the typical ridged forehead humanoid, and Armis's brief descriptions of his origin left me intrigued. The cast off skin of a "race of Titans"? Wow, cool.

    I thought Tasha's death could have been handled better, but the hollow and flippant manner of it did nicely set things up for Yesterday's Enterprise.

    I'm gonna miss looking at Denise's butt. She definitely had the best body on the show.

    Armus: cool concept. I wish us humans could dump our evil skin.

    At the time the rumor was that Crosby was fired from TNG because she had posed in Playboy. I thought that was a pretty lame reason to fire her, but I never particularly liked her or Yar anyway, so I never missed her. I never thought she was all that attractive anyway.

    Despite its many flaws, "Skin Of Evil" sticks in my brain as most memorable, not because of Tasha's death, but because of the Armus character. As a physical embodiment of the concept of evil, it takes my imagination to science fiction nirvana. Far more interesting to me than the intricacies of Klingon politics.

    isn't that sort of what STV The Final Frontier was about? A powerful force, locked away, without redeeming merit? A favorite theme of Roddenberry's, that we should avoid being ruled by our emotions.

    Now that we are once again being blanketed with political nonsense, I would certainly vote for rounding up all the evil and shipping it off to a distant planet.

    I don't think there's anything not to like in this episode except maybe the red bloch on Yars face, i think it's an unforgettable episode,
    4 stars

    This episode always gets me, but it sneaks up on me.

    I think Armus is a terrible villain, and I think a lot of the scenes on the planet were bland and repetative. Yar's death was a bit botched, even if I do agree with idea the writers had to give her a random death. The type of death a security officer should face all the time (as it did in TOS all the time).

    Two things save the episode for me. After Yar died, Armus asks Data what should happen to him, Data says "I think you should be destroyed." The way he says it almost shows emotion, and I loved that moment. It hints back to the almost special relationship they had after having sex during The Naked Now.

    Of course, her holo-funeral at the end hits me every time. I don't know why, being as Yar was only in season one, and her lack of development was one of the reasons Crosby left was the lack of development. Nevertheless, talking to each character gets me misty eyed.

    I always wonder what Yar could have been like in Michael-Pillar-TNG in season three. You know, besides changing the timeline back to how it should be.

    A very amusing bit of trivia -- even though this episode is where Tasha dies, it actually was not the last Yar-episode filmed -- that was "Symbiosis", the episode that aired before this one. If you look at Symbiosis, Denise Crosby's very last moment on a Trek set was near the end of that episode, during the scene in the cargo bay. As Picard and Crusher are leaving the cargo bay and the door is closing behind them, you can see Tasha jumping up and down in the far background and "waving goodbye". Very funny -- check it out.

    NCC-1701-Z says:"The worst flaw was the manner of Tasha's death. She should have gone out with phasers firing, rather than dying meaninglessly, which was lampshaded in "Yesterday's Enterprise" - I like to think the writers were admitting they screwed up here."

    I seriously doubt it. The character Yar was literally off-screened, once again summarily dismissed. So basically all they did in that episode was bring back the character just to be killed off summarily once again in TNG: "Redemption II." Basically, they killed the original character to give Crosby a half decent character to play, which was all she wanted in the first place. Hence, the way news of her death is delivered as a foot note from the new character. This means that literally NO ONE on TNG is sorry about the manner of the original character's death or they wouldn't have done it twice and even MORE dismissively the second time.

    I remember this episode above most others. While it's apparent defining moment was Yar's death, it was really Troi's emergence. We can debate if Sirtis took full advantage of the gift, same with Worf who also benefitted, but the counseling she did, starting with "Liar!" was some of her best acting.


    I had never saw that before with Denise waving, and although I had heard the story before, I never knew exactly where to look. Hilarious indeed!

    Well there goes any pretence at science fiction.

    Actually Armus could go into partnership with venom from spiderman-basically the same thing.

    Tasha's death-I have to accept that it was supposed to be meaningless.

    The funeral scene was great-Tasha's hologram manages to patronise all the other crewmembers present as well as remind us what a one dimensional person she was.

    It wouild have been so much better if she had come out with a few home truths:
    eg: "Deanna: I never liked you with your massive knockers all over the place/"

    "Still, how sad is it that in her message, the only people she addresses are her fellow bridge officers, whom she has just known for a few months? How lonely is this woman? "

    She might have recorded several messages to other audiences and her will said "play this one for these people you invite, play this one for that lot separately, e-mail this one to those people, etc.".

    Also, they could easily have memorial tech that recognizes who is present, and plays only segments addressed to them, or to a general audience. Tasha might have recorded a dozen other segments we didn't see, because those people weren't available to attend. Maybe they got their own custom screening later.

    Apparently I'm a simpleton. I actually thought the villainous gooey moving tar pit was really creepy - especially when it sucked Riker into itself, and his screaming horrified face showed on the surface for an instant. When it moved, the Skin seemed thin, but when it took Riker it appeared depthless. It had a good viscosity, too. And Picard was intense all the way through.

    I kinda liked the cartoony red splotch of Tasha's cheek too. It was an Armus-mark. It didn't try to look like anything seen on earth.

    Bye Tasha! You could have been a great character in a hundred other scifi shows. But tormented dark heroes didn't really have a place on early TNG,. And on later TNG there was only room for one.

    Obviously this episode will be one of the most memorable because of Yar's death but it's a pretty silly one for me.
    Armus is pitiable, yes -- but I'm not a fan of episodes with these aliens with undefined powers. It's hard to accept what is legitimate about its actions. There's little frame of reference and so a solution can always be conveniently manufactured.
    Armus's games are ridiculous, boring -- but if it is meant to evoke pity then it works. Troi's psychobabble is actually useful here in pinpointing how Armus came about -- which is an interesting concept (that all the evil can be shed from beings etc.)
    I agree with Jammer's overall rating of 1.5/4 stars here. It is a slow-paced, mediocre episode.

    Every time I see this episode I can't help but think that I'd have liked it more, if the villain didn't look so stupid. He's worse than most of the hokey energy blob enemies in TOS... add the cliche bad guy voice and attitude of a stroppy teenager makes him actually worse than Trelane.

    The first time I saw this episode (about 15 years ago) I'd seen quite a lot of the later seasons but hardly any season one episodes and wasn't surprised that Yar died... and then was a bit confused to see a long funeral scene for a what I thought was just another redshirt.

    On the whole, though, there is nothing particularly interesting about this episode. Yet another all powerful alien that the crew have to try to stop.

    Having watched TNG again from farpoint in order, I actually feel that it was quite clever to give Yar a resdshirt style pointless and quick death. It *somewhat* gives more jeopardy to the rest of the series knowing that they are willing to kill off recurring characters... not that they ever did again.

    Yar was one of the most potentially interesting characters but with such poor writing and bad acting, writing her out actually improved the show by letting Worf and Geordi move around to different positions for the later seasons. That the writers find (mostly awful) excuses to bring back Crosby and a quick glance of her imdb page, I'm guessing choosing to leave is one of her biggest regrets.

    I am introducing my daughter to TNG.. (She is 12 and not an especially discerning viewer, so she is loving the first season. I tell her it gets even better.)

    We just reached "Skin of Evil." I am charmed by a scene I had forgotten: the opener with Yar and Worf discussing her upcoming martial arts competition. Worf expresses respect to her fighting skills, quietly telling her she is favored in the ship's pool. Yar is surprised and pleased - almost girlishly - with his laconic Klingon compliment. She beams at him, and you can kind of see in her the slightly insecure young woman who few up unloved in a brutal colony - a woman who later sought out Data for "tenderness and joy", and who despite her outward toughness is socially uncertain and a bit of an outsider (rather like Worf).

    It's a spark of chemistry that Season One generally lacked - and does much to counteract the crying and the sexed-up silliness of Yar's earlier outings. I wish the Worf/Yar friendship could have been developed better - maybe over another season or two. Seems like a wasted opportunity.

    Also, when a dead Yar is beamed back to the ship, there's a shot of Worf on the bridge, stoically trying not to show his feelings. That's a nice touch.

    Since this is her death episode, I am going to say it: Crosby's face is stunning and she has great hair.

    Tara - I'm pretty sure Denise Crosby later said the ironic thing was that if she'd gotten more scenes in earlier episodes like the one where she and Worf discuss the tournament, she'd never have left.

    3.5 stars.

    To this day I remember where I was and what I was doing when I saw this episode and Yarbdied. It left me in shock and reeling. It happened so early in the episode and then expecting Beverly, who could heal anything, to revive Tasha doesn’t/- I was floored. This was stunning to me as a viewer. This was back when television didn’t just ‘off’ a character to create water cooler chatter the way modern shows do it on schedule every few episodes in a season. This was also when tv shows would give the deserved due to the aftermath of the death rather than running onto the next plotpoint and never looking back

    I have heard over the years people criticize Yar’s death as disapppinting or not being heroic enough. I don’t agree. Most deaths are abrupt and senseless—not occurring in battle or trying to save someone. That made this episode all the more sad and tragic I thought. The way Armus just waved his hand and flung her in seconds to her demise. No pomp. No circumstance

    I also thought the episode did a good job with Armus. He was truly menacing and terrorizing with his sadism(dragging a helpless Riker into the tar covering his body and filling his mouth, removing zgeotdie’s visor and moving it away from him each time he got close) and his magical powers (controlling Data At Will pointing the phaser at each away team member one by one) left anyone who beamed down to the planet in real danger and at Armus’ mercy. Even after Yar died I still believed that there could be more casualties among the main cast like riker or Troi—the weekly trailer helped add to this concern

    I also thought the weakness Armus possessed was a good one created by the writers and played nicely into his nature. I also thought his origin story was very unique and TOS-like—being the discarded ugliness and evil of a race who wanted to achieve pure beauty

    The funeral service for Yar was well written and executed taking place in a rather inspired idea in the holodeck in a nice pastoral setting featuring a pre-recorded message from the late Tasha yar. Which carried genuine sentiment and emotion in a very sincere manner data’s final observation to Picard about the nature of loss was quite appropriate and perfect way to end the hour

    The whole episode really did feel like not your-standard-episode-of-the-week. It was a little darker and heavier and really stayed with me after it ended. It felt like an Event episode—not just because a main cast member was killed off but the jeopardy generated and Armus felt like a true extraordinary threat. 3.5 stars

    I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but I think I've realized that this episode is meant to be a possible criticism of the perfection of the TNG crew and Federation society. Armus says that a society of beings wanting to perfect themselves and eliminate their worse parts literally did so, by shedding their evil instincts and becoming beauteous things. When I heard this it occurred to me that this is exactly the manifesto of TNG's world, much more so than TOS ever claimed. In TOS no one claims to be perfect, and although Earth's values have advanced and peace is considered a virtue, individually people still have foibles and don't pretend to be perfect. On TNG, though, their pretensions of being nobler creatures are much more pronounced, and Skin of Evil seems to me to strike directly at the heart of that: if you renounce all the darker sides of humanity and try to shed them, they *will not* disappear, but will end up simply being shunted somewhere else, possibly somewhere unexpected. And the more repressed and ignored these darker parts are, the stronger they'll actually be, especially when they unexpectedly appear and boil to the surface.

    I think this is a surprisingly disturbing episode despite having essentially no story, and despite the fact that Yar's passing is fairly unremarkable. In a funny way Armus reminds me of The Incredible Hulk, insofar as he's pure unadulterated pain and rage with no possibility of reasoning with it, and the only possibility of survival is to avoid or escape him. In both cases, despite the threat level, you end up pitying them rather than wishing them ill, because they just can't help it and are only the way they are because they're victims of circumstances beyond their control.

    Is it just me or is Denise Crosby mailing it in this last episode, knowing she was gone? The first scene on the bridge with Worf she seems to have this smirk on her face.

    Easy in retrospect to say she made a mistake leaving, but I think she would have been canned anyways as the producers wanted to get rid of 2 of the female leads. Still would have been better to have canned Sirtis and kept Crosby on as chief security officer, with Worf as 2nd.

    Even with the flaws, this was a big episode for the "Star Trek" franchise. The original series never killed a main character, and you knew they wouldn't. It was always "red shirts." So you knew Kirk and company were never really in jeopardy. That always took much of the tension away.

    But with "Skin of Evil," now we know a regular on the cast member can be killed off. And it can happen in a flash. At the beginning of an episode. Even though they never did it again on "Next Gen," it was always in the back of your mind that it was a possibility.

    A few other disjointed thoughts:

    -- Call me sappy, but I liked the memorial scene in the Holodeck. Tasha's closing remarks were rather inspiring and really helped define the best in each of the remaining characters.

    -- I never thought her death was "an empty death" or one "without meaning." She died trying to rescue two Starfleet officers. What could be more heroic than that.

    -- I was sorry to see Denise Crosby and Tasha go. We were just beginning to see the potential there, I think, in "Arsenal of Freedom."

    -- However, without this death, we wouldn't have had one of the best episodes of the entire "Trek" franchise: "Yesterday's Enterprise."

    -- Personally, I think this was Troi's best moment up to now, engaging the creature psychologically. It may have been a miscalculation to say "you have my pity."

    -- My biggest problem with the episode is the same one I often have with these strange, powerful beings. LIke someone said, its powers (and weaknesses) seemed to be whatever the plot called for at that moment. It can transport the crew in and out of the shuttle, control them, etc., yet needs to a hitch a ride in a spacecraft?

    And I wasn't enamored with the whole "skin" of evil concept. I wonder whether the whole thing would have played out better with a true human villain -- say a Hannibal Lecter type who had escaped a Federation prison. He could be hideously disfigured during the escape, and the episode could be called "Face of Evil."

    I have a soft spot for this episode for several reasons. First of all, the oily goo that Armus is made of just plain looks cool, and gives the cheap man-in-suit some visual dimension. Also rarely mentioned is that this was co-written by Joseph Stefano who was one of the main writers for The Outer Limits. This is basically an S1 episode of TNG with an Outer Limits style monster. Armus also bears a slight resemblance to a Dr Who villain (mainly in the angry and electronically modulated way that Armus talks). I like it for being very tonally strange in that way. TNG rarely gets ghastly and when it does you get some memorable images like Riker's Frozen Han Solo face. Therefore this episode gets an extra star and half just for being engagingly weird. Minus half a star for Tasha saying "hailing frequencies closed, sir" at the end. The rest of the funeral is barely tolerable and goes on too long, but is forgivable because this show is sort of corny anyway and Tasha was an important character who still had a lot of payoff yet to come.

    Re: Armus' powers. Armus is essentially a bully, so I was OK with his powers being arbitrary (just enough to be really mean to everybody, just mysterious enough that you won't know what he'll do next). His ability to teleport Picard into the shuttle was the only real head-scratcher.

    Lastly... what does Armus' sad origin say about the beings that created Armus and left him behind in the first place? Isn't creating and leaving a sentient being like that behind (like so much toxic waste for others to stumble across) a really unethical thing to do? The creators of Armus are probably more interesting than Armus himself is. A plot point about what happened to them afterwards would have been nice to explore (I'm guessing that it didn't work in the long run, the aliens found they still had evil within them after all, etc etc).

    I loved the post earlier about the “wrath of Armus” it would be an Armusgedden!

    I thought "skin of evil" was one of the most enjoyable shows in the whole series. I loved Armus the smartass alien. The way he spoke was great. It's very polarizing for most people, some hate it some love it.

    Either wesley crusher or the chief engineer are wrong. Having just watched the last few episodes this was immediately obvious since it was mentioned specifically in Coming of Age.

    (copied from transcripts I found online)

    Skin of evil:

    COMPUTER: That procedure is not recommended.
    LYNCH: Understood. Now. Prime matter-antimatter injectors. Set ratio at twenty-five to one
    COMPUTER: Ratio set.

    Coming of Age:

    COMPUTER: Last question on the hyperspace physics test. If the matter and antimatter tanks on a Galaxy class starship are nine tenths depleted, calculate the intermix ratio necessary to reach a starbase a hundred light years away at warp factor eight. Begin.
    WESLEY: Once as I realised it was a trick question, there was only one answer.
    MORDOCK: Yes, there is only one ratio with matter antimatter. One to one.

    This episode is straight up terrible. 1 star for putting Yar out of her misery. She clearly didn't want to be on the show and her performance showed it. The writers never did her justice up to this point and certainly didn't in this episode. And Troi crying in the shuttle, pleading to the blob man..

    Ugh. Ironically this episode is worse than "Justice."

    It may be better than "Code of Honor," but that's not saying much.

    This was a much better episode than I had expected. I remember being quite shocked when I saw it as a kid, expecting Yar to be revived by the end of an episode. A sudden main character death really wasn't to ever be expected at the time.

    I admire the decision to make her death sudden and senseless. In a realistic Trek universe a bridge officer's death of this nature would not be an uncommon event.

    I don't share Jammer's weariness at the Troi scenes, and to me they proved to be the real strength of the episode, highlighting what an essential part of the ensemble Troi is.

    As I've re-watched the series I've noticed that Troi's contribution has been more significant than I remember. It's clear that Roddenberry considered that the exploration of the inner world (superficial as it often seems to be) should carry great weight. *Yes*, she does make rather a lot of obvious remarks, but her opinion is clearly important to Picard's decision making process. It's actually quite remarkable that, considering bridge seating arrangements, she seems to carry as much significance as the First Officer. I wonder if other ships have a similar set up? We certainly never see it in any other series of Trek.

    @BobT : that is my new favourite bit of Trek trivia; I can't wait to show it to someone else!

    I think this episode has a few things that I've personally noticed but no one had mentioned.

    I was rather unsettled about how I felt about Armus. I should have felt utter disgust and hatred but instead I felt pity for it. The reason why I didn't hate it, is because it is more human than it liked to think of itself. It did not act cruelly and viciously just for pure enjoyment but because of it is hurt and angry, these are emotions that humans feel which might cause them to act cruelly towards someone else.

    Secondly, those who said that Troi is saying psychobabble nonsense, clearly have no idea about psychology. I was skeptical of Troi at the beginning of season 1 but then I realized the importance of her role in the team. The team of the spaceship Enterprise undergo through many situations which are stressful and tricky. Troi is there as a mediator, she can understand how her team mates feel and respond to certain difficult incidents as well as reading the enemies' intentions, and that is why she is very important. Moreover she had said herself that she is a training psychologist and she has shown her expertise when she dealt with Armus.

    The death of LT Yar was anticlimactic but it makes sense, when you're on duty and fully knowing you're going to undertake dangerous missions, the possibility of dying during action is very real. My only complaint about this episode is the holograph Lt Yar making her speech is rather convenient.

    I also love the interaction at the end between Captain Picard and Commander Data. CMD Data is so far my favourite character and I just love the theme about him an android who is trying to understand what's like to be human.

    "You're a lonely pile of goo who doesn't deserve any friends and who was only written to off Tasha Yar in the most benign way possible."
    "You are wrong. And to prove it, I'm going to leave you here crying."
    Later in the holodeck …
    Tasha Yar: "Geordi, Deanna, Beverly, Data, Riker Captain … did I leave anybody out? Anyway, I just want to say SO LONG SUCKERS! AND SO LONG TO YOUR LOSER SHOW WITH IT'S LOSER STORYLINES! IT WON'T LAST LONG!"

    Not a horrible episode, so......2.5 stars, I think. Basically, not quite good enough to get 3 stars, but watchable, interesting, involving, and, unlike some, it did not drag.

    @Eliot: We clearly don't understand psychology because we find many Troi scenes to be over the top and ridiculous? You can have your opinion but why the holier than though tone? She has her moments throughout the franchise but in season 1 she was awful.

    She provides gems like, "I don't know how...but...this is real" or "Captain, this is real." Gee thanks couselor. She's like a kindergarten teacher.

    Just because we can appreciate her role throughout the 7 season run, it doesn't make up for the cringy, tin foil hat cheesiness that was on display in much of season 1. I would think most Trek fans can grasp the concept of "psychology."

    Best part of the episode:

    The Enterprise is racing to rescue Shuttlecraft 13, piloted by a black guy in a redshirt. And it’s the white, female main cast members who dies a pointless death! I seriously hope Ben put all Latinum on the Federation lottery that week...

    @Martin...much to my recent surprise, breaking the "black guy red shirt dies, pretty white girl lives" trope had been done in TOS. I had not really watched TOS since my Mom used to record them off TV reruns onto VHS tapes when I was little and I'd watch a few of her favorites. That started me as a fan but Next Gen was the Trek I truly grew up with and knew well (and all the series that would follow). And while I loved the TOS movies (well, at least the evens lol) I always thought TOS series was a bit too hokey to take the time to rewatch. But my husband finally started binging on Netflix and I caught many I'd never seen. I think the ep was called "By Any Other Name". Was actually kinda shocked when they broke cliche.

    @Danni Indeed it was done on TOS, not sure on the episode title, but the one where the Kelvans turn everyone into novelty sugar cubes, the two redshirts on the planet, one black guy one white girl, get the cube treatment, and it’s the white girl that gets dusted. I was surprised that time too, especially since Kirk must lose only about half a dozen women under his command, and probably nearly 100 men.

    Kind of shameful how this episode equates having dark skin with evil.

    @ Omar,

    Don't you think it's more likely they were going for a concept like "oil leads to violence", rather than "black things are evil"?


    the planetary setup with the glow and rocky landscape is so TOS.

    I don't think this has much to offer. How could the beast be so powerful and so not powerful.

    I like this one. Armus behaves in a manner befitting of an embodiment of evil - his motivations make sense as far as such things go. You’re torn on how to feel about him and even feel pity for Picard leaving him behind.

    Data’s suggestion - that he should be destroyed - is probably the kindest solution.

    2.5 stars

    "Skin of Evil" is TNG doing TOS' "Plato's Stepchildren. In "Plato", a powerful ruling class subjects our heroes to torture, humiliation, and degrading activities, most with a psycho-sexual element. The episode attempts to capture an evil that is entirely arbitrary, sadistic and a product of unchecked power.

    "Skin of Evil" does something similar, and has one of Trek's most interesting scripts. This script can be divided into 4 sections. The first section is terribly acted, written and directed. It simply involves our heroes beaming down onto a planet and discovering an evil creature which resembles black oil. You can tell this stuff reads ominously on paper, but the on-screen execution doesn't work at all.

    The episode's second section involves the black oil creature killing, torturing and humiliating our heroes. All done for the alien's sadistic pleasure, our heroes are quite literally dragged through the mud. We also learn that the alien creature is a kind of exorcised evil, banished from a civilization which refused to be corrupted by it. Very creepy, though again, the execution is terrible.

    The third section of the episode, meanwhile, is excellent. Picard beams down and has a long discussion with the alien. This is brilliant, Picard - a man of virtue, and his own steadfast principles and ethical codes - on a simple soundstage, going toe-to-toe with a puddle of black goo which represents everything he strives to escape. Light vs Dark, Good vs Evil. It's a very good sequence.

    The fourth section of the episode is conceptually interesting. Here we get an extended funeral sequence, whose warmth and humanity is designed to be the inverse or opposite of section two. Instead of torture, black oil slicks and disconnection, we get love, family and green, rolling hills. Unfortunately the mirroring effect doesn't quite work, because the writing , directing and acting are all subpar.

    So a bad episode, but a daring one, and a fascinating one, and a structurally original one.

    @Trent, I agree this episode is interesting, though bad.

    I think the Armus/Yar contrast (part 2 VS part 4) is meant to also bring out the difference between Picard et al and the Titans who expelled and left Armus behind. Yar was on a "worst of humanity" planet which represented all the traits that had been mostly expunged, but Starfleet took her in rather than leaving her to rot in her anger. (That the colony in general is left to eat itself alive is another issue.) Yar was given the chance to grow and participate rather than have her existence denied. And even in death, she is not abandoned, but given a final message from beyond the grave, and not forgotten. The season emphasizes how far humans have come, but this episode underlines the importance of not expunging and "abandoning" evil - - and anyone who still has this evil - - but facing it, every day.

    I think also that's related to why Picard tells Armus he is not evil, but that evil would be to submit to Armus. Even here, delivered by Stewart with gravitas, I don't know that it quite "works." But I think the concept is that Armus' self-aggrandizing view of itself as evil is a self-pitying and confused definition of evil. Only beings in tremendous amount of pain (the ep seems to be saying) are so completely consumed with sadism. Real evil on individual basis is to give in to Armus, which I think means to give into the belief that evil is an inevitable force rather than a weakness, a failure to continue fighting. Armus is then more a "skin of existential despair," a black pall of depression that kills by extinguishing the ability to fight back. That he picks Yar to kill seems arbitrary from the outside, but symbolically she was the most at-risk from her history. Troi the psychologist tries to fight it with words and Picard fights it with indomitable will.

    William said: "Yar was on a "worst of humanity" planet which represented all the traits that had been mostly expunged, but Starfleet took her in rather than leaving her to rot in her anger."

    Wow, that's probably the best stuff I've ever read on this episode. I'd never noticed those parallels before.

    Thinking about it, Picard should really have ordered Armus destroyed at the end. It would seem not only safer but kinder to just put him out of his misery (he could hardly help being what he was, after all). Plus you just know some idiot is going to let their curiosity get the better of them sooner or later, barge past the warning buoy and give Armus another chance to wreak havoc.

    The monster was hokey, and the story was slow moving and not very interesting.

    However, the ending ceremony was a nice send off for Yar, after such an ignominious and senseless death. I also liked the death scene in Sick Bay, how Beverly tried so hard.

    Though it's called Skin of Evil, it seems to be not so much about Evil as it is about loneliness and isolation vs community and relationships. I suppose the moral of the story is that loving relationships keep us out of Evil's grasp and keep even Death from fully defeating us.

    It seemed unnecessarily dangerous, and also cruel, to leave the creature alive on the planet. They should have left him some means by which to off himself.

    A slightly below average ep, except for its significance as the first ST ep to feature the death of a regular character. That gives it enough of a boost to hit average to slightly above, IMO.

    They could've made a "The Wrath of Armus" follow up movie outta this one. Benedict Cumberbatch as Armus, natch.

    Having now read the review and comments:

    --The Troi vs the monster parts were the best parts of the ep, provided some interesting info instead of the endless repetitive scenes of the monster trying to upset our brave crew.

    --I liked that Tosha's death was so sudden and senseless and arbitrary. I liked that the best of 24th century medicine could do nothing for her. They get blindsided, they get reminded of their own powerlessness and need for each other, and so do we.

    I might have to actually spring for CBS all access so I can watch "Picard." Stewart is so very good.

    Armus cracks me up. This episode is actually fairly entertaining because of him--he's just such an irredeemably evil bastard that you almost root for him. For bonus points, he was even created that way! His only regret about killing Tasha Yar was that she didn't suffer enough before dying. Yikes. The fact that he's such an unbelievable, over-the-top asshole almost creates an amusing campiness here.

    I also liked how arbitrary Tasha's death was. Before 24 came along, deaths like these were fairly shocking--a main character isn't supposed to die like this, only redshirts. I wonder if, when this episode aired in 1987 or 1988, before the Internet was a big thing, was the audience even aware that Denise Crosby was leaving the show? I know there were probably UseNet boards, but I'm guessing the average audience member may have been blindsided and had no idea that Yar was about to be killed off.

    Showing the immediate aftermath of her death as a conference in the observation lounge was a good choice--we see that it was a punch to the gut for these officers, except for stoic Worf and Data of course.

    Leaving Armus alone for eternity (supposedly) seemed to be a justifiable sentence for him, as much as many would rather see him blown to smithereens. With nobody ever to screw with, his entire reason for being is moot, and he'll have to live with that forever.


    "Leaving Armus alone for eternity (supposedly) seemed to be a justifiable sentence for him, as much as many would rather see him blown to smithereens. With nobody ever to screw with, his entire reason for being is moot, and he'll have to live with that forever."

    I don't think there really is a justifiable sentence for Armus, given his origins. He was evil by design and never had the option to be otherwise. Yet he's still a sentient being capable of suffering. I just feel it's the best thing for him and the whole galaxy to end him then and there.

    Armus has the demeanour and behaviour of a cartoon villain, and could be hilarious if the script didn't insist on attempting to treat him seriously. And making him responsible for the death of a major character. Which is a hell of an anticlimactic exit for her, I gotta say -- having a random out-of-nowhere death actually works for the character, I feel, but for heaven's sake, Armus is basically a comedy caricature.

    Tasha's pre-recorded monologue is basically the best material she's been given. It suggests more of a character and more of a dynamic with the rest of the crew than Season 1 ever shows us. Real shame.

    The funeral scene at the end is way too long. I just had to rewatch with my mom (her first viewing so i have to suffer through shows like this again.) and i was just cringing the entire time. It seemed like she had a "personal message" for everyone on the ship. Why did she not have one for Ben or the tea drinking transporter guy?

    Armus the malevolent puddle was a daft sort of villain, and it would have been better if they'd done that differently ( it would have been easy enough) but aside from that the episode was fair enough. Tash's death was a shock, but I agree with people who thought that was the right way to do it - that's how death happens.

    In a way the fact thay killed a main cast member that way, and then recognised it as a real loss was a kind of nod of apology to the casual way the Original Series knocked off so many "redshirts". I felt the goodbye scene on the holodeck was actually well done, and added something to the chemistry of the survivors. Data's little scene with Picard added to both characters.

    Not a favorite episode for me. I did just watch the last part today. Picard ordered the downed shuttle craft destroyed which was next to the creature. Was this just a rated G way to cover up that they killed this monster? It looked like a photon torpedo which would destroy everything in a many kilometers radius.

    I always agreed with Roddenberry on this one— reality is 99+ percent that a security officer would die this way.
    The sudden slap in the face is sickeningly real. The weird splotch even works for me. It’s one of those bizarre things that happen in the real world — it’s so insane, it reflexively makes you want to grab on to “this isn’t real, lol, this can’t be happening.”

    Unfortunately, however, Armus isn’t realized very well. The oil slick thing is fairly effective, but the humanoid former is lousy, as is the voice. This could have been helped if maybe they had something like a Nagelum line.

    And watching it again, it just grows on me. There’s the spectacular tragedy of Armus, and Troi is great here. And the self willing sacrifice of the crew is admirable and very believable.

    And there’s the ultimately victorious Picard ploy.

    But a really hair raising bit is Data damning this creature— that he believes should be destroyed!

    Arguably early installment weirdness, but that’s rather powerful. And the fate of Armus is more powerful than what happens in Star Trek V.

    Can this creature be destroyed? Should it be? It would like to be...

    Hi all. Long time lurker on these boards, first-time poster. It seems a strange episode to comment on first: I rate this episode at 2-2.5 stars on Jammer’s scale, and it’s far from my favourite. Yet I feel I have something to say about this episode that I don’t think has been touched upon enough (though William B. has mentioned it – love reading your reviews, by the way!). This episode fails in its execution, but you catch glimpses of what could have been a great treatment of two closely related themes: Depression, embodied in Armus, and grief, as played through Yar’s death. I started to write out all my thoughts and it got a bit long, so I’ll just post what I have about the depression aspect, and maybe later add a coda relating to Data’s moral judgment of Armus, the resilience of the crew, Troi’s role as counsellor, and Yar’s death if there’s any interest and if I have time.

    So, let’s take a look at Armus. Here is a creature that both asks for pity and rejects it. (“I was abandoned here by a race of Titans,” practically begging for your sympathy; on having it shown, “I do not want your pity!”) Here is a creature who tortures people for no apparent reason – not even because he much enjoys it. Here is a creature who knows full well that he is the (literal) embodiment of all that is wrong and bad with the noble race that birthed him. These facts are not unrelated. He has all the hallmarks of depression.

    Most of all, he has the unshakeable sense of his own absolute worthlessness, which is the *sine qua non* of depression: he hates himself, and is certain that he is abhorrent by virtue of his very being – and therefore beyond redemption. The other things which follow from that: The inability to take pleasure in anything, even the extreme acts of cruelty he inflicts, so meaningless and unenjoyable and tedious that they do not even have the vicious savour of sadism. Instead, like the world he has been left on, everything is empty to him. He does not deserve anything, certainly not enjoyment. Indeed, his only strong emotional responses to anything are to comments made about him, as when Troi tells him, “You have my pity.” It’s too much to handle, it’s too against the grain of what he thinks about himself. Armus is entirely self-consumed, embittered, and wallowing in it.

    And symbolically, too, what better device for conveying depression? A black pit that sucks you in and causes you pain on a desolate planet. A humanoid form rises up from the sticky black tar and is absorbed back into it, the tar (depression) completely consuming the man. The very stickiness and blackness of it. A force that catches you off guard and pulls you in, as the shuttlecraft is at the beginning.

    The state of depression he symbolises is played out through Armus’s use of his powers. A reviewer earlier paralleled this episode to TOS’s “Plato’s Stepchildren,” which is apt to a degree, but only in an inverted sort of way. That episode was about the cruelty that emerges from immense outer power, from the sense of absolute superiority it endows coupled with the means to enact it; “The Skin of Evil” is about the cruelty that arises from inner powerlessness the conviction of absolute inferiority given expression. Armus tries to sublimate his self-anger and self-hatred into sadism and psychopathy directed at others, but the attempt fails, as it must: the more outward power he exerts – killing Yar, blocking the transporter, enveloping Riker, toying with Data – the more inner powerlessness he feels. The more he does without eliciting any sense of achievement, without filling the void of his own sense of self, the more painfully pronounced the gap between his empty inner life and the meaningful outer world becomes and the more insistent he becomes.

    Look at his actions for evidence. He quickly kills Yar. “It was too easy,” he says. The voice distortions probably didn't help, but a great actor would have conveyed the disgust and existential despair in that line – he wants a challenge, a purpose, something to make him feel *alive*. But being detestable, he can think of no purpose for himself except to exert control over others. *Do as I will!* he insists, *and give me the esteem I will not give myself! I shall use you to fill this void!* Of course, the crew do not, and that upsets him further, and proves his intrinsic hatefulness to himself yet more; but even if they did submit, the result would be the same. Armus insists on his own misery, because, while he absolutely does not want it, he cannot conceive of himself as anything other than creature who deserves misery.

    (An aside: I agree with criticisms that Armus’s powers are too undefined and arbitrarily powerful here. But having a highly powered being was integral to the plot to serve this basic theme – not just, as is often the case, to produce jeopardy for the sake of artificial dramatic tension and giving the crew something to do. However, unlike the immensely powerful and occasionally Lovecraftian energy beings in other Trek entries, attempting to be alien and inhuman beyond our understanding, Armus is essentially human.)

    So this, the impenetrable wall that depression builds that can be dislodged only by uprooting the very foundation – the unwavering and axiomatic belief in one’s own worthlessness – I think the episode gets very right. What, then, are we to make of the ending?

    “You are not evil, but submitting to you is,” Picard says. That’s about right, in the sense that submitting to the voices of sorrow and despair does prevent us from making us into more perfect version of ourselves and can make us into bad people. It carries, I suppose, a laudable message of relief for anyone hearing Armus’s call: having these dark thoughts does not make you an evil person. Then the Enterprise abandons Armus and exiles him for eternity.

    It’s not that this ending makes no sense. First, prosaically, the episode has to end somehow, and they only have 50 minutes to wrap it up. Second, if Armus’s origin story is to be believed, he is *truly* irredeemable. He is the Platonic, demonic manifestation of one of our darkest sides. No attempt at redemption could have worked, and the Enterprise’s decision was the only rational one. Fine.

    Still, I think a more sophisticated take was possible (which, had it been taken, might have improved the bad pacing of this episode). Implicit in this utterly, ineluctably vile set-up of Armus is the notion that our ”evil skins” really do exist as something separate that can be shed, and that they have no essential part in our humanity. Armus is portrayed as sapient and sentient, but, despite his pain and suffering (and notwithstanding his evil actions), he is not afforded the rights living beings are normally extended in TNG; ergo, he is not really, essentially, a life-form. Silicon crystals were given more regards just a few episodes ago. As it stands, if you take the reading given above, the script basically says: “You’re depressed? No worries, that’s an inconvenient outgrowth, not really part of you or your humanity! Just chop it off and leave it behind and never go back there again! Easy! What more could you want?”

    But can the dark regions of the soul really be so easily cordoned off? What if the script were to go full-on in abandoning this tidy separation of the light and the dark sides of our being, as it almost seems to do at a few points? What if, out of sheer compassion and a sense of the dignity of life, the Enterprise crew had treated Armus fully as a sapient, sentient being, one worthy of the inherent dignity and respect that status would afford him? What if, despite Armus’s inhumanity, they had insisted on treating him with humanity? Certainly, they could not have abandoned him again, for it would have been an act of unspeakable cruelty. What if Picard had said, ”You are not evil, but choosing to submit to you is. But you do not have to submit to yourself.” – thus echoing the inner struggles we all face? What if, in the face of Armus’s murderous, meaningless pseudo-sadism, they had offered him forgiveness – not unconditional, not without condemnation of his previous actions, but with faith in his capacity for redemption? And what if Armus had, after his initial resistance, he had, after all, responded to that? Would this not have been a better blend of realistic darkness and the optimism and values of Trek?

    (There would have been an interesting follow-up episode there, too, seeing what happened to Armus’s progenitors after they shed their evil side. It could also have played homage to TOS’s “The Enemy Within.”)

    Anyway, I’ll stop there for now.

    @ Custodian,

    Nice write-up! I would especially like to comment on this thing you said:

    "But can the dark regions of the soul really be so easily cordoned off? What if the script were to go full-on in abandoning this tidy separation of the light and the dark sides of our being, as it almost seems to do at a few points?"

    You got me thinking, and I am wondering whether the race that shucked off its evil side might not be an allegory for the Federation itself and what it claims of itself. Compared with TOS, and I have mentioned here and there, I feel like TNG seems to be saying that humanity's dark side has been overcome. In TOS the dark side was present, but their awareness of it allowed them to overcome it when necessary. The Enemy Within was a good example of saying you can't excise the bad parts - you even need them - but you can learn to make them work harmoniously rather than in conflict with your better goals. They need an outlet, but it can be a positive outlet.

    Here in Skin of Evil we have a race that tried to banish their worse parts completely; but they didn't eliminate them, since they cannot be eliminated. What they did was relocate them, to a remote place where no one can see them. That strikes me very much as being a criticism of the race that tried that. Not only is the Enterprise paying the price for their little experiment, but the part of themselves they excised is itself suffering eternally as a result. It would be as if they took Evil Kirk in Enemy Within and locked him in Tartarus as some kind of eternal damnation, rather than re-integrate him with Good Kirk. Making Evil Kirk suffer would be just as contemptible as making anyone suffer, no matter what his qualities are. Now Armus may be suffering as a result of *what* he is, rather than what anyone is doing to him, but I suspect the point here is more than the separation itself is the cause of Armus' torment. Being rejected by the beings of whom he was a part, his only recourse is to wallow in pain. The fault is then theirs, not his; he cannot do anything but suffer.

    Going along with the depression angle, which I find interesting, the idea here might be that once you've labelled the worse parts of you (for argument's sake let's call depression and other negative feelings "worse") as bad and worthless, it's hard to experience them and feel anything other than worthless. Or pretend they're not there, or bury them, and they will reappear in other ways and at unexpected times, and be even worse. Instead of being an occasional bad impulse, they will take on a life of their own and become a skin of evil. The problem becomes exponentially worse when you think you can shuck it off.

    So could it be that Skin of Evil is a repudiation of TNG's claim that humanity has finally overcome jealousy, hatred, and the rest? Could it be that Armus would be a good case in point for Q the Judge to point to in showing that humanity cannot ever stop being imperfect in this way? I think the improvement that is possible which we could look forward to - call it Enemy Within part 2 - is that the re-integration of the bad parts is done so well that we are not afraid to confront the dark parts of ourselves and in a way love them anyhow; to make them want to be better, rather than to be ashamed and afraid of them, and even worse, to hide them. So maybe the answer to Judge Q isn't that we have done away with our capacity for atrocity, but rather than we are now much much aware of our capacity for atrocity. Not that we have left it behind, but that we have finally embraced it as really being there. Owning that reality is probably the way to progress.

    @Peter G.

    Thank you! I’m glad you found my piece worthwhile.

    It seems we’re coming from a very similar place. I’m currently rewatching all of TNG – I watched it through a little over a decade ago as a teenager, and I’m returning to it now to see how the reality holds up to my nostalgic memories. Whilst it’s holding up pretty well on the whole, even in the S1 doldrums, one of the things I’ve found jarring so far is the frequent insistence that humanity has, in the 24th C., utterly transcended its previous barbaric ways and base impulses to reach a more enlightened state. I’ll call this TNG's “humans transcending humanity” (HTH) thesis.

    One offender that comes to mind is in the “Lonely Amongst Us”, where Picard comments that the Antican and Selayan (sic?) races still argue over things like “god-concepts” and ”even economic systems” and that humanity has basically gotten over itself in those regards. This is absurdly naïve, and insulting to the very real human tendencies and fundamental truths which undergird those disagreements in real life. (Not to mention that practically infinite energy and the ability to supply materials needs at whim makes economics *a lot* easier.) When I was younger, I found the notion of the exorcism of all things unpleasant enchanting and hopeful, but now it now strikes me as deeply condescending and hypocritical. Much store is placed by series in the need to be humble in the face of the universe and the unknown, but apparently, that humility does not require the acknowledgement of human imperfection and foibles – or our eternal susceptibility to them. No, 24C humanity has overcome all of the challenges within, and once faced, they do *not* need be overcome again, and again, and again! And more: there can be no good thing in anger, envy, jealousy, hatred, and the rest, so humanity has outgrown all those feelings! The veneer of optimism belies a real pessimism: humanity, to become better, must cauterise part of its soul. But the frightening fact of being human is that the very impulses which make us human drive both the best and the worst in us. You don’t get to shuck out the bad part and keep the good, to use your palpable turn of phrase.

    It’s not that I don’t appreciate virtue of hope and the prospect of human betterment; indeed, I share those ideals, and much of the time, I think Trek, TNG included, strikes the right note in conveying them. But the incarnation of those ideals as portrayed in parts of TNG S1 strikes me as utterly false to life, a magicking-away of the problem by time, not a solution arrived at through hard-won wisdom. Humanity has evolved, the series says optimistically, but neglects that optimism devolves into the most unbelievable escapism when it repudiates reality. I have a sense they tone down on this in later seasons, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

    So, I totally agree with your analysis of humanity and how Q the Judge should have been confronted, and I like your interpretation of the episode as a repudiation of TNG’s HTH thesis, though I’m not sure it holds up in practice. I think, if it were a more nuanced episode, it could have cast it into doubt. Certainly, per the observations in your comments, the potential is there in the story per se. As it actually stands, though, I think it serves to reinforce HTH. More could have been made of Armus’s indestructibility, and more could have been done to help him. In the end, the Enterprise crew merely circumvent him and reject him again. They force him to face his pain, but they do so only to save themselves and Troi and the disregarded lieutenant, not out of any great regard for his suffering. Suffering which, ultimately, they leave him to for ever. Humanity, after all, has overcome those things, and can afford to leave them behind.


    As for the depression angle, perhaps I’m reading too much into it, and I don’t know whether the episode’s writer would have called the “darkness” by that name as such, but it spoke to me very clearly from experience.


    There’s much more that could be said about all of this, but I’ll stop wearing your patience – I’m sorry that I had no time to make my response shorter. If you have more to say, I’d be very happy to continue the conversation, but advance warning, I may take a while to response – I’m finishing off my PhD dissertation at the moment and it won’t write itself!

    What is up with the chief engineer in this episode who keeps identifying himself on the com as "Leland T. Lynch"?

    1. starting an anitmatter reactor without going through the AT LEAST a friggin checklist... give me a break, totally irresponsible, could have easily blown up the ship...

    2. nobody cares about the other pilot that was in far worse condition than troi

    5. ok, denise didnt wanna stay on the show... why kill her?

    4. torpedo at the end WAS NOT aimed at armus... are you kidding me? id like to hope worf secretly aimed it "correctly"... ughh

    negative 3 stars....

    ...ok , even with all that its still far better than code of honor, which gets negative infinity stars from me

    Skin of Evil

    TNG season 1 episode 23

    "So much frustration. It had to get rid of me.”

    - Riker

    3 stars (out of 4)

    This is the first permanent death in Star Trek. For a show that at this point was more than 20 years old, that is hard to fathom. But no main character had ever died before Tasha. And till we came to Jadzia, no main character died after her either. That alone makes this episode unique.

    Add to that a few key pieces, like the evil Armus, and Worf’s promotion ("I will remain on the ship. The object here is not to engage the creature in battle. The goal is the safe return of Counsellor Troi and Lieutenant Prieto. I can best accomplish this at the Tactical Station.”), and this is really a good episode. At no point in watching it was I ever bored.

    Tasha had a tough run of things, which is fairly unique for a character on Star Trek. Even Spock, who we might think had a tough time because he was a half-breed, was still the son of one of the most powerful men on Vulcan and in the Federation. Riker may not like his dad, but his dad was a superstar. Wesley’s dad died, but it was in the line of duty, and his mother had a stellar career. Tasha’s life was uniquely difficult. Even Worf, an orphan sure, at least had a foster family who obviously loved him very much, and was there for him when he needed their emotional support.

    Tasha had no one.

    I can’t imagine what it must have been like growing up as orphans on a planet with rape gangs when she - and her sister - were both very attractive women (h/t @William B). Obviously it hardened them. It made them fighters. But at a terrible emotional cost. She was never able to fully escape that life of violence. Tasha didn’t join Starfleet to become a scientist, or an engineer, or an explorer, or a doctor, or a legal JAG officer, or a logistics officer, or a communications specialist. She joined in security. She probably knew that her life expectancy was short. She was always off on dangerous missions. No wonder she was so horny.

    In a lot of ways, Tasha seems to me to be an early model for Kara Thrace, on nBSG or Shane Vansen on Space Above & Beyond. Maybe @DavidK is right, and TNG just wasn’t the right show for these types of women.

    Armus was a fantastic twist on alien-of-the-week. Starfleet is always trying to make common cause with aliens, no matter how bad they might seem. I remember Eddington’s speech to Sisko,

    Eddington: Hell, you even want the Cardassians to join. You're only sending them replicators because one day, they can take their rightful place on the Federation Council.

    What will they do when they meet actual evil? The closest the original series came to meeting actually evil aliens were The Gamesters of Triskelion. There an alien race had gradually shed their bodies and were left only with pure intellect - just brains in a jar. To entertain themselves, they tortured innocent people, making them fight against each other to the death.

    Here too Armus is the product of shedding. @Custodian hints at what might have been shed (both his posts are really worth scrolling up and reading!). And @Peter G. darkly hints at what the Federation might be shedding to create it’s perfect paradise (Star Trek:Picard, anyone?). As we learn,

    ARMUS: I am a skin of evil left here by a race of Titans who believed if they rid themselves of me, they would free the bonds of destructiveness.


    ARMUS: They perfected a means of bringing to the surface all that was evil and negative within. Erupting, spreading, connecting. In time it formed second skin, dank and vile.

    In a way, both The Gamesters of Triskelion and Skin of Evil rest on the same theory, that beings are not born evil, they don’t evolve into evil. Rather, evil is what is left when you strip away all that is good. Evil is within, and it is balanced by everything else that is within. Evil causes great harm when it is isolated from the rest of a person. Armus, alone on that planet, is the literal isolation of that evil.

    Tasha signed up for Starfleet to fight evil, to protect the great civilization that had saved her from all that was evil out in the real world beyond the paradise that is the Federation. As she said back in Encounter at Farpoint,

    TASHA: I grew up on a world that allowed things like this court. And it was people like these that saved me from it. This so-called court should get down on its knees to what Starfleet is, what it represents.

    Tasha died at 30, without a husband, a child, loved ones, or even close friends beyond her professional colleagues. Beyond those professional colleagues, not one of the 1,000 people who lived on the Enterprise came for her memorial service. She was in a dangerous line of work, and no doubt that was one reason she had planned her own funeral at such a young age.

    But perhaps another reason is that she didn’t think there was anyone else around who would have planned her funeral if she fell in the line of duty. If she treated every person she had been close to as coldly as she did Data, is it any wonder? As @Tara points out, there is just the slightest hint in that cute scene between Tasha and Worf that she might actually have just about started to learn how to make friends. That only adds to the tragedy of her death.

    Compare that to how Ro and Riker behaved with each other after their liaison in Conundrum.

    @Martin, yeah, Ben is the luckiest black dude in Trek since "By Any Other Name.”

    When Spock was thought dead for good, the crew and visitors on the ship were there at overflowing capacity for his send off,

    On DS9, even a woman who no one had ever met in person had an overflowing room of people there for her wake,

    And on TNG, Geordi and Ro got a cool funeral, though they weren’t even actually dead,

    There’s Riker, playing the bone for Ro.

    But nothing for Lieutenant Natasha Yar. Her funeral was a work event, attended only by the bridge staff - not even personnel from her own security team were on hand. If Armus ever dies, perhaps he will be one of the few entities in the galaxy even more alone at the end than Tasha.

    Au revoir.

    As @Sarjenka's Little Brother seems to be saying, this episode was definitely “something to write home about.”

    It's not as bad as I remembered and the tribute to Tasha was great I just wish it happened in season 3. Not because I particularly cared for the character or loved the actress just that with an ensemble cast this large we only got a few Tasha-heavy episodes. Her biggest moments in the show was being kidnapped by a, shall we say, problematic society in terms of how it feels like a representation of actual human civilizations.

    That and the uncomfortable invocation of 'rape gangs' a couple of times including in an episode with a heavy sexual component.

    The goodbye ceremony was fantastic but it failed to deliver any type of emotional hit because we just hadn't had enough time to really get close to the character. Had the actress decided to move on from the show a couple of years later, however, it would have been a landmark moment in TV because I can't recall any show with major deaths like hers would have been up to that point.

    Lots of good stuff, albeit with lots of weaknesses:

    * Data arguing with Armus

    * Data telling Armus he should be destroyed is rather eye popping

    * The attempts to resuscitate Tasha feels way more real than usual in Trek

    * The officers becoming momentarily unhinged in the conference after Tasha’s death

    When this episode went through the Blu Ray remaster, they should have at least tried to redo Armus as originally conceived since they now have the technology to do so. No, this isn't me trashing on an older effect because it's outdated, I'm trashing the effect because it was unconvincing even in 1988.

    I agree with Jammer that they did the right thing by avoiding the cliché of redeeming Armus. When it comes down to it, he is literally incapable of benevolence because he's made of nothing but evil impulses.

    The episode isn't great but it's better than most of Season 1, which isn't a very high bar.

    “Jean-Luke ..... sssssssssss .... sssssssssss ......
    I am ...... ssssssssss ...... your father...... sssssss”

    Awful. Ridiculous. Absurd. As bad as I remember, including the sentimental farewell of Tasha. Darth Vader as a sentient oil slick. Oh please. Does any Trek episode get as bad as this?

    No more to say. 0 stars. Bring on Paris, PLEASE.

    Oh yes! Tasha waving goodbye in Symbiosis... Thanks for pointing that out, it was worth catching it. (Smile)

    So this episode is a lesson in the subjectivity of ratings and the importance of each person's unique relationship with art, be it TV, film, or music.

    My father was a product of the Depression, came from a working class family, and was nearly 50 when I was born. He believed in hard work and self-discipline and despised the very idea of television. We never had one except for a very brief experiment, and that TV quickly ended up in the garage (I dreaded when teachers would assign "fun" homework like a report on a TV show).

    My dad died after a long and dehumanizing fight with cancer when I was 12, in 1987. My mom then got us a TV, and a dog. There were 5 of us and one of her -- she needed the help. And let's not underestimate the therapeutic value of either...

    So because of the timing, Star Trek TNG was certainly one of the first shows that I started watching religiously. I hadn't yet been jaded by years of TV, and the TNG crew was, to me, like an extended family that I could join week after week. They still are to some extent, and every five years or so I find myself craving a revisit to the past.

    When Skin of Evil first aired, it was so shocking that Tasha Yar not only died, but STAYED DEAD, that to this day it's perhaps the only early episode from the first season that i distinctly recall watching. In those days, too, major characters NEVER got killed off. I don't think there's any way to convey that impression on someone watching 30+ years later (certainly not post-GOT), and definitely not if you already knew Yar would die. As a boy, I felt that the Armus character was full of menace, terrifying, and believable, I remember being moved deeply by Yar's farewell holographic speeches.

    I would have thought that Skin of Evil would be considered one of the "great" TNG episodes, and yet everyone pans it. I've avoided rewatching it for that reason, but finally gave in. It's like there were two people watching -- the innocent little boy still coming to grips with the death of his father, and the man who is now nearly as old as his father was when he was born.

    Suffice it to say, although I now see all the flaws in the Skin of Evil, and there are many, it doesn't matter what I think of the episode now. It was a 4 star episode for me when it aired, and in the story of MY life, the objective quality of the episode viewed in 2021 is completely irrelevant.

    Just out curiosity, Ben, is it your voice that is heard in the documentary Trekkies? Because someone in that film tells Denise Crosby a similar story about Skin of Evil.

    @ Top Hat

    That's funny -- no, wasn't me, and I haven't seen the documentary. I think I will now, so thank you for bringing it up. And as I also see from Startrekwatcher's post a few years back (among others), I wasn't alone in being impacted by this episode. It's fascinating how being imprinted with something at a young age can retain its effect through life.

    BTW I still do identify with my childhood experience -- Tasha's death still surprised me (because I didn't remember it happened so early in the episode) and the funeral scene is still effective. I still think Armus is a very dark and complex character by Trek villain standards, and the Troi scenes with him are well done. Obviously, though, there are other aspects that could have been better-executed. But like I said, those quibbles are all in retrospect and don't dilute the power of the original experience.

    Count me among those who were impacted by Skin of Evil when it first aired and among those who still consider it a good episode.

    I was in middle school at the time and my family was about to move several hundred miles away from where I lived at the time, so I suppose I was going through some stuff that made me latch onto Trek in general and this episode in particular. Seems like others felt similarly.

    This episode originally aired before the internet was THE INTERNET. This was before spoilers were easily available before the episode aired. Tasha's death was arguably the most shocking main character death for me. Spock's death in TWOK was the climax of the film. Jadzia's death in DS9 seemed inevitable thanks to the internet. And the less said about Trip's death in Enterprise, the better.

    Tasha died about 15 minutes into this episode.

    I'm ok with the senior staff being visibly upset at the first staff meeting after Tasha's death. Why wouldn't they be? She was a colleague, she was a friend, and in many of their missions, I'm sure they were accustomed to dealing with someone a bit more reasonable than Armus.

    I'm also ok with Data saying that Armus should be destroyed. I think it fits with his journey to become human, at least the darker aspects of it. I also think it fits with his being an android, sizing up what Armus is, what its role in the galaxy is, and deciding that the galaxy is better off without Armus in it. Just cold, computational calculation. Tin Man, indeed.

    Troi is given some good work here, looking for any weakness in Armus. It's arguably Sirtis's best work as Troi during the TNG. Picard, as usual, is wonderful.

    A couple of years ago, before Picard aired, I made a list of TNG episodes to watch with my wife, who had not watched much Trek, but who also wanted to watch Picard with me. I thought it was important to show who Picard was on TNG, what he stood for, and what his relationship was with his crew, most especially Data. I think Skin of Evil was a great showcase for Picard. It showed his courage, it showed his dedication to his crew, and the conversation between him and Data after Tasha's memorial showed a bit of their relationship. So, yes, Skin of Evil gets my recommendation.

    I like how in the middle of an emergency the chief engineer has to keep identifying himself as "Leland T. Lynch" with every communication with Picard. I could swear Picard came close to rolling his eyes. How pretentious.

    @Nic, tjabk youbfor sharing such a personal and powerful ztory.ay Ibask how you have coped since then? Iblost my Dad and grandparents

    @Niall, Why don't you like Course Oblivion, if I may ask?

    @Ben D. So are you saying you think Armus was a good and original villain and not a cartoon?


    Heh, oddly enough, I was thinking of Course: Oblivion while reading more comments. I was thinking this episode was ripe for a sequel. Many possibilities, such as Armus escaping, or the Enterprise encountering those who left him behind, or even if Armus somehow attached part of himself to Riker (who he enveloped) or Picard (so he transported).

    Then I was thinking that was never done because the episode wasn't highly regarded, but then I thought Voyager "Demon" got a sequel!

    It does feel a bit strange that they didn't try to help Armus in any way after they left the planet and presumably safe. It does seem like the TNG thing to do.

    I think that arose because while Armus actually did have potential for a character, in reality he was just part of a contrived means to an end.

    Good point above that it would be nice to improve Armus's humanoid appearance for the remasters. That dripping tar look is high school drama production quality-- in 1988 and earlier.

    The distorted eeeeevil voice is what really puts the "contrived" icing on the cake here. In case you missed his appearance, actions and dialog.

    Beard of Sisko said: "When it comes down to it, he is literally incapable of benevolence because he's made of nothing but evil impulses."

    It's probably telling that this episode was written by Joe Stefano, who wrote Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". The black oil here is a bit like Norman Bates, his malevolence something that's imposed on him by his family, and something he can't quite control.

    I always thought this episode deserved to be revisited or remade. The idea of aliens "purging all their worst traits" and abandoning it on a planet as a sadistic pool of evil sludge is real cool. And the idea that this sludge delights in murdering and torturing those it captures, or holds hostage, has a exploitative, B-horror movie vibe that's rare in Trek. You can do something really dark, intense and interesting with this material.

    The key would be to strip it right down (this episode has too many cheesy distractions). Like DS9's "Heart of Stone", where Kira is slowly consumed by expanding crystals, all you need is a crewman being engulfed slowly by black oil, and your hero captain negotiating with it and desperately pleading with it for 40 minutes.

    "It's probably telling that this episode was written by Joe Stefano, who wrote Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho"."




    That is...shocking that I never heard this mentioned before. They got the screenwriter of one of the most famous movies of all time for one episode and it was "Skin of Evil." Remarkable. I guess if they are going to kill a blonde character....


    I didn't know the Psycho writer did this episode. Now that I think about it, I do see some similarities between Armus and Bates, although I doubt Bates was evil from the moment of his birth. Armus was condemned as soon as he came to be.

    I wonder if the people who say the memorial service was mawkish have ever been to a real one. They ARE mawkish. People want to say something "meaningful," and most people don't have the literary skill to do more than repeat cliches. It's forgivable. Data's question at the end was one of the highlights to me. (The other highlight was Troi's counseling session with Armus, where she finally got some decent lines.)

    The problem is that when you can state a character's entire psychology in a single line ("they loaded all their evil into me and then left me!") it's hard to make a good show out of it. And the special effects for the character were terrible - he literally looked like a man in a tar suit. When he was raging at Picard, he should have been whipping around into a tornado or something, but the actor just stood there. And what they made Frakes do and say was just embarrassing.

    Bleh I am becoming the fanboy of this one.

    At least 90% of the problem is Armus's "bwahaha eeevil" voice. His body is a painfully obvious man in a dripping suit, but that effect wasn't THAT bad for S1 or even S2.

    @Silly - yes the the biggest problem in this ep is the execution of the VFX & the Armus creature itself ( the electronic music score is a bit dated as well).

    But it’s written rather well: as many have discussed, Troi is great in this one; Worf’s little speech in the conference room about why it’s better for him to remain onboard the Enterprise is refreshing because it puts a twist on the usual format of “let’s all beam down and take care of the situation together” scenario; and the look of shock and disbelief on Picard’s face when Crusher announces Tasha’s death shows how utterly helpless & ineffective they all feel. The fact that they didn’t make a grand show of Tasha’s death does make it more horrifying because you’re thinking, “she can’t REALLY be dead…right?”

    I thought the holographic speech Tasha gives at the end was well written, too. All in all, a tense little thriller. And Ron Gans’ voiceover is fine by me as I enjoyed him in his multiple appearances on Lost In Space—it was over the top, yes, but I enjoyed it.

    What happened to the “race of Titans”?

    Armus is an unforgettable baddie.

    The visual/musical sequences where Riker is gobbled up & puked out are fantastic.

    This was a fantastic episode. Even the now cheesy special effects don't detract from how good it is. The biggest problem is the nature of the villian doesn't match up to his actions. Pure and irredeemable evil would not play 'hide the visor' and give up on threatening to execute someone after 1 minute. Realistically, Armus should have sadistically tortured and / or murdered multiple people, not because of the pleasure it would give him, but because it would rob those people of what is most precious to them. Oddly enough, Armus committed far fewer crimes than the Crystalline entity, and was given less chance at redemption.

    Gosh this ep is just awful. Back then, Crosby wanted out of her contract, so it appears they tacked the pointless death and hopelessly cheesy funeral onto this stupid B movie plot about an evil alien that looks like an oil slick and roars a lot. Troi trapped in a shuttle whining a lot under red emergency lights. Why why why???

    I loved this episode, even when I saw it in 1988. I knew going in Tasha was going to die (the ads had her, Riker and Geordi, if I recall as one of the three.

    "Is it just me or is Denise Crosby mailing it in this last episode, knowing she was gone? The first scene on the bridge with Worf she seems to have this smirk on her face."

    Oh, no. Denise Crosby was not mailing it in at all. In later interviews, she stated that had there been more scenes like that during the first season, she'd have stayed. Remember Roddenberry had a rule of "no interpersonal conflicts".

    Even in 1988, Armus was cheesy as a visual effect, but he was ruthless.

    When Beverly is trying to revive Tasha, it's sad the way Picard turns around, not able to watch.

    Marina Sirtis' tears are real - she and Denise were very close.

    And there's still no episode of any Trek show as sad as the funeral, and with Data's conversation with Picard after and Picard's reassurance: "No, Data. You got it."

    I never could bring myself to despise this episode, as many others seem to. The main reasons for its being hauled into the dock seem to be the manner in which Tasha is killed (most unceremoniously) and the obviousness of Armus (who was indeed well-voiced) really being a dude in a rubber suit. That Tasha would have made a recording of exactly what she wanted said to each (bridge) member of the crew seemed vaguely… creepy, and contrived. How could Tasha have know where each bridge member plus Wesley would have been standing in relation to each other at her funeral?

    The episode isn’t without its merits. “I think you should be destroyed.” “A moral judgment from a machine!” Data’s stony refusal to play Armus’ game… Picard’s noting that “true evil would be to submit to YOU.” There were some decent lines and even whole moments here. Not enough to put the episode in the “good” or “ok “ category, but not enough to sweep it into the disaster dust bin.

    Much like Symbiosis, Tasha’s “real” last episode, there are some ideas floating around here, and Patrick Stewart has presence (the dialogue given to Picard in each episode is trite, but not utter gibberish. Stewart can do trite. At least it is not, “If I could somehow incorporate myself into their ritual, maybe I can get Masaka to listen to me.”


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