Captain's Blog - Stardate 422518.0
Thirty years and one week ago, I saw the following trailer:
The following week, exactly thirty years ago today, I refused to sit with my family at the dinner table. Star Trek: The Next Generation would be on at 6:00 pm on WPWR Channel 50 and I was going to watch it. I needed to know who would be leaving the show.
See kids...back then...the internet wasn't around. We didn't know who had left their contracts weeks before airing. "Spoilers" weren't really a thing yet. Oh, and if you haven't seen this episode now would be a good time to stop reading. I mean, it's only been out for 30 years, so...
But I digress. I sat with baited breath on our enclosed back porch. it was April, 1987, so it was probably spring like weather. Unlike today. My mother had made me Chef Boyardee Spaghetti-O's and I stabbed at them anxiously with my Mickey Mouse fork, harpooning O after O and pulling them off the red, plastic "safe" ware as the minutes ticked by.
Who would it be? Three were hinted at in the teaser. Would it be the dashing Riker? Or the telepathic (and let's be honest, kinda whiny) Troi? Or would it be the bad-ass security officer who had become my favorite character, Lt. Natasha "Tasha" Yar?
The episode starts, the groundwork is laid, and the away team beams down to the planet. We meet the creature of the week. You might know him from that annoying puddle under your car or the tar pit exhibit at the Field Museum. Looking back, he was not the most creative alien they'd developed. Maybe developed is too strong a word. Came up with that morning? Yeah...we'll go with that. But to my ten-year-old self, the dark nebulous form and rattly voice was a terror.
Because I knew, like it or not, one of the characters on my favorite show was about to die.
They sure didn't waste their time. Within minutes of the show's second act, Exxon Mobile hurls Tasha through the air with an energy burst.
And then the most devastating part of all...the entire crew basically sits around and lets her die.. Here's just a few of the gaping ways they blew it:
- After Year is thrown to the ground, Dr. Crusher runs over to her and starts tending to her while Data and Riker shoot at Armus. Okay, fine. But once he sinks into his pit and leaves the away team alone. THEY. JUST. STAND. THERE. Now, maybe she wasn't stable enough for transport, but Crusher never says that. They just all stand around listening to her tricorder beep-beep-beeeeeeeeeeep. WTF?
- So, Picard orders the transporter room to "get them up, now." So, they beam the team up. To the transporter room. "I need her in Sickbay, now," says Crusher. So she and Data grab Yar and CARRY HER. Probably down the hall, to the turbo lift, which then took however long to get her to the deck with sickbay on it. WTFF?
- In literally the next episode, another person is in distress is beamed directly to Sickbay. You mean they could do that all the time?!?!?!?!
- So, after 5-7 minutes of NOT treating Tasha, we finally get her onto a bio-bed and of course nothing works. Not Nurip. Not the neural stimulator. Nothing.
I was stunned. Not by all these lousy details. i didn't figure out how badly they botched her resuscitation until i watched/listened to the episode about fifty-million more times. Back then, I was just stunned to learn that someone I cared about so much could all of a sudden, and for no good reason, all of a sudden be gone. The rest of the episode played out with lower stakes for me. They weren't gonna kill off anyone else.
But, what I wasn't expecting was the last ten minutes of the episode. Tasha's beautiful, farewell speech. In it, given her risky job, she took the time to leave a message for all her closest friends on the crew. We learn more about her character in that amazing speech than we did for the whole series thus far. As she closed, she taught me my first real lesson about death. "Death is that state in which one exists only in the memory of others. Which is why it is not an end. No goodbyes. Just good memories." The service ended and the crew departed.
Then, alone with Picard, Data taught me my second real lesson about death. "My thoughts are not for Tasha, but for myself. I keep thinking how empty it will be without her presence."
Thirty years later and I still miss Lt. Tasha Yar. Oh sure, she got to come back and die in a much more meaningful way. Only to have it botched by getting raped and kept by a Romulan in the past and giving birth to her daughter, Sela, and then get executed four years later. And yeah, the daughter is ALSO played by actress Denise Crosby...but then just fizzles out into nothing.
But the potential of what Tasha Yar could have brought to TNG if the actress had stayed will always be a loss for me. Losing her was my first brush with the one fact that is true for all of us.
As I unpack my mental closet, I am grateful for the devastation and inspiration of the character of Tasha Yar. May I learn to live my life with as much commitment, passion, and courage as she did. And may I book as much work as Denise Crosby, including one role that serves to inspire someone as much as Tasha inspires me.