TNG: S1E23: “Skin of Evil”

In which you know what happens, Troi is good at her job, but Picard is better.

"Don't forget to cup the crystals."

“Don’t forget to cup the crystals.”

The Enterprise is crossing through the Zed Lapis system to meet up with Troi, who was off at a conference or something. We open with Worf and Yar flirting about martial arts training. Their flirting isn’t even cut short, Yar just makes Worf uncomfortable by giving him googly eyes when he says he bet on her to win some tournament. It’s only after that that they receive an emergency transmission from the shuttle, sadly just when the engineer on duty is realigning the dilithium crystals. The process is apparently supposed to take another 20 minutes, which is unacceptable as the shuttle is crashing into Vagra II. Looks like Troi and the plucky young pilor are going to die, even though they’re rushing the crystal process and trimming it down to three minutes.

They spin up the drive, and set the matter-antimatter ratio at 25-1. Wait, what now? We literally just learned in “Coming of Age” that there is exactly one intermix ratio and it is 1:1. And Wes is a certified super genius whose answer was verified as correct by the Academy. I guess… I guess the engineer trained on an older warp drive? Maybe? Argh. Seems to have worked, though.

The planet is mainly uncharted – minimal vegitation, not much reason for anyone to go there, apparently. They find the shuttle easily enough, and they don’t detect life signs immediately. This kind of begs the question – what exactly are the ‘life signs’ they are scanning for? More specifically, since you could probably detect heat densities that correspond to population clusters, what life signs are they looking for from two people in an airtight shuttlecraft? Evidently, it’s some kind of sign that can be blocked by debris. Sadly, that doesn’t really narrow it down a lot. An away team is assembled, including Riker, Crusher, Yar, and Data. And I think most of you probably know how this is going to go.

"Uh, guys? Can someone help get all this tar off of me?"

“Uh, guys? Can someone help get all this tar off of me?”

They approach the shuttle but are blocked by a sentient black puddle of sludge. It is made of materials that defy explanation – no proteins or anything that we might consider necessary prerequisites for reactivity to environmental stimulus. No cells. Those of you who have watched Deep Space 9 might recognize the description of a puddle of sentient ooze… At this point, it speaks, calls data ‘tin man’ and oozes its way out of the ooze like a black oozy ooze-man.

The ooze-thing calls itself Armus, disagrees on the Federation axiom that all things have the right to exist, and kills Tasha Yar. within a five-second sequence. Crusher works like mad to revive her, including the use of something called a neural stimulator, which is basically like an iron lung except for your brain. Oh, and a defibrillator, but still for your brain. If we are watching this for the first time, the music keeps setting us up for a sudden and unexpected gasp-and-sit-bolt-upright moment, which never happens, and Tasha Yar is officially Killed In Action.

Armus oozes over to the shuttle and starts taunting Troi, and she starts psychoanalyzing it and pointing out that Armus didn’t even get any satisfaction out of killing Yar. Picard has to deal with some administrative stuff before they slightly alter the away team to include Geordi, because he may be able to see something. Worf, the newly minted chief of security, stays on board, which means he’s already showing more sense than Yar showed while on duty (cough cough pointed her phaser at everything that moved).

Today on the list of Things I Wish I Was Watching: The Empire Strikes Back.

Today on the list of Things I Wish I Was Watching: The Empire Strikes Back.

Armus is no match for Troi’s psychoanalysis. It expresses surprise that the crew come back for Troi, which she correctly interprets as having no experience with altruism or community. At least not recently. Armus is basically just a jerk. He knocks off Geordi’s VISOR and gets really sad when the away team don’t play along. Apparently, Armus used to be a part of a species that is now super pretty, because they aggregated all the evil in their whole species and then scraped off Armus and left it alone on this planet. Troi says that she pities Armus, and it gets really pissed off and eats Riker.

Apparently Armus’ field is weakest when Troi is puncturing holes in its ego, so it grabed Riker to toy with her. Picard, armed with this information, beams down to have a pride-off against Armus. They have apparently hit on the way to screw with Armus – just refusing to play the game as it makes up the rules. The plan, apparently, is to bore Armus into releasing them.

Armus has teleportation powers as well as the whole personal force field thing. It acts like a changeling, but the abilities are a little higher up the scale, on the way to being a Q. It wants to find the other members of its species, probably for revenge because, by definition, it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Troi gives Picard the insight, but Picard gets to be the one to give him the ‘you suck’ speech hard enough to piss it off and lose focus. Vagra II gets a prohibition put on it, similar to the way Talos IV got one. Although, presumably slightly less strict, since Armus doesn’t seem capable of doing mind-bending illusions, just torturing people.

And then there’s the funeral, where Tasha’s last testament hologram addresses everyone on the main cast. Kind of a bitch that she uses all these sight metaphors for Geordi.


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