Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Second Skin   Rewatch 
October 14, 2015 6:07 AM - Season 3, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Major Kira is kidnapped by the Cardassians and told she is actually an undercover field operative of their Obsidian Order named Iliana Ghemor whose appearance was altered and memory erased.

Trivia (Cribbed from here. This section contains spoilers)
* Second episode to mention the Cardassian Dissident Movement. First was Profit and Loss.

* Robert Hewitt Wolfe: "...the theme of the entire episode could be 'You can't judge a book by its cover.' Everyone is wearing a 'second skin.' So Kira is both who she is and she's Iliana Ghemor. Legate Ghemor is both a very staunch supporter of the Cardassian government and an opponent of the Cardassian government. The USS Defiant appears to be a Kobheerian freighter, but it's really a warship. Garak looks like a tailor, but he's really a spy. Sisko looks like a Kobheerian captain and Odo looks like a bag. [There are] many levels of deception throughout the show."

* Robert Hewitt Wolfe's original idea for this episode revolved around O'Brien discovering that he was a deep-cover Cardassian operative who had replaced the 'real' O'Brien twenty years previously and had had O'Brien's real memories implanted into his own mind. This would have meant that the O'Brien we first met in "Encounter at Farpoint" was actually a Cardassian spy. Wolfe ran into trouble with this idea when he had to try to explain how a Cardassian and a Human woman (Keiko) could have a fully Human child (Molly). At this point, Wolfe modified the idea so that it revolved around Kira instead of O'Brien.

* Wolfe says he was influenced in writing this episode by the work of Philip K. Dick, especially Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and We Can Remember It for You Wholesale

* Wolfe wanted Dr. Bashir to tell Kira at the end of the episode that he could not confirm whether she was a Cardassian replacement or the authentic Bajoran Kira in order to leave Kira permanently unsure of her original identity. He felt this would emphasize that our identity is based on our experiences and who we have been, regardless of one's actual origins; "She has been Kira Nerys. She may be the real Kira Nerys, she may be a replacement, but she's Kira Nerys now, and it doesn't really matter. Your identity is who you are, it doesn't matter how you get there, it doesn't matter whether it's true or a lie, if you've lived it long enough, it's true." However, this idea was dropped from the final version of the story.

* The writers considered making Entek a recurring character. However, they decided to have Garak kill him instead, as this would once again emphasize to the audience that Garak is more than capable of taking a life (we had already seen him shoot Gul Toran in "Profit and Loss"). Coupled with this is Tekeny Ghemor's warning to Kira at the end of the episode never to trust Garak. The killing of Entek and Ghemor's warning were designed by the writers as ways to keep the viewers on their toes.

* Nana Visitor, who suffers from claustrophobia, greatly disliked wearing the extensive Cardassian makeup for this episode, which required her to arrive for makeup at 1:30 AM each morning. After a particularly long, 20-hour day of shooting, she simply told the director Les Landau that she had to get out of the makeup and pick up the remaining shots the next day because she was feeling claustrophobic. Landau wanted to continue shooting a while longer. Visitor then began physically removing the claustrophobia-inducing makeup on the set.

Quotes
Garak: "This is an Alpha-Red priority mission, clearance verification 9218-Black. By authority of the Central Command you are ordered to turn your ships around, erase all records of this encounter from your logs, and talk of it to no one. Is that clear?"
Gul Benil: "My apologies. I had no idea."
Garak: "You were doing your duty. End transmission."
Sisko: "Mr. Garak, I'm impressed."
Garak: "Oh, it was just something I overheard while I was hemming someone's trousers."
--
Ghemor: "That Garak fellow that helped you, who helped us. Don't trust him Nerys, ever. He's a dangerous man, and he'd betray you and all your friends in an instant if he thought it would help him."
Kira: "I'll keep my eye on him."
posted by zarq (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Robert Hewitt Wolfe's original idea for this episode revolved around O'Brien discovering that he was a deep-cover Cardassian operative who had replaced the 'real' O'Brien twenty years previously and had had O'Brien's real memories implanted into his own mind . . . Wolfe ran into trouble with this idea when he had to try to explain how a Cardassian and a Human woman (Keiko) could have a fully Human child (Molly).

LOL LOL LOL. As hard as the show was on O'Brien, the writers would have made it even worse, if not for that pesky child of his. Seriously, I think Kira was the better choice for this episode, as it's another step on her journey from Duet with respect to her attitudes towards Cardassians.

Mr. creepygirl had sharp eyes and recognized Entek as Chano from Barney Miller. It's always nice to see Barney Miller actors in other roles.

Garak is a delight, as always: "Major, I don't think I've ever seen you looking so ravishing." and "Suffice it to say, I still have friends on Cardassia. You will no doubt derive years of enjoyment trying to determine exactly who they are."

I love Ghemor's fatherly advice to Kira at the end. In 90% of TV shows, the advice would be some treacly crap about opening her heart to other people. But here it's strictly work-related advice, and Ghemor is in a position to know a lot more about Garak than any of the DS9 crew.
posted by creepygirl at 10:11 AM on October 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Mr. creepygirl had sharp eyes and recognized Entek as Chano from Barney Miller. It's always nice to see Barney Miller actors in other roles.

!!!! Oh wow. Nice catch!!
posted by zarq at 11:11 AM on October 14, 2015


The idea that this was originally another suffering O'Brien episode is darkly comical, but also would have verged into bathos, in my opinion.

Garak was expectedly terrific. I don't see him as a spy exactly as the episodes notes suggest. Of course, I haven't seen every episode, but I see him more as someone who can't give up his former role as a spy, but who is also not actively spying on DS9. Maybe he is. But if he was it seems more like a habit than a burning crusade to undermine the Federation.

Major Kira is, in my opinion, the most developed female character in the history of Trek. I haven't watched all of Voyager, so perhaps Captain Janeway or Seven of Nine have more character material than Kira, but the Major is given some great material and creates the character well. This episode was strong and as mentioned above, a nice continuation of the threads of "Duet."
posted by Slothrop at 2:24 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is such a good episode, with some terrific details of Cardassian society and politics, not to mention the machinations of the Obsidian Order. "The Order saves everything" indeed.

And when Garak says, "Major, I don't think I've ever seen you looking so ravishing," he manages to sound both shady and sincere at the same time. Just fantastic.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:52 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


#GarakWatch continues! Quips, secret codes, disintegrating his enemies.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:54 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't watched all of Voyager, so perhaps Captain Janeway or Seven of Nine have more character material than Kira,

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahahahaaaaa....

OK, sorry. No, Kira's one of a kind, for Trek.
posted by happyroach at 12:39 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


OK, sorry. No, Kira's one of a kind, for Trek.

Well now, hang on, if by "more character material" you mean "inexplicably inconsistent and even-more-inexplicably incompetent," then maybe Janeway has Kira beat.

End snark. In all fairness, every VGer cast member did get one or two seriously great moments. But that doesn't compete with DS9's cavalcade of excellence.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:35 AM on October 15, 2015


Also, you'd think the Obsidian Order might have changed Garak's security codes by now (assuming that he just didn't steal other ones, which is a distinct possibility now that I think of it).


But then again, you'd think Starfleet security wouldn't just let smug looking Cardassian operatives wander around their space stations and kidnap random Bajoran officers.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:50 AM on October 15, 2015


perhaps Captain Janeway or Seven of Nine have more character material than Kira

Nothing against the actors but Voyager's writing is, overall (there are some exceptions), consistently horrible in comparison to almost any Trek, but in particular when compared to the best Trek, DS9. By the time Voyager came along, the trend of not respecting your audience was embraced by the show, like much of network television today, in that overwrought exposition dominates just in case you don't understand the dilemna the characters are in, the show is going to tell you repeatedly, in dialog, in action, and in music.
posted by juiceCake at 6:47 AM on October 15, 2015


The difference between Voyager and DS9 lay in the characterizations, not just the writing.

On DS9 we have out-of-his-element subversive Cardassian spy: Garak, who was given a rich background, meaty storylines, and played with a subtle sense of humor by Andrew Robinson. On Voyager, we were given Seska, an out-of-her-element subversive Cardassian spy who was working with the Kazon. But Seska wasn't fleshed out well and her storylines were kinda ridiculous. Garak was given a redemption arc. Seska was just a one-note villain, through and through. Most of Voyager's characters were like that: one element of their characters defined them. Chakotay was the Native American mystic. Tom Paris was the bad boy. Ensign Kim was the eager young ensign. Etc., etc. Their best episodes showed them breaking out of type, rather than reverting to it. For Kim, that was "Timeless".

Part of the reason for this, I think, was that Voyager was supposed to be an action-adventure show, in the same vein as TOS, rather than as an evolution from TNG. When the production team decided that conflict was more interesting than a well-told story, the show suffered. But the well-told stories were generally very well-told. The aforementioned "Timeless." "Distant Origin." "Year of Hell." "Deadlock." "Scorpion." "Living Witness."

All of those episodes had one thing in common: they were science-heavy science fiction stories. Most of them also featured the crew acting outside the box, in ways the audience did not expect. "Timeless" showed us a Harry Kim who had lost his eager-beaver innocence. "Year of Hell" shows us a crew pushed far past their breaking points. Etc.

Some of those episodes has something else in common.

"Timeless" is a reset button story.
"Year of Hell" is a reset button story.
"Living Witness" is a self-contained story which might as well have had a reset button at the end.
"Scorpion" introduced a new Big Bad: Species 8472 and gave us a new cast member: Seven of Nine, launching a multi-episode, seasons-spanning arc that reset all that came before.

With those episodes came interesting character developments that vanished as soon as the credits rolled.

DS9 paid greater attention to continuity, consistent character development/growth, etc. If a character lost a limb (for example,) there would be an episode addressing that down the road. From the ratings we can tell that the viewers noticed when attention was paid to continuity.

On the other hand, Voyager was probably the most diverse and feminist Trek ever produced. Strong women in lead roles, who did not require men to define them, and who could succeed and make mistakes without falling into the tropes that so many strong female leads seem to be saddled with today.

I liked certain things about Voyager. The heavy sci-fi plots. The Doctor. Seven of Nine's entire story arc is a metaphor for a childhood abuse survivor learning to find her way in the world as an adult. Etc. There's value in the show, if you know where to look.
posted by zarq at 8:01 AM on October 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


All of those episodes had one thing in common: they were science-heavy science fiction stories. Most of them also featured the crew acting outside the box, in ways the audience did not expect...With those episodes came interesting character developments that vanished as soon as the credits rolled.

I think the worst decision they ever made with Voyager was to strand them in the Delta quadrant. It's exactly the wrong framing for the stories the writing team seem to have wanted to write, and, because they don't pay too much attention to continuity or characterization, it undermines the tension in many episodes rather than building it up. The main reason the lack of continuity and character-driven stories -- as opposed to science-heavy, though those aren't necessarily in opposition -- bothered me was because the premise of the show seemed to require it: how can you tell a multi-year show about people trapped far, far away from home and not have that been the central element to the stories you tell? Apparently fairly easily. There's a long, long list of Voyager episodes where ship's stranded-ness is only evinced by the rationale given for exploring something -- 'we need energy from this nebula' rather than 'we need to catalogue this nebula for science.'

Had they instead made Voyager a long-range exploration ship that had to constantly grapple with questions like, 'is it worth losing a a few months worth of travel to go back and get a new doctor, or should we keep on with our EMH filling in?' they could have addressed a lot of the same topics but still told the same essential stories, while also making space for, say, popping back to Earth between seasons to pick up some new shuttles and then head out again. Putting them in the Gamma quadrant and have them be stranded by the Dominion War would have been neat: they know they can get back, eventually, hopefully, but it's a social/political obstacle rather than purely distance. Or simply have the Caretaker throw them a year away from Earth instead of 70 years -- time enough to get back and establish the new crew as people who could work together, and then have them decide to go back out exploring once the year is up.

Second Skin is great episode for comparison since so many elements that make it work -- Garak! -- tie deeply into the established geography of DS9 and lend all sorts of minor plot points greater weight. The core premise of the episode ('is it our experiences that make us who we are, or is it our genes?') is something that Voyager dealt with less well in several episodes, such as Faces, where, well, the answer is apparently 'genes,' but far, far better in the overall arc of the Doctor.
posted by cjelli at 9:56 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


There's probably a great book to be written specifically about how UPN basically flew the Trek franchise into a planet at ramming speed with Voyager and Enterprise, and what role the better-known Powers That Be (Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, Jeri Taylor) played in that. One of the rumors I've read is that Berman didn't like recurring supporting characters, and that when Michael Piller left, Berman, Braga, and Taylor deliberately killed off Seska as well as a couple of other recurring characters that Piller had championed. (Samantha Wildman lived, because she was the mother of cute kid character Naomi, although she would seldom appear afterward, and Vorik lived because he was played by Jeri Taylor's son.) But I've also read that the lack of ongoing arcs and recurring supporting characters was largely due to network interference, because UPN wanted to re-run episodes in any order and especially put more popular episodes in heavy rotation, because Voyager was the network's anchor show. (The two-part shows "Year of Hell" and "Equinox" were thus supposedly the producers' way of showing what should have happened to the ship and crew during a long unsupported cruise through space that was rife with hostile races, including the bulk of the Borg Collective.) To bring it back home, imagine that, at the end of DS9's second season, the producers decided to kill off Garak, Dukat, and Winn, and only kept Rom alive for a few brief appearances as Nog's dad. Yeah.*

Anyway, WRT the episode, I enjoyed it even before I knew about Nana Visitor's claustrophobia, although after I read about that I wondered if Visitor consciously used that subliminal edge-of-panic feeling in her work this episode. Kira is of course hard like a motherfucker, especially when she's being interrogated, but you can also see the doubt in her eyes; she knows that the Obsidian Order absolutely would use that sort of mindfuckery, even on its own people (maybe especially on its own people). And Garak is also great, because Robinson can hit that sweet spot where you really just don't know which way Garak will really go in the end.

*The closest we have to an expose of UPN is Season Finale, about the simultaneous rise and fall of UPN and the WB, and since it's written by a former WB exec, the UPN details are a lot sparser. There is one anecdote at the beginning, however, that kind of sets the stage for the haphazard, wrong-headed way the UPN execs ran things. They planned a big party in NYC for the premiere of Voyager, which was the official beginning of the network as well, and were going to show the pilot ahead of the broadcast premiere. The problem was, they left the copy of the pilot that they were going to show at the party in Hollywood, and had to beam it across the country in twenty-minute increments via satellite; they didn't want to start the viewing until they had all the pilot on tape, which meant that they had to pause it near the end to formally go on the air as UPN. And that wasn't even the only problem with the pilot--Genevieve Bujold quitting the role of Janeway three days into filming, then the network execs demanding a refilming of much of the pilot because they decided they didn't like Janeway's hairstyle. It's a wonder that it wasn't Voyager that got cancelled four seasons in.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


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