3.05: “Second Skin”

I really like this one. Always have. Nana Visitor is fantastic, AND there’s plenty of great Garak content. On this rewatch, it reminds me a bit of “Whispers”, and if I’m being honest, I think that one might be the better-constructed episode, but I love A) Kira, B) Garak, and C) Cardassian politics and intrigue, so.

It’s also interesting to realize that every episode so far this season has involved questions of memory and/or identity — Odo’s being inexorably drawn by implanted instincts to return hom followed by the revelation that his people are the Founders, Dax nearly dying because the Trill attempted to suppress a memory of a previous host…hell, even with “House of Quark”, one reason that Quark gives for standing by his story about Kozak’s death is how it seems to change people’s perception of him: “I’m not just some venal Ferengi trying to take their money, I’m Quark, slayer of Klingons!”

I mean, granted, “every episode” isn’t saying much when we’re only on the 5th episode, but it’s still neat as a recurring theme.

Also, re: the above mention of “Whispers” — interestingly, Robert Hewitt Wolfe initially conceived of this one as an O’Brien story, and even intended to reveal that, like Boone from “Tribunal”, the real Miles O’Brien was long dead, and the one the audience had known — on both Deep Space Nine and Next Generation — had always been a Cardassian agent. But then he realized he’d have to explain why Molly was fully human, and decided to change it to be about Kira. (Personally, I think my bigger quibble than Molly being human would be the events of “Tribunal” happening the way they did, but maybe Wolfe came up with the concept for this one first.)

I am a sucker for a good “sleeper agent who doesn’t even know it themselves and is starting to realize that Something Isn’t Right” story in sci-fi — Boomer in Battlestar Galactica and Ash Tyler in Star Trek: Discovery, for instance — so of course I love this episode. According to Memory Alpha, the original plan was for Kira’s identity to be left an open-ended question, and that the “truth” of her genes was less important than the fact of her memories and current life. I kind of like that, and had actually remembered it, until rewatching a year or two ago, as being a bit more ambiguous than it actually is.

I’m also curious what Iliana’s mission actually was, or who she was being, if she’s not Kira. An actual encounter with her would’ve been interesting at some point.

I continue to be a sucker for anything to do with Cardassian dissidents

As I’ve said before, I really love the subplot of the Cardassian dissident movement, and I personally consider the fact that we don’t see more of it to be one of the show’s greatest missed opportunities. Buuuuuut given that I am an American in 2019, possibly I am just really in a place where stories about people trying to end fascist control of their government is gonna hit me hard. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I really like that there are hints, throughout, of Ghemor’s ambivalence about the Obsidian Order — his remark that he always thought Cardassia was more in need of artists, particularly, but from the beginning, there’s tension between him and Entek. And I found the fact that he made Kira/Iliana hasperat just…really sweet and sad.

Also, Ari can get it. Well, could have gotten it, I suppose, given that he’s dead by the end. Look, I maintain that Cardassians are among the hottest of Trek’s various aliens, and the ones who are actively working to fight fascism? Hell yes. IDK what to tell you.

I also continue to love anything to do with Garak

GARAAAAAAAAK. I love, love, love how, in Kira and Ghemor’s lovely goodbye scene, the Legate’s warm, affectionate manner just vanishes when he warns Kira not to trust Garak. It’s very clear that he’s genuinely concerned that Kira, someone he’s come to care about, someone he explicitly considers the closest thing to family left to him, is living and working in close proximity to Garak. It speaks volumes that, even with Garak having been part of his rescue, even having watched him kill a member of the Obsidan Order first-hand, Ghemor, a prominent figure in the dissident movement and now in exile himself, still doesn’t believe Garak can be trusted.

In fact, apparently the plan was for Entek to become a recurring character himself, and they ultimately decided to have Garak kill him specifically to keep the audience guessing about Garak.

Also, any time Garak and Sisko interact, it’s always absolutely fantastic, and this episode is no exception. But good lord, when Garak protests that “this is extortion” and Sisko seems to consider it a moment, then cheerfully says “Yes, it is?” AMAZING. So, OK, in addition to the Cardassian dissidient movement, maybe the other biggest missed opportunity of the show is not having Andrew Robinson and Avery Brooks in a scene together in every dang episode.

Horniness rankings

  1. Bashir remains absurdly horny for Garak.
  2. Ditto Garak for Bashir.
  3. Me, for Ari.
  4. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m pretty sure Garak is at least a little interested in Sisko, and frankly, I’m not convinced that Sisko isn’t flirting a little with Garak, too.

2 thoughts on “3.05: “Second Skin”

  1. So I had a hard time with this one mainly because among Trek Tropes, “surgically altered!” is one of my absolute least favorites. I just have the hardest time suspending my disbelief that a character can proficiently integrate into a completely alien society and pass as a native because you’ve made them look like one. I guess the episodes where I find it the most egregious are old TNG’s like “Unification” and “Face of the Enemy” where Our Heroes were disguised as Romulans (**a civilization with which the Federation had had no contact of any kind for like 50 years** prior to the first season of TNG) and instantly fooled, you know, lifelong actual Romulans. I mean if nothing else, wouldn’t they seem to talk funny? I know complaining about Universal Translator Issues is a tourist move for Trek fandom, but I can forgive and forget when you’re just getting through a confrontation on the view screen; not so much when you’re literally walking around the Romulan home planet.

    OK, done with that. Despite having to get over this, I found this episode really good – much better than I remembered. The part about 3/4 of the way through the ordeal when Kira really does start to wonder how much she can trust her memories and she starts to lose it a little bit is extremely well-acted (and not over-acted, which would have been an easy trap) by Visitor. It also served up all the helpings of Cardassian drama and intrigue and some great Garak moments. His monologue intimidating the Gul commanding the patrol ship, followed immediately by “just something I overheard while hemming some trousers!” was *chef’s kiss.* Also I love that when he has information about Kira’s situation, he brings it to Bashir, not to Odo or Sisko directly. I kind of think that he enjoys putting Bashir in situations where he has to go to Sisko (presumably waking him up) and say something like “Commander… I have… spy things” because he knows Sisko is going to give Bashir That Look.

    I loved Entek. I could have enjoyed keeping him around for longer, learning a bit more about his history with Garak (whose “A pity – I rather liked him” line after he vaporizes the guy was wonderful, hinting at a potentially interesting backstory we didn’t get to). It’s kind of a shame his plan was such a weird, overcomplicated hot mess. I mean; if the Cardassians can proficiently surgically alter anyone to look like anyone else, he could easily have operated on a Cardassian Obsidian Order agent to make her look like Iliana, told everyone she was Iliana who had been disguised as Kira Nerys, and then just injected her with a placebo instead of actual memory block-resolving drugs, and she could have acted out the role? It seems less risky than abducting the high-profile executive officer of a Starfleet-operated station? Maybe one reason behind it was that he wanted someone with Kira’s ingenuity to be in the situation so she could inject a note of true desperation, making it more convincing for Ghemor.


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