Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “Skin of Evil”

“All spirits are enslaved that serve things evil.”

Why the beastie? For convenience sake, Troi’s shuttle crashes on a barren planet populated only by a pool of goo that resembles an oil slick. Riker and his landing party keep trying to get around the slick, but it moves with them, blocking every attempt to get to the shuttle. A humanoid figure made of the sludge rises up, identifies itself as “Armus” (“homage” to writer/producer Burton Armus?), and smacks Yar down after she tries to move past him one more time. Yar dies instantly.

They take her up to the ship and Crusher tries to revive her, but she can’t. Yar is dead. She gets to die twice like Kirk, but her death is in vain. There was no heroism. There was no rescue. In fact, there was no reason to kill Yar, other than to get her off the show as quickly as possible. Her death was written to give her no possible way to get back on the show, or so they thought. Denise Crosby was upset at the treatment of her character, and she had an agent who made her believe she was indispensable.

I remember the lead-up to “Skin of Evil”. The preview for the episode promised the death of a member of the cast, and as soon as I saw Worf confessing that he bet on Yar for a martial arts competition, I knew Yar was toast. “Skin of Evil” was the 22nd episode produced (out of 26) for the first season. The producers couldn’t wait until the end of the season to get rid of her? We’ve had several unexplained (or partially explained) character absences from the show. Crusher was absent for a whole season. Ensign Ro screwed off for almost two seasons.

Crosby may have had reason to complain about the writing, but she didn’t exhibit the patience of her fellow cast-mates, nor did she prize the very rare occurrence of steady work or a paycheck in the acting world. Instead, she appeared in Pet Sematary and disappeared until she was brought back in the third season’s, “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” Most kids my age really didn’t care about her departure. She just came and went. I found Yar somewhat irritating, irrational, and angry as a character in those early episodes.

Regardless of the weaker qualities of the teleplay (written by Psycho’s Joseph Stefano with Hannah Louise Shearer, from a story by Stefano), this is an effective episode. Let’s say you could shed your evil, your negativity, your lust and your violence and have those feelings manifest a physical form. Voila! Armus! Armus is bitter (he may be a sympathetic character), having been cast off and left to live an eternity on a far away planet. Troi tells Picard that when Armus confronts his anger, his defenses are lowered, so Picard decides to piss off Armus to a point where he can transport his people to safety.

To wrap things up, we get an extended memorial service sequence where a hologram of Yar takes a few minutes to, oddly, eulogize her surviving crewmates. These are people she barely knew, yet she sums them up neatly and concisely as if consulting the writer’s guide. The actors, particularly Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, and, of course, Patrick Stewart, sell the grief well. Stewart sheds a tiny tear and bids Yar adieu. It is a shame the writing would improve for all the characters in the coming years and Yar’s character would’ve had a shot at becoming interesting.

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

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