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TNG 1-23

TNG 1x23
"Skin of Evil"

Original airdate: 4/25/1988
Rewatch date: 8/7/2011


Troi crashes on a derelict world. When the crew beams down to the surface to rescue her, they encounter a vicious creature made of pure evil.

Spoiler-free notes:

This episode is of course notable because of Yar's death. It is the first time in an episode of Star Trek that a main character dies without being miraculously resurrected by the end of the episode. Rumors abound as to why Yar left the show, but the official story is that the actress, Denise Crosby, asked to leave because she thought her character wasn't going anywhere and she didn't expect the show to last. She is killed very quickly and unceremoniously, which is a ballsy, but good decision. The shock and unrequited expectations that she'll be resurrected are far more powerful than a big, telegraphed, and heroic death scene. The first season of TNG, as I've already mentioned, struggled hard to separate itself from the original series, and the death of Yar, though not planned from the writer's room, is a big step in that direction. Some have taken issue with the apparent meaninglessness of Yar's death, but I think it adds a level of realism that had been missing from Trek before this episode. Having said that, this is not one of my favorite stories. I like how Yar's death is handled, but the actual plot involving Armus is pretty weak. It might have read better as a screenplay, but on screen--with Armus' ultra-cheesy evil voice and bad special effects--it just isn't really successful.

I love that people still go to conferences in the 24th Century.

The special effects in this episode are really, really bad, among the worst (if not the worst) of the whole series.

Worf finally steps up.

Troi also steps up a little, finally using her counseling skills for more than just calling people out for lying or hiding something.

How come we never see the other shuttle survivor, "Ben"?

Armus is all the negative parts of an alien species left behind so that the aliens could become beautiful. I'm sorry, but that's pretty goddamn lame. If there were some actual mechanism that made sense and more information about the species that did it, it might have been a salvageable idea. However, as it is, stripped of any verisimilitude, it's weak. I like the idea that they come across a truly pathological and sociopathic creature, but there seems to be something missing. What it boils down to, I guess, is that the episode feels rushed, unfinished. There are seeds of a great story and an interesting allegory, but the ideas needed more time to develop into something cohesive and surprising. It also doesn't make sense that Armus would confide in Troi and allow himself to be vulnerable; that implies a level of humanity and sympathy that goes against what they were trying to do. Picard's final confrontation with Armus is a strong point, but it isn't as deserved or poignant as it could be.

The funeral scene, however, is both deserved and poignant, especially the last bit with Data asking what the point of it was. If you take Armus out of the story and focus solely on Yar's death, this is a very well-written episode.





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