In “Skin of Evil,” the Enterprise is on its way to rendevous with Counselor Troi and one rando crewman after a side mission she’s been on. Worf and Yar are talking about the upcoming martial arts competition, and Worf reveals that Yar’s the easy favorite amongst the crew bets. Yar favors him with a sweet smile, and that this point, I knew exactly what was going to happen in this episode; she might as well have said, “I’m only three days from retirement!”
The shuttlecraft with Troi on it doesn’t make it to the ship, though, because it’s pulled out of orbit by an unforeseen force and smashes into a craphole planet about which not much is known, except that it exists. (At this point, I had a sense of Ford Prefect stopping by the planet on his way through the galaxy and shrugging, “Meh.”) Crusher, Yar, Data, and Riker beam down to go rescue Troi and the Rando, but they’re stopped by a sentient oil slick.
This sentient oil slick, or (as I referred to him in my notes) Oil Dirty Bastard/ODB is the villain of the whole thing, and he is super-annoying. He looks like the ghost emoji in my phone, but covered in oil. It turns out he’s the personified evil of the angelic race of beings that lived on the craphole planet; I gathered that they grew him as a skin, shed him, and then fled, leaving him all alone to whine and plot. While this isn’t a pleasant fate for any creature, ODB revels in his tragic past and engages Troi (and later Picard) in annoying conversation about it, sucks Riker into its oil slick grossness (that must have really sucked to film), and kills Yar for, y’know, funsies.
This character death scene really bothered me, for several reasons. First of all, no one initially reacts at all. I think they’re meant to be in shock, and I know that they’re all professionals, but it’s odd to see none of them (except Troi, later) flinch or show any sign of emotion to the fact that one of their friends that just been slaughtered, randomly, while on the job. Secondly, the pacing of the episode is really, really slow, and Yar’s death doesn’t play out the way I think it would, even on a military ship like the Enterprise; no one weeps or gets angry. Even Worf, who I think would want to avenge his friend’s death, stays behind on the ship as the new acting head of security. (We just re-watched Galaxy Quest the other night, and I really, really wanted Alan Rickman to show up and whisper, “By Grabthor’s hammer, you shall be avenged!”) If you’re going to kill a character, it should mean something, not just be a throwaway moment that no one cares about.
Anyway, using their smarts, the crew figures out that ODB is vulnerable when he’s whining, so Picard beams down and tricks him into whining some more, so the crew can beam Troi and the Rando out. Then there’s a memorial where Yar’s holographic projection urges everyone to chill out, because it’s OK, she died on the job she loved, and she loves all of them. Yay? Happy Trails, Denise Crosby?
Then, in “We’ll Always Have Paris,” we get a Picard character development episode. The Enterprise receives a distress signal from a scientist who’s been missing for 15 years, whose work Picard is Really Invested In. He wants to rush off immediately to follow the signal. Troi is suspicious (with good reason) and urges him to examine his motivations. Picard grumps at her, but indirectly takes her advice after all and goes to the Holodeck to run a program of a cheesy-looking French café where he once left a girl waiting him, twenty-two years ago. Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew encounters a stage déjà vu phenomenon where they all suddenly see themselves about thirty seconds prior. Apparently, the déjà vu effect is spreading out, and the Missing Scientist Dude was working with Time Travel stuff, so this is even more suspicious.
When the Enterprise finally arrives at the coordinates in the distress signal, it’s revealed that the Missing Scientist Dude’s wife is the girl that Picard left behind in the café all those years ago! Shock! He still carries a torch for her! Scandal! She’s wearing a weird outfit! Ooo la la! She still sort of carries a torch for him! Stuff happens! The Scientist Dude has been messing with interdimensional travel and broken his crystal dimension-traveling device, which is what is causing the weird déjà vu stuff all over the place. Data gamely goes into and fixes it as the time effects magnify, at one point working with three of himself (the best effect of the whole episode.) Picard backs off with his Long Lost Lover, because she made her choice all those years ago, and he made his. Yay? This felt like a fairly hollow revelation. There was no fallout from Yar’s death, either. It’s as though she was erased from their memories completely.
Signs it’s THE FUTURE: We can maybe reboot the brain after death? No? Maybe? Uhm. Time travel! Theoretical physics?!
Signs it’s NOT THE FUTURE: Our Star Trek villains are still just guys in capes.
The writers’ ‘ship: Yar/Worf, and Crusher/Picard, but Picard’s attention is elsewhere. Poor Beverly.