Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Skin of Evil"
Air date: 4/25/1988
Teleplay by Joseph Stefano and Hannah Louise Shearer
Story by Joseph Stefano
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
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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120 comments on this post
Mon, Apr 14, 2008, 1:33pm (UTC -5)
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."
Sat, Aug 20, 2011, 8:59pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 2:39pm (UTC -5)
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!
Wed, Oct 10, 2012, 11:04am (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 5, 2012, 3:10pm (UTC -5)
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!
Tue, Nov 13, 2012, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
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...
Tue, Nov 13, 2012, 8:53pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 6, 2013, 6:24pm (UTC -5)
Thu, May 23, 2013, 1:15pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 14, 2013, 8:15pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 10:21am (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 23, 2013, 10:21pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 6, 2013, 12:01am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 7:07pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Jan 11, 2014, 9:29am (UTC -5)
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."
Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
Ironically, Sirtis originally read for that role (then named Marla Hernandez), and Crosby read for the role of Deanna Troi.
Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 10:09am (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 11:28am (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 7, 2014, 12:51am (UTC -5)
Also, should we feel sorry for it? (alone, angry, etc.) It can't change, but, should we anyway?
Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 3:30am (UTC -5)
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".
Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 9:14am (UTC -5)
On to Worf as head of security!!
Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 5:17pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 6:11pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 7:06am (UTC -5)
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
Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 8:49am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 3:59pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 3, 2015, 4:55pm (UTC -5)
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...
Mon, May 11, 2015, 7:30pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 23, 2015, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 21, 2015, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 10:02pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 8, 2015, 11:14am (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Dec 17, 2015, 1:06am (UTC -5)
Armus: cool concept. I wish us humans could dump our evil skin.
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 8:06pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 7, 2016, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Feb 7, 2016, 10:06pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Feb 19, 2016, 6:15am (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Mar 31, 2016, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 14, 2016, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Sat, May 21, 2016, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 2:08am (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 15, 2016, 7:42pm (UTC -5)
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!
Wed, Dec 28, 2016, 3:08pm (UTC -5)
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/"
Sat, Dec 31, 2016, 9:47am (UTC -5)
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.".
Sat, Dec 31, 2016, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 20, 2017, 5:13pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Apr 11, 2017, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, May 7, 2017, 6:47am (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Jul 16, 2017, 7:50pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 1:21am (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 9, 2017, 10:13pm (UTC -5)
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
Wed, Nov 29, 2017, 2:00pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 5, 2017, 9:01am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Dec 5, 2017, 11:31pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Dec 28, 2017, 10:34am (UTC -5)
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."
Fri, Jan 12, 2018, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 12, 2018, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 12, 2018, 4:41pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 4, 2018, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 11, 2018, 9:43pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 26, 2018, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
(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.
Sun, Mar 4, 2018, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 12, 2018, 12:55am (UTC -5)
Ugh. Ironically this episode is worse than "Justice."
It may be better than "Code of Honor," but that's not saying much.
Mon, Apr 16, 2018, 3:25pm (UTC -5)
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!
Tue, Apr 24, 2018, 2:17am (UTC -5)
Sun, May 13, 2018, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
Sat, May 19, 2018, 3:09pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, May 19, 2018, 6:33pm (UTC -5)
"Noooo, YOU CAN"T DEFEAT ULTIMATE EVIL THIS WAY> IT"S TOO EASY."
"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!"
Tue, May 29, 2018, 2:26am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 5, 2018, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
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."
Sun, Sep 2, 2018, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
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...
Tue, Sep 25, 2018, 4:31am (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 9:32am (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 8, 2018, 11:42am (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 8, 2018, 12:07pm (UTC -5)
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"?
Fri, Mar 1, 2019, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Mar 2, 2019, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
Data’s suggestion - that he should be destroyed - is probably the kindest solution.
Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 10:02pm (UTC -5)
"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.
Sun, Mar 24, 2019, 7:47am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 10:52pm (UTC -5)
Wow, that's probably the best stuff I've ever read on this episode. I'd never noticed those parallels before.
Sun, Jun 23, 2019, 10:05pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 22, 2019, 6:49pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 3, 2019, 11:27pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 12:15am (UTC -5)
--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.
Thu, Aug 29, 2019, 12:23pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 7:38am (UTC -5)
"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.
Mon, Nov 18, 2019, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 12:20am (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 14, 2020, 8:57am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Sep 7, 2020, 5:19pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 26, 2020, 2:42am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Oct 26, 2020, 9:23pm (UTC -5)
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...
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 6:55pm (UTC -5)
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!
Sun, Dec 20, 2020, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 1, 2021, 4:13am (UTC -5)
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
Sat, Feb 20, 2021, 1:37am (UTC -5)
TNG season 1 episode 23
"So much frustration. It had to get rid of me.”
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.
As @Sarjenka's Little Brother seems to be saying, this episode was definitely “something to write home about.”
Wed, Feb 24, 2021, 4:56pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Mar 15, 2021, 7:55pm (UTC -5)
* 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
Thu, Mar 18, 2021, 8:47pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Mar 30, 2021, 4:50pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 22, 2021, 2:50am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Jun 22, 2021, 3:11am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 13, 2021, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Jul 13, 2021, 2:41pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 13, 2021, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Nov 28, 2021, 8:10am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jan 24, 2022, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 5, 2022, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
@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?
Mon, Mar 21, 2022, 7:05pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Jun 1, 2022, 5:53am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Jun 1, 2022, 8:38am (UTC -5)
OH WOW YOU ARE RIGHT.
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....
Tue, Jul 5, 2022, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Mar 3, 2023, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
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.
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