An impressively inventive ending went a long way towards redeeming an otherwise cliched and unconvincing ending. The last five or six minutes of this story certainly left me far more impressed than its run-up had even suggested I might. So where does that leave ‘Second Skin’, if summed up?
The storyline was certainly a cliche. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve seen it used on how many shows. Prominent member of cast is subjected to elaborate put-on designed to convince them that they are not what they think they are but are actually the complete opposite. This time it’s Major Kira, and the con is to try to make her think that she’s actually a Cardassian woman, an undercover agent of the Obsidian Order, who was substituted for the ‘real’ Kyra Nerys ten years ago, and who has now been brought ‘home’ to be de-programmed.
The idea’s a bust, from start to finish. The good Major, a Cardassian spy? It doesn’t wash, it’s self-evidently a hoax, and the fact that it brings Kira close to questioning her own identity is merely a de rigeur component of the storyline. We all know it’s going to wind up being false, Nana Visitor is neither leaving the series nor condemning herself to all those additional hours in make-up, going Cardassian, every week, so what’s the point? Dramatic tension levels are down in the red zone.
But I’ll give this episode credit for an individual twist at the end. The usual point of this story is that it’s an attempt to break the hero, but this one wasn’t. Kira, or Iliyana as everyone insisted on calling her to her increasing frustration, has been place in the home of her loving father, Tekeny Ghemor, of the Central Committee. He, it transpires, is genuine. He loves his missing daughter, believes Kira to be her, and when it becomes obvious that her memories aren’t returning, and the Obsidian Order are going to tear out of her the information they require, he plans to enable her to escape, out of love.
After all, he is a dissident, who believes Cardassian society needs to change, the influence of the Central Command and the Obsidian Order needs to be diminished.
And there’s your excellent twist. Kira sees it instantly. The ruse hasn’t been about her but about Ghemor. She’s been twisted into his ‘daughter’ in order to expose him. It’s an ingenious notion, and a far better use of this standard plot than any before, so it’s just a pity that it was allowed to go on so long that I’d long since written the episode off.
That it should have been revealed earlier was exemplified by the rushed rescue. Back on DS9, Sisko has press-ganged Garak into a rescue mission to Cardassia Prime. We cut away to it from time to time, but in the end, with Ghemor and Kira captive, there’s a completely deus ex machina rescue by Garak, Sisko and Odo, popping up out of nowhere with no more explanation than a hastily tossed-off line from Garak about still knowing a few people on Cardassia. This isn’t even convincing enough to be castigated as lazy writing.
Time enough for Ghemor, going off into political exile, to informally adopt Kira as a surrogate daughter, much to her pleasure, and to warn her never ever to trust Garak, and it’s over.
So, a poor, heavily cliched story partially redeemed by a clever twist that left a good impression where none was strictly deserved. That’s been this week’s episode in the great Deep Space Nine re-watch.