Thursday, November 10, 2016

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 22 (Skin of Evil)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Warning: I’m about to give away major details about the plot. If you want to be surprised, don’t read this review.

The Enterprise is supposed to meet Counselor Troi, who’s coming back from a conference. The shuttle crashes on a near-by planet, but the Enterprise can’t make it in time since they’re working on the warp drive. When they do get there, the shuttle has already crashed. Troi is all right, but the pilot is badly injured.

A landing party beams down to attend to Troi. When they get there, they find this big puddle of some sort of black liquid. The puddle is able to move to block their access to the shuttle. When Data points out that it may be a life form, it addresses them. It reveals its name to be Armus and says that it won’t allow access to Troi. When Chief of Security Tasha Yar tries to go to the shuttlecraft anyway, Armus kills her with an energy blast. The landing party beams up, but Dr. Crusher can’t do anything for her; Yar dies.

The remaining members of the landing party return to negotiate with Armus, who has been tormenting Troi while they were away. He seems to take pleasure in hurting people, but grows bored quickly. He engulfs Riker and tortures him. He also uses Data to point a phaser at the other members of the landing party. Eventually, Picard beams down and is able to enrage Armus enough to let the Enterprise beam both him and Troi back to the Enterprise.

This episode is the epitome of everything that was wrong with the first season. First off, the effects were horrible. When Armus is seen moving, the effect is very cheesy. I can’t even describe to you how cheap it looks. It’s like it was airbrushed on or something. Also, after Yar is brought into sickbay, you can see what I assume is blood. It looks like Halloween makeup that someone found in a remainder bin at a dollar store. It not only looks fake, but it looks cheap. I guess they ran out of effects money.

The idea of pure evil is interesting, but they should have held this episode until they could write it better. Armus is what you might call a one-dimensional villain. His only purpose is to kill Yar. I understand that it was at her request, but if she had made that request just a little earlier, she could have been killed off in the previous episode. At least for a senseless death, it would have been at least believable. A lot of the first-season episodes missed the mark in terms of writing, but this one was way off. If I were to make an analogy to playing darts, this is the attempt that misses the board completely and hits someone where the sun doesn’t shine.

There’s also one major mistake that a lot of people have pointed out. After Armus engulfs Riker, Armus covers the shuttle. However, Armus remains very flat. There’s no lump that would be big enough to be Riker. What happened to Riker?

One thing of note is that this episode aired out of order. Episode 23 aired before this one did because the anti-drug message of “Symbiosis” appealed to Denise Crosby. She wanted to appear in that one, so the powers that be decided to hold off on airing this one. However, the episodes are numbered (and sold on VHS) according to production order. This is why the episode where she dies comes before another episode where she lives.

Other than the fact that Yar dies, this episode has nothing of any real interest. Not only can you skip this episode, but I also would have recommended that the series do the same. As I said, Yar’s death could have been put in another episode, making this one meaningless. Even if this episode comes on TV, you’re better off reading a book. 

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