a TV show review (of a dated, obscure episode)

Not a great topic for a post, so I’m apologizing in advance.  A few weeks ago I watched an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I can’t get it out of my head.  And so, a review (you can watch it for free on hulu here, if for some reason you want to).  But really, if you don’t like Star Trek, don’t read this post; I never really…engaged with the series, old or new, until just a few weeks ago, because it’s on Hulu and I’m always looking out for old pop culture and sci-fi I’ve not experienced yet.  Star Trek is both.  If you are interested in a review of a 25 year old TV show, well then, with that caviat emptor, read on.

“Skin of Evil,” from the series’ first season, appeals to me for two reasons: 1. there’s a super cool old school sci-fi sludge monster and 2. said monster eats Lieutenant Commander Riker, the crappiest actor of the 1980’s.

The basic premise of “Skin of Evil:” an envoy carrying Counselor Troi (as a kid, I referred to her as “Counselor Boobs”) crashes into a planet, the USS Enterprise must send down help. On this planet, whose name I forget, there is a strange ink pool which immediately rises up into an evil shiny blobman.  Sort of like a tall scarecrow melting under oil.  I find his special effects comforting; he reminds me of both The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Swamp Thing, and a little like the clumsy monster of The Blood Waters of Dr. Z (a half man/half catfish).  The saddest part of this episode is when the Skin of Evil (which is the nasty side of a race of babe-a-licious super beings, left behind when they fled the planet) kills Lt. Tasha Yar, one of the best and most attractive actors on the show.  After this event, which happens early on (and some subsequent beaming up and down), Lt. Riker returns to face the oilyblobmonster with Lt. Data, Lt. Geordi, and Dr. Crusher.

Counselor Boobs is trapped inside the wrecked shuttlecraft and communicates with the blobby skin of evil; soon after this, the evil skin envelops Lt. Riker and drags him into its sinister tar pit.  The creeping shadow blob creature is an excellent digital effect for the time (physical costume aside), sliding around the planet’s landscape—a dry, rocky closed set.  And then it goes and eats Lt. Riker, which cheers me right up.  Riker (Johathan Frakes) is just a bad actor who stumbled on to a good thing; his wooden performance and butt chin stand in stark contrast to the striking profile of Patrick Stewart, his superior officer (and actor).  Besides Sir Patrick, Brett Spiner, who plays Data (an android) is a fine actor; Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) is pretty good; everybody else is about a B, B-.  Except for the painful Lt. Riker, who apparently grew a beard after season one to hide his butt chin (for some reason the studio even let him direct a few episodes; I hope they received ample hate mail from Trekkies).  Wesley, the geeky boy genius who repeatedly saves the day, is kind of a pill, but he doesn’t feature prominently in this episode—which I just realized I’ve abandoned, in favor of more character evaluation.  So, Captain Picard beams down to try and save Riker, and gets to argue with the skin of evil (he sort of looks like a garbage bag with molasses and other goo slopped all over, but lovingly slopped).  The voice of this creature is kind of a low-fi dragged out cry, which has also aged well.

Patrick Stewart enrages the petulant monster, and the Enterprise is able to beam him, Counselor Boobs, and the no-name pilot of the shuttle-craft back up to the mothership.  I apologize, again, for writing about an old TV episode; I’ve watched it four times in two weeks, just to see the drippy blob skin of evil monster.  Who makes the episode feel like a sci-fi feature from 1963 condensed into four-five minutes.  I was drawn back again and again; these awkward monsters warm my heart.  Hope that now I’ve dissected an episode, I can progress from Star Trek: The Next Generation to some other series from the eighties I missed at the time.  Any suggestions?


About emvlovely

Oh, I live in an RV. I write poems, essays and prose. Thanks for reading my blog, good health to you!
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5 Responses to a TV show review (of a dated, obscure episode)

  1. Paul says:

    There was a classic Star Trek episode where a mining colony’s operations were being threatened by a monster that essentially dissolved people in acid. Kind of looked like the Blob in the 1958 Steve McQueen movie. Spock eventually did a mind meld with it and discovered that it was a mother trying to protect its eggs, which the miners were taking because they had dilithium crystals or some other valuable stuff. The mother might have been the last of the race, except for the eggs. So the miners agreed to lay off the eggs and stick to whatever they were going after in the first place. I think the monster then helped the miners by using its acid to tunnel through the rock for them. If you like awkward monsters you should check it out.

    • emvlovely says:

      Thanks Uncle Paul, I will. It’s interesting to start watching a series twenty-five and fifty years after it first aired, and Star Trek keeps surprising me with better plots than I expect.

      • Paul says:

        The very best Star Trek plot, and one of the best TV series dramas I ever saw, was an episode of the short-lived Deep Space 9. The backstory is that before the series begins, the planet Bejor had been invaded by the Cardassians, a very militaristic society (like the Klingons and Romulans), and the Cardassians had enslaved the Bejorans, massacred them, etc. Somehow (and I forget how), the Cardassians left Bejor, which is now part of the Federation. But this all happened in the recent past, so the memory of the Cardassian occupation is fresh in every Bejoran’s mind — especially the mind of Major Kira, a Bejoran serving on DS9.

        One day, a freighter stops at DS9 and one of the passengers is identified by a Bjejoran as a well-known Cardassian war criminal, a man who had run the most infamous concentration camp on the planet, and who’s been wanted for years by the Federation. The man denies his identity, but eventually confesses to Major Kira. He revels in the deaths of the Bejorans he caused, and like Adolf Eichmann, says that if he’s executed, he’ll leap into his grave laughing because of all the people he’d killed.

        One of the other staff members of DS9 starts to doubt the man’s story, and convinces Major Kira to take a closer look. She does, and various discrepancies in the man’s story rouse her suspicions. Suffice it to say that she becomes convinced the man isn’t the war criminal he claims to be, and she confronts him with her evidence. He continues to claim he’s the famous Cardassian commander, but she wears him down, and eventually he makes a tearful true confession: He was actually the camp’s *accountant*, and the tortures and suffering and death he witnessed every day drove him nearly mad. He *wanted* to be hanged as a war criminal to expiate his own sense of guilt and to stop the screaming of the Bejorans he still hears in his head, even though he never lifted a finger against any of them.

        My synopsis doesn’t do justice to the power of the story and how it’s acted. I felt that the DS9 series, in its political and psychological sophistication, was as far above ST:NG as ST:NG was above classic Trek.

      • emvlovely says:

        Thank you for this suggestion Uncle Paul, DS9 sounds much more complex than most sci-fi and I might binge on it today. Twenty inches of snow possible, on top of the four we had lying around. TV Sci-fi is a versatile genre; it produces intricate, layered stories. And just as often, simplistic plots, goofy costumes, bad acting. It’s like the Russian roulette of television genres.

  2. Paul says:

    If you delve into DS9, let me know how you like it. I am not an SF fan in general, but I did like that series.

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