Star Trek TNG Tasha Yar Death Is So Shocking Because Of Gene Roddenberry

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

Without a doubt, the most shocking moment in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was Tasha Yar’s death at the hands of an evil oil monster.

It’s well known that Denise Crosby wanted out of the show because her character was given very little to do; because of this, most fans assume that Crosby herself wanted her character to die. However, she later revealed that it was franchise creator Gene Roddenberry who wanted to kill the character because he thought it would be “shocking and dramatic.”

The Sudden Death Of Tasha Yar

For this strange behind-the-scenes tale to make sense, we need to first recap Tasha Yar’s death. In the season one episode “Skin of Evil,” she is part of an Away Team that encounters an amoral oil monster meant to be the embodiment of evil cast off by an ancient race of titans. Armus, the name of the oil monster, spends most of the episode tormenting the crew, and his first major victim is Tasha Yar, someone he casually kills with a quick blast of energy.

Denise Crosby Lays Blame At The Feet Of Roddenberry

star trek tasha yar

These days, most fans know that Yar actor Denise Crosby wanted out of the show because she felt her character was both underdeveloped and underused. Because of this, there has always been a natural assumption that she wanted her character to be killed off, giving her a definitive exit from the show.

However, the actor revealed in Trek: The Next Generation Crew Book that “Gene [Roddenberry] really felt that the strongest way to go would be to have me killed,” believing such a moment “would be so shocking and dramatic that he wanted to go with that.”

A Surprising Death

star trek tasha yar

Regarding Roddenberry’s claim about Tasha Yar’s death, we think that he was only partially correct in this prediction. Certainly, the death is shocking…nobody expected a main character to die, and the early death of Tasha Yar helped make audiences anxious about the fates of the rest of the Away Team (especially Riker, who gets sucked into the inky depths of Armus and nearly dies).

A Disappointing Way To Go

However, the security officer’s death is the very opposite of “dramatic.” She just instantly dies from an energy blast with all the pomp and circumstance of someone bouncing off a forcefield.

Interestingly, Denise Crosby seems to feel that Tasha Yar’s death wasn’t nearly as dramatic as it could be. In that same book, she mentioned that “perhaps Tasha should’ve really gone out in a blaze of glory.” She noted that while Star Trek “is never supposed to be about violence,” the conflict with Armus would have been the perfect opportunity to “see this supposed expert security officer do her stuff.”

Crosby Kept Returning

In a weird bit of narrative irony, Denise Crosby would get much flashier roles on the show only after Tasha Yar’s death. Later, she returned for the alternate-universe episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” getting to make a heroic sacrifice that served as a more fitting farewell to her character. Later, she appeared as Tasha’s daughter from that time-travel adventure, a fierce half-Romulan foe named Sela.

Going Down Swinging

While those later appearances are highly entertaining, the show wouldn’t have had to go to such storytelling lengths if Crosby’s original character had simply transferred to another ship or even retired from Starfleet. However, Gene Roddenberry thought that Tasha Yar’s death was the kind of shocking moment that audiences would never see coming.

While we were certainly surprised, we can’t help but take Crosby’s side that her character should have had a chance to go down swinging.