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WARNING: This article contains spoiler information for DS9's "Second Skin" Keep that fact in mind before proceeding.

In brief: iffy. The show did what it could with an unbelievable story.

That's "unbelievable" as in "implausible", not as in "terrific". More in a moment -- but first, the usual quickie summary:

Kira is kidnapped by Cardassians and told she's one of their undercover operatives, her memories a fiction designed to aid her information-gathering efforts.

Given the above premise, I thought to myself at the outset that there were really three ways they could take the story:

1) It could all be a ruse. In that case, everything else would have to be really good, because that's a tired and obvious idea.

2) It could be true. That would be really interesting, but would then require a lot of fast explaining to keep Kira on the series at all.

or 3) It could be left open -- Kira might never really know. This, to me, was the ideal solution dramatically -- yes, she'd probably have to reach an answer eventually, but in the interim could always have a worm of doubt. I liked that thought a lot.

Unfortunately, the option we got was #1: 'twas a fake. Admittedly, there was at least one twist that helped somewhat, in that Kira was basically an innocent victim rather than a target. Even so, though, much of the story felt like an exercise in waiting for the obvious resolutions.

In addition to that, I had a tough time swallowing some of the Garak plot. Garak knowing what was going on was no problem. I could even buy Garak being able to talk his way past the sentry en route to Cardassia. But I could not buy the following two items:

-- Sisko ordering a Federation warship into the heart of enemy territory. Besides being an all-out provocation to war, it's damned stupid if you end up getting captured. This isn't a Federation mission; it's rescuing a friend.

-- Much, much worse, however, is the supposition that Our Heroes can get all the way to Cardassia, beam down, make it into the very heart of the Obsidian Order, and get Kira out while killing an Order member, all without anyone noticing -- and solely because Garak "still has a few friends" on the planet. Um ... no, I think not. That seems analogous to saying that someone could break into the Pentagon and kidnap a major military figure, with only the help of one disgraced military officer, even of high rank. That's silly, particularly given the Order's alleged talents. Hell, Bashir couldn't even have gotten to Enabran Tain last year if Tain hadn't allowed it in advance.

Given that the plausibility level was low, therefore, it's fortunate that many of the other particulars of the show worked out well. In particular, I liked Lawrence Pressman's Ghemor a great deal. We've had sympathetic
Cardassians before, but none in the military (at least that I can recall; and no, despite the fact that he's a really fun character I wouldn't consider Dukat sympathetic). I think it would have been even better had Ghemor remained solely a sympathetic father-figure rather than a dissident to boot, but what we had was pleasant enough to see.

Garak, of course, was a total hoot. Given that he singlehandedly saved "Profit and Loss" last season from being a total loss, though, that's not a surprise. Even though I didn't buy some of the story surrounding him, it
doesn't change the fact that I really enjoyed watching him deal with Sisko's manipulations. (Not to mention that Sisko's nonchalant "mmm ... yes it is" response to Garak's plea of extortion was hilarious -- but I said I wouldn't mention that. :-) )

Gregory Sierra was generally decent as Entek, certainly showing that most members of the Obsidian Order share Garak's smugness. In fact, one of the best interactions of the show was the Entek/Ghemor tension, very prevalent throughout. I occasionally had a small problem taking Entek seriously, but in all honesty I suspect that's because I remember the actor as "El Puerco" from "Soap" a long time back, and memories of that kept intruding. (Note that this is the second Soap actor we've had show up as a Cardassian ... guess there was a special on.)

The regulars were generally okay, but nothing to speak of, even Nana Visitor (though she was very nice as the past Iliana). Some of that may have been due to the story problems, but I can't help comparing this to TNG's "Chain of Command". It had some story problems, too (not as harsh, but there) -- but Stewart and David Warner were both so amazingly good in their roles that it was difficult to keep that fact in mind. It was never far from my mind, on the other hand, during "Second Skin."

I think, in all honesty, that that's about all I've got left to say on the show except for short takes. It was pretty by-the-numbers; it flowed well at times and had decent presentation values, but came from a premise that I
just couldn't buy into.

So, short takes:

-- If the Federation chose to, couldn't they consider this a major, major treaty violation? Kira's not a Fed citizen, but Bajor has applied for Fed membership...

-- The only thing that really did open some doubt in my mind about Kira was when Entek told Kira about her own memory of killing the horrorcat in the woods, and said that it had been implanted. It called to mind Deckard doing a similar thing to Rachel in "Blade Runner", and was quite chilling. Given that the whole thing was a fake, however, I really wonder how he knew that story in the first place...

-- Bashir never checked Kira's genetic structure before? Why not? Doesn't he give physicals? So much for the Federation's "wellness" program. :-)

That about covers it. So, wrapping up:

Plot: "Contrived" is the best word for it. Interesting premise, but not with the resolution we got.
Plot Handling: Decent. Nothing to sneeze at, but nothing terrible, either.
Characters/Acting: Pretty good -- great guests, decent regulars.

OVERALL: Let's call it a 5; pretty run-of-the-mill.

NEXT WEEK:

Odo gets to play Founder-Knows-Best.


Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"Don't worry; he's on our side ... I think."
-- Kira

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