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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Skin of Evil

March 22, 2013

Originally aired April 25, 1988. Stardate 41601.3. They’re on their way to pick up Troi’s shuttle as she returns from a conference. Worf talks to Yar about a martial arts competition Yar will be competing in. They get an emergency hail from the shuttle. It’s losing power and out of control. It crashes on an uninhabited planet. After the credits, the ship heads to the planet. Something on the planet is interfering with scans. They find the shuttle, but can’t get anything more than that. Riker, Yar, Data and Crusher beam down. There’s a pool of black tar between them and the shuttle. As they try to go around, it moves to block them. They try to determine if it’s alive. Data says it’s possible, and the tar speaks., and starts to rise.

It’s created a humanoid form, and identifies itself as Armus. Riker tells it they want to get their injured crewman. Armus refuses. Yar tries to move past, and Armus blasts her. She goes flying. Riker and Data blast it, but have no effect. Crusher checks on Yar, but it’s too late. She’s dead. Picard orders them beamed up, and heads to sickbay to meet them. Crusher tries to save Yar, but fails. Back on the planet, Armus covers the shuttle, and taunts Troi. He says he killed Yar because it amused him. She says it didn’t amuse him, that he felt nothing. He wanted her to suffer. He wants to break their spirit, but Troi says he won’t get that. Back on the ship, the crew is in a meeting, and Picard says to ignore their feelings until they get the shuttle crew back. They talk about Armus. Riker goes back down with Data, Geordi and Crusher, with Worf opting to stay behind, since fighting the creature won’t do any good. Worf’s smart.

Troi asks to be allowed to talk to them, but Armus refuses, since not being able to speak to her makes them worried. Troi mentions how surprised he is that they came back, and asks if it’s because “the others” didn’t. She recognizes that someone made him angry, but he refuses to tell her anything more. He slips off the shuttle to talk to the team again. Crusher asks to be allowed to treat the shuttle crew. He tells her to talk to Troi from there. He then throws away their tricorders and takes off Geordi’s visor. He forbids the others from helping him. Data directs Geordi, and Armus moves it again. Data refuses to play Armus’s game. Armus grows bored and returns to talk to Troi. He was a cast-off of the negative emotions of another race. She offers her pity, and he’s enraged. It slips off the shuttle, and drags Riker into its own mass.

Worf tells Picard about some energy fluctuations in Armus’s field. Picard decides to beam down. Armus taunts Troi about Riker’s pain. Troi pleads with them to let the others go, offering herself instead. Picard demands to see the people in the shuttle, but refuses to entertain Armus. He takes over Data, and taunts them. They all refuse to play along. Armus gets annoyed and tosses Riker back out.

Crusher checks Riker out. Picard has the others beam up, and deals with Armus himself. Armus wants to leave the planet. Picard demands to see the people in the shuttle, and Armus lets him in. Troi tells Picard about the ones who left Armus behind. Picard verbally smacks down Armus, making him angrier and angrier. Eventually, his anger causes his energy levels to drop low enough for Troi to be beamed up.

Picard destroys the shuttle from orbit and declares the planet off-limits. That just leaves the funeral of Yar. She left a recorded message, talking to them about her feelings about them. All very sad.

This is, for the most part, a mediocre episode. Armus is a somewhat interesting concept, but the execution isn’t quite pulled off. It just feels lacking. It’s the voice, I think. DeCandido described it as a “cartoony deep voice,” and yeah, it really hurts. It makes him seem a lot less menacing. Troi, however, is used very well. Her empathy and her training help her to manipulate him, getting to the root of who he is, and giving Picard the means to beat him. This is one of her best episodes of the whole season. Not that she got to do a lot in general in this season, but she was very good here. And Sirtis handled it well, showing Troi as frightened but resourceful. Stewart also does really well when he confronts Armus. He’s all scorn and contempt, and it’s awesome.

This episode is, of course, best remembered for Tasha’s death. Denise Crosby was annoyed at how little was done with her character over the first season, and asked to be removed. She actually said that if she’d gotten more scenes similar to the one with Worf at the start of this episode, she would’ve stayed. The way she died didn’t really bother me. A lot of people were upset at how pointless her death was. I take the view that death is usually senseless, so I don’t really mind seeing it in fiction, as long as it’s handled well. This one was handled in an OK way. She wasn’t killed as an excuse to make people sad. It had an element of showing how dangerous Armus was, but it also contributed to the story.

On another note: Frakes had to get into a pool of Metamucil and printer’s ink. Frakes was willing to do just about anything for this series.

Overall, I’d give this 2/5. It’s got some good stuff. Troi finally gets to do something (the fact that Sirtis hung around after being ignored for the first season is shocking), and Armus is a cool concept. But a lot of it comes across as a little silly, throwing off a lot of the menace.

One Comment
  1. timbarjenbruch permalink

    Nice review. One of the sticking points for me in this episode is the loneliness-trope: “You happen to be playing the tough, psychopathic guy (made of tar), but when I mention to you that you might be lonely, you fade and crumble, you piece of crap!”

    Also appears in that one Harry Potter movie, where Harry is battling the big bad wizard-y guy (can’t remember his name), and the one thing that truly hurts the big bad wizard-y guy is Harry growling “YOU WILL NEVER KNOW LOVE OR FRIENDSHIP!” at him. If I had extreme magical powers and was desiring of world domination, I’d think I’d try to be a bit more thick skinned. (Which is funny, saying “thick skinned”–is the Skin of Evil just a skin, hiding away a frightened, lonely child? Haha, I guess so.)

    It’s like, c’mon. Buck up.

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