Season one of Star Trek the Next Generation is seen as a fairly weak season of television, but there were some memorable moments, one of which was the sudden death of Tasha Yar.
Jimmy and Tom have some thoughts on the episode where it happened.
“Skin of Evil”
An evil entity with awesome powers has Troi trapped in a downed shuttlecraft!
tomk: OK, so, I did pay attention to this one.
jimmy: So, is Tasha the first recurring character to actually die on a Star Trek show?
The closest they came to anything like this before is Yeoman Rand from TOS. In that case, the actress was let go and she just stopped appearing on the show. She did reappear in the movies for a lot of small scenes here and there, but no, not dead.
jimmy: And it really wasn’t much of a send of. The death was so quick and inconsequential. Then we have the extended resuscitation and memorial service scenes which, to me, mostly fall flat.
tomk: What an odd funeral. Do you suppose everyone on the ship has pre-recorded farewells? And how often do they update those things?
jimmy: I was wondering that too. And does the ship computer edit out the messages to people who were not there? Or did she only record messages to those exact people and they were summoned to the service?
tomk: And told where to stand so the hologram can face the correct direction every time.
jimmy: Well, they’re all congregated in the same general area and you can’t really tell the Tashagrams line of sight, so you can almost forgive that one.
tomk: They apparently filmed two versions. In one, Tasha just looked straight ahead. In the other, she looked at everybody.
jimmy: I think either works. Like I said, you can’t really tell where she is looking.
tomk: But I did wonder about half the stuff she said. When did Riker make her laugh or Geordi prove to be a true friend?
And apparently, none of the security people who served under her were invited.
But they made room for Wesley!
jimmy: He’s special.
Yeah, most of the comments seemed totally random and had nothing to do with examples from previous episodes.
Which is fine, I’m sure there is lots of adventuring off camera.
tomk: True, but I think it plays not Crosby’s concerns about the show and why she asked to get out of her contract.
jimmy: Here comes the story!
tomk: Something that did Marina Sirtis a huge favor.
Crosby felt that her character wasn’t really being developed. Coincidentally, Roddenberry decided they didn’t need three women in the main cast and was considering killing off Troi. Then Crosby quit and saved Sirtis’s job.
That last part I read recently in a long post on io9 about how Star Trek has treated women over the years. Sirtis was glad to keep working.
Additionally, Maurice Hurley believed all cast members had to be on set in full costume and makeup even if they weren’t in a scene. Crosby spent a lot of time literally standing around for no reason. She’d ask if she could stay home if she wasn’t needed for a scene and Hurley would say “no”.
jimmy: Wow. That was good timing for Sirtis.
That last part seems a bit ridiculous and grated some nerves I’m sure.
tomk: Yeah. That’s not how it works. It’s more evidence Hurley didn’t know how TV worked.
jimmy: In Crosby’s defense…she really wasn’t getting very developed or given much to do. That said…how often have you seen her in anything since?
tomk: She probably didn’t know it at the time.
And I don’t really blame her. Look at the quality of the show when she left.
Plus, she did come back for guest appearances.
jimmy: Yeah, but that’s about it. I find that 95% of the time when and actor/actress forces their way out of a show for green pastures, they almost nearly all crash and burn.
tomk: True. But no one knew TNG would become one of the best sci-fi shows of its era if you only had season one to judge it by.
jimmy: Yeah. Hindsight is a hell of a drug.
tomk: I mean, you yourself noted how poorly the episode paced out Tasha’s death. It comes early in the episode and feels anticlimactic.
jimmy: Very. This was not a great episode. Yar’s death is wasted and then their is a 10 minute memorial service that has no real power…maybe because we never really connected with her. Like you said, the examples seemed so random. Maybe if we had a connection and could look back at S01E12 or whatever and say, “yeah, that’s when she learned Geordi was a true friend”. The only real connection we have with her and the crew was from banging Data. Did she mention that? No. (Maybe that was appropriate given the audience.) And then she proceeded to call him a child.
The lingering shot of Picard when she said he was like a father worked mostly because of Stewart. And the final conversation and then shot of Data pulls (barely) on some heart strings, but that’s about it.
The rest of the episode is meh. A jerky sludge monster as the antagonist? Who they left on the planet to torture any other unfortunate souls that end up there. Hopefully they left a message or warning beacon as they zoomed away.
And speaking of zooming away, the whole “anonymous engineer guy fixing the engines”…was completely wasted. It didn’t even play into the plot really. Even when he did the risky “start it without a test” maneuver. And then he tells Picard they have minimum warp, Picard just says “I said warp 8, make it so.” And he did.
tomk: They did alert Starfleet about the danger on the planet so it would be labeled off limits.
jimmy: But not all ships are in Starfleet.
tomk: As for Jerk Sludge, The Monster With No Face, at least he was straight up evil. The show has villain problems as it is. Q is more playful, the Ferengi suck, and everyone else is usually an offensive caricature or misunderstood.
They’re in Federation space. Word will get put.
jimmy: He was a skin of evil, whatever that means.
tomk: Some higher being put all its evil into a mud puddle and left it there to get lonely.
jimmy: I let go the cheap/cheeziness of the horrible effect of it moving around, but it still wasn’t much of a villain.
tomk: Lonely oil sludges have feelings too.
jimmy: Maybe he’d have more friends if he didn’t go around killing people or drowning them…but somehow keeping them alive.
tomk: You did call him a jerk.
jimmy: This episode again made me wonder why the away teams don’t have cameras? Riker shouldn’t have to relay verbally what is going on and Picard shouldn’t be only able to hear the audio of a mission.
tomk: That only works when Geordi goes down to look at things. But then Picard just asks a million questions.
jimmy: That was something else…they send Geordi down to look at the sludge monster and did he even report anything?
tomk: Well, he lost his VISOR before he could get a good look at anything.
jimmy: More sludge monster jerkiness.
tomk: That dick!
His antics go from homicidal to bullying without rhyme or reason!
jimmy: Like his molecules, he’s a little unstable.
tomk: Reed Richards made a supersuit out of him?
jimmy: Or he could be Venom.
tomk: Or the Blob finally got more acting work.
jimmy: Talk about being typecast.
tomk: He wasn’t going to get the lead role on this show.
Speaking of casting…
Fun fact: Marina Sirtis auditioned for Tasha and Denise Crosby auditioned for Troi. Roddenberry decided to cast them as the opposite characters.
jimmy: That was probably for the best.
Speaking of the roles on this show, you know something I never thought of once during this up and down first season? They didn’t need 3 main roles for women.
tomk: Considering how similar Troi and Crusher are as basically nurturing figures, Tasha at least was unique.
jimmy: That’s true. Not that they really took advantage of it much.
tomk: Another fun fact: among the finalists for Tasha was actress Rosalind Chao, AKA O’Brien’s wife Keiko.
jimmy: You sure are full of fun facts today!
tomk: Tasha was a character with more backstory potential than pretty much all of the others. And now she’s dead and gone.
And Worf already got her job.
jimmy: If there was any reason to trim the cast it was this. Worf usually had nothing to do, and as you’ve stated a few times, no real role in the crew.
tomk: And his first act as acting head of security is…to stay on the ship.
jimmy: Yeah. That seemed a bit odd. But no one questioned it.
tomk: His reasoning was sound. And he was wearing red.
jimmy: Haha. Good point.
tomk: Besides, all they really needed was for Picard to scold Clayface’s great-grandson or something.
jimmy: Picard’s all about the wordsmithing. Kirk would have been face and eyes into the sludge…possibly with 2 or more green bikini girls.
tomk: I dunno. Kirk could be pretty infuriated when he wanted to be.
jimmy: I just liked the image of Kirk and the bikini girls in the sludge. Some people would pay good money for that!
tomk: If the girls play the harp, I know Riker would.
jimmy: Maybe there were already harp girls in there when he got sucked in.
tomk: Maybe that’s why he didn’t come out right away.
jimmy: That…makes perfect sense.
tomk: Now Jerky McNoFace doesn’t seem so bad.
jimmy: Not to Riker at least.
tomk: No wonder Data thought Lord Sludgio deserved to be destroyed. He wants in on Harp Girl action too.
Still, it’s too bad Tasha died. I was talking to a co-worker about this episode today, and he made this observation: Tasha’s messed up backstory would have put her alongside Data, Worf, and Picard for having interesting pre-Enterprise days. He noted that episodes focusing on Troi and Crusher tend to be dull with few exceptions, Geordi episodes are cringeworthy, and Riker’s life prior to boarding the ship don’t exactly lead to interesting stories either. But Tasha? She had so much unmatched potential, and quite frankly, I am inclined to agree.
jimmy: Hard not to. But they never made use of it outside of an allusion to it here and there. And the “growing up for me was so bad because…” comment from Tasha. Like how was there no episode about returning to her home planet or at least someone from her childhood showing?
tomk: Not really. She had a rotten childhood and somehow overcame all that to be what she was.
And it was a failed Federation colony. How bad did that colony fail anyway?
I mean, it may have failed so badly, Denise Crosby ended up on a couple episodes of The Walking Dead.
jimmy: I forgot about that. Maybe WD is really a TNG prequel?!?
tomk: So, TWD takes place before Zefram Cochrane invented warp drive, and that’s why the planet is such a mess?
jimmy: Makes sense to me. Earth in First Contact seemed pretty dreary. Maybe there were zombies just out of sight.
tomk: Well, the Borg are space zombies.
jimmy: And Steve Miller is a space cowboy. Well, some people call him that.
tomk: I know him better as the gangster of love.
jimmy: He’ll fit right in with Kirk and Riker.
tomk: Well, Riker is basically Woke Kirk.
tomk: And he made Tasha laugh so many times…between episodes.
jimmy: Maybe it was all the times he asked her to play the harp.
tomk: Somehow I doubt it…but we may have wandered off the trail a bit.
jimmy: Which just speaks to how weak her death was.
And on a related note, I was a bit surprised she lasted as long as she did. I thought she died earlier in season one, but we’re almost finished it now.
tomk: Well, time flies when you have a crap first season.
jimmy: I haven’t found it too bad. Farpoint was really the only episode that made me question if I should continue watching.
tomk: So, the Ferengi, Wesley Crusher saving these day, and the anti-drug stuff was all great for you. Good to know.
jimmy: I never said great…but not complete crap.
tomk: I see.
Shall we try another one then?
jimmy: It’ll be a bold new world without Tasha. So let’s see.
jimmy: Well then, let’s look into Picard’s love life.