Tasha Yar is a character from the beloved sci-fi show Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). She was portrayed by the actress Denise Crosby, and though Yar was written off the show in its very first season, she remains one of the most polarizing characters among the show’s fandom. Many Trekkies consider her to be one of the worst recurring characters in the history of the show. However, many others loved Yar and are still upset by what they view as her premature and abrupt departure from the show.
Yar, whose full name was Natasha Yar, was the chief of security for the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, the starship that served as the main set of TNG for all seven seasons of the series. She was a crucial part of the Enterprise’s bridge crew as she was responsible for assessing and controlling threats to the ship and its crew. She often accompanied Commander William Riker and other high-ranking Starfleet officers on off-ship assignments, sometimes serving as the sole security detail for important missions.
Yar is widely perceived as an example of the “Action Girl” trope — a woefully one-dimensional female character whose only purpose is to prove that girls are tough, capable and independent. As the series went on, she was relegated to less important roles on the ship’s bridge — monitoring and reporting threats rather than confronting them herself — and her role as the tough, independent fighter started to fade. Many fans were frustrated with her lack of character development and felt that she was included on the bridge crew just to have a female character present.
However, Yar actually had a very interesting backstory and story arc throughout the show.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Yar Had a Rough Childhood
Yar grew up on a war-torn planet called Turkana IV, which had been colonized by the United Federation of Planets. Turkana IV was in the midst of a civil war when Yar was born, and when she was just a child, both of her parents were killed. She and her little sister Ishara were taken in by a foster family, but the family soon deserted them, leaving the children alone and defenseless.
Though she was a small child herself, Yar had to become a mother to her baby sister and had to do whatever she needed to do to ensure their survival. The sisters were homeless, constantly on guard against the violent criminals and drug addicts that owned the streets and preyed on the plethora of street kids who were orphaned by the war.
After years of living like this, Yar’s younger sister decided to join the Coalition, one of the planet’s warring factions, which she saw as necessary for both survival and belonging. Yar, however, blamed factions like the Coalition for her parents’ deaths and refused to join with her sister. Yar, who was just 15, found a way off the planet and started a new life.
2. Her Upbringing Greatly Influenced Her Starfleet Career
After Tasha escaped from Turkana IV, she enrolled in Starfleet Academy, located in San Francisco, California, on the planet Earth. During her time at the Academy, she chose to pursue training as a Security officer specifically because of the way she grew up on Turkana IV. Having to fight for her life, and her sister’s life, on a planet where law and order were virtually unheard of and rarely enforced gave Yar a passion for dishing out justice and protecting others, which played a major part in how she became the chief security officer on the Enterprise.
During a mission in a Carnelian minefield, Yar refused to leave a colonist behind, even though going back to rescue him put her life in danger. She braved the minefield to rescue him. Jean-Luc Picard, the captain of the Enterprise, saw Yar’s heroic actions and specifically requested that she be transferred to his command, which was not typical in Starfleet protocol. Speaking of the incident years later, Picard said that Yar’s captain “owed him a favor” and was willing to let Yar leave to serve on the Federation’s flagship.
The strong convictions and keen sense of justice that Yar was known for while she served on the Enterprise were a result of all the things she had to deal with during her childhood and teen years, fighting for survival in a lawless land. Though her tough, opinionated demeanor meant that she was distant from many of her crewmates, Yar’s skills as fighter and protector made her a favorite among her crewmates.
3. Yar & Worf Were Kindred Souls
Though Yar’s tough start in life made it very difficult for her to form relationships, she forged a very close friendship with her crewmate Worf. The Klingon was also an orphan and lost his parents under very similar circumstances. Both Worf and Yar were warriors and took pride in their and each others’ fighting skills. The duo frequently trained martial arts together, and on multiple occasions Worf made it as clear as a Klingon can that he was impressed by Yar’s skills. Yar and Worf also played Parrises Squares — a fighting-based athletic game — together frequently and Worf was so confident in her skills that he bet on her to win in a tournament she was scheduled to compete in.
After her death, the crew discovered that Yar had recorded a holographic message she wanted them to view if she ever died in the line of duty. In that message, Yar addressed Worf, saying that she was always fond of him because of their similar pasts and interests.
In a later episode, “Legacy,” during which Yar’s sister Ishara made her one and only appearance, Worf valiantly defended Yar when Ishara spoke poorly of her sister for leaving Turkana IV. As Klingons aren’t well-known for expressing emotions other than anger, that was probably the closest Worf could get to expressing his genuine affection for Yar, which he didn’t truly get to do while she was alive.
Yar also had close relationships with Deanna Troi, the Enterprise’s resident therapist and adviser, and Data, her android crewmate. During “The Naked Now” — an episode in which the crew is poisoned by a substance that mimics the effects of alcohol or drug intoxication — Yar let loose and engaged in intimate relations with Data, revealing that he was “…programmed in multiple techniques. A broad variety of pleasuring.”
4. Yar’s Death Is Widely Considered 1 of the Worst in ‘Star Trek’ History
Yar died in the 23rd episode of season one, entitled “Skin of Evil.” Yar accompanied some of the bridge crew members on an away mission to a Vagra II. Troi and one of the Enterprise’s pilots crash landed on the planet on the way back from a different mission, and the contingent was sent to rescue them.
The planet was inhabited by an alien creature that looked like a blob of black tar. This territorial creature wouldn’t allow the Enterprise crew members close to the crashed shuttle craft or their crew members trapped inside. After attempts to negotiate with the being failed, Yar tried to rush past it to valiantly rescue her crewmates. The creature responded by zapping her with what looked like lightning. Yar was immediately knocked out, and the crew beamed back to the ship to get her treatment. Unfortunately, ship’s doctor Beverly Crusher couldn’t save Yar and she died in the ship’s sickbay.
Yar’s death was so abrupt that it shocked fans of the show. Though some who found the character annoying were glad to see her off the show, almost all agreed that the death was ignoble and inappropriate for a character who’d been a mainstay of the first season and an integral member of the crew. Whether they liked Yar’s character or not, fans felt she deserved a better death than the one she got.
When insiders at the show told the press that Crosby had quit the show and the writers had been forced to write the character off quickly, deep animosity developed among the Star Trek fan base for the actress. However, many felt she was redeemed when she finally revealed that she’d left because she wasn’t given the opportunity to portray a three dimensional female character.
5. Yar Actually Died Twice in ‘Star Trek’ Canon
Luckily for fans of Yar, her death scene in season wasn’t the last time they’d see her on TNG. In the episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” a version of Yar from an alternate timeline appeared during one of the wacky time/space continuum whoopsies that so often occur in the Star Trek universe. An encounter with a rift in the time/space continuum led the Enterprise to encounter a previous version of the starship from a parallel universe. On that Enterprise — the Enterprise C — Yar was a tactical officer rather than Chief of Security as she was on Enterprise D — the primary timeline starship.
Technically, the Yar from the alternate timeline isn’t the same as the Yar who served with the TNG crew, but the character was very similar to her main timeline counterpart. In typical Yar fashion, the alternate timeline Yar put herself in grave danger to make things right by going back to her own timeline, where she was almost certain to die in battle.
However, alternate timeline Yar did not die, which was revealed in a truly shocking fashion in the episode “Redemption Part II,” the opener of the show’s fifth season. In that episode, a Romulan named Sela who looked exactly like Yar (also played by Crosby) boarded the Enterprise. The bewildered crew members demanded an explanation for her appearance and the Romulan happily obliged, stating that she was the half-human, half-Romulan daughter of Tasha Yar. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, Sela explained to the crew that she wasn’t the daughter of their Yar but of the alternate timeline Yar, who was captured by the Romulans after the battle with the Klingons. Alternate timeline Yar was forced to be a consort to a high-ranking Romulan officer and conceived Sela. She was later executed.
Technically each Yar only died once, but it does add up to two canon Yar deaths.