Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S1E22 "Skin of Evil"

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The first pivotal episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. An evil, tar-like creature holds Troi hostage on an alien world. During the rescue mission, one of the Enterprise crew is killed. It's Tasha.

This episode contains the following tropes:

  • And I Must Scream: Armus is trapped alone on a dead world with nowhere to go and nothing to do, never to be reunited with the glorious beings who abandoned him there. Forever. And how he screams when Picard rubs that fact in.
  • Apocalypse How: It's implied (though never stated outright) that the original inhabitants of Vagra II devastated the surface and wiped out nearly all life through their warlike ways, before purifying themselves of their negative aspects. They then left the barren world and left Armus, who was created by said purification, as the only thing living on it.
  • Blob Monster: Armus is a pool of black sludge that can take a roughly humanoid form.
  • Break Them by Talking: Picard's way of defeating Armus; possibly the only way, as he is Made of Indestructium to the point where a direct photon torpedo strike isn't expected to kill him, only to destroy the downed shuttle.
  • Complete Immortality: Armus. And it is absolute torture for him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Armus strikes down Tasha, and she is dead almost immediately—much to the dissatisfaction of Armus, who wanted to see her suffer.
  • Dark Is Evil: Armus, made out of pure evil, is an entirely black liquid.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Picard and Deanna both feel some level of pity for Armus when they learn how he came into existence, and just how unimaginably long he's been alone on the dead planet. Armus feels insulted when they offer their compassion.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Her: Tasha Yar. Let's just say that you're not likely to find too many fans who agree with Gene Roddenberry's choice to give her a deliberately senseless death rather than a Heroic Sacrifice of some sort. Even the new writing staff that took over in Season 3 thought it was such an awful idea that they specifically wrote "Yesterday's Enterprise" to give Yar a better send-off.
  • Enemy Without: Armus was created by an alien race who left his world eons ago, possibly to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. He is the result of a process they used to dispose of their collective negative emotions, of which he is the physical manifestation.
  • Heroic Spirit: Picard says that the human spirit is indomitable, and that true evil is not Armus himself but the resignation of submitting to him.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Armus' screams when Picard is delivering his "The Reason You Suck" Speech sound very much like weeping. Watching it melt back into a puddle is similar to seeing someone curling up in grief.
  • It Amused Me: Armus's stated excuse for killing Tasha and torturing Riker.
  • Karma Houdini: In the end, the only retribution Armus can get is staying stranded on Vagra II.
  • Kick the Dog: Armus seizes every chance he can get to do this to the away team because he hopes it will amuse him.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: And Picard delivers it right back to Armus with words, which are the only thing that can really harm him.
  • Killed Off for Real: Tasha Yar. Denise Crosby left the show because she felt her character didn't have enough to do in the episodes. The producers probably felt that there were too many characters anyway and needed to trim the cast a bit, so they apparently took it pretty well. In fact, they worked with Crosby to make her departing episode special—in terms of Star Trek, the show that was responsible for the Redshirt trope. Also, driven home is the fact that Yar's death is somewhat pointless and understated and not the type of dramatic heroic death usually reserved for main characters. Crosby has also stated that she would have stayed if she'd gotten more character-based scenes like Tasha and Worf discussing her performance in the tournament.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Considering Armus is living a Fate Worse Than Death, it gets away with nothing despite ending the episode exactly as it began.
  • Made of Evil: Armus claims to be a skin of evil cast off by titans who thought that by ridding themselves of him, they could escape the bonds of destructiveness. He has zero redeeming qualities. He kills because he thinks it will amuse him. He tortures, physically and psychologically for the same reason. He is literally a black tar pit of hate that was cast off long ago. The only thing that might provoke sympathy is that he had no choice in his creation, and his evil nature is torture for him as well, being in a constant state of undirected hatred and rage.

    Jonathan Frakes spoke candidly about what a vile monster he is. In one encyclopaedia he discussed being pissed at how Starfleet would show Armus mercy, and even used a Precision F-Strike to express his feelings.
  • Powerful And Helpless: Armus murders Tasha, physically tortures Riker, and emotionally tortures the rest of the Enterprise away team in order to gain amusement, yet it doesn't amuse him for long and he can't get them to obey him or break their spirit despite his vast power. Rubbing his own impotence in his face turns out to be the key to defeating him, as Picard discovers.
  • The Power of Hate: Subverted—Armus is a creature literally Made of Evil and this leads the audience to expect that negative emotions would fuel his power. However, being forced to confront and feel his own rage and hate instead of suppressing it makes Armus weaker. Picard fully uses this to his advantage in escaping him. See Talking the Monster to Death below.
  • Puny Humans: Armus feels this way about the humans, as his power allows him to kill them with ease despite their force of will.
  • Reality Ensues: Turns out a main character can die just as easily and pointlessly as a redshirt.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Tasha Yar's death makes Armus an especially scary villain for the episode, as none of the other main cast are ever killed off in the series by another villain.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Tasha, in keeping with Gene Roddenberry's insistence that a security officer would die ingloriously.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: See Talking the Monster to Death.
  • Stupid Evil: Armus. He tortures the Enterprise away team for fun and then expects them to transport him off world, using threats of more violence as his sole bargaining strategy. Not that he has much of a choice on the matter; as an artificial entity of pure evil, it's literally the only thing he can do.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Picard utterly breaks, crushes and obliterates Armus's spirit.
    Armus: I am a skin of evil left here by a race of Titans who believed if they rid themselves of me, they would free the bonds of destructiveness.
    Picard: Yes. So here you are. Feeding on your own loneliness. Consumed by your own pain. Believing your own lies. [...] You say you are true evil? Shall I tell you what true evil is? It is to submit to you. It is when we surrender our freedom, our dignity, instead of defying you.
    Armus: I will kill you, and those in there!
    Picard: But you will still be here! In this place! Forever! Alone! Immortal!
    Armus: AAARRRGGHHH!!!!!
    Picard: That's your real fear. Never to die. Never again to be reunited with those who left you here.
    Armus: AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!
    Picard: I'm not taking you anywhere.
    Armus: [Overly Long Scream]
  • Teleport Interdiction: Armus maintains an energy field around the shuttle that prevents the Enterprise from rescuing Troi and the pilot. Breaking his concentration on maintaining it is key to resolving the episode.
  • Third-Person Person: This episode's entry in the first season's round of finding a Chief Engineer is one Leland T. Lynch, whose gimmick is apparently insisting on using his full name when hailed by the bridge. Picard seems annoyed by this already.
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: Troi is on Shuttlecraft 13, which crashes under mysterious circumstances.
  • Tropes Are Tools: While it may be a cliche, there's a reason why the Heroic Sacrifice is the generally preferred way for a regular character to die, especially if it's a (theoretically) action-oriented character like Yar.
  • Vader Breath: Every time Armus speaks it draws a phlegmy breath that makes it sound like it's dying of tuberculosis, in keeping with its appearance as a black sludge monster.
  • Video Wills: Tasha leaves a tearjerking one on the holodeck for the rest of the crew.
  • Wham Episode: The series was never the same after this episode. In a good way.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: Armus taunts Troi about Yar; Troi replies that she already sensed Tasha's death.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Recap/StarTrekTheNextGenerationS1E22SkinOfEvil