Star Trek TNG Actor Regrets Doing Infamous Stunt

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Skin Of Evil” has several wild moments in it, including the sudden and shocking death of Tasha Yar. A bit after that, though, we see her killer–an intelligent oil slick named Armus–drag Commander Riker into his inky depths, and his silently screaming face emerging from the oil made for one of the scarier sights all season. Riker actor Jonathan Frakes handled this particular stunt himself and instantly regretted it, later describing how painful and absurd the experience was.

Skin Of Evil

We need to contextualize the episode before discussing Jonathan Frakes’ hatred for this stunt. “Skin Of Evil” is a title that refers to Armus, a being who is meant to be the amalgamation of evil from an unseen “race of titans.” That sounds cool and all, but the onscreen Armus is mostly portrayed as a walking mud man who only seems to derive pleasure from psychologically and physically tormenting others.

Riker’s Oil Bath

Commander Riker is one of the people he chooses to torment, leading to a scene straight out of a horror movie. The Starfleet officer is bodily dragged into a pool of inky blackness, helplessly clawing at the sand the entire time. Later, he is effectively spit out by Armus, but only after the Away Team has plenty of time to worry whether this mysterious and malevolent being has already claimed another life.

Jonathan Frakes Regretted His Decision

For all the episode’s faults, the stuntwork with Riker is great, and all of this was the kind of grueling work that would normally be handled by a professional stuntman. However, Jonathan Frakes insisted on doing the stunts himself. We weren’t the only ones surprised by this decision: during a break in filming, Geordi La Forge actor LeVar Burton walked over to the Riker actor’s oil-covered body and told him, “Frakes, I never would have done that!

Jonathan Frakes soon agreed with Burton’s assessment of this stunt. He later said, “I suffered physically like a fool…sure, I’ll get in that black f*cking Metamucil sh*t.” In case you’re wondering, the actor wasn’t just very florid with his description of the inky black substance. Metamucil was part of its composition, but other ingredients were required to create something captivatingly gross.

A Lot Of Work For The Memorable Shot

jonathan frakes

Before Jonathan Frakes could volunteer for this harrowing stunt, TNG’s special effects department created the slime by combining Metamucil and printer ink. The Metamucil was partly chosen because it was water-soluble, but that didn’t keep this effect from causing headaches for more people than Frakes.

The show’s legendary makeup designer and supervisor, Michael Westmore, later said that whatever other ingredients were used kept causing the glue to be undone for the Armus costume, requiring a new suit to be built each day.

One Good Thing Came Out Of The Stunt

“Skin Of Evil” has never been one of our favorite The Next Generation episodes, but we’re looking forward to watching it again to see Jonathan Frakes’ excellent work on the stunts. He’s a man who suffered for his art, and we appreciate his willingness to go the extra oil-covered mile. Of course, being covered head-to-toe in goo might make this the only episode of the first season where the Riker actor was happy to not be rocking a beard.