A Conspiracy To Kill Beloved Star Trek TNG Character?

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the most puzzling thing about Tasha Yar’s death has been just how disappointing it really was. It’s one thing for a character like Spock to die saving the entire ship … it’s another thing for poor Tasha to instantly die from the monster of the week’s crappy energy blast. Fans have never known why she was given such an awful exit, but a decades-old behind-the-scenes book alleges this episode was secretly rewritten by Gene Roddenberry’s shady lawyer to give the character such a stupid death.

Death By Creepy Oil Slick

While it needs little introduction for longtime Star Trek fans, we need to quickly review Tasha Yar’s death and what makes it so controversial. In the episode “Skin of Evil,” she and other Away Team members encounter Armus, a villain meant to be pure evil in the form of a creepy oil slick. As a demonstration of both his malice and power, Armus hits Tasha Yar with an energy blast, instantly killing her.

An Anti-Climactic Demise

The basic motivations behind Tasha Yar’s death are simple enough to understand: actor Denise Crosby wanted out of the show and franchise creator Gene Roddenberry wanted to give audiences a shockingly dramatic moment.

Therefore, having her die on an Away Team mission made a kind of sense, just as having a security officer die a classic “red shirt” death was more or less logical. But it never made sense that she was killed in such a perfunctory and boring way, especially when Riker’s near death from Armus (complete with getting dragged into the oil like a victim in a horror movie) is so dramatic.

Rewrites And Trickery

star trek tasha yar

There may be an answer to why Tasha Yar’s death sucked so much, and it’s a juicy one. The 1992 book Trek: The Unauthorized Behind-The-Scenes Story of The Next Generation alleged that this episode was rewritten by Leonard Maizlish, Gene Roddenberry’s lawyer who had a well-known habit of tweaking scripts. Such rewrites were illegal according to Writer’s Guild guidelines, but that didn’t keep him from doing it to several episodes.

For “Skin of Evil,” the book alleges that Maizlish specifically changed this script so that Tasha’s death wouldn’t be dramatic or sentimental in any way.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Interestingly, Leonard Maizlish did these various script rewrites because he ostensibly wanted to honor Gene Roddenberry’s sometimes controversial ideas for the show (ideas that included the infamous “no interpersonal conflict among characters” doctrine).

Why, then, would Maizlish allegedly go out of his way to rewrite “Skin of Evil” to give Tasha Yar a worse death? There are many possibilities, with Den of Geek speculating that Roddenberry (still sore over losing creative control of the Trek films) may have wanted her “dead-and-forgotten” to ensure the show didn’t end up rehiring Denise Crosby later at a more expensive price. 

We’ll Never Know The Truth

These are allegations and speculations, of course, and since both Gene Roddenberry and Leonard Maizlish died decades ago, we may never get the full story regarding Tasha Yar’s death. However, Trek: The Unauthorized Behind-The-Scenes Story of The Next Generation paints a fascinating story of a major conspiracy to give a great character the worst possible exit. Fortunately for the actor and fans alike, the show would later bring Yar back for one last episode, giving her the kind of awesome exit that she was previously denied.

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