Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Second Skin"

3.5 stars

Air date: 10/24/1994
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder." — Garak

The Cardassians kidnap Kira and surgically alter her appearance into that of a Cardassian. Then they tell her she's really an undercover Cardassian spy named Iliana Ghemor, whose real memory had been erased and original appearance changed to Bajoran so she could infiltrate Bajor. Now they want the information she was to gather.

"Second Skin" proves itself as an atypical drama when it could've been a complete failure. The writers have crafted the story such that it appears to the audience the Cardassians might very well be telling the truth. While the episode is, in a way, a series of fabrications that try to convince us that it's going to completely rewrite Kira's backstory, it works because of its emotional sincerity. Sure, by the end we find out that, yes, the Cardassians were lying and, no, Kira isn't really a Cardassian. But the episode doesn't really rely on the identity gag because it reveals true substance as it unfolds.

It's a terrific story with some great dramatic moments, with the added bonus of a satisfying conclusion—a refreshing cheat-free venture into Cardassian political problems.

Although the episode spends plenty of time trying to convince us Kira is a Cardassian—and does so quite well by offering so much indicative evidence that even I was having brief second thoughts—the heart of the episode really lies in the characters.

It's really about how Kira finally accepts a lie after having it drilled into her head over and over. It also gives Kira a chance to develop a friendship with Cardassian Ghemor (Lawrence Pressman), who adamantly claims he's her father. The scenes between Kira and Ghemor are right on target, because they're both victims of the same deception—the underhanded plotting by Cardassian Entek (Gregory Sierra) to expose Ghemor as a traitor trying to bring change to Cardassian society.

Ghemor did indeed have an undercover daughter on Bajor named Iliana, and Entek uses Kira's resemblance to Iliana as a ploy to manipulate Ghemor.

Entek is a member of the Obsidian Order, a powerful, all-knowing Cardassian variation of Big Brother. He's the worst type of villain—the kind who claims to be your friend and then stabs you in the back. The Obsidian Order also has the resources to make a ruse seem disturbingly real, as Entek offers the initially disbelieving Kira so much evidence she eventually cracks and accepts the lies as truths.

Both Visitor and Pressman turn in moving performances, and newcomer David Bell's score is a majestic and emotional triumph, breaking the predominant monotony turned out many weeks by Trek music veterans McCarthy and Chattaway at the demand of the producers—music that, quite frankly, I'm sick of.

Further propelling the story is a B-plot with Sisko taking the Defiant to track Kira down with the help of Garak and Odo. Robinson, as always, gets some of the best-timed lines and most interesting dialogue. (His character has emerged as one of the cast's best, and I say it's time to put his credit in the opening title with everyone else's.) A scene where they charge in to the rescue works surprisingly well, and the potentially obvious gag where Odo uses his morphing ability to foil Entek is so well-executed that I almost wanted to cheer.Another interesting part of "Second Skin" is the rare look into Cardassian civilization, which, based on what Star Trek has offered so far, seems like a civilization inspired from Orwell's 1984. As seen here and before, the Cardassians' Obsidian Order bares many obvious similarities to Big Brother; those who oppose it are destroyed. As seen in "Tribunal," any innocent person can be guilty of a crime at the government's discretion. Subtle visuals such as a large telescreen mounted on the side of a Cardassian building are also reminiscent of Orwellian motifs. Picard's torture in TNG's "Chain of Command II" was nearly a total reenactment of Orwell's torture scene near the end of his novel. In "Chain of Command II," Gul Madred tortures Picard into believing there are five lights when in reality there are only four. In 1984, Orwell's hero is forced into believing his torturer is holding up five fingers when in reality he is holding up just four. Coincidence?

Very interesting. All around, a very well-done Trek.

Previous episode: Equilibrium
Next episode: The Abandoned

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70 comments on this review

Sun, Jun 8, 2008, 9:18pm (UTC -5)
This was a steller outing for DS9 in that it plays to its true strengths, its characters and what makes them tick. It amazes me after two years we are still getting to know Kira and what drives her.

I also loved that we started getting more into Cardassian society which form me, its really wonderful getting to know an alien culture and have it seem creditble.

Finally, this episode sported another outstanding performance by Andrew Robinson especially when he kills Entek and simply says "What a pity, I rather liked him" and casually walks away.
Jakob M. Mokoru
Sun, Jan 11, 2009, 12:05pm (UTC -5)
Really, really fantastic episode with outstanding acting. Especially the Cardies were great (I'll include Kira in this group for this episode). Nearly everything fits - although I'm still asking myself: Who was the dead girl Entek produced as evidence of the "real Kiras" death?
Sat, Jun 20, 2009, 1:56am (UTC -5)
I was recently reading through the DS9 Companion and apparently the original ending of this episode was more ambiguous in that Doctor Bashire couldn't determine with 100% accuracy that Kira was Bajoran.
Wed, Oct 28, 2009, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
Yes, Robert Hewitt Wolfe said that originally he wanted it to be unclear to underline the theme of "it doesn't matter who you've been, it only matters who you are." (which contradicts Dax's line in the previous episode). I'm REALLY GLAD they didn't use this ending, it would be totally ridiculous for Bashir to not be able to tell the difference between a Bajoran and a Cardassian, it's probably the kind of thing a first year medical student can do.
Thu, Mar 4, 2010, 4:23am (UTC -5)
@Nic : To be fair, he DID mix up a preganglionic fibre for a postganglionic nerve. I wouldn't put too much stock in Bashir's medical expertise... ;)
Tue, Apr 27, 2010, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
I hope I'm not giving anything away, but Bashir mixed those up ON PURPOSE to avoid being first in his class.
double m
Tue, May 18, 2010, 2:24pm (UTC -5)
Wow Kira was really hot as cardassiana. I like very much the cardi girls, they look somehow very perverse in their gothic emo look :)))
Tue, Jun 1, 2010, 12:59pm (UTC -5)
I just watched this episode again for the first time in a year or two. It is still very entertaining and I was surprised to pick up on a few things that I missed the first couple of times.

Here's a sad thought that no one has mentioned so far, in regards to what has become of Gul Ghemor's daughter?

Perhaps, it is this obvious: The body of the "real" Kira, belongs to Iliana Ghemor, post surgery.

The idea didn't occur to me until I read Jammer's review.

"Entek is a member of the Obsidian Order, a powerful, all-knowing Cardassian variation of Big Brother. He's the worst type of villain--the kind who claims to be your friend and then stabs you in the back."

Iliana studied under, and trusted Entek - to her own peril. The Obsidian Order knows exactly where Iliana is, and has accounted for all of their agents.
Thu, Oct 7, 2010, 1:14am (UTC -5)
Reasonably entertaining, but the utter implausibility of it all kept me from getting too excited. Kira accepts that the technology exists to alter a Cardassian's anatomy (external and internal) so completely that routine Starfleet medical exams reveal nothing amiss? The Obsidian Order prefers this complex, unlikely-to-succeed scheme to the many far-simpler alternatives (use an actor or a hologram; give the real Iliana a placebo; catch Ghemor by, I dunno, spying)? Bajor and Starfleet are willing to accept this major incursion into their turf with zero consequences? Not buying any of it.
Thu, Dec 2, 2010, 1:15pm (UTC -5)
The DS9 Relaunch novels The Soul Key and Fearful Symmetry expanded on this episode quite a bit. It reveals where they got the body for the dead Kira, as well as what happened to the original Iliana Ghemor. Both are relatively short books -- you'll be able to get through them rather quickly. Don't wanna give any more spoilers here...
Sun, Dec 12, 2010, 1:15am (UTC -5)
Now here's an episode that's trying so very hard, and has the potential for a lot more than we get...

There's a lot that's good about this episode; much of the mood painting (Iliana's room is very carefully designed, the mirror in apposed to the window overlooking Cardassia); Garak as usual is far more interesting as a character and better executed as an actor than any of the main cast, but a lot is simply extinguished in terms of drama. First of all, the conversations between Ghemor and Entek clearly point the way at a deception. I can see in that instance it was the fault of the execution (wooden acting) which failed to convince. Since we had just gotten Troi made into a Romulan the previous year, it wasn't such a huge shock to see Kira as a Cardassian either, and the show relied too heavily on that shock-value reveal. The show should have been about Kira coming to terms with her hatred of Cardassians by standing in their shoes for a while, but it quickly goes to the old torture trick looming and becomes a story about how scary the Obsidian Order is. The result is a couple of overacted scenes with Kira meant to portray some sort of emotional schism which are severely forced and unconvincing. For a FAR better execution of this idea, see Voyager's "Faces." DS9 is unapologetic about it's increased sabotage of basic tenants of Star Trek premises. How is the world are we to be convinced that not only is Starfleet okay with Sisko's blackmailing and covert infiltration of Cardassia, they HELPED him by creating false records? What kind of twisted Starfleet is this? Kira isn't even a member of the Federation, how can this be justified? The issue is glaring, but doesn't get adressed at all. Now, the episode really doesn't have room for it, but it amounts to another unexplained change in the continuity of the Star Trek Universe to allow DS9 to make its point that Gene was wrong.
Nick M
Mon, Dec 13, 2010, 10:02am (UTC -5)
double m said something I have been thinking for a while. Am I like the only person that has a thing for Cardassian women? There is a really odd sexiness to them, and Kira looked so amazing as a Cardassian! The jusge in the O-Brien episode was also quite sexy. I am not sure who I find more appealing, from a male-fantasy POV, Vulcan women or Cardassian women.

Any thoughts about this silly, yet valid question?
Sat, Jan 1, 2011, 1:11am (UTC -5)
What is it about Star Trek women that makes alien races want to kidnap and surgically alter them?...first Troi and now Kira.
Sat, Jan 1, 2011, 1:52am (UTC -5)
Jay, in both cases there was a political motivation and in both said cases, the story for both woman was fairly good. Though for Kira it was nothing new but with Deanna it was very rare.
Wed, Feb 2, 2011, 9:40am (UTC -5)
I'm still wondering how Entek knew about Kira accidentally killing a mother cat thinking it was a Cardassian.
Tue, Feb 22, 2011, 10:46am (UTC -5)
Nic: Here's an interesting thought. Assuming that Entek was correct when he said they implanted Iliana with memories, why not implant Kira with this memory as well? In other words, Entek knew she had that memory as *he* gave it to her....

Nick M: You are not alone. Vulcans over Cardies, but Cardy women are disturbingly hot. More than Klingon, definitely, and the less said about Feregnhi women the better....
Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
I freaking love Garak.
Wed, May 4, 2011, 12:43am (UTC -5)
"Pitty, I rather liked him" is the best Garak line in 7 seasons. Also, I recall reading at memory alpha about the producers really wanted to keep the actor and the character Entek around but if Garak doesn't kill him then it takes some of the edge away from Garak.
Captain Tripps
Sat, Sep 17, 2011, 4:48pm (UTC -5)
I thought a major point was made that Kira never DID believe them, she never completely fell for it. She just softened up when she realized that Ghemor believed it.
Thu, Jun 21, 2012, 11:24pm (UTC -5)
The best hgarak line, I think, is in "Rocks and SHoals", when he and Nog are walking and suddenly Garak gets a funny feeling, and when Nog inquires, he goes "I'm not sure". Seconds later the Jem Hadar do their stealth approach and surround them and he deadpans "Now I'm sure".
Mon, Nov 26, 2012, 2:05pm (UTC -5)
Yeah it would have been ridiculous to have Bashir unable to determine for sure if Kira was Bajoran or Cardassian, particularly since a few months later, in VOY's State Of Flux, Voyager's Doctor was able to say with certainly that Seska was Cardassian, rather than a Bajoran with Cardassian blood factors.
Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 11:56am (UTC -5)
This was a GREAT episode and better executed than the very comparable (and equally enjoyable) "Face of the Enemy" from TNG.

Like Jammer said, the unfolding events of the episode made me believe, even if only briefly, that perhaps Kira was truly a Cardassian. Just the look in her eyes, her body language and her tone of voice -- Kira was slowly, but surely, breaking. Kudos to Nana Visitor for an excellent performance.

I also want to applaud the writers and producers for their great work; they knew viewers wouldn't easily buy into the "Kira as a Cardassian" concept, so they spent very little time trying to find out her true physiology (e.g. having Bashier run a slew of technobabble DNA tests). Doing so would have been implausible and utterly absurd. Instead, the DS9 crew was busy traveling to Cardassia to rescue Kira, while Kira was a simply plot vehicle that allowed viewers a better glimpse into the Cardassian political atmosphere.

Kudos to Garak/Andrew Robinson, as well. His character is VERY enjoyable, believable and memorable to watch. His exchange with Sisko about getting caught was fantastic and ranks up there as one of my favorite Garak moments, thus far.

GARAK: I'll go along on your fool's errand, but I want one thing to be perfectly clear. I have no intention of sacrificing my life to save yours. If it looks like we're in danger of being captured, if there's any signs of trouble at all, you're on your own.
SISKO: Mister Garak, I believe that's the first completely honest thing you've ever said to me.

My only two (minor) gripes with the episode are as follows:

- Echoing Jakob Mokoru's comment, I wish the episode addressed the unveiled dead body. I bet that limited screen/dialogue time made this difficult, but I was curious if the body was a clone, or if Kira had a twin that she didn't know about. Nevertheless, it does add clout behind the Obsidian Order's ability to successfully pull off their scare tactics and other means of psychological terror.

- How does the Federation continuously infilitrate Cardassia Prime without any problems? In "The Wire," Bashier easily got into Enabran Tain's home (granted, Tain preemptively warned the military of Bashier's arrival). In "Tribunal," Sisko popped into the court room with O'Brien and Odo without any explanation. In this episode, did they use the cloaking device to hide in orbit around Cardassia? If so, did the Romulans allow the Federation to keep the cloaking device? If there wasn't a cloaking device involved, how did they remain undetected? I know Garak fooled Gul Benil with his Alpha Red priority mission clearance, but surely he didn't fool the entire military?

Minor nitpicks aside, this was an overall well done episode. VERY well done.

My rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars (teethering towards a 4 out of 4)
Tue, Aug 6, 2013, 1:49pm (UTC -5)
Nick M and double m, you are definitely NOT the only fellas with a thing for Cardassian women. I'll also add that I was a big fan of the scientists in "Destiny".
David J
Thu, Aug 15, 2013, 3:32pm (UTC -5)
I think they should've killed off Ghemor after he left the station. Blown up his ship or something. Give a little more credit to the obsidian order. They just got severely embarrassed and kind of written off with that scene on cardassia.
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
A good episode; Kira seems to have a lot of them. Is it crazy that I liked Kira as a Cardassian?

Fri, Jan 31, 2014, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
Kind of strange fro Kira to say that she dislikes holodecks because anything worth doing there i worth doing in the real world. Except...the holodeck is instant access, without a commute. And the holodeck has safeties, which she should especially like because her very next comment is concern about crashing.
Fri, Feb 14, 2014, 12:16am (UTC -5)
A very good episode. Kira looked pretty cool as a faux-Cardassian. At first I thought Ghemor and Entek were playing good cop/bad cop, attempting to brainwash her and get her to reveal inside information about DS9 and Bajor, but it turned out Ghemor wasn't in on it and really thought she was his daughter. A very nice touch, and I liked the ending. I hope they meet again.
Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
I don't see how DS9 was out to "prove Roddenberry was wrong". Granted I believe their was a bit unrealistic over-optimism at times but even the original series had some pretty decently fleshed out grey areas in a few eps. I think a lot of the misconception is not fully understanding the how's and whys DS9 is different than other series and thus seems an antithesis to the original vision.

In DS9 their still IS federation ships out there exploring and encountering new things and learning from them. Their IS lives that are being lived on single ships that are going to be what we saw on other series. DS9 is vastly different because it's under different circumstances. They are on a space station that was owned by a species that brutally occupied another species. The story goes from there and unfolds creatively and more or less logically from that basis while still having plots involving other cultures and internal character studies.

I'm glad that there's another story told here. Very glad. Of course it's not perfect but then I couldn't write it any better. If I want to see stories of a crew slapped on a ship going from one place to the next, where it's much easier to have issues disappear at warp speed til the next system or whatever, then I'll watch one of the other shows. I get that they're a bit different as TNG is a good extension of TOS, VOY is a decent rehash but far from home, and ENT is a different timeline. And I get some different things were tried, especially ENT. But DS9 really knocked it out of the park with really creating a 'melting pot' and expanding on the interactions from there.

Roddenberry wasn't being proved wrong. His universe, thankfully, just expanded its palette.
Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 5:58pm (UTC -5)
The moment when Garak busts out the "Alpha Red priority mission" to get past the patrol probably ranks somewhere in the Top 5 Garak moments of all time. Number 1 for me would be every scene involving Garak in S6's "In The Pale Moonlight" ("...and the self respect of one Starfleet officer" still gives me shivers to this day).
Mon, Apr 14, 2014, 9:58pm (UTC -5)
While this episode was enjoyable, it had huge plot holes. Why did the Bajoran woman just happen to contact Kira at the beginning of the episode, just when the Cardassians wanted to kidnap her? If she had been working for the Cardassians, then she wouldn't have contacted Sisko when Kira didn't show up. The Cardassians did not need the backstory of Kira just learning that she had supposedly been in the prison.

The idea that in ten years Kira never had a check up, which would have easily revealed that she was Cardassian, is silly.

Why would Kira's interrogator be asking stupid questions that Cardassia easily has the answers to? Wouldn't that tip Kira off that they don't actually want information from her?

I like to think that this episode is actually leading to a triple cross. Kira's "father" is a double agent. The bracelet he gives her is a spy device. His overwrought warning about Garak then takes on a different meaning altogether. It would have made the episode a lot more interesting.
Mon, Apr 14, 2014, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
Also, why does Garak kill the guy instead of stun him? Why does Sisko not have a problem with this?
Wed, Apr 16, 2014, 11:35am (UTC -5)
"Why did the Bajoran woman just happen to contact Kira at the beginning of the episode, just when the Cardassians wanted to kidnap her? If she had been working for the Cardassians, then she wouldn't have contacted Sisko when Kira didn't show up. The Cardassians did not need the backstory of Kira just learning that she had supposedly been in the prison. "

It's pretty obvious that SOMEBODY was working for the Cardassians, but I doubt it was that woman. The Kobliad woman who kidnaps her watches the communication at the beginning of the episode. Most likely whomever assigned the Bajoran to research Elimspur was working for the Cardassians, even if the woman who contacted Kira was not. The events were clearly not random (as you could see by the Kobliad woman observing) they were planned in some way.

"The idea that in ten years Kira never had a check up, which would have easily revealed that she was Cardassian, is silly."

I believe in Voyager Seska (who was also genetically altered to be Bajoran) scanned as Bajoran to most superficial scans... it wasn't until the doctor kept poking that he discovered she was Cardassian. And she tried to lie it away, claiming a transfusion from a Cardassian caused the readings. The doctor saw through it, but she clearly felt she had enough Bajoran DNA for it to be worth a try. And Voyager (at it's time) was state of the art. DS9 was likely using a lot of old Bajoran equipment and before DS9 she was likely getting even crappier check ups. Voyager's Second Son shows a race genetically altering Harry to not appear human as well. The original ending was going to have the doctor not be able to verify one way or the other.... so clearly the writers thought this tech was good enough to fool medical equipment (or at least it could be).

"Why would Kira's interrogator be asking stupid questions that Cardassia easily has the answers to? Wouldn't that tip Kira off that they don't actually want information from her?"

As far as I know interrogators almost ALWAYS start with the easy stuff. If you're not even willing to admit you've been in Ops, of course you're not going to tell them anything useful. You'd start with the basics (stuff she knows you know), move onto intermediate (stuff she doesn't know if you know) and move on from there. The idea being that there is no point in starting off with things you can't verify....

"I like to think that this episode is actually leading to a triple cross. Kira's "father" is a double agent. The bracelet he gives her is a spy device. His overwrought warning about Garak then takes on a different meaning altogether. It would have made the episode a lot more interesting. "

Have you seen the followup to this episode yet?

"Also, why does Garak kill the guy instead of stun him? Why does Sisko not have a problem with this?"

Considering Sisko later decks Garak for something similar, I agree with you here 100%. It was good for Garak's character to be established with the kind of edge that could just murder somebody like that for the hell of it, but it weakens Sisko's character a bit that he doesn't even so much as grumble about it. I mean.... in the end there's not much he could do. The man just saved his first officer and I HIGHLY doubt that there would be any real consequences for what Garak did... but Sisko is explosive enough (and presumably against murder) that I find it hard to believe nothing came of this. Maybe off screen....
Wed, Apr 16, 2014, 6:26pm (UTC -5)
I like to think that the body's purpose was to instill a sense of ambiguity, that it was meant as a side dish for viewers who tried to piece the whole thing together in their heads. I, for one, feel that Ghemor was 99% certain that the dead body was, in fact, his actual daughter. Of course, now that he cannot return to Cardassia Prime, he will never know for sure. It was for this reason that my eyes got a bit cloudy when he gave back the family jewel. Then, of course, he says he hopes he'll find her some day, but again, I think the line was meant, once again, for the sake of ambiguity. It could very well be that he KNOWS he will never find her. That the order would be so cold as to use Ghemor's famillial emotions against him to an end, and that on Cardassia trials are already decided before they begin, I wouldn't put it past them to keep the fake corpse when it was finally time for a new trial to get the people all riled up. They probably knew Ghemor was a traitor from day 1, and the cameras that weren't on? ... Yeaaah I doubt that. Also, the comment about Garak, while could easily put the Legate into question, it could at the same time simply add more depth to DS9's ambiguity figurehead himself.

All in all, "Face of the Enemy" obviously comes to mind (possibly the only Troi episode I actually really enjoyed), but also "Frame of Mind", with the plot centering around trying to convince a main character that their life is a lie. To me, combining two of my favorite TNG episodes together and then having Garak come in and say what pretty much everyone in this comments section was thinking...

" Major, I don't think I've ever seen you looking so ravishing."
Wed, Apr 16, 2014, 6:31pm (UTC -5)
*FOR when it was finally time for a new trial to get the people all riled up

But yeah, 4 stars for me, this was excellent. Oh and to the ones questioning Sisko's capacity for blackmail... Episode 1. Quark.
Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 6:55am (UTC -5)
Why did Garak kill Entek?

He didn't want the OO to know that he was the one that saved Kira. Also, Entek did draw a weapon on him. Pick whichever one suits you.

It's obvious that the OO set this whole thing up. The "alien woman" was obviously working for the OO and it was her tasking to notify them when Kira found out about the records mismatch.

I enjoyed this episode.

Why use Kira to act as Ghemor's daughter? She resembled his real daughter. He is a member of the Central Command. The OO couldn't even turn on their listening devices without his permission. They needed him to reveal himself as a dissident. They knew Kira wouldn't break. Hence this whole plan.

Funniest exchange?

"KIRA: Don't worry, he's on our side. I think. Come on.
GARAK: Major, I don't think I've ever seen you looking so ravishing."

Best line?

"GARAK: Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder."

Wonderful episode. I won't go 4 stars, but a solid 3.5 for me.
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
Yanks said: He didn't want the OO to know that he was the one that saved Kira.

Entek entered the room with a couple of henchmen with him, and they weren't killed. Surely they saw Garak.
El Treko
Tue, Feb 24, 2015, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Garak says to Bashir: "but aside from our brief excursion to Bajor, I don't think I've been off this station in nearly three years." He was referring to the episode "Cardassians". But didn't he leave the station during the evacuation in "The Siege", just a few episodes before "Cardassians"?
Sun, Mar 8, 2015, 9:10am (UTC -5)
One of the greatest eps of all time. Kira rocked as a Cardassian,what a concept! They should have left her as one. Garak, Dukat...and Iliana...could ST get any better than that? I used to love the Klingons, still do, but the Cardassians are pure genius. Cannot get enough of them.
Thu, Apr 30, 2015, 6:13pm (UTC -5)
To El Treko: "But didn't he leave the station during the evacuation in "The Siege" I wondered about that too, I also wondered about the Bajorans. Where were they during all of this activity on the Station? Maybe they all stayed in their quarters on the habitat ring.? Remember it was stated all non-Bajorans must leave the station, that meant Garak too, but I didn't see him leave. He hid out.
Nathan B.
Wed, Jul 29, 2015, 10:16am (UTC -5)
Double M, Nick M, and J: I am so with you! Cardassian women are not only incredibly hot, they are also amazingly interesting!

More seriously, I loved how this episode drew from and elaborated on TNG's wonderful Face of the Enemy. But DS9 does it even better, thanks to more character work and Visitor's great acting. Great, great episode!
Wed, Jul 29, 2015, 6:32pm (UTC -5)

Sorry so long to reply.

Good point. Garak must have had a past with Entek.
S. Kennedy
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Great episode, even if it does borrow a lot from TNG's 'Face of the Enemy', that one where Troi wakes up and finds herself a Romulan. I suppose in someways both episodes owe a lot to TOS's Enterprise Incident, the whole plastic surgery thing (although there it was intentional).

Good episode though.
William B
Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 6:26pm (UTC -5)
I like "Second Skin." I love the set design in Kira's Cardassian quarters, and the way the music score is allowed to carry certain scenes, like Kira staring at herself in the mirror, searchingly. I like Visitor's performance, and also agree with Garak that she looks ravishing. I think the episode effectively gets across how shocking and painful it is to have the foundations of one's reality questioned, especially with an idea as shocking as that one is one's own enemy.

I like "Second Skin." This episode demonstrates some of Kira's better qualities and continues her development. I like that she is snarky and funny when interrogated, and that she quickly unravels Entek's plot once she has the missing piece of the puzzle (Ghemour's dissidence). That Kira hates the idea of herself as a Cardassian does not make her unable to perceive the genuine love that Ghemour has for Iliana. While it takes some time for her to see Ghemour as genuine, that revelation is not treated with the fireworks that we had in "Duet"; an honourable Cardassian is not a surprise for her anymore, it's just that it took some time for her to recognize that her apparent kidnapper was as duped as her. Kira's willingness to accept the role of Iliana substitute as put upon her by Ghemour shows her recognition that Cardassian ties mean as much as her own family ties.

I like "Second Skin." Garak returns for some witty bons mots; an early scene has him telling Bashir how desperately he wants to travel, and he gets to do some traveling later in this episode. He gets the best lines, as ever, and he gets to play the hero role in rescuing Kira. The development of Cardassian culture continues and I like that we have three distinct factions that are clearly delineated -- Central Command, Obsidian Order, Dissident Movement.

I don't love "Second Skin." When I start trying to write about the episode more deeply, I keep coming up to reasons that the episode falls short for me. There are numerous impressive things about Kira and Visitor here, but I feel like there is something missing in her arc. The pile-on of evidence that Entek provides, some of which is never explained (how *did* they find out about that mother animal she killed?), makes Kira question herself but does not totally undo her, which is fine but does mean we don't get the same sense of Kira losing her grip on reality and fighting back for it as we do in something like "Frame of Mind" (which others have noted). Kira does figure out Entek's plan at the last minute, but she is rescued by others, which means that she is largely passive as far as the episode's plot is concerned. More importantly, the horror of becoming a Cardassian is somewhat well explored, but the natural place to go with this is to examine how it would be possible for Kira's essential self to be a Cardassian? Kira watches Iliana's video, and the big, central question should be: Iliana seems like a person of conscience, an idealist like Kira -- how could she view the Bajoran resistance as a terrorist threat that must be quelled? And could that have been Kira, in some other life? The interesting question is not whether Kira was Iliana -- which is something of a foregone conclusion -- but whether she could have been her, and what that means for Kira's foundational worldview, not to mention the Cardassians that she killed. It is not that Iliana, the real Iliana, was *right* in believing that the Order infiltrating the Resistance would be a good thing -- I'm on board with the Occupation being wrong and the Resistance being ultimately a worthwhile pursuit, though I disagree with some means they used. But Iliana clearly believed in what she was doing, and was also enough like Kira in personality for the deception to take effect on Ghemour. Kira has the opportunity to see things from the Cardassian perspective, and we don't really learn much about how that affects her view, or whether she lets it at all. It is maybe bad form to criticize an episode for what it wasn't rather than for what it was, but the episode keeps almost going there and holding back. Kira can care about Cardassians who were too afraid to fight for what is right (Marritza) and who are secret dissidents (Ghemour); what of the young idealists, roped into an evil machine (Iliana, her double)?

While Garak is amusing, the show is sometimes verging on giving him too many superpowers. The scene where he talks down a Cardassian Gul is very similar to the Dukat scene with the freighter in "The Maquis," and is nearly as entertaining, but having Garak hold such influence at all times makes him seem much more invincible than I think is desired. Going to Cardassia, trashing an Obsidian Order operation and shooting an operative should probably have consequences, non? And we do get something like it, in "Improbable Cause," but Tain's reasons there have little to do with Garak's actions here, so that he's somewhat rendered a person who can just Do Anything (a problem in "Profit and Loss" as well). As for Sisko's blackmailing Garak only a few episodes after he blackmailed Quark, well, I guess they are consistent in their characterization.... In general, that the Defiant can be taken to Cardassia undetected *without* the cloak on is also rather much.

Probably 3 stars.
William B
Tue, Sep 1, 2015, 12:44am (UTC -5)
My reticence to support "Second Skin" also has to do with the magic trick the episode does which is very much like the one in "In the Hands of the Prophets" and "Cardassians" -- it sidesteps the apparent story to reveal unscrupulous political scheming as the root cause. Entek was behind it because the Order is diabolical. That's a plot explanation for why Kira was captured, but it does not provide the reason for the story to take place. Now, because the personal development with Kira leads to her boning with Ghemour, the sidestep does not wholly render the story irrelevant, by any means. And I think this sidestepping can work well -- "Duet" somewhat inverts it, in that Marritza's apparent villainy turns out to be part of his own scheme, but for various reasons I hope to talk about at some point, I think "Duet" earns that twist, an does not render the foregoing material irrelevant.
Fri, Sep 4, 2015, 3:12am (UTC -5)
@ William B - "Now, because the personal development with Kira leads to her boning with Ghemour...."

Boning? I think there's a missing letter there, or are you implying that Kira and Ghemour had a much different relationship. LOL!
Diamond Dave
Sun, Nov 22, 2015, 7:47am (UTC -5)
Strong episode. OK, so we know that Kira isn't really a Cardassian so much of the episode is spent moving towards finding out how and why this has happened. But the strength of the performances really help sell it. Additionally we have some fine Garak moments too - and maintaining that edgy, cannot be trusted element to his character is definitely the right choice. 3.5 stars.
Sun, Feb 14, 2016, 8:52am (UTC -5)
Good thing kidnapping an officer off a Bajoran space station has no consequences to the treaty.
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 9:33am (UTC -5)
One thing I'm surprised about: no one has mentioned the links to Bladerunner. Kira's planted memory that only she would know and Deckard's "You ever told anyone that story?" Ghemor's "It's time to go" vs Roy's "It's time to die."
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
"Second Skin" is everything that "Equilibrium" should have been. Here we have a culture that is given a great deal of depth from multiple viewpoints. We have Cardassian society viewed through the lenses of three people (Ghemor, Entek and Garak) who all see it differently, all come from different societal layers and all have their own, vastly different, agendas. Entek sees absolutely no problem with the totalitarian aspects of his society and, in fact, wants to increase the authoritarianism. Ghemor wants to bring about a less militarized, less centralized Cardassia. Garak, though somewhat reluctantly drawn into the action, loves Cardassia unconditionally, but in his own unique way - he's perfectly willing to use the totalitarian elements to his, and society's, advantage, but is also willing to entertain more democratic ideas. Very nicely done!

Of course, as a Kira vehicle it almost doesn't get any better than this. Nana Visitor delivers her best performance to date. From snarky humor (30-40 thousand Federation troops on DS9 = LOL) to gut-wrenching pain, she hits all the notes perfectly. The scene where she smashes the mirror and breaks down in Ghemor's arms moves me every single time. And as a further examination of Kira's lingering prejudices against Cardassians it works wonderfully as something of a second act to "Duet".

The only thing holding the episode back from a perfect score is - and this is really getting old - Sisko once again extorting someone. Good Lord, this man really needs to take a class on how to win friends and influence people! He's blackmailed Quark into staying on the station, extorted goods and services out of Zek, blackmailed Quark again into going on a dangerous mission and now he's extorted Garak into breaking his exile. At least he's moved on from only doing it to Ferengi. But, he doesn't even try to hide it this time. Garak openly calls him on rug for it and Sisko just shrugs it off. Now, I can appreciate that Sisko is willing to really toe the "morally acceptable" line as it makes for interesting drama, but this is really getting out of hand. He didn't even try to offer Garak anything to make it worth his while. Extortion was literally his first, go-to, option. Geez!

Wed, May 11, 2016, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
Is it me, or is Kira even hotter as a Cardassian? Haha. This time viewing all of Trek (I am watching from TNG and interspersing DS9 and now soon Voyager in their "chronological" [airing] order) I am paying close attention to how awesome the uniform and makeup details are in these shows. Kira, and other female Cardassian faces, don't have as prominent scale-bumps, making them look softer and more feminine. Also the young Cardassian dissident at the end has softer looking scale-bumps, while Legate Ghemor has more calcified, more prominent ones, like wrinkles or larger ears on humans that show with age. Great details!

The unanswered question: how did Entek know that one memory of Kira's in the forest? It doesn't really bother me; it only shows the creepy depths of the Obsidian Order and doesn't need answering. Same with the call from Bajor in the beginning. BSG did this all the time too.
Joey Lock
Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
Great episode overall, I'm glad you only realise the true plot as to why this all happened toward the end of the episode.

I loved the last scene, brilliant acting, Lawrence Pressman's facial response when Kira calls him an honourable man and that his daughter must have loved him very much is spot on point, it's a mix of near to tears realisation his daughter is still missing and at the same time surprise and thankfullness.
Paul Allen
Fri, Jul 29, 2016, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
What a terrific story line, very unexpected!!!! Clever as hell.
Intrinsic Random Event
Tue, Dec 13, 2016, 4:35am (UTC -5)
Best line of Series 3 goes to Garak in this episode:
"oh, it was just something I overheard while I was hemming someone's trousers..."
Sat, Mar 18, 2017, 4:15am (UTC -5)
This episode was AMAZING. I wish Wolfe had been allowed to keep his original ending, that Bashir was unable to tell if Kira was fully Bajoran or Cardassian. Still though like others have mentioned here it would have seemed silly, especially after the whole Seska plot on VOY.

I'm going to agree with Yanks that Garak must've had a past with Entek, and he probably wanted to make sure that Sisko and Starfleet owed him a favour. He couldn't not have known that Bashir would go running to Sisko with the info he had on Kira's abduction by the Obsidian Order, and he must have known that Sisko would coerce him into joining the merry rescue team.

As for poor Iliana, I'm going to go with Conroy's idea, that the dead body Kira was shown was actually Iliana's. That seems a much better fate for her than the one in Fearful Symmetry (one of the non-canon DS9 novels). Being locked up (spoiler) as Dukat's sexual plaything for 15 years, turning insane as a result of the abuse and then going on a murderous rampage? NO THANKS.

We need a spinoff of the Cardassians.
Thu, Jun 1, 2017, 4:25pm (UTC -5)
Really good episode - the last 10 mins. or so really make it good as most of the episode goes on a bit long about Kira disbelieving she's Cardassian and the Cardassians trying to convince her. But it does give some insight into Cardassian society with the Obsidian order and Garak's situation. That much is good background. The plot is quite good with it being an elaborate ruse to trick Ghemor into admitting he's a dissident. The actor playing Ghemor does a convincing performance of a dad missing his daughter.
Have to say, Garak's character is terrific - the actor playing him is so compelling to watch and he has some great lines. There are so many wooden actors in Trek and even some of the main DS9 characters are somewhat wooden (hard to see them starring in anything other than sci-fi). Trek episodes really benefit from good guest actors.
Visitor's performance is pretty captivating and the the final scene between her and Ghemor is touching and well done.
This one gets 3.5 stars out of 4 for me - really good ending that makes sense. The actors playing Cardassians add a solid dimension. Kira-centric episodes seem to be the better ones in the DS9 canon.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 1, 2017, 10:53pm (UTC -5)
"This one gets 3.5 stars out of 4 for me - really good ending that makes sense. The actors playing Cardassians add a solid dimension."

One thing I think Trek did exceedingly well is to show us aspects of other races that are very different from us and yet to make them respectable in some way. TNG did a fine job showing us some inspiring aspects to Klingon culture, and a testament to this is seeing people dressed up as Klingons at conventions and happily speaking their language and reveling in talk of honor and battle. A couple of months back I attended a Star Trek orchestral concert, and while there were of course some cosplayers there, there was one guy in full Klingon regalia who was given center stage to announce that his relative had just died. He solemnly asked the audience to participate in the Klingon death howl with him so that his relative could go to Stovokor. He wasn't being serious about believing in the Klingon afterlife, of course, but you could tell that the nobility of that particular ritual had struck him and he found it appropriate to use it to help deal with a death. This kind of impact is exactly what Trek is about: to give us appreciation of other cultures and even to embrace some of their beliefs and customs as being worthy of respect.

I think that DS9 excelled at this particular aspect of IDIC Trek storytelling, and it's a marvel that I know multiple people who hold the Cardassians in rather high regard after having seen this series. Considering the fact that they're basically Nazis, it's quite astounding that I can watch an episode like this one and really feel that these are an impressive people who, even if I can't sympathize with their methods or way of life, I can respect for at least being distinct and superlative at what they do. It kind of reminds me a little of the Christoph Waltz character in "Inglorious Basterds", who may have been despicable from a moral point of view but he was still bloody well impressive. Between Dukat, Garak, Ghemor, Entek and various others through the series, the Cardassians are really given a lot of respect from the showrunners despite the fact that their foibles are also laid out plainly on the table. As Rahul said, a lot of this can be attributed to great guest actors.
Fri, Jun 2, 2017, 5:34am (UTC -5)
Agree Peter. One thing they did with the Cardassians that made them more palatable was to bring family into the frey. Episodes like 'Cardassians' and the whole ordeal wil Dukat's daughter really opened them up to us; made them less cookie cutter bad guys.
Fri, Jun 2, 2017, 11:24am (UTC -5)
You guys are right on the money, I love the Cardassians they're my favorite non-human race on Trek*. Personally I think they might be the most human of the alien races. It doesn't hurt when you have Dukat and Garak either. They are damn heavyweight-caliber characters.

*If more Ferengi were like Quark they might get my vote too.
Sun, Jul 2, 2017, 9:23pm (UTC -5)
This was worth 4 out of 4 in my view.

Kira was submitted to nothing less than the same type of psychological mind games that Picard suffered in Chain of Command, which was also brought forth by Cardassians. The beauty of the Cardassians is their innate nature of using Orwellian type confusion tactics and visual dis-congruity to reshape the perspective and reality of the character into what they need.

Not only was kira fooled but we the audience were starting to believe it, perhaps Kira was the very thing she hates, perhaps DS9 was willing to take a character into a dark territory that would not get explored until JJ Abrams did in Alias, a decade later. Alas, there was not enough bravery for that even with Ron Moore and Ira Behr at helm, good idea, but they could have upended TV a lot earlier.

Still the lack of breaking ground does not prevent the episode from being great, it had all the right notes and the right misdirections to give us a good hour of entertainment.
Fri, Jul 28, 2017, 3:04pm (UTC -5)
2 -2.5 stars. Meh
The Dreamer
Sun, Oct 15, 2017, 10:03am (UTC -5)
Visitor’s issues with claustrophobia add additional merit to her performance
As stated on memory alpha, it was a challenge and she actually stared pulling off the prosthetics after a long days shoot when the director wanted to shoot a scene again
Trek Fan
Sun, Oct 29, 2017, 8:50am (UTC -5)
Thank you Jammer for mentioning the music. TNG's was boring and unrelated to the story line. As much as I loved the show, I disliked the music and thought it one of the show's weakest links.
Fri, Jun 8, 2018, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
Kira Cardassian is gorgeous! Love the look for her. But here's the thing--she's wearing makeup! Unless the eye and lip color of Cardassian women is meant to be natural, I can't imagine that Kira would willingly make herself up since she didn't believe she was actually Iliana. It would have been nice for once to see a woman who didn't paint her eyes up while on duty.

Overall I really enjoyed it while watching, and didn't think of the plot holes until it was over, but I don't see it as a classic. A medium solid effort.
I agree with Elliott--this could have been so much more, but I did think Visitor was wonderful and believable as her resolve was shaken. Her "Dad" was great too, and I loved their bonding. When he called her "Nerys" at their farewell, I got a wee tear in my eye.

A few random thoughts--Ari the Cardassian was totally hot--too bad he only lived for three minutes, lol.

Odo as a satchel was hilarious--I had to back that up and watch a few times.

And finally--Cardassian coffee tables are really stupid--put one thing slightly off to the side and it would fall down.
Wed, Jun 13, 2018, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
Preposterous nonsense, tbh. The very idea that Kira would be altered and dumped as some sort of dupe daughter is just silly. Too many plot holes as well.
Fri, Aug 10, 2018, 9:34am (UTC -5)
"Second Skin" is great drama. It further develops the Cardassians-easily the most interesting of the major aliens in the Trek universe-and manages to generate some tension even though the audience should be fairly sure that Kira isn't a Cardassian. Plus, more Garak is *always* welcome. Though, the original ending was ambiguous, which I feel they should have kept.

3.5 stars.
Mon, Sep 17, 2018, 5:10pm (UTC -5)
“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”

Teaser : ***, 5%

Dax has been stood up by Kira for a date in the holosuite. She finally shows up explaining that “anything worth doing in a holosuite can be done better in the real world.” This reminds me a little bit about their conversation about Krang or whoever the transparent-skulled alien was last season. Given her past, Kira isn't exactly an imaginative person. She doesn't disparage recreation the way, say, Odo does, but she prefers something firmly realistic, like a glass of spring wine or a massage from her boyfriend. The space in her brain for the intangible is occupied almost exclusively by her religious beliefs.

Before the pair can begin, Kira receives a call from Bajor. An historian would like Kira's perspective on her time at a Cardassian prison camp, a particular slice of reality which Kira has no memory of. The historian's records are pretty clear, however. Observing them, to the accompaniment of some slightly less-than-familiar chords of doom, is an alien woman.

Act 1 : ****, 17%

Odo suggests that it's possible, after ten years, that Kira's recollection is simply faulty. Kira's memories of the time in question, however, are very vivid. Note that this isn't really an argument against the possibility, it's just an emotional appeal. To verify the evidence, Kira makes contact with some of the other alleged prisoners. One of them recognises her, torpedoing her theory that the records are simply the result of a clerical mistake. Sisko grants her leave to investigate on Bajor, but ominous teaser lady follows Kira onto her transport, still pursued by the chords of doom. Not a good sign.

In the meantime, we have another impromptu lunch date with Garak and Bashir. Garak mentions that business has slowed in the wake of a Dominion threat, which is good for the series' continuity...except that it reminds us, again, that the wormhole has not been collapsed and ends up begging the question as to why they haven't followed up on this important plot point.

GARAK: When I was younger, travelling was a bit of a passion for me. There are few things in life that compare with the thrill of immersing yourself in the culture of an alien world, meeting the inhabitants, earning their trust. But aside from our brief excursion to Bajor, I don't think I've been off this station in nearly three years.

I *love* that Garak casually mentions that he doesn't “think” he's been off DS9, as though there may have been a time he left that he just forgot about. But this, like the holosuite from the teaser, helps cement the theme mis-remembered reality. Memories aren't reality, merely our perception of something we can no longer examine with objectivity. Unless you can slingshot around the Sun, of course.

In Ops, Sisko receives a communiqué from the Bajoran historian who informs him that Kira never arrived.

In a shadowy room, Teaser Woman awakens Kira who, motivated as she is by that persistent ominous music, has positioned Kira directly in front of a mirror so that she, and we, can have a kanipshin over the fact that she now looks Cardasssian. From the shadows emerges a Cardassian man, who is very pleased to have brought her “home” to Cardassia.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

The Cardassian man, Entek, claims that Kira is and always has been a Cardassian herself, having had her memory altered in order to make her a more effective secret agent for the Obsidian Order, of which he, “Kira” (oh and Garak, as we recall from “The Wire”) are members. Why this necessitated performing cosmetic surgery on her without her consent and giving her “memory restoration drugs” isn't asked or explained. The fact that Entek expects Kira not to believe him helps smooth things over a bit. At any rate, he claims to have been Kira's mentor (à la Tain) and that her name is actually Iliana. Kira remains completely obstinate and incredulous, as Entek leaves her a recording Iliana made before her alleged mission.

On DS9, Odo and Dax reveal that they believe Kira was either beamed away and kidnapped or vaporised. Sisko sets them on tasks to track her down, regardless.

Kira is pacing about “her room” (which is locked and guarded by force fields), when Entek arrives with an older Cardassian man in military uniform, Iliana's father, Legate Tekeni Ghemor. He's elated to see his daughter, even if Kira's natural defensiveness and continued incredulity is upsetting for him. She's left to brood some more.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

On DS9, Bashir is confronted by a somewhat frantic Garak who has “news” about Kira.

She, we then see, is searching her room for surveillance devices, having assumed that she has been captured and transformed in order to extract information from her. Ghemor enters, with a tray of food (Bajoran food, it should be noted) and tells her exactly where the device is. This serves a couple of functions for the story, letting us know that Ghemor is both aware that the OO is actively spying on him and that he feels he can handle it, as well as repeating the Entek's sentiment from before that the OO wouldn't seem to have any clear motivation for deceiving Kira like this.

Ghemor is sympathetic, not least of all to Kira. Iliana gave up a promising career as an artist to join the OO, having seen it as her duty to the state. He thinks she would have served her society better by keeping on with her bone carvings. His offering of Bajoran food is also devoid of the kind of condescension we would expect from, say, Dukat. He says, “it's only good when it's warm,” in a tone that suggests he genuinely wants Kira to enjoy it. Little by little, we learn that qualities which have defined Kira, like patriotism, familiarity with art, stubbornness, and guile, are precisely what seem to confirm Ghemor's certainty that she is in fact his daughter, the implication being that these qualities which she cannot control, regardless of any memory alteration, are still intrinsic to her. This makes it more acceptable to her (and to us) that she may in fact be Iliana. She's still the same person, as it were.

On DS9, there's an odd conversation happening. Having eagerly divulged that he knows by whom Kira was abducted, Garak is quite certain retrieving her is hopeless. Why did Garak bother telling Bashir anything, then? Put a pin in that. Sisko has decided that the two of them and Odo will be travelling to Cardassia to rescue Kira. He extorts Garak into complying, per his customary approach, by claiming that several Bajoran ministers don't like a former Cardassian spy living in their midst. We are going to have to assume that, if these people even exist, Sisko told them that he believed Garak might be useful to the Bajoran people some day, so that he could pull this card out of his ass. But...Sisko thinks he's got a leg up on the good tailor. DS9 would seem to be the safest place for an OO refugee like Garak. I don't know why Sisko believes Garak is in trouble with the Central Command. Tain got Bashir through to his home under his authority in order to provide Garak a remedy for his implant in “The Wire,” motivations aside. I don't think Garak is afraid of his own government. But Garak plays along.

When he accuses him of extortion, Ben takes off his jacket, looks right at the camera and says, “I *can* live with it...” lol nah, he just accepts the charge and moves forward. They have performed a little cosmetic surgery on the Defiant, too, changing the sensor image to an alien freighter so they can sneak into Cardassian space. the treaty with Cardassia is so important that Starfleet was apparently willing to allow several of its citizens to become radicalised into terrorists, but is willing to risk war over one Bajoran officer?

Back at Chez Ghemor, Entek is ready to start questioning Kira, but mysteriously, those magical drugs don't seem to be restoring her memory. Ghemor seems well-aware that the OO will resort to whatever means to get what they want, even harm their own people (maybe they should recruit Sisko). Kira taunts Entek with her absurd answers to his questions (questions which, by the way, are extremely perfunctory and the answers to which the OO *must* already know). Finally, he flirts with threatening violence, but instead, he takes a slightly different approach, beaming in the corpse of long-haired resistance fighter Kira Nerys. For the first time, Kira seems shaken about the possibility that Entek is not lying.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Kira seems wise to all the possible means of deception here—cloning, holography, etc. Entek, however, reveals that he knows a memory which Kira never shared—a memory he says he implanted in her. He puts the pieces together for her: everything she's been told is apparently quite possible. What has spared Kira being tortured thus far is Entek's own personal concern for his former student and fellow Cardassian.

At night, Kira manages to release the force field around her window and make a break for it, but Ghemor catches her in the act. Kira assumes (correctly) that Ghemor genuinely wishes to help her, so she asks him to help get her off Cardassia. We learn that despite her bravado with Entek, she's afraid for her life. He begs her to watch that recording, and in private, she does so.

On the disguised Defiant, Odo has caught Garak sneaking about (his quarters were claustrophobic). Naturally, having (he thinks) extorted Garak into coming along, Sisko is ready to confine him to his quarters under guard for taking a stroll. What a guy. A Cardassian vessel approaches. Despite Sisko's doctored image and story, they are told to prepare to be boarded. Garak claims he can get them out of this mess. A little authoritative tone, a little high-level access code and badda-bing badda-boom, the Defiant is cleared for passage. Good thing Garak keeps his ears open when he's hemming trousers.

Entek is trying again with Kira, who seems to be breaking under the possibility that her life has been a lie. It's here that the Kira story crumbles a bit for me. The implication here is that the video she watched finally broke her resolve, but why? Seeing her own corpse, the private memory, the explanations from Entek and Ghemor...the recording from Iliana would be far easier to doctor than most of that. I like the idea posited by William B “Iliana seems like a person of conscience, an idealist like Kira -- how could she view the Bajoran resistance as a terrorist threat that must be quelled? And could that have been Kira, in some other life?” I can get behind that explanation, but this is conjecture on WB's part, not something actually present in the dialogue or even hinted at by the direction. So getting Kira to this emotional point in the episode is too much of a contrivance to ignore, unfortunately. Making up for it somewhat is Visitor's portrayal, which is quite effective at conveying a deep sense of confusion and terror. Quite literally in the background, Ghemor and Entek continue to squabble as avatars for their respective organisations within the Cardassian government.

Having come to her rescue, Ghemor recognises the anguish in her heart. He seems to accept that Iliana won't re-integrate into Cardassian society, but he loves her and wants to keep her safe from the OO's tender mercies.

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

Ghemor gives Kira parting gift—a bracelet which belonged to Iliana's mother. He brings in a friend, a young Cardassian officer who I really which the creators had made Joret Dal from the TNG episode “Lower Decks.” It turns out that Ghemor is a member of the dissident movement mentioned in “Profit and Loss.” This reveal seems to expose the truth to Kira, that Entek is actually after Ghemor himself, using Kira to force Ghemor to expose himself. Right on cue, Entek enters with armed guard (Ominous Teaser Woman is there too, having been surgically altered back into a Cardassian). Entek murders young not-Dal while gloating about the boon the capture of Ghemor will be to the OO's political hegemony here. Before he can continue, Sisko and Garak enter. Sisko throws a bag at Entek, which raises an eyebrow. Of course, the bag is really Odo. Garak gets some fun action hero quips in, and gets to vaporise his former colleague before they, Kira and Ghemor make their escape, which is all a little easy and pat.

In the coda, Kira and Ghemor get a chance to debrief. They attempt to plug some of the plot holes. Ghemor gets sanctuary with some aliens, and lets Kira keep the bracelet. Kira gives him an emotional goodbye, which isn't entirely earned, but Visitor certainly pours her heart out in the performance.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

The episode's title (and Cardassians' unmistakably reptilian nature) reminds me of an theory I once read about why snakes are mythologically associated with deception. Since they shed their skins, there may have been a belief among primitive peoples that snakes could literally conceal who they really are. A snake archetype can shed its skin, its scars and its face. I touched on the theme of Kira's self-conscious persona in “Necessary Evil.” Major Kira can be proud of bombing and shooting her Cardassian occupiers, even if those aren't exactly happy memories (see “Blood Oath”), but there was *at least* one time where she manipulated someone she calls a friend to the point where she betrayed the very foundation of their relationship. How many other dishonest, Cardassian-like moves did Kira pull as a resistance fighter? This makes for a meaty foundation to what should have been a fascinating character study, but much like in “Cardassians,” the more substantive questions are sidestepped for the political intrigue.

The clever story about Entek's scheme is well-executed and fairly smart. We should remember that, as far as Ghemor is concerned, the OO actually *does* possess memory-restoring drugs for their undercover agents. This speaks volumes about the already rich backstory of Cardassian social engineering. Even the Central Command is subject to the propaganda of its spy network. Undermining it someone is the inconsistent abilities assigned to the Obsidian Order. On the one hand, they are portrayed as all-seeing, all-knowing magicians of information and infiltration (like their best operative, Garak), but can't prevent the escape of a man whose capture they carefully and probably quite expensively designed? Just because Odo was there? You'd think Entek, having cloned Kira, implanted the memory of her killing that animal in her mind, surgically altered at least three different people, creating the transporter suppression field, etc. would have planned better than having two guards present during his capture!

Garak is terrific fun as usual. I love how Sisko thinks he's cornered him into helping him, but let's be clear: Garak knew exactly what he was doing. Why did he tell Bashir what he knew only to force Sisko into “extorting” him? Well, what did he say to Entek before murdering him?

“Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.”

I think Garak wanted the opportunity to get at Entek, who obviously had something to do with Garak's exile, which must have something to do with the political rivalries between those who would see Cardassia reformed (like Ghemor), and those who revel in its stasis (like Dukat, for the moment). This squares well with the admittedly poorly-executed final act in “Profit and Loss,” when he let Quark's dissident girlfriend and her students escape.

So, ultimately, despite some good performances and a fun, layered story, I'm missing the character exploration that should have been here. Despite Visitor's and Robinson's strong outing, I don't have anything to add to my understanding of Kira. The handwaving necessary in explaining how why Starfleet would help Sisko blackmail Garak *and* risk a war in order to rescue Kira is also annoying.

Final Score : ***
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 9:23am (UTC -5)
Watching and commenting:

--Interesting start! Kira can't remember being at a Cardassian Prison. Was she? Hard to say, since there's only one record and one guy to say she was.

--Garak. Being all mysterious, as always.

--Kira is missing. She wakes up as a . . . Cardassian!!! Is this really home?? (Surely not, she's not staying Cardassian anymore than Jean Luc stayed Borg, but hey, interesting and fun so far).

--Hard to figure out what the Cardassians are up to, why they would do this.

--I like Illiana's room. Nicely done.

--Illiana's dad-actor doing a good job. Very convincing.

--Sisko strong arms Garak in a very nice scene.

--Mr Interrogator Cardassian, Entek, looks very like Frankenstein. This actor also doing a good job.

--So . . . Illiana looked and sounded exactly like Kira even before her surgery? How con-veeeen-yent. But Ok. If this is true, then I'm guessing frozen Kira is actually Illiana, and Kira is . . . Kira.

--Those tricky, tricky, Cardassians! Nice resolution to the bewildering Cardassian motives.

--This speculation about where the real Illiana is makes very little sense, as does the idea she was really deployed on Bajor.

Solid ep, some confusing, plot hole type issues, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Garak is really not an OK guy, though he's a great character. Sisko & Co should be more afraid of him than they are.
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 10:10am (UTC -5)
After reading review and commentary:

--What a funny surprise to read about hot Cardassian women. (Note to self: Consider wearing a reptilian neck extension the next time you hit the bar scene for some action.)

--Surprised to read in the review that there were "no cheats." Eh. Pre-surgery Illiana was the Cardassian clone of Kira. I mean EXACT. Even fooled Dad, exact. Also, though I liked the reveal and thought it was clever, was it really necessary for the OO to go to that pretty wild extreme, to trap Ghemor? Well, it was necessary for the plot, just as the exact match was. As was the reset at the end. It's standard stuff, not criticizing, just don't agree with the "no cheats" assessment.

--I liked seeing more of Cardassia also, though I do wonder just what the treaty with the Federation means to both parties. The Cardassians seem fairly undeterred when it comes to committing acts against the Federation and its citizens.
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 11:30am (UTC -5)

"What a funny surprise to read about hot Cardassian women. (Note to self: Consider wearing a reptilian neck extension the next time you hit the bar scene for some action.) "

To be fair, Nana Visitor could probably make any Trek alien female look beautiful. Now that I think about it, it's really a shame "Apocalypse Rising" couldn't get Kira or Dax to be part of the Klingon infiltration group...
Tue, Mar 19, 2019, 6:27am (UTC -5)
Well, someone certainly decided this one was a good idea.

"We need to move the Dominion storyline forward."
"Are you kidding, we still have another 20 episodes to write. I know... what if KIRA IS A CARDASSIAN?"
"Ok guys, let' brainstorm the completely necessary 'Freedom Fighter Is Really The Enemy' ep."

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