Production Order: 22
Air Order: 23
Original Air Date: April 25, 1988
I hate this episode. You probably hate it too. It's terrible, kind of boring, and ends badly. I want to skip it. But it impacts future episodes, so I have to cover it. Anyway, let's rip the Band-Aid off this shit so we can move forward.
Picard's Log 41601.3: "This episode takes place before four other episodes, but we're banking on the audience not being big enough nerds to notice. Anyway, we're going to meet up with Deanna Troi, who is coming home from a conference. In other news, engineering is doing some stuff with the dilithium crystals, so we're traveling on impulse power."
This episode starts off with some really great character development: there's a martial arts competition coming up, and Yar is entered. She's fairly certain on some of her skills, but asks Worf if she can spar a little with him later to practice some parts where she is less sure of herself. Worf agrees, but reassures her that she's prepared and skilled enough to take first, as the ship's pool favors her.
"You bet on me?" she asks, pleasantly surprised.
"A sure thing," he responds.
She gives him this smile like, "You liiiike me. I'm your friiiii-eeennd."
Worf is embarrassed and looks away.
Dude, this is great. We get a continuation of Yar's interest in the martial arts here, established in that crappy "Code of Honor" episode, and it makes sense that this would be a hobby of hers: she is the security chief, and grew up in a situation where self defense would have been paramount to her survival. It also makes sense that she is nervous and a touch uncertain of her abilities. That same childhood situation probably casts self-doubt on her actions at times, and she wants to appear confident. It would not do for the security chief to be shown up at a martial arts competition by another crew member.
But then more awesomeness: Worf reassures her that she has the skills to pay the bills. As a Klingon warrior, he knows about hand to hand combat. As her colleague, he's seen those abilities in action. As her friend, he wants her to win.
We never get this, the interpersonal relationship thing that made TOS what it was. We get just snippets of it, every now and again, but rarely from secondary characters. There was a great convo a few weeks ago between Worf and Wes in "Coming of Age," where Worf confesses that he still has problems relying on others for his safety, but we've really yet to dig into Yar's character like this. Most of her conversations with other crew members have either revolved around her job, or have been weird (Yar and Troi arguing ethics in "Code of Honor," Yar raiding Troi's closet and then seducing Data in "The Naked Now").
Dear Star Trek, More of this please. kthnx.
Dammit, we have to get back to plot. You know how, sometimes you're watching something that's added in for padding or tiny character development, and you're enjoying the hell out of it, but then Plot interrupts, and you're like, "WTF? I was watching that!" (Last week's almost-confession of feelings between Crusher and Picard. The opening credits scene of "Guardians of the Galaxy" where Peter Quill dances to "Come and Get Your Love" before the music stops abruptly because he's found that purple thing. An episode of "Will & Grace" where Grace catches Will dancing to George Michael while dusting. Fuck you, Plot. I was watching that!) Yeah, that's how I feel about this Plot Interruption, too.
So the thing that we're supposed to care more about than Denise Crosby getting quality lines and screentime, is that the shuttle carrying Troi back to the E has just called for help. The pilot, another E crew member, says that he's lost control of the ship. It's reported that they're super-close to an uninhabited planet, and they're going to crash.
Picard calls engineering. The Ship is Disabled, remember? They're realigning the dilithium crystals and only have impulse.
Instead of answering "Lynch here," like a normal human being, Lynch must waste time and brown-nose a bit by replying, "Lieutenant-commander Leland T Lynch here, sir." Picard actually rolls his eyes at the greeting, then demands to know long before they can have warp.
"We're realigning the dilithium crystals."
"I know that, you bag of dicks! This is an emergency!"
"Oh, um, twenty minutes."
"Dude, do you not know the definition of the word emergency?"
"Okay. Three minutes? I can do it by hand."
If three minutes is an option, then why did you suggest twenty? Do you not hear the urgency in his voice? Why would he be calling you frantically if twenty minutes was an acceptable answer? Are you trying to pull a Scotty, Lynch? Were you planning to answer back that you cannae do it in less than twenty, then do it in three?
Prieto the pilot calls back to say that they're going down!
Dramatic music! Opening credits break!
Picard's Log, supplemental: "Well, we don't know where the hell the shuttle is. We lost contact. Presumably, they crash-landed on Vagra II, but we can't get there to find out because we're an hour away still and still don't have warp."
So Lynch puts the crystals back and does a cold start. Majel Barrett tells him not to, but he replies "Fuck tha po'lice, We're doing it anyway." Then he calls Picard with his full name again to report minimum warp. Picard orders warp eight. Lynch tries to argue with him. Lynch is kind of full of himself. Damn, do all engineers have this attitude that they're God, and no one knows how to run things but them? I mean, I get that the captain will sometimes ask them to do something that sounds impossible, but why the hell are they so rude?
When the E finally arrives at Vegra II, Data says they have pretty much no info about the planet, other than the atmosphere barely reaching minimum for human requirements, and the almost complete lack of life. Sounds like there are a few plants and nothing else. The scanners can't figure out life signs because the shuttle is under a bunch of impenetrable debris, so Riker takes Yar, Data and Dr Crusher down as the away team.
The shuttle is lying in some rocks. Both of the nacelles are busted clean off.
Crusher's long scan says she's getting weak life signs from the shuttle.
They encounter a weird black puddle between themselves and the shuttle. Yar suggests going around when her scanner is unhelpful, but then the puddle moves to block them again.
Each way they move, the puddle moves to block them.
"WTF?" asks Riker.
Data does more scans and can't say for certain whether or not it is alive. He's pretty sure it has no brain, but seems to be intelligent.
"Is it a life-form?" asks Picard, who is patched in over the open comm.
"I think so?" replies Data.
Then the puddle is all, "Very good, tin man."
And that shit starts to stand up.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!
Picard's Log, supplemental: "Rehash."
"I'm Armus," says the oil slick. "Why the hell are you here?"
"That's our shuttle," says Riker. "Our friends are inside. We need to get them. Please let us pass."
"The fuck should I?" demands Armus.
"Because we think all life has a right to exist," Riker replies.
"Yeah, well," answers Armus. "I don't, sooo, what do you think about that?"
"This is crap," cuts in Yar. "Let's go around his sticky ass."
But then the oil slick shoots some kind of lightning bolt at Yar, tossing her back across the sand. Data and Riker try shooting Armus with their phasers, but Armus only seems to absorb the energy. He sinks back into a puddle while Crusher rushes to treat Yar.
"What's going on?" demands Picard over the comm.
Crusher's scans come back negative. "She's dead, Jim."
Picard orders a beam-up for the away team, and Crusher gives Yar a hypo before telling Data to take her to sick bay. Picard then puts the ship on yellow alert before rushing to sick bay also.
Crusher and two assistants perform what I can only describe as 24th-century CPR for several moments, and finally, Crusher is forced to give up. She tells the others that there was too much synaptic damage, and calls the time of death. The others are stunned.
On the surface, the Armus puddle has enveloped the shuttle. We see that the pilot is either dead or unconscious of a head wound, and Deanna Troi is on the floor, just coming to. Her comm is not working. She has a creepy conversation with Armus.
"Your friends have abandoned you."
"No, they haven't," she replies.
"I killed one," he boasts.
"I know. I felt her die," Troi answers.
"It was pretty meaningless," he tosses off. "I killed her because I wanted to. It was awesome."
"No, it wasn't," she argues. "You thought you would get some satisfaction from it, but you didn't. You wanted her to suffer."
"That's true," he admits. "It was too easy."
Armus says that he wants to break the spirits of the E crew. You know what he sounds like? Some petty internet troll who gets his rocks off by pissing people off in comment threads and threatening to rape women who disagree with him. He's just some kind of fucking asshole who says the sort of things designed to rile people up for his own amusement. He's like the sentient oil that leaked out of Lore's ass.
Picard gathers the rest of the senior staff in the observation lounge, and they all start talking at once about how Yar didn't do anything, and her phaser was lowered, and it was totally senseless, and they're just as pissed off as Armus is hoping they are. Picard reminds them that their feelings about this are just going to have to wait until they can rescue Troi in the shuttle. He makes Worf acting security chief, even though Worf is Command Red, and there were probably others in security who would have taken Yar's place.
Data suggests that Armus has force fields that allows him to control when they can communicate, and beam up or down. Riker suggests that Armus has kept the shuttle crew alive for a reason. This goes hand in hand with a theory that Picard suggested earlier - that it was no coincidence that the shuttle crash-landed right near Armus. Picard tells Riker to form another away team, this time including Geordi, who may be able to see something in Armus that the others can't. Riker is going to include Worf, but Worf declines on the grounds that he can be of better use to everyone while manning the tactical station.
The others beam down to the surface. This time, Geordi replaces Yar. Riker reports to Picard that Armus is covering the shuttle.
We go back inside for another creep-tacular conversation between Troi and Armus.
"You're surprised they came back," says Troi. She sounds like she's running a terrified counseling session. "You're surprised because the others did not come back for you. They left you here, and you're very angry."
"How the fuck do you know that?" demands Armus.
"I just do," she replies. "And you'll tell me more about them later."
Okay, Troi: now you're starting to sound like the internet troll.
Armus slides off the shuttle and approaches the away team. Geordi looks over Armus carefully while Riker talks to him.
The oil slick agrees to let Crusher look at the injured shuttle crew, but then he changes his mind and drops the force field on the shuttle so she can talk to Troi over their comms instead. Troi confirms that she is okay. Data and Armus get into a brief argument over whether or not Armus is a life-form.
"We don't know if you are or not," says Data truthfully. "Our instruments aren't registering that information."
"Maybe they suck," suggests Armus, and he makes Data's scanner and phaser fly away from him. Geordi's VISOR flips off his face and onto the ground.
When Data attempts to help the now-blind Geordi find his VISOR, Armus barks at him not to help. Riker also advises Data to stay put. Data tries to give Geordi direction instead, but the VISOR disappears and reappears in a different spot.
"Meh, I'm bored," pouts Armus. "Give him back his banana clip and I'll torture you some other way."
Armus goes briefly back to the shuttle.
"You were right, and they were not amusing."
"Told you so."
He then tells her the most vague and confusing origin story ever: the creatures that he was with and who abandoned him are very beautiful, but only because he exists. Like they found someway to pull beauty out of the planet or something and take it on for themselves, but they also pulled out horrible stuff, so they gave him all of the horrible stuff and just left him. I guess he's walking evil or something?
She tells him that she pities him, which of course pisses him off.
He immediately goes back to the away team, and just fucking grabs Riker through telekenesis. Riker is then dragged backward by his feet into the puddle.
Armus drags Riker under, then tells Picard and the away team that if they try to leave, he'll kill Riker and the shuttle crew.
And now, for a Dad Joke: what kind of beauty treatment does Riker use on his face every night to keep his babyface smooth?
Oil of Ol' Armus.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!
Picard's Log, supplemental: " Rehash, in case you were in the bathroom trying to pass a bad burrito or something."
Upstairs, Worf and Wes are checking out some scans. They noticed that Armus' energy levels fluctuate, and that they're at their highest when he killed Yar and took Riker, but at their lowest when he goes to visit Troi in the shuttle.
Picard then leaves Worf in charge, and makes the piss-poor decision of going downstairs to talk to Troi.
Armus envelopes the shuttle again. He has decided to torture Troi by torturing Riker, because they have a mental and emotional connection. It's pretty much working.
"I'll stop torturing him if you ask me to," purrs Armus.
"Fuck you!" yells Troi. "What the hell am I supposed to say to that?"
"Tell me you'd sacrifice yourself for him..."
"Yes! But I would do that for any of the others, too! You can have me! Whatever!"
Damn, this got weird.
It's puts the oil on its skin...
"Cool," says Armus dismissively. "Maybe later. Wait, somebody else just showed up."
"Death doesn't seem to be doing it for Armus anymore, so I'm guessing yes," answers Data.
"Maybe," says Armus evasively, because he's a giant fucking dick. "Entertain me, leader."
"Bite me," Picard replies.
So Armus makes Data point his phaser at each of them in turn.
"The doctor has to choose who dies," he decides.
"Myself, then," says Crusher.
"No, you live. Pick somebody else. Maybe I'll have the robot kill himself."
But Armus isn't getting any reaction from Data, so he has Data drop the phaser.
"I need to see my people," says Picard. "The man in the puddle, and the people on the shuttle."
"Entertain me," repeats Armus.
"Nope. Bye." Picard and the others get into beam-up formation.
"What - you don't give a shit about your people?" Armus demands.
"I do. That's why I need to see them. But I'm not playing your dumbass games anymore."
Armus tries to menacingly disappear, but basically he just melts back into a puddle, which then barfs Riker back onto the sand.
Dramatic music for some reason! Commercial break!
Crusher wipes the goo from Riker's face and scans him. He's okay. Picard has them beamed back up.
"They may go," says Armus dismissively.
Now that they're alone, Armus finally gets to the crux of what he wants. It only took us 33 minutes of him dicking around and killing Yar.
"I want to leave," he says. "Take me with you when you go, and I'll give you those people back."
"Show them to me first," Picard counters.
Picard disappears, and reappears on the shuttle. He checks Prieto the pilot, who is alive, but hurt badly. Troi asks about Yar, but he says they could not save her. He then asks if she knows why the force field weakens when Armus visits the shuttle.
"He's filled with rage," she answers. "He has to confront it rather than suppress it, and that makes him vulnerable."
"When do we leave?" he demands.
"Where do you want to go?" Picard deflects. "You want to find the people who left you here, is that it?"
"Did she tell you that?" Armus asks. "Man, I told her that in confidence!"
Picard further deflects by getting into a discussion of good vs evil with Armus.
"You guys are weak, puny. I can kill you at the drop of a hat."
Because that's what you want to say to someone right after they ask you for a favor.
"Say Tom, can you help me move this weekend? Also, you're fat and your wife looks like a Ferengi."
Armus launches into this spiel about how he's a skin of evil, left there by titans who believed that if they rid themselves of him, they would be free.
"Meh," says Picard. "The real evil is giving in to you, rather than defying you. but you're afraid that if you're left here all by your lonesome forever, you will have to live with your own bullshit."
It's funny, Picard's lecture to Armus about evil vs good sounds really similar in tone to all of Kirk's attempts to give malfunctioning computers an existential crisis.
Armus is losing his shit.
"This isn't a three-hour tour, bitch," says Picard, just before he beams away. "And just like every asshole guest star on Gilligan's Island, I'm gonna sail away and never mention to another living person that you're out here."
Picard's Log 41602.1: "So we blew up the shuttle to keep Armus from leaving the planet, and set a quarantine on Vagra II so that douchey puddle of whatever-it-is can never torture someone again."
"And now I have to do something that kind of sucks."
The hologram appears, and Yar talks about having died, and probably quickly, in the line of duty. She wants them to know that if this is the case, she died doing what she loved, and that she loves them all.
Then she starts talking about how each one of them touched her life in a different way, and how she was grateful for their friendship.
She finishes her speech with "Hailing frequencies closed, sir."
There's a moment, then Picard says quietly that the gathering has concluded. Everyone leaves, except for Data, who steps forward toward the dais where the hologram was projected. Picard approaches him.
"I'm confused," says Data. "I know this gathering was for Tasha, but I find that I am thinking about myself instead, and how empty things will be without her. Did I miss the point?"
"No, you did not," says Picard gently, and he walks away to leave Data standing quietly on the hill by himself, with just the sounds of the birds in the background.
Damn it, show. Your first 38 minutes sucked, but those last six or so were lovely. I'm sad that that memorial scene was not at the end of a better-written episode.
Let's break this down, shall we? Once again, we get stuck with a villain with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A dick for dickishness' sake. I hate this kind of villain. Do they have a reason for doing what they're doing? Yeah, kinda? Is it mostly just because the villain is an asshole and enjoys being an asshole? Yeah, pretty much. It feels like lazy writing to me, to be perfectly honest. "What is our villains motivation?"
"I dunno. I don't have time to give him motivation. Make him an NPD and be done with it."
In real life, these are actually the worst kinds of people on Earth. When I'm reading/watching a narrative, they're boring. If your character's reasoning for doing something is "just because," I'm gonna get bored and walk away. Are there examples of well-done NPDs? Yes. This was not one of them.
And Armus' motivation was super-vague and also felt invented at the last minute.
"Why is this guy here, torturing people?"
"Ummm... make him pure evil or something. Say he's the scrapings left over from some ancient race that removed all of that from themselves, and then left him behind to rot."
Then motherfucker wants to leave at the end, and probably seek out revenge on the people who left him there to begin with. How the hell was he supposed to manage that? Is there some kind of Ethereal Being Facebook where he could stalk them? And how nasty would his quarters have been when they finally dropped him somewhere?
Now, normally I enjoy a good cerebral episode: more talk and less action is kind of my thing. But this episode felt padded six ways from Sunday. A lot of arguing between Armus and everybody else. Sometimes I'll watch til the end of a longer scene, and it'll take me ten to twenty minutes to sum up a conversation and how it fits into the larger plot. But with this episode it was like, "Armus says something asshole-ish, and the away team replies. No, you don't need me to paraphrase. It has no bearing on the outcome, anyway."
Okay, let's dive into Tasha Yar. Denise Crosby was taking a good long look at her lines and screentime compared to everybody else, and finding that she was gettin' nuthin.' She actually joked that it would be better for the show to get a cardboard cut-out of her legs for the background, then she wouldn't have to show up and put on the uniform and sit in hair and make-up. (For the record, I started watching fairly closely for shots that just contained the bottom portion of her legs, and it wasn't actually that many when compared to the shots that show her fully. But yes, for most of her appearances, Crosby was really just standing at tactical saying, "Aye, sir.") Here's the ridiculous part: Natasha Yar was actually one of the more interesting characters in the show's bible. Where did things go wrong?
I have a theory. So I sometimes write fanfic that no one will ever read, and there's this certain fandom and character that are involved. Now, the original story says that this one guy will betray all of his friends at some point and it will fuck up all of the shit for everybody, but when you're writing for this time period, he is still friends with everyone, so you have to write friendly parts for him. He likes them, and they like him. But the fanfic writers know what a giant whorish asshole this guy becomes, and they struggle to make him seem sympathetic. They can't write him as evil (yet), they're not really certain how to make him seem believably awesome, so they tend to fall back on lines like, "(Character) was also there."
Seems like this is what happened to Yar. The writers didn't know what to do with her. She had a heavy, complicated backstory that could have been mined for writing gold, but because they weren't sure what direction to go with when it came to Yar, she was relegated to "Yar was also there." It makes me wonder how many times she got the script, realized that she was Set Dressing again, and complained.
"Just say "aye, sir" when Patrick gives you a command," they'd say. Did it happen once? A dozen times?
Michael Dorn was also dissatisfied with being Set Dressing, but eventually, the writers gave him more to do, and he became a great character over time. I feel like the differences were in the quality of the stories given to each of them. Dorn got a pretty good Worf-centric episode ("Heart of Glory") that delved into his backstory and allowed him to be at odds with his colleagues. It made the character better, even if only a little bit. Crosby, by contrast, got a piece of shit episode ("Code of Honor") which will go down in TNG history as the most racist episode they ever made. Tasha did not grow as a character in that episode. She simply displayed some gymnastics.
Denise Crosby later admitted that, if they had written more scenes for her like the opening scene with Worf, she might have reconsidered staying. Sadly, they saved their best stuff for her for that goodbye episode.
Then we have the method of Yar's death. Rather than replace her with another actress, or just have her leave and never return, Gene Roddenberry thought it would be best to kill her off. It would be shocking and bold, because unlike other traditional Star Trek security deaths, this character was listed as a principal in the opening credits.
For the most part, people hated the way Yar was killed. She was just offed by some pissy oil slick, rather than going down "in a blaze of glory." Some appreciated the way it just happened, no sentimentality. Others thought it was just too senseless and quick. In truth, I kind of didn't care. I didn't care until the memorial scene at the very end, and it seems like, try as they might, nobody else seemed to care much, either. Picard said, "We have to set aside our feelings until we've solved this problem," and everyone, including myself, just went "okay."
Our final scene is the memorial, and that actually came off as the best stuff in an otherwise meh episode. The difference is, Denise Crosby was well-liked by cast and crew, and no one wanted to see her go. They were all genuinely disappointed in her leaving, and it shows. Marina Sirtis' tears in that scene were not faked - she was good friends with Crosby, and the departure made her emotional.
PS - Lol, you thought this would be the drugs episode, didn't you? For some reason that I can't find, this episode was filmed before that one, but their air dates were switched for continuity purposes, so that one's being covered next week.
Red deaths: 0
Gold deaths: 1
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
Sassy Geordi moments: 1
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
Sassy Riker Moments: 1
Sassy Yar Moments: 0
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 0
Sassy Crusher Moments: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 0
Sassy Crusher Moments: 0
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 3 or 4?
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 4
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 1
- The episodes whose stardates fell before this one were "The Battle," "The Big Goodbye," "Angel One," and "The Arsenal of Freedom."
- This is the first time in Star Trek history that a major character was killed off without being brought back to life later.
- To lighten the mood before the funeral scene, dork-for-life Patrick Stewart sang "The Hills Are Alive" when the cast was climbing the grassy hill.
- Roddy McDowell was almost tapped to voice Armus. The part went to Ron Gans.
- Armus was played by Mart McChesney, who would later play the part of the Sheliak director in another TNG episode. The Sheliak director is also a faceless black lump of ooze.
- The black oil slick was created using Metamucil and printer's ink. Despite the fact that both of those ingredients are water-soluble, it kept eating through the Armus costume.
- Jonathan Frakes had to be submerged in that oil slick stuff for filming, and while on break, LeVar Burton approached him and said, "Frakes, I never would have done that!"
- This episode marks Wil Wheaton's final appearance (in air order) for this season.
|Savannah Brown Tuxedo Otis|