“Skin of Evil” inspires a cosmic crank call in Star Trek: Lower Decks.
You never quite know what’s going to tickle Star Trek fans’ fancies! This week’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, “The Spy Humongous,” is littered with Easter eggs—and I mean literally littered! Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford spend most of the episode collecting senior officers’ “trash,” the anomalous alien artifacts left over from other missions. But it’s the episode’s last 40 seconds or so that seems to have fandom talking!
In the episode’s tag scene, we find out one of those artifacts is a “submanifold casting stone” that lets people “broadcast [their] voices to other planets.” Tendi jokingly asks, “What are we gonna do? Prank call Armus?” The lower deckers look at each other for a beat…
Cut to Vagra II, where the gigantic, goopy skin of evil itself is sitting around wishing it had someone to torture. Mariner’s voice breaks in, telling Armus it looks “like a big bag of crap.” Boimler taunts Armus in a sing-song tone, “We’re touching your stuff!” When Armus defiantly shouts, “I am a skin of evil!”—before tripping backward over a boulder—Tendi delivers the finishing stroke, “More like a puddle of [bleep]!” Aaaand, scene!
Armus was the monster who killed Tasha Yar in “Skin of Evil.”
As fans familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation know, Armus is the monster who kills. Tasha Yar, the Enterprise-D’s first security chief, in the first season episode “Skin of Evil.”
Disappointed with her character’s limited role, Denise Crosby had asked to leave TNG “on friendly terms,” according to Larry Nemecek’s The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (1995 edition, pg. 54). Given Gene Roddenberry’s desire for Tasha to die a meaningless death, one can’t help but wonder how “friendly” the parting actually proved.
Still, the episode removed Tasha from the TNG mix—albeit temporarily; as Nemecek writes, she would return “through some of the most bizarre plot twists even Trek had ever come up with” (pg. 55)—and did so with a beautiful funeral scene that ranks, for my quatloos, right up there with Spock’s in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for its ability to summon tears.
Writing for Den of Geek, Ryan Britt points out Lower Decks mentioned Armus twice during its first season, and says the series shows that “decades later, Trek canon is still looking to avenge Tasha Yar.”
No doubt, the Lower Decks gang’s crank call to Vagra II gave lots of Star Trek fans a sense of satisfaction. We get to swear at Armus all over again, but this time, with onscreen, in-universe characters leading the way! None of the enlightened pity Captain Picard showed for Armus! Let’s call it out for the loathsome loser it is!
It’s an unexpected and amusing gag—although I wish the Lower Decks writers had taken the time to come up with a more Bart Simpson-style crank call. Might’ve been even funnier to hear Armus asking for Seymour Butz.
But personally, I never thought Tasha’s death was “senseless,” even though she herself, in the alternate timeline of “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” called it so.
In her pre-recorded holographic speech seen in “Skin of Evil,” Tasha anticipated she would die “doing exactly what [she] chose to do.” She died doing her duty, and trying to help her crewmates and friends who were in danger—the very risk Boimler runs in the mess hall in “The Spy Humongous.” The death of Tasha Yar was brutal, but not “senseless.”
Is Armus a great character? No. Do I like Armus? No. But does hearing Mariner, Boimler, and Tendi taunt him make me feel good? Meh, not really.
It doesn’t make me feel bad, exactly. It’s an end-of-episode yukfest, far better than all those times folks in the original series stood around Captain Kirk’s chair at the hour’s end, busting a gut.
But was I surprised the Lower Decks Armus Easter egg got fans so engaged? A little, yeah.
Whether or not the prank call to Armus had you rolling in the aisles, it’s one more example of how Lower Decks rolls: Boldly going back to Star Trek lore to make new, memorable moments!