Thanks to a messed up schedule this week and for some reason that episode I still need to watch still eluding me (it’s like BBC America doesn’t want me to review the new Doctor correctly) we’ll just put this in the regular slot.
I don’t want to diminish the importance of Security Chief Tasha Yar or Ensign Geordi LaForge by calling them “the other two” but I couldn’t think of a good category for them and they don’t really go together. Geordi flies the ship, at least in the first season, and Tasha is the chief of security on a ship that gets invaded every other Saturday, who didn’t even make it through the first season before being bitch slapped to death by a living tar pit. More on that later. We still have two more characters after this (since again Worf was not even created when the season one guide was written), but they’re family so they go together.
These last four entries are shorter than the rest. While the others took up more than one page these last four profiles are one page each. There should be less to go over, but does that mean there is less to discuss?
We begin with the profile of Lieutenant Natasha “Tasha” Yar. Yeah, I didn’t know she had a full name either. Denise Crosby actually auditioned for the role of Counselor Troi, while Marina Sirtis auditioned for Tasha. They ended up with each other’s roles and given what was done with the characters I’m not sure who got the shorter end. What differences will we see between Crosby and the original idea?
Despite the fact that she’s only 28 years old…
Okay, Crosby was born in 1957 according to Wikipedia, which would make her around 30 in 1987. Fine, that works.
…Tasha has been selected by Captain Picard as the Starship’s Security Chief, one of the few of the crew who performs the same function both aboard ship and off.
I have to give credit for the choice. We really didn’t see the chief of security on the original show…probably because he or she was too busy keeping up with all of his or her dead subordinates. Security really is the easiest job to die from on a starship. And Tasha would continue that tradition but it wasn’t in the original plan. At least Worf managed to make it to the end of the series and a set of movies plus a whole other series. Tasha was shown to be tough without having to have a bodybuilder’s physique (which didn’t help Worf anyway). Crosby really made the role work. It’s the reason why it was tough that the problems started.
Accounting for her almost obsessive devotion to protecting the ship and its crew, Tasha comes from an unfortunate Earth colony where a combination of harsh environmental changes and fanatical leaders had made existence there a hellish nightmare. She managed to escape this ugliness as a teenager but carried with her a desperate hunger for peace and order in life.
If only it had stopped there. Then we get to the poorly-timed episode “The Naked Now”, where we also had to throw in Tasha running from and eventually being caught by…you know what’s coming…the “rape gangs”. Because being a gang wasn’t enough. Some of the worst gangs on the planet do include rape in their operations but these were specifically rape gangs! As in they specialized in raping. Was there also a gang just for drug dealing? How did one join the robbing gangs? And yes, “gangs” is plural. There was more than one…on the same colony. How big was this colony that they had more than one specialty gang? Never mind how did Starfleet allow this crap, how did this get past Gene Roddenberry’s ideal Earth society where humans were all clean and pure and could do no wrong? She also “comes close to worshiping” any Starfleet officer who lives by the same peace and order obsession she has, which is where Captain Picard comes in.
Having once visited her “hell planet” home, Captain Picard understands her and has become her mentor, teaching her to apply the cushioning of history and philosophy to her almost obsessive need to protect the vessel and the crew.
This is something we didn’t see in the show but this is the kind of “flavor text” needed for writer to formulate how characters should interact with each other. Then we get the next paragraph.
Tasha’s (unspecified) Ukrainian descent gives her an unusual quality of conditioned-body beauty that would have flabbergasted males of a few centuries earlier. With fire in her eyes and a muscularly well-developed and very female body she is capable of pinning most crewmen to the mat–or being just an exciting sensual and intellectual challenge to males who enjoy (win or lose) full equality between the genders.
I’m not sure if it’s meant to invoke this but does anyone else feel dirty after reading that? Let’s make it worse. Riker and Picard notice this about her too but for her it would be like being fully-functional with the Pope because she can’t see these “saints” (the guide’s word, with quotation marks although there are times in season one where they seemed to think they were saints) as “mere mortals”. Based on things I’ve heard about Roddenberry I’m not convinced he didn’t write this paragraph himself. Her section ends on the paragraph long-time readers have been waiting for me to get to.
Tasha has a beau ideal too, which happens to be fifteen year old, Wes Crusher. Deprived of her own childhood by the harsh life of her “hell planet” home, she treats this boy like the most wonderful person imaginable. Wes is the childhood friend that Tasha never had.
I probably want to return to this when we get to the Crushers next time because it does speak to how underdeveloped Wesley was by the writers since he and Tasha rare interacted. The only time that comes to mind is “Honor”, when he accompanied the away team to a planet they were hoping to take shore leave on, and they still didn’t interact much. But at least I’ve learned that she didn’t want to be fully-functional with him. If doing this review series has done that for me, it was worth doing.
Of course we have to talk about Tasha’s death in “Skin Of Evil”. As SF Debris noted in his review of the episode (scroll down for the “Tasha’s Exit” video that explains the backstory) Denise Crosby was tired with her role. For one thing, according to the video, Crosby was told that the show was about Picard, Riker, and Data by Roddenberry himself. Roddenberry also approved her “death by slap”, which did not come from the writers (some blame Roddenberry, some his lawyer), because “space is dangerous”. No kidding? You mean one of your main characters is killed off and you’re plan to show how dangerous the job is comes from something a “redshirt” has walked away from? We know that you don’t always get the “blaze of glory” death. Look at the guy who was drained of his salt, the guy turned into a Styrofoam ball and was crushed, the ones who were turned into Borgs without even seeing them get captured, the ones casually shot by NOMAD…these kind of “stuff got real” deaths happen all the time on this series!
But when one of your main characters are killed by something the cannon fodder shrugs off with a hit of the hypospray it’s an insult to the character. It diminishes her as a character. Look at all the superhero deaths going on over at DC Comics. Minor heroes are turned into cannon fodder so the writer can feel dark and edgy like Watchmen and DiDio is happy Tom King is killing off the sidekicks because he hates the very concept. If your hero dies he or she BETTER go out in a blaze of glory, or at least have the death serve a point that every redshirt ever hasn’t already brought us. It seems to me more like they didn’t like Crosby and stuffed in the lamest death they possibly could give her. Especially when you consider Riker is actually absorbed by the same tar pit monster for minutes at a time and comes out of it just fine. At least alternate timelines gave her a better death.
Well, let’s leave all that unpleasantness and go to something less depressing…the blind guy who flies the ship. I’m kind of surprised that in the 24th century they need an extra device to overcome his blindness. By the time of the Star Trek movies they had a drug that could cure poor eyesight (but Kirk was allergic). I’m assuming that by the 24th, when they cured the cold, they could have improved on that and not having the blind man needed glasses to see. Actually not so much “see” as find his way around. The VISOR acts in a similar way to Daredevil’s “radar sense” as it allows him to get signals across the electromagnetic spectrum, a tool that worked well enough on some missions you’d think they’d create a version for non-blind people to scan in ways the tricorders can’t. It’s like a superpower everyone can have but you have to be blind to use it. What else will we learn about Geordi La Forge?
An away mission regular, who is racially black and birth-defect blind.
“Racially black”. As opposed to genetically black? Metaphorically black? Culturally black? I’ve never heard the term “racially black” until this guide. I don’t why he had to be black, but I don’t know why anyone had to be white either. Race never comes into play. There are black people in France. Picard could have been black and it wouldn’t have mattered. Being the future, Geordi’s skin color never once played into his character. I’m guessing they wanted to make sure they had at least one black regular, and given the episode “Code Of Honor” (which may have been one of the episodes that soured Crosby to her character) I’m not sure their view of “black” is all that positive in the first place. And of course the two minority characters are the blind man and the Klingon saving on make-up because Klingons post The Motion Picture suddenly had darker skin. I have no problem with Geordi being black and LeVar Burton was the right man for the role whatever his color is. I just look at the word “racially black” and wonder what the heck it means. Maybe I’m too white to get it or something, but so were at least most of the people who put this together.
The paragraph continues on to talk about his good sense of humor. In another paragraph he’s supposed to be in his early twenties. Again, Burton was born in 1957 so by 1987 he’s close enough. The second paragraph talks about his VISOR but the only thing of note there is that it could also see telescopically and microscopically but I don’t remember seeing much of that in the show.
Although in his young twenties Geordi has an unusual maturity. (He wants to be Captain Picard when he grows up.) His best friend is the android Data. The fact that both want to be “fully human” (their private term) is something that strengthens their relationship.
As opposed to his old twenties? Again, the wording in this section is strange. While we do see that Geordi at best puts up with his blindness because he has to (which of course he does, anything less would be weak), I don’t remember this being one of the things that made Geordi and Data friends. Don’t get me wrong, folks. I’m sure Geordi was an inspiration to blind kids who listened to the show (I think there was an SAP version of the show for the visually impaired) and I’m not trying to take anything away from that any more than I do Barbara Gordon’s time as Oracle despite being in a universe of superscience and magic. In fact I thought Barbara was more interesting as Oracle with other Batgirls filling out the role she retired from prior to her being shot. (And I did like her as Batgirl as well.) But as a critic I do have to point this stuff out. In the TNG movies he does get prosthetic eyes, which makes me wonder what took so long. Did he have to be a certain age since the eyes would have to obviously grow with a child?
(Note: It is planned to visit a planet during some weekly episode where Geordi receives the equivalent of “human eyes”–and their limitations lead to the major disappointment of his young life.)
So Geordi loses his “superpowers” and is sad to lose them to get his sight back? Would the story end with him returning to the VISOR? The closest I remember this happening was in season one, where Riker (given Q-like powers by Q himself) gave him his sight, but he would refuse the gift because the price of Riker becoming Q and losing his humanity was too great. It’s a questionable episode. This plan could have made a decent episode but seeing how many times I’ve seen it before and probably will again I’m not missing it too much. And speaking of things we never saw (pardon the term) the section ends talking about Geordi working with the school and the kids jealous of his super sight powers. That might have been interesting as well.
Geordi would go on to leave the bridge as the show decided it needed to see their Scotty in action and someone decided Geordi could fill that role, which he did very well. He even got to meet Mr. Scott in a later season. So things worked out for him.
Next time we look at the chief medical officer and her poorly written son. Could Wesley have worked if the writers knew how to write a genius teenager? Let’s get a better idea of what they were working with and find out.