Tasha Yar was killed before the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1, a move that turned out to be one of the series’ biggest blunders.
Star Trek: The Next Generation killed Tasha Yar before the end of season 1, a decision that arguably became the series’ biggest mistake. The Next Generation was the second show in the Star Trek franchise and ran from 1987 to 1994, paving the way for subsequent shows. Set in the 24th century, TNG chronicled the adventures of the USS Enterprise-D under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew.
For the majority of the TNG season 1, that crew included Lieutenant Natasha Yar, played by Denise Crosby. Yar was the Enterprise-D’s Chief of Security, and the writers provided her with an interesting backstory involving a traumatic childhood on a failed Earth colony, which had given her an intense admiration for Starfleet and its ideals. Yar had great potential as a character, but this potential was cut short with her death towards the end of season 1. During the episode “Skin of Evil,” Yar was attacked by a tar-like alien creature named Armus while attempting to rescue two stranded crew members on an alien planet. Despite Doctor Crusher’s considerable medical abilities, Armus’s attack was too severe and ultimately resulted in Tasha Yar’s death after the creature drained her life force completely.
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Although the death had been planned, its execution and aftermath would end up becoming one of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s biggest blunders. Denise Crosby had asked to be let go from her contract during filming, feeling that she was being underutilized as a character and wanting to pursue other career options. Although Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry granted her request, the decision to kill Yar and the subsequent handling of her death left a lot to be desired. The scene where Yar died was played for shock value rather than substance, and the undignified nature of her death was unfitting for a main member of the cast. Although “Skin of Evil” concluded with a touching funeral for Yar, the whole episode was underwhelming, and not nearly the send-off the character deserved. Additionally, Denise Crosby was put in the awkward position of having to do additional filming after “Skin of Evil” wrapped, since a non-sequential production schedule meant that she was needed for scenes in episodes before her death that hadn’t been filmed yet.
Crosby’s eventual exit from the show didn’t put an end to the issues either. While Star Trek: TNG would have been well within its rights to create a character to replace Yar, the show simply promoted Lieutenant Worf to her old position and moved on. This shifted the gender balance in the main cast, meaning that now there were only 2 female main characters opposite 5 male ones. While the character of Guinan, played by Whoopi Goldberg, could arguably be seen as TNG’s attempt to add a new female main cast member, her role never quite surpassed that of a recurring character, albeit an important one. Guinan, Deanna Troi, and Beverly Crusher were all excellent female representation, but as a show that preached gender diversity, TNG could have benefitted greatly from another woman in the spotlight.
Both TNG and Denise Crosby would go on to recognize the mistake they had made in saying goodbye to Tasha Yar, but it took them another couple of seasons to correct it. When they finally did, it was in the season 3 episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” which featured an alternate timeline version of Yar. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” became such a popular episode that it facilitated Crosby’s further return as Sela, the half-Romulan daughter of the alternate timeline Yar who became one of TNG’s more memorable villains. Additionally, Yar has continued to be a fan-favorite character, and calls to bring Denise Crosby back to reprise her role in the new seasons of Star Trek: Picard have recently been on the rise. If a character who was barely in one full season of a show can still inspire so much loyalty among fans, it is clear just how much of a mistake Star Trek: The Next Generation made by letting Tasha Yar go.
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