TNG Episode 1.23: Skin of Evil

In which we learn why sometimes, you should just hold on a little longer and see how things pan out. Denise.

Memory Alpha says: A rescue operation to save the lives of a shuttle crew costs the Enterprise one of its own. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)

My Review
This is, of course, a really weird and uncomfortable episode, and probably the best thing about it is Jonathan Frakes sliding backwards into a trench full of printer’s ink thickened with Metamucil.

I do remember being sincerely scared by Armus when I was a kid.

It’s not that I think Tasha Yar was a great character or Denise Crosby was a bitchin’ actress; I think it’s pretty clear by this stage of the season that Gates McFadden and Marina Sirtis were both quite a lot better than her (even though Sirtis has been AWOL for a surprising number of episodes). I do get frustrated, though, by what a weak-ass death she has, all because Crosby decided prematurely that Star Trek: The Next Generation was lame. The show itself tries to compensate for this with the excellent ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise,’ and then CROSBY herself fucked THAT up with her idea for the character Sela Yar, whose existence requires Tasha to have been subjected to forced marriage, marital rape, and execution. Tasha. Whose whole childhood and adolescence was spent, you know, avoiding rape and holding onto some sense of hope for her future because she was managing to do so. So much for that redemptive, validating death she was hoping for!

So in short, Denise Crosby, you have terrible ideas. I’m not criticising you alone here; Brent Spiner also has terrible ideas, like Data’s death and the substitution of B4 in Nemesis; WHY, Brent, if you wanted out of this role, did you make the character’s out clause a character you also had to play? ALSO, LORE AND LAL. I don’t even know what I have to SAY about Lore and Lal, I’m just kind of yelling their names in a berserk alliterative state. And I want a story in which Lore gets reactivated by mistake and abducts Lal and fixes her up and mentors her in the ways of villainy. They’re very Mad Professor Tomoe and Cyborg Hotaru together. So what if I have terrible ideas too?

In shorter, ‘Skin of Evil’ and Nemesis should hang out, and while they are in the same hangout together, we should lock all the exits and set it on fire.

And if you are ever cast in a syndicated sci-fi TV series that doesn’t seem to be going very well, hang in there for at least two or three seasons to see if it gets bitchin’, that’s what I say. On the other hand, seaQuest DSV had a good first season and turned to shit in the second one. I was a teenager, and it drove me crazy that they got rid of all the middle-aged and older characters (with the exception of the mighty Roy Scheider) and cast young ‘hot’ ones in a transparent effort to pander to my demographic. I was enjoying Stephanie Beacham, you swine. She was awesome in Bad Girls. Did you know she’s deaf in one ear?

I had better get on with watching ‘Skin of Evil,’ though. Except I kind of want to watch The Thing With Two Heads instead. No. Be good. Do what you set out to do.

  • Oh, Deanna is returning from a conference? So that’s where you’re saying she is this week.
  • This scene actually builds up Tasha and Worf’s friendship, very sweetly, and makes me wish that THE SHOW HAD EVER REALLY BOTHERED WITH THIS BEFORE. I WOULD TAKE AN EPISODE ABOUT WORF AND TASHA BEING PALS OVER ‘CODE OF HONOR’ ANY DAY. Actually, flipping heck, you could have an episode about Worf and Tasha being friends that was still called ‘Code of Honor’ and have it make perfect sense! There would be some dumbass dangerous Klingon thing Worf had to do, and nobody would understand why it mattered so much to him except Tasha, so she’d be supportive and go with him and they’d kick some asses and save each other’s lives a few times. And at the end Worf would be like ‘you would make a good Klingon woman’ and Tasha would be like ‘thank you, coming from you that means a lot’ and he’d be like ‘I AM NOT ROMANTICALLY INTERESTED IN YOU’ and she’d be like ‘THANK GOD.’ (Because this is in my pocket universe where she and Deanna are in love; also, there is no emotion chip, Data’s emotion programming starts to come online gradually as his neural net increases in complexity, like the dream program that Julian accidentally activated prematurely; additionally, Picard and Beverly decide to try to do something about their feelings and there is much Blended Family Awkwardness because oh my God how Picard hates having to be a stepfather to Wesley.)
  • Riker and Picard’s exchange about how good it will be to have Troi back ties in with the idea that there was supposed to be a block of episodes in which Deanna didn’t appear, rather than the weird now-you-see-her-now-you-don’t effect of Season One.
  • Why did Lieutenant Commander Leland T. Lynch bother to give his full title and name with middle initial when Picard called Engineering? Also, I want the T to stand for Twin Peaks. He just doesn’t say ‘Leland T.P. Lynch’ because kids at school used to call him Toilet Paper. And, of course, another different guy is in charge of Engineering, because the Enterprise simply cannot keep a chief engineer. Is it that shitty of a job?
  • ‘That procedure is not recommended.’ How… Cardassian of you, Computer.
  • ‘Leland T. Lynch here, Captain.’ Proud of your full name, aren’t you Lynch?
  • Well, that shuttlecraft looks totalled! And we’re back on Planet Hell, dressed much more minimally today.
  • The animation of the black goo moving to block their passage is splendidly poor. I do not envy the effects people who worked on this episode, but to be fair, their use of printer’s ink thickened with Metamucil (I can’t quite get over the Metamucil) was ingenious.
  • Armus addresses Data as ‘Tin Man.’ The thought that Armus has been lying on this planet in the form of an oil-slick reading The Wizard of Oz is glorious to me. I think this makes Armus the first character to compare Data with the Tin Woodsman, since Riker prefers to call him Pinocchio, which always seems so much ruder to me. I guess because Pinocchio just bumbles around getting into trouble, and doesn’t do anything great like become Emperor of the Winkies and get himself nickel-plated.
    Oh gosh, now I have to stop myself telling you Tin Man stories, like the fact that the original casting in the movie was Buddy Ebsen, later famous as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies, who contracted a raging lung infection due to inhaling the aluminium powder used in his metallic makeup and had to be recast (and the makeup hastily reformulated), and was always bitter and unhappy that he missed out on being in such an epic movie; or the fact that actual tin men with axes used to be commonly displayed outside tinsmiths’ shops, made by the proprietors as evidence of their skill, so the Tin Man is not just a weird idea of L. Frank Baum’s, but something that his original readers would be as familiar with as a scarecrow, or the use of a lion as an emblem of courage.
    And the Tin Man’s actual name is Nick Chopper, and ethnically, he’s a Munchkin.
    I don’t stop myself very well, do I?
  • Ohhhhhh gosh, Armus scared me when I was eleven! Looking at him now, he’s really a Doctor Who-level monster. Data is giving him the stink-eye.
  • And boom, there goes Tasha. I do give them props for the sudden, startling and unsentimental way they kill her off, but not for the silly blob of makeup on her cheek. It looks like a jigsaw puzzle piece. What is it supposed to be? A burn? Was Armus put on that planet by Jigsaw? Is this a game?
  • Sorry, Beverly, nothing’s bringing her back but Dr West’s reagent.
  • I kind of like Armus gloobing over to cover the wrecked shuttle. Looking at the difference between these effects and those used for Odo and the other Changelings just seven or so years later makes it really obvious how rapidly visual effects technology advanced in that period. And, of course, it advanced so far because people did the best they could with what they had, even when it was ink and Metamucil, and they kept finding ways to make things look just a little better.
  • Armus’ villain voice is so overdone. I’d enjoy it more if he sounded sort of chilly and deadly, less blatantly gloating.
  • And Worf gets a promotion! And this starts the career path that leads him to become a key figure in Klingon history. Not bad for a kid who got dug out of the rubble at Khitomer. But then, Worf, like Michael Dorn, knows when to hang in there.
  • Hallo Wesley. Are you going to be any help this week?
  • HAHAHA Geordi sneaking around behind Riker to get a better look at Armus! I love how he’s bending over and peeping, as if he hopes Armus won’t notice what he’s up to.
  • My God Marina Sirtis had long nails at this stage. I guess Deanna doesn’t do much typing.
  • I liked the exchange between Data and Armus about helping Geordi, because it’s one of those times (like the denouement of ‘Hide and Q’) when Data speaks with a quiet moral authority, and has no tolerance for bullshit. I reject the idea that Data’s morality is a program that can be deactivated independent of the rest of his mind. Either a) he has, starting from basic programming, formed his own independently held convictions about what is ethically right and wrong, or b) it is built into his mind at such a fundamental level that for it to be deactivated or subverted, he would have to be incapacitated first (as is the case with Asimov’s Laws of Robotics). As you can probably guess, I favour a) because it means Data has more moral agency, but I still don’t think ‘Descent’ should even be able to happen.
  • I am just distracted by the claws on Deanna’s hand as it tightens and relaxes on her arm. It’s a good piece of body language to show her tension, but the nails.
  • DANK AND VILE. Nice choice of words.
  • ‘You have my pity,’ however, was not a good choice of words. You couldn’t have said ‘sympathy, D?
  • And here comes this awesome bit! Riker down!
  • This man is a good sport. Never forget it. Apparently after this sequence was shot, Frakes was lying on the ground getting his breath back, all covered in ink and Metamucil and sand, and LeVar Burton came over and said ‘Ha ha I wouldn’t have done that!’ Well maybe that’s why you’re not Number One.
  • This is the second time in as many episodes that Riker has been ‘enveloped’ by something.
  • It looks as if they’ve been raking and smoothing the sand alongside the trench in between shots, because it really doesn’t look as scuffed up as it should be for how long they’ve been tramping around there. Presumably this had to be done to compensate for extra sets of footprints from the crew; it would look pretty stupid if there were sneaker tracks going through there from the makeup touch-up people.
  • Um, Armus, there is a fairly fundamental flaw in your plan to try to make Data feel bad.
  • I suppose Data is thinking ‘You remind me of my brother. Asshole.’
  • It’s a very gooey Riker! Roll him over some paper and make a cool print!
  • THEY ARE INCAPABLE OF ENTERTAINING ME. Well, maybe Beverly could do a dance…
  • I know they keep mentioning ‘Ben,’ but come on, it’s Deanna everyone cares about.
  • Some of the fallen crap inside the shuttle looks a lot like plastic poster tubes.
  • It’s an interesting professional challenge to have to psychoanalyse a trench full of black goo.
  • ‘I am a skin of evil left here by a race of titans.’ That’s actually a pretty cool line… and very TOSsy.
  • Actually, Picard, I think what you’re describing is cowardice or failure rather than evil.
  • And so Armus was left to go ROOOAAAAHHHH all on his own forever.
  • This next scene is so, so weird. Tasha’s funeral on the holodeck. Who chose the pastoral setting? Did she leave directions for this in her will? At what stage in her life did she record the morbid little message she leaves behind? How often did she update it?
  • I note that Tasha’s funeral does not rate dress uniforms.
  • Tasha’s message to Riker suggests that they were much closer friends than we’ve ever actually seen. ‘You are the best‘ sounds pretty best-friends-ish.
  • The line about ‘I realised I could be feminine, without losing anything’ makes me want to barf, and is a pretty crap thing to reduce Tasha and Deanna’s friendship to (again, not that we’ve seen enough of it).
  • Do you get the impression that the projection of Tasha is programmed to look towards the person it’s talking to? It’s so creepy! God, I wish she’d just left them letters.
  • The message to Data is the freakin’ WEIRDEST. I know I go on about their liaison irrationally, and honestly, a drunken hook-up obligates nobody to pursue a relationship, but how, how, how could you with a straight face tell a dude you slept with once ‘you see things with the wonder of a child’? Has Tasha actually repeated ‘it never happened’ so many times in her head that she’s suppressed that whole incident?  If not, how can she be comfortable infantilising him this way? And this is the recording of Tasha that Data keeps as his memento of her. It is so messed up. And no, that quality of wonder doesn’t make Data ‘more human than any of us.’ What does that even mean? Children are more human than adults? It sounds like you just tried to think of something nice to say to Data, because you had something personalised and sincere for everyone else, and you were like “well he’s all about being more human, I’ll slap something together about that.” I’m mad at you about this, Dead Tasha.
  • And then her message to Picard actually does make sense and is nice. So… sigh.
  • ‘The gathering is concluded’ is a really awkward way to have to finish a memorial. This is why we sing hymns, or at least play one of the deceased’s favourite songs. My mum has requested ‘Walking On Sunshine’ by Katrina and the Waves, which, okay, is her favourite song, but is going to make me at least feel really uncomfortable, I think. At least it’s not her second favourite song, ‘Come On Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. My dad used to actually, literally want ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ but I think now he wants ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.’ I have no idea what I would choose. Maybe ‘Imagine.’
    I was just imagining a children’s choir on the Enterprise being taught to sing ‘Imagine’ and asking their teacher, why does he keep saying to imagine these things when they’re all real?
    And now, for no reason, Scott Bakula singing ‘Imagine’ from the Quantum Leap soundtrack.

    For all I kid about ‘Ooby Dooby’ being the Federation’s national anthem, I think ‘Imagine’ really is.
  • AND WE ALL WANT TO HUG DATA. (Except Tasha. Clearly.) And he’s left devoting more thought to her than I think she ever expended on him.
  • But you know what? Don’t be sad for Tasha. A security chief is basically like a police officer, and there are afterlife provisions made for these people when they die suddenly. The next thing she knows, she’s waking up on the USS Manchester in the 2260s, under the command of Captain Gene Hunt, wondering how the hell she is supposed to do her job in a miniskirt and spanky pants, and why, in quiet moments, she gets ‘Bowies in Space’ by Flight of the Conchords stuck in her head.

Okay, that’s out of the way. Next time, ‘We’ll Always Have Paris.’


14 Responses to “TNG Episode 1.23: Skin of Evil”

  1. Jedman67 Says:

    never bothered with this episode; most of season 1 was far too cheesy for me even when i was a kid. Hide And Q; now THAT was a great episode by S1 standards!

  2. innocentsmith Says:

    I want a story in which Lore gets reactivated by mistake and abducts Lal and fixes her up and mentors her in the ways of villainy. They’re very Mad Professor Tomoe and Cyborg Hotaru together. So what if I have terrible ideas too?

    I beg to differ. Clearly this is the BEST IDEA EVER. I would watch the hell out of that episode.

    • picardigan Says:

      I WISH I COULD DRAW PROPERLY. Because I’d be drawing the Evil Family Portrait of Lore, Lal and the Borg Queen. Best wicked step-aunt ever.

  3. jakeish Says:

    Man, Descent. I actually enjoyed that set of episodes, but its problems are annoying ones, like having all it takes to sway Data into full eviltude be turning off his ethical programming. As if his experiences and individuality don’t count for shit. If that’s the way he’d been presented all this time, it would be fine, but we’ve always been given every indication that he’s more than the sum of his programming.

    But it does make it totally clear, in my estimation, that he doesn’t need an emotion chip. Lore’s emotion-controlling rays (gosh, that just sounds really sort of comic book dumb) couldn’t have done jack if Data didn’t already possess the ability to feel emotion as-is. I REALLY RESENT THAT DAMN CHIP.

    I hate the Worf/Tasha bit just on the principle of hating when a show tries to make the audience feel more for a character who’s about to die or be badly injured by blowing up their relationships or suddenly introducing new aspects of their personal lives. It’s emotionally manipulative in the most blatant way and ugh. An actual friendship between the two would have made sense if it’d existed, but it didn’t, so suck it, show.

    Though… really not the show’s fault that they had to make this episode. But they probably could have made it suck less, with minor effort.

    Oh, I remember that episode of Quantum Leap. Sometimes I don’t think I’m actually that big of geek, and then I remember all the questionable sci-fi I’ve liked. Oh well.

    • picardigan Says:

      I enjoyed Descent at the time because it was a Data and Lore story, therefore yay, and Brent Spiner got to act his face off, but the more I think about it in hindsight, the more problems I find. CHIP RESENTMENT IS STRONG.
      Oh, I love Quantum Leap. I’ve never seen all of it or even much of it in order, but it holds a cosy spot in my heart.

  4. andygrrrl Says:

    Oh man, this episode. So bad it’s good! I love it.

    “The line about ‘I realised I could be feminine, without losing anything’ makes me want to barf,”

    That line makes me crack up because Tasha’s so clearly butch as hell.

    • picardigan Says:

      But she wears lipstick and does her hair like a cockatoo for special occasions!
      Although now I feel free to imagine that earlier, Tasha had a crew cut and confused other Starfleet women because, like Daria, her face was all one colour.

      • Tea Drinker Says:

        Never really found the lipstick and cockatoo hair convincingly feminine. Think that truly icky line says more about the male Star Trek writers’ anxieties about the butchness of the characer they’d created than anything else!

        A very odd episode all round. If we cared about Tasha it might have something going for it, but they hadn’t developed the character or her relationships enough so that we do care. Oh, she’s dead now.

        • picardigan Says:

          Yup. Too hasty overall. And yes, I think they really needed to COMMIT to making her rough and tough – she was supposed to be inspired by that gal from Aliens, after all! I shall now retreat to my pocket universe where Tasha has even shorter spiky hair and doesn’t put anything on her face but some practical lip balm and ointment for all those cuts and bruises she’s always getting from kicking asses and play-fighting with Worf.
          (Tasha limps into sickbay with one eye swollen shut and a terrific nosebleed all down the front of her uniform)
          Beverly: Don’t tell me. I should see the other guy?
          Tasha (beaming proudly): Yup!

          Riker: So, uh, you and Lieutenant Yar… isn’t fighting that much kind of a Klingon courtship thing?
          Worf: Not at all. We fight like brother and sister. I do not use any of the romantic holds, blocks or blows on her.

  5. Jedman67 Says:

    OMG! going through old Lois & Clark episodes, i just found Jonathon Frakes guest-starring in Season 3 (ep 6)


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