The Women of TNG part 2: Tasha Yar
Of all the women on TNG, Tasha Yar had the shortest amount of time on board the Enterprise. She was only in the first season and a total of about six episodes, which means she didn’t get a lot of screen time or character development. We know only the bare bones about Tasha–that she was supposedly of Ukrainian descent and born on Turkana IV. The Turkana IV colony had long since fallen into ruin, violence and was split by several factions by the time Tasha came of age. She spent her youth running from rape gangs and trying to figure out how best to survive in a world that had gone completely mad. At the age of fifteen, she leaves her younger sister Ishara behind to join Starfleet and make a life for herself.
One of my favorite episodes with Tasha was “The Naked Now”. Normally, she is portrayed as friendly, but a little uptight. A little too concerned with doing her duty. But in “The Naked Now”, she becomes infected with the water-based virus and it really loosens her up. She just waltzes into Counselor Troi’s quarters like they are best friends and starts picking clothes out of her closet. The best part, however, is when she pulls an unsuspecting Data into her quarters and asks if he’s been programmed for certain activities. Data tells her that he is fully functional and anatomically correct which she seems quite taken with. A walking talking sexual toy? She is SO there. Who wouldn’t be? When Data stumbles out of her quarters later (also infected) he has this goofy grin on his face like something happened to him that he didn’t quite know what it was, but whatever it was was very pleasurable. Or whatever it is an android feels after banging one of the hottest babes on the Enterprise.
In the episode “Skin of Evil” Tasha, in an attempt to do her duty and stand her ground is killed by the malevolent entity known as Armin who kills her as a demonstration of his powers. But that isn’t the last we’ll see of Lt. Tasha Yar…despite being killed off, Denise Crosby manages to make a few more guest appearances on the show.
In the episode, “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, we are taken back in time to a reality that is quite different than the one we’re used to. The Enterprise is a ship of war and Tasha is still at her tactical station. When they encounter the Enterprise B, it’s clear that she’s quite taken with Costello, one of the officers from the other ship. However, I think it is out of a sense of duty that Tasha Yar decides to go back in time with the Enterprise-B. She has tactical knowledge they lack and she knows that without that knowledge, the Federation will be defeated and that the entire timeline will be different than the one that needs to happen. But in going back, she does change the timeline just by being there and she eventually gives birth to the half-Romulan Sela. Although you don’t see that much of Sela during the run of the series, she appears in several of the TNG novels which allows the writers to add depth and interest to what is essentially a very shallow character.
Oddly enough, out of all the women on the Enterprise-D, Tasha is the one I identify with the most. Growing up, we were very poor and lived in what was politely called a ‘not very good neighborhood’. We all knew it was practically the ghetto, though. Evidence of various street gangs was everywhere…they tagged their territory with spray paint declaring that they were from the Bloods or that they were Crip Killers or La Eme (Mexican mafia) or whatever their affiliation was. You learned from the time you were very young that you didn’t wear certain colors (mostly certain shades of red, blue and yellow) if you didn’t want to get your butt handed to you. When I was in high school, every Friday during football season was a different dress up day. One day they had “Grease”/1950s day and I made the mistake of tying a red bandanna around my neck like a scarf. When I got off the bus, only the very no-nonsense, very British bus driver standing up for me kept me from getting my butt kicked by a scary looking Hispanic girl with thick kohl around her eyes and scarlet lipstick.
Tasha proved that just because you come from a bad background doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck there all your life. You can change your stars, as they say in the movie “A Knight’s Tale”. She decided she didn’t want to live a life of violence, in fear for her life every day so she got out and made something of herself. In that way, she’s a real contrast to her sister Ishara, who we see later in the episode, ” Legacy” who, while willing to help the Federation recover a couple of lost officers, is really only looking out for herself. Tasha was willing to give her life to save other people while Ishara only cared about what was going to happen to her and how much other people could give her. She used the Federation to get her implant removed so she could move deeper into enemy territory without getting caught, which is something that Tasha would never have done. The contrast between the two sisters is remarkable and I’m forced to wonder if Tasha had stayed in the colony on Turkana IV if she would’ve eventually become more like Ishara. If the goodness she had inside would’ve turned sour like it did with Ishara and she would’ve become more selfish.
Tasha Yar was arguably one of the most interesting, although one of the shortest lived, characters on TNG. I know that Denise Crosby walked out after the end of the first season because she believed her character wasn’t quite what it could’ve been. I think essentially that is true..but then again, nobody else’s character was quite set in stone by that point either. The show was just finding its feet and I think, had she stayed, Tasha would’ve become a deeper, more fully rounded character. But then again, if Tasha had stayed, would Worf have become the central character he eventually turned into? That’s a question that will never have an answer because we’ll never really know.
Tasha Yar–lover, fighter, loyal to the core and badass all wrapped up in one package. The kind of girl every girl can and should aspire to be when they grow up.