(written from a Production point of view)
|"Skin of Evil"|
|TNG, Episode 1x23|
Production number: 40271-122
First aired: 25 April 1988
|←||21st of 176 produced in TNG||→|
|←||22nd of 176 released in TNG||→|
|←||127th of 728 released in all||→|
| Teleplay By|
Joseph Stefano and Hannah Louise Shearer
Joseph L. Scanlan
A rescue operation to save the lives of a shuttle crew costs the Enterprise one of its own.
The USS Enterprise-D is traveling through the Zed Lapis sector where it will rendezvous with Shuttlecraft 13, carrying Counselor Deanna Troi, who is returning from a conference, along with the shuttle pilot, Lieutenant Ben Prieto. As the engineering crew is conducting maintenance of the ship's dilithium crystals, the ship is flying at impulse, with the main engines deactivated. On the bridge, Lieutenant Worf tells Lieutenant Natasha Yar that deep space probes have picked up no vessels within three light years. Worf then shifts the conversation towards the martial arts competition on the Enterprise in three days.
He asks Yar if she is ready. She replies that she needs some practice with the Mishiama wristlock, and if she can use it on Worf, she can use it on anybody, an assumption Worf assures her is valid. He then asks who she is facing, and Yar says her first opponent is science officer Swenson. Worf says that she will easily defeat him. However Yar is more concerned about being beaten by Lt. Minnerly, a skilled kickboxer. Worf then boosts her confidence by telling her that she is favored in the ship's pool to win. Yar asks Worf if he placed a bet on her. Worf replies that it is a sure thing. Yar then looks at Worf with a smile. Worf, embarrassed, moves away.
Helmsman Lieutenant Geordi La Forge reports to Captain Picard that Enterprise will meet up with the shuttle in just over an hour. Picard comments how it will be good to have Troi back aboard, a sentiment Commander Riker agrees with. Suddenly, Worf receives an emergency transmission from the shuttle. The shuttle's computer is severely damaged and impulse engines are off-line. Prieto can't even tell where they are. Picard calls down to main engineering and asks chief engineer Lieutenant Commander Leland T. Lynch how long it would take to restore warp drive.
When Lynch complains that he's in the middle of re-aligning the dilithium crystals, Picard tells him there is an emergency and they need warp drive. Lynch initially says it'll be more than twenty minutes, and Picard berates him, telling Lynch that they don't have that much time. Lynch promises to re-align the crystals by hand to get warp drive restarted. La Forge then tells Prieto that he's coming dangerously close to a planet, which Prieto confirms. Lieutenant Commander Data reports that the shuttle is near Vagra II, an uninhabited planet. Picard calls down to engineering again and Lynch tells him that although he offers no guarantees, he's working on it and it'll be about three minutes. Just then, Prieto reports that the shuttle is out of control and has been caught by Vagra II's gravity.
In engineering, the engineers are frantically trying to restore Enterprise's warp drive. Lieutenant Commander Lynch, along with his engineering crew, quickly re-align the dilithium crystals into the warp reactor and Lynch decides to ignore the final safety check, telling the computer to restart the warp drive. When the ship's computer begins the checklist, Lynch overrides the checks and they go directly to startup. As the warp reactor comes back online, Lynch calls Picard and tells him that they now have minimum warp drive. When La Forge reports course for Vagra II is laid in, Picard orders warp eight. Over the intercom, Lynch tells Picard he said they only have minimum warp drive. Picard then tells Lynch he heard Picard's command and to make it so.
Shortly thereafter, Enterprise arrives at Vagra II, although the ship is not reading the emergency signal from the shuttle. Data runs a scan of the planet. There is no vegetation and no lifeforms on the planet, but the atmosphere is breathable for Humans. Worf locates the shuttle on the planet. It appears to be buried under debris. Picard asks if they can beam up Troi and Prieto; however, the debris appears to be blocking the ship's sensors. Picard, seeing this as strange, orders Riker to prepare an away team. He chooses Data and Yar. Picard signals Doctor Beverly Crusher to join them.On Vagra II, the shuttle's nacelle has been ripped off and the shuttle itself is embedded within a rock face. The away team materializes on the barren surface of the planet. Dr. Crusher notes that the signals inside the shuttle are weak. The away team begins to walk over to the shuttle, but a giant black liquid pool is blocking the way. Dr. Crusher asks the away team to walk around it, just to be on the safe side. However, the black substance follows the away team to the right side. Yar suggests that they go to the left, but the substance still follows them.
Crusher prepares to step over the pool, but Riker stops her. He then asks if the creature has a skeletal structure. Data scans with his tricorder, however, he cannot confirm Riker's question. Picard asks Data if the black substance is a lifeform. Again, Data cannot confirm. When asked finally if it is possible that this pool is alive, Data says it is. Then they hear an ominous voice calling Data "Tin Man" and a figure begins to emerge from the black liquid. Picard asks Riker what he sees, and Riker simply replies, "Trouble."
Picard signals Riker and comes to the conclusion that the placement of the creature and the shuttle's crash landing cannot be a coincidence. Picard asks Riker to try to communicate with the creature. Riker greets the creature. The creature states that his name is Armus. He asks why the crew is there. Riker explains that they mean no harm and they have injured crewmembers on the shuttle. He asks permission to pass over. Armus states that he still has not given him a good enough reason. Riker states that preserving life is important to all Humans. Armus suggests the Enterprise crew leave the planet. Yar walks up to Armus and says that they will not leave without their crew and that they will not harm him.
Yar begins to walk over to the shuttle and she is hit by a blast of energy from Armus and knocked away. Riker and Data react quickly and fire their phasers at Armus. Dr. Crusher rushes over to Yar, followed by Riker and Data. Picard asks for a report on the situation. Data says they fired on Armus, but their phasers had no effect on him. He seemed to feed off their energy. Armus retreats back into the black liquid. Picard inquires about Yar's condition. After scanning her body, Dr. Crusher grimly reports that Yar is dead. Picard tells the transporter chief to beam up the away team quickly. The away team rematerializes on the transporter pad. Dr. Crusher reports that they will have to get Yar to sickbay immediately if they are to revive her. Picard tells Worf to put the ship on yellow alert and leaves the bridge for sickbay.
In sickbay, Dr. Crusher and her medical assistants are desperately trying to revive Yar. Picard asks for a report on Yar's condition. Crusher reports that it is unchanged. Riker and Data stand in the back, watching. Dr. Crusher puts Yar on total life support, but Yar is still not responding and her synaptic network is breaking down. Dr. Crusher, seeing no other choice, decides to go for direct reticular stimulation. The energy goes into Yar's body, but she is still flatlining. Dr. Crusher then pronounces Yar officially dead, and that Armus sucked the life right out of her.
On Vagra II, Armus moves toward the shuttle. Inside, Lieutenant Prieto is unconscious, lying down on his console. Troi is uninjured. She taps her combadge and tries to contact the ship. Armus is blocking the communication. She can feel Armus' presence. Armus taunts her by saying that her friends deserted her and even killed one of them. Troi says she knows, she felt her die. Armus then says that he wanted to kill Yar to amuse himself. Troi tells him that he thought it would amuse him, but it did not. Troi senses he has a great need for something. Troi asks Armus to let her and Prieto go, and that the crew of the Enterprise will not give him what he wants, to break their spirit. Armus replies that if breaking their spirit amuses him, he will do it.
In the conference room on the Enterprise, the senior officers are arguing over Yar's death and how she did nothing to provoke Armus. Only Worf and Picard remain silent. Picard taps the table with his finger. Picard tells the crew that Yar's death is painful for all of them, but they will have to put it aside until the crisis is resolved. Picard makes Worf an acting chief of security. Worf accepts. Picard asks about the condition of the shuttle crew. Crusher says the life signs are faint, but the sensor readings are fluctuating, which means they may not be accurate. Riker asks to go down to the planet again. La Forge volunteers to join the away team; his VISOR may see something in Armus that the other crewmembers may not see. Picard agrees. Riker asks Worf to join them, but Worf believes he will be better used at tactical.
The away team sees Armus stretched out on the shuttle. Armus is surprised that the away team came back for Troi and Prieto. Troi senses something in Armus, that he was abandoned by his kind. Troi says he cannot hide the emptiness he feels from her. Armus goes back to his liquid state. Back on the Enterprise, Worf and acting ensign Wesley Crusher are monitoring Armus from a science station. Worf notes that Armus' energy went down when he enveloped the shuttlecraft. Picard asks them to chart it and see if there is a pattern.
The away team beams down again. Armus returns to his humanoid state and speaks with Riker. La Forge examines Armus with his VISOR discreetly as Riker pleads with Armus to see their injured crewmembers, with Dr. Crusher making an impassioned plea to Armus. Armus says she can, but only if she says please. Crusher submits to Armus' strange request and he allows her to communicate with Troi via combadge. Troi responds and says she is fine. Armus is angered when the crew continues to ask him about going over and helping their crewmembers, which he views as ungrateful. He then rises up again, but taller than before. Armus uses his powers to throw Data's phaser and La Forge's VISOR away. La Forge, blinded, falls to his knees looking for his VISOR. Data tries to help him, but Armus warns him not to. Armus plays a few games with moving the VISOR around, until he allows Data to help him find it.
When Troi tries to analyze Armus, he becomes enraged again, he shakes the shuttle, then moves over to the away team. Suddenly, Riker falls to the ground and is dragged toward Armus' liquid state. Armus threatens to kill him if any of them touches him. Riker is then submerged into Armus, with Armus warning the away team that if any of them leave, Riker will die as well as those in the shuttle. The away team gets a glimpse of Riker's face in the black liquid, seemingly lifeless. His face then retreats back into the pool.
Picard, after seeing the grave danger his crewmembers are in, decides to beam down. Troi, feeling her imzadi, Riker, in pain, pleads with Armus to let him go. Armus continues taunting Troi, with her begging him to let the away team go. He considers it, but then realizes that Picard has beamed down. Picard asks if Riker is still alive. Data surmises that, since death can no longer alleviate Armus' boredom, then Riker is, indeed, still alive. Picard asks to see his crewmembers, and Armus asks Picard to entertain him, but Picard refuses. Armus replies that he will have to provide entertainment for himself.
Data, under Armus' influence, takes out his phaser and points it at Crusher and then Picard. Armus asks Data how he would feel if he was responsible for the death of Captain Picard. Data notes that he is not in control of himself, thus he would not be an instrument of his death. Armus then makes Data point the phaser at Dr. Crusher, then La Forge, then finally, has Data point the phaser at his own head. Armus finally has Data drop the phaser from his hand. Data feels that Armus must be destroyed, since he is capable of cruelty and sadism and he cannot be redeemed. Picard then asks Armus if he can see Troi and Prieto. Armus lets Picard see one member of his crew, Commander Riker, covered in black, who is finally brought up to the surface by Armus.
Picard tells Armus that this is now between him and Armus. He tells Armus to let the Enterprise beam up the remaining members of the away team. They are beamed back to the ship. Picard is finally allowed to see Troi and is taken there by Armus. Picard, in the shuttle, checks Prieto's pulse, while Troi asks if they were able to revive Yar. Picard, regretfully, tells her no. Troi is saddened by the loss of her friend, but Picard tries to make her focus on defeating Armus. Picard is taken back outside, where he talks with Armus, trying to distract him so the Enterprise will be able to beam out Troi and Prieto.
Picard enrages Armus, when he threatens to kill Picard and the shuttle crewmembers, by saying that if he murders them, he will still be immortal and alone, forever, on Vagra II. Armus lets out an angry scream, finally, Armus is distracted enough and the Enterprise beams out Troi and Prieto from the shuttle. Finally, Picard announces he will not take him anywhere, at which Armus yells out an enraged scream as the Enterprise beams up Picard, with Armus still enraged.
Back on the Enterprise, Picard orders that the shuttle be destroyed, so that Armus will not have a chance to leave Vagra II and declares the planet off-limits. Still, as Picard notes in his log, the damage has already been done.
On the holodeck, a funeral for Yar has begun. All of the senior staff - Worf, Data, La Forge, Beverly and Wesley Crusher, Riker, Troi and Picard - attend the service. To begin the service, a hologram of Yar is played, with her noting all of the exceptional qualities that each member of the crew possess and what she learned from them. The service concludes when the hologram of Yar fades away. Everyone leaves the holodeck, except Data and Picard. Data notes that, during the service, he was not thinking about Yar, but how empty it will be without her. He asks if he missed the point of the service, but Picard assures him that he understood it completely.
"Data, something's got me!"
- - Commander William Riker, while being pulled into the black sludge
"Lieutenant Yar's death is very painful for all of us. We will have to deal with it as best we can for now. Until the shuttle crew are safely beamed aboard the ship, our feelings will have to wait, is that understood? Lieutenant Worf, you're now acting chief of security."
"I will do my best, sir."
- - Captain Picard and Worf
"I would guess that death is no longer sufficient to alleviate its boredom."
- - Data, on Armus
"If any of you leave now, he dies...and so do the survivors of the crash."
- - Armus
"Save your compassion; it's revolting. You offer it like a prize, when it's an insult."
- - Armus to Captain Picard
"A great poet once said "All spirits are enslaved that serve things 'evil'"
- - Captain Picard quoting from "Prometheus Unbound" by Percy Bysshe Shelley to Armus
"You say you are true evil? Shall I tell you what true evil is? It is to submit to you. It is when we surrender our freedom, our dignity, instead of defying you."
"I will kill you and those in there."
"But you will still be in this place. Forever, alone, immortal."
(Armus begins growling)
"That's your real fear, never to die. Never again to be united with those who left you here."
(Armus begins screaming)
"I'm not taking you anywhere."
- - Captain Picard and Armus
"We are here to honor our friend and comrade, Lt. Natasha Yar. Coming to terms with the loss of a colleague is perhaps the most difficult task we must face in the work we have chosen to pursue. We will all find time to grieve for her in the days that are ahead. But for now, she has asked that we celebrate her life, with this."
- - Picard, introducing Tasha's holo-recording.
"Will Riker, you are the best."
- - Tasha Yar, in her recorded message
"Ah, Worf. We are so much alike, you and I: both warriors, orphans who found ourselves this family. I hope I met death with my eyes wide open."
- - Tasha Yar, in her recorded message
"My friend Data, you see things with the wonder of a child. And that makes you more human than any of us."
- - Tasha Yar, in her recorded message
"Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I wish I could say you've been like a father to me, but I've never had one so I don't know what it feels like. But if there was someone in this universe I could chose to be like, someone who I would want to make proud of me, it's you. You who have the heart of an explorer and the soul of a poet. So, you'll understand when I say: death is that state in which one only exists in the memory of others; which is why it is not an end. No goodbyes, just good memories. Hailing frequencies closed, sir."
"Au revoir, Natasha..."
- - Tasha Yar, in her recorded message, and Picard's whispered response
"Sir, the purpose of this gathering confuses me."
"Oh? How so?"
"I find my thoughts are not for Tasha, but for myself. I keep thinking, how empty it will be without her presence. Did I miss the point?"
"No you didn't, Data. You got it."
- - Data and Jean-Luc Picard
- Final draft script: 28 January 1988 - still called "The Shroud"
- Revised final draft script: 1 February 1988
- Premiere airdate: 25 April 1988
Story and production
- The original title was "The Shroud" (another name for the entity) and during the funeral/memorial scene, Commander Riker was supposed to have "signs of the shroud" still on his face.
- On leaving the show, and marking the end of Natasha Yar, Denise Crosby stated, "Gene really felt that the strongest way to go would be to have me killed. That would be so shocking and dramatic that he wanted to go with that." (Trek: The Next Generation Crew Book)
- At that time, several rumors had been surfacing that Roddenberry's lawyer, Leonard Maizlish, was rewriting a majority of the season's scripts, an illegal act in terms of Writer's Guild policies. According to one source, Maizlish was responsible for the dismal manner of Yar's demise, and wanted to be sure that Roddenberry's story idea was enforced, and that Yar's death happened as a matter of course during a dangerous mission, despite the differing views held by the various writers involved with the story. In the end, there was considerable controversy among the show's staff regarding this death: some felt that it was cynically manipulative, while others felt that a swift death made sense to avoid sentimentality. (Trek: The Unauthorized Behind-The-Scenes Story of The Next Generation)
- In retrospect, Crosby added, "perhaps Tasha should've really gone out in a blaze of glory. There's never any real battles ever fought. The show is never supposed to be about violence and it shouldn't be. But I think if you have one cause for there to be a show about a real violent battle, that was it. Let's see this supposed expert security officer do her stuff." (Trek: The Next Generation Crew Book)
- Filming the funeral/memorial service for Yar was an emotionally-charged affair for the cast and crew; indeed, the tears cried by Marina Sirtis during the scene were real, as she and Denise Crosby had become particularly close friends while working together on the series. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion) As a whole, Sirtis felt that she did some of her best work in this episode, citing it as one of two episodes from the first season that she fondly recalls, with the other being "Haven". Sirtis regarded Yar's holographic farewell as "one of the most moving things we've ever shot," adding that "Jonathan [Frakes] and I were standing together at that point and I was sobbing... unfortunately, I started sobbing which got Jonathan very teary-eyed and set the tone. Every time Denise [Crosby] looked at me, she just walled up because I was so sad that this was happening. I cried all day. No matter how many times I heard Denise do [the lines], no matter how many takes, it still made me cry." (Trek: The Next Generation Crew Book)
- During FanExpo 2007 in Toronto, the guest speaker, Jonathan Frakes, spoke of how sad the cast was to see Denise Crosby leave. Frakes told an anecdote of while they were shooting the final holodeck scene for Yar's funeral, Patrick Stewart jokingly lightened everyone's mood by singing "The Hills Are Alive" from the musical "The Sound of Music" as they were walking up the grassy knoll.
- The episode's score, composed and conducted by Ron Jones, was recorded on 5 April 1988 at Paramount Stage M. (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Ron Jones Project liner notes ) The complete episode score, totalling 32 minutes 24 seconds, appears on Disc Four of the Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Ron Jones Project collection.
- Roddy McDowall was a favorite of director Joseph L. Scanlan for voicing Armus in this episode. (Creating the Next Generation: The Conception and Creation of a Phenomenon, p.60)
Props and effects
- When Riker was sucked into Armus, Jonathan Frakes was in fact submerged in a pool of Metamucil and printer's ink. During a break in filming while Frakes was lying on the beach, covered in the sludge, LeVar Burton approached him and said "Frakes, I never would have done that!" (Journey's End: The Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation)
- This episode marks the death of Natasha Yar, marking for the first time in Trek history that a regular character was killed and not brought back to life. Reviewing this episode for its re-release on video in the UK during 1998, Star Trek Monthly described it as "arguably the bravest moment in all of Star Trek" for being the permanent death of a regular character in such a sudden manner.
- Denise Crosby has stated that had there been more scenes like the one at the beginning of the episode between her and Worf then she may have considered staying on the show. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion) She would later return to the series, firstly as an alternate timeline version of Yar ("Yesterday's Enterprise"), then as that of Yar's offspring Sela ("The Mind's Eye", "Redemption" Parts I and II, "Unification II"), and finally as Yar again in the series finale "All Good Things...".
- Although Tasha Yar dies in this episode, Denise Crosby's name remains on the opening credits for the remainder of the season.
- This is also Wesley Crusher's final appearance for the season.
- The stardate for this episode (41601.3) is set before the stardates of seven other first-season episodes, four of which, ("The Battle", "The Big Goodbye", "Angel One", and "The Arsenal of Freedom"), Tasha Yar is still quite alive in.
- Most involved with The Next Generation felt that "Skin of Evil" was an unmitigated disaster; not only did they have problems making an oil slick a believable character, but they felt that the death of Tasha Yar was a low point in the evolution of the series. (Trek: The Unauthorized Behind-The-Scenes Story of The Next Generation)
- In describing TNG Season 1, and Gene Roddenberry's attempts to "push the limits a little" Jonathan Frakes stated, "I think we took greater chances then than we do now. The shows may be better, the level of it, but "Skin of Evil" was absurd. We had Patrick sitting and talking into a black oil slick– but what was wrong with that? I suffered physically like a fool with Mikey– sure, I'll get in that black fucking Metamucil shit. That was absurd." (Trek: The Next Generation Crew Book)
- In his online review of TNG: "Hide and Q", Wil Wheaton commented on how in the first season that Michael Dorn as Worf, didn't do much more than Crosby did and that Worf was, according to Wheaton, "one dimensional and so incredibly stupid," but eventually Dorn was able to develop Worf into a much more complex and beloved character, whereas Crosby, out of frustration, just quit the show. 
- According to Ronald D. Moore, strong dissatisfaction among fans and production staff with the manner of Yar's death in this episode was one of the main reasons the character was brought back in the alternate timeline of "Yesterday's Enterprise". (Chronicles from the Final Frontier, TNG Season 4 DVD special features)
- Jonathan Frakes recalls, "That was sad. The day we finished up filming that last show. She'll [Crosby] really be missed. Denise and I used to dance around the set between takes and sing together. She really brought life to the set. It's ironic, that they finally came up with a script that gave Tasha great things to do, and it was the one where she died. She shot her farewell message to us in one take." ("Jonathan Frakes - Commander William Riker", The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 5, p. 9)
- Alternatively, in his online review, writer Keith R.A. DeCandido expressed much more satisfaction with Yar's death in this episode, saying "Frankly, I’ve never gone along with the complaints about how Yar is killed. Klingon feelings notwithstanding, there’s no such thing as a “good” death, and Yar going out in a blaze of glory isn’t inherently any better than being casually snuffed out by a sadistic oil slick. In fact, Yar’s death is in keeping with the deaths of security people throughout Trek history — the only difference is that this one’s listed in the opening credits... I actually prefer this random, pointless death to the clichéd-up-the-wazoo one she would get in the third season’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” though many, including the cast and crew of the show and a large chunk of the fanbase, disagree with me." 
- A mission report by Robert Greenberger for this episode was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 5, pp. 59-62.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 12, catalogue number VHR 2441, 7 May 1991.
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 1.8, catalogue number VHR 4649, 5 October 1998.
- As part of the TNG Season 1 DVD collection.
- As part of the TNG Season 1 Blu-ray collection.
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Geordi La Forge
- Denise Crosby as Lt. Tasha Yar
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
- Ron Gans as Voice of Armus
- Walker Boone as Leland T. Lynch
- Brad Zerbst as Nurse
- Raymond Forchion as Ben Prieto
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- James G. Becker as Youngblood
- Dexter Clay as an operations division officer
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Unknown performers as
- James G. Becker - stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Darrell Burris - stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Dexter Clay - stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon - stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Susan Duchow - stand-in for Denise Crosby
- Nora Leonhardt - stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack - stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell - stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Guy Vardaman - stand-in for Wil Wheaton
aikido; central nervous system; cortical stimulator; dilithium; dilithium assembly; direct reticular stimulation; flight control computer; hate; holodeck; imzadi; intermix ratio; kickboxing; last will and testament; matter-antimatter reaction assembly; microvolts; Minnerly; Mishiama wristlock; neural stimulator; non-humanoid; norepinephrine; neural stimulator; neurons; psychology; Shelley, Percy Bysshe; ship's pool; Shuttlecraft 13; spirit; Swenson; transporter room; tricorder; Vagra II; Vagra system; z-particle; Zed Lapis sector
- Skin of Evil at Wikipedia
- Skin of Evil at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
| Previous episode:|
| Star Trek: The Next Generation|
| Next episode:|
"We'll Always Have Paris"