Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 3: Second Skin

 Deep Space Nine, Season 3
"Second Skin"
Airdate: October 24, 1994
50 of 173 produced
50 of 173 aired


After she is lured onto the surface of Bajor by a mysterious claim that she was interned at a prison camp, which she does not remember, Major Kira wakes up on Cardassia to find that she is someone entirely different - a Cardassian double agent named Iliana Ghemor. Now she must determine whether her life as she thought she knew it is an elaborate lie.

 Major Kira is absolutely beside herself...


Matthew: This Obsidian Order plot is too clever by half. How in the heck would surgically altering a Bajoran be the quickest route to exposing the radical ties of a Central Command legate? This is clearly one of those episodes that started with a killer teaser pitch - "Kira wakes up as a Cardassian," and they couldn't quite come up with a logically coherent story that justified the hook. Is it because Kira resembles the actual Iliana? Were they also trying to get information from Kira? It was really unclear.

Kevin: I kind of enjoy the over-complication of Cardassian plans. It's not off the wall that espionage plans tend to spiral out of control. A look at historical plots from human history certainly leave one wondering who stood up in a room of their peers and suggested the plan in the first place. I even like it as a facet of Cardassian society. Klingons trip over their honor, Cardassians over their deviousness. I could see using Kira as opposed to a Cardassian made up to look like Iliana for a couple of reasons. Who better to resist the insistence that she is Iliana than some who believes that herself? Also, as a back up, if they broke her, they would lose Ghemor, but then have a valuable Bajoran asset to interrogate. The plot was a little overdone, but in a way that pleasantly reminds me of Cold War thrillers.

Matthew: There was a nice creepy "am I insane" sort of feel, a la "Whispers," "Frame of Mind," or "Face of the Enemy." Beaming in the corpse of Kira (again, how and why do they have a dead body replicate of Kira lying around?) was a good horror moment, and reinforced the feeling of having fallen through the looking glass. But mood aside, the entire proceedings suffered from a feeling of having been done before. Robert Hewitt Wolfe seems preoccupied with stories involving uncertainty of identity and cloak and dagger schemes, as evidenced by "Shadowplay" and "The Wire." Wolfe wanted to end the story on an uncertain note, troubling the story as to whether Kira is "real," but this element was axed by the editors. Too bad, if you ask me.

Kevin: I agree completely. Kira deciding who she is in the face of uncertain physical evidence has a certain appeal. Having it be clear deflates the tension of earlier scenes. I did really love the scene when she smashes the mirror. There was a physicality to the unease that other outings lack. The fake imagery shattering in Frame of Mind is strange and unsettling, but slicing open her hand is truly upsetting. I also liked watching Kira piece it out. Even when she gets what she wants, she wouldn't leave well enough alone. The first time I watched the episode, I couldn't help but think that it was how Odo would treat the situation, and their friendship made even more sense.

Matthew: I feel like they were trying for a "Kira learns to respect and care for a Cardassian" story by the end with legate Ghemor. It didn't really work for the most part, partially because it has been done already ("Duet"), and partially because they didn't really linger on scenes between the two characters. I do however love the role Garak plays, and the legate's final warning about him. It saves a complex character from being too nicey-nice.

Kevin: I kind of agree with that, but I really enjoyed watching this episode, so I can let it go. I liked watching Sisko unabashedly extort Garak. It's something I think Picard would either not do, or play it far more subtly. The straightforward approach sets the captain and the show apart.


Matthew: Obviously this is a Kira show, and I think this is one where Nana Visitor shines. She gets to engage in a lot of physical acting, and the way she portrays her uncertainty and her vulnerability by hunching down on the couch and grabbing her legs. She has some really nice inflections in her voice, especially when she says "cardassian" with such disgust.

Kevin: Visitor also handled the make-up well. Several guest stars have gotten lost in the pounds of make-up and even the main actors, save Armin Shimerman, have a bit of a learning curve, but she really nailed it. I remember thinking that had I not seen her as a Bajoran before, I would have thought she was a Cardassian.

Matthew: I loved Gregory Sierra as the Obsidian Order agent. Apparently he was on Barney Miller, and you can see perhaps a bit of the officiousness that a police officer might have in his performance. His voice suited the type of role perfectly, and he treaded a fine line between apparent niceness and submerged intent very well. Lawrence Pressman was just OK as the legate for me. He was adequate, but he didn't really impress me or do anything memorable.

Kevin: I found his scenes with Kira to be quite nice. I think all the Cardassians really nailed it in this one. It helps sell the over-complicated plot because all the actors seems to have their own handle on it. The scene with Garak and the Cardassian ship is plot and comedy gold. I really want to use the line "just something I picked up hemming trousers" once in my life.

Production Values

Matthew: We got an OBVIOUS reuse of the Cardassian homeworld establishing shot from "Tribunal," the one where public view screens say "children are the future of Cardassia" from "Tribunal" That said, I love the interior set of Iliana's bedroom, as well as the living room of the Ghemor house. They were interesting (and bright, hmm...) architecturally speaking, and they were dressed with really nice knick knacks and furniture. Really rich looking sets overall.

Kevin: Everything was nicely detailed and cohesive enough to look like something an actual sentient being would want their home to look like. I really liked the bone carving. I want to say it has appeared elsewhere, but for the life of me, I can't remember where.

Matthew: Kira looked fine as a Cardassian, which is a tribute to the makeup work. Apparently Visitor is claustrophobic and hated the heavy makeup... I imagine a director saying "beautiful, go with it!" I enjoyed seeing the Defiant again and having Garak on board.

Kevin: I would go so far as to say that the Cardassian make-up flatters Nana Visitors face. It focuses on her eyes and she looked good with the longer hair (again). At one point during filming, she just started peeling pieces off with her bare hands because she couldn't take it anymore. It's a credit to the actress that she eventually muscled through and used the discomfort in her role.


Matthew: My continual predilection towards scratching my head took me out of the episode a bit. The story just didn't sell me on its complicated plot. But it was decently entertaining, and the acting and production were both good, so I think this is a 3 overall.

Kevin: I think this gets a 4. The acting and production values are so high, and honestly, I kind of like the too-much plotting on the part of the Cardassians because it keeps coming back. Tribunal's plot was too much too. Why not just have the man who looks like a Federation citizen in their employ commit a crime for the same effect? The wheels within wheels within wheels nature of the Cardassians' long game is an interesting counterpoint to their obvious intelligence and deviousness. In the end, even if the plot was over the top, it was executed so competently by the actors that it seems to work. I think this is the top 25% of the show, and it remains a personal favorite of mine. That make a total of 7 from us.

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