(written from a Production point of view)
Kira is kidnapped by the Cardassians, who try to convince her that she is really one of them.
Quark finds a glum Dax sitting by herself in the Replimat. She fears she has been stood up by Kira, with whom she had plans to go anti-grav sailing in the holosuites. Kira finally does show and admits, though she hates the holosuites in general, she is looking forward to this outing. She does admit however that she would rather do the activity in the real world.
But as they are leaving the Replimat, Kira receives a communication from the Bajoran Central Archives. Scholar Alenis Grem is studying Elemspur prison and wants to ask Kira some questions about it. Kira is happy to help but cannot understand why Alenis is coming to her, since she was never at Elemspur. Alenis is puzzled by this, explaining that Cardassian records clearly indicate that a Kira Nerys, member of the Shakaar resistance cell, was held at Elemspur during the Occupation for seven days. Kira is shocked when a mug shot of her, apparently from ten years ago, appears on the screen. Above them, on the second level of the Promenade, an alien woman, Yteppa, observes.
Later, Kira discusses this mystery with Odo in the security office. He tells her that clearly either the records or her memories are wrong. But Kira insists she knows exactly where she was that week. Odo is skeptical that she can remember her whereabouts ten years after the fact. Kira says that that entire winter was quite memorable because the Shakaar had to hide in caves from the Cardassians, with little food or phaser power. The records have to be fake and she has to find out who did it and why. Odo suggests that she contact one of the other inmates listed as her cellmates in the records.
Kira contacts Yeln, the only surviving cellmate. To her astonishment, he recognizes her and says the Cardassians dragged her out of their cell. That was the last he saw of her. He long thought her dead and is glad to see that she survived the ordeal. Yeln remarks on what a terrible time the occupation was for their people and Kira solemnly agrees.
Kira is deeply disturbed that both records and witnesses disagree with her memory of events. She tells Commander Sisko that she has to find out the truth and he gives his blessing for a trip to Bajor to investigate. After Kira boards the transport leaving for the planet, Yteppa follows her on.
In the Replimat, Bashir and Elim Garak are sharing a table. Bashir tells the tailor about his recent trip to Klaestron IV and Garak expresses his envy of the doctor's freedom, as he has only left the station once in three years. Bashir wonders if Garak fears the Cardassian government would kill him if he left the station. Garak denies that this is case. Bashir does not believe him, but lets it go.
Sisko and Dax are concerned when Alenis Grem informs them that Kira never showed up at Elemspur and cannot be located. Apparently she disappeared after leaving the spaceport on Bajor.
In a dark room, Kira lies unconscious on a bed. A voice from the shadows says "Wake her." and Yteppa gives her a hypospray. Kira sits up, groggy, and Yteppa tells her she is safe. In front of her is mirror and Kira sees herself in it. To her horror, the face staring back at her is Cardassian. A man named Entek steps out of the shadows and tells her she is home… on Cardassia.
Kira is stunned and backs away from them. Whatever they want from her, they are not going to get, she vows. Entek explains that she is an undercover field operative of the Obsidian Order, named Iliana Ghemor. Her appearance and memories were altered so that she could infiltrate the Bajoran Resistance. She has been given drugs to reverse the memory loss and help her reintegrate back into Cardassian society. Although, of course, she does not yet remember it, Entek supervised her training in the Order. Kira does not believe him but he tells her she is standing in the house where she was born. He gives her a data rod on which he claims she recorded a message to herself before she left on her mission to Bajor and leaves. Kira makes no move to view it.
On the station, Sisko, Dax, and Odo discuss their search for Kira in the wardroom. Scans have found a residual electrostatic charge in the area where she was last seen. Sisko thinks that may indicate that she was transported away and wants a list of all ships in the area at the time. He asks Odo to get all the transporter activity logs for that area. Dax admits that the charge may have been caused by disruptor or phaser fire. But Sisko is not ready to believe that yet.
Kira finds that the window of her room is guarded by a force field. Entek enters and tells her that someone wants to see her. It is Tekeny Ghemor, her "father." Ghemor is overjoyed to see her but she rebuffs him, telling him her father died fighting Cardassians on Bajor. Entek does not want to leave them alone together but Ghemor insists that his daughter would never harm him. When they are alone, he tells "Iliana" how much he has missed her. Kira reacts with hostility. Ghemor is saddened but knows it is only because the memories of her Cardassian life has not resurfaced yet. He tells her to consider herself his guest and leaves.
On the station, Garak tells Bashir before he is about to go to bed that he has urgent news about Kira.
Kira searches her room for surveillance devices. Ghemor brings her a breakfast of Bajoran hasperat and tells her that the Obsidian Order devices are not turned on in his house unless he requests it, since he is a member of Central Command. She turns down the food. Ghemor notices her admiring a carving and tells her she made it for him when he was promoted to Legate. He says he wishes she had become an artist, instead of joining the Order. But she was as stubborn as her mother. Kira angrily informs him that her mother died of malnutrition in the Singha refugee camp. Ghemor insists that her mother was an inquisitor at the Central University. He wishes he had stopped her from going on her mission to Bajor but she had been so determined. Her mother never forgave him. Kira tells him he is very convincing, but she still does not believe a word of his story. She storms away, ignoring his apologies.
On the station, Sisko and Odo want Garak to repeat what he told Bashir. He tells them there is nothing they can do for Kira, if she is being held by the Obsidian Order. But they believe that, with Garak's help, they can save her. Garak is dubious but agrees to help when Sisko warns him that the Bajoran government have called for his removal from the station, but he is willing to convince them otherwise if he helps them. With no other choice, Garak is forced to agree. Sisko's plan to reach Cardassia is to disguise the USS Defiant as a Kobheerian freighter, using shield modifications.
Entek is concerned that Kira's memory of her life as Iliana has not resurfaced yet. Usually the drugs work in a few hours but two days have now passed with no effect. He says he has to start questioning her. Ghemor objects but Entek insists and tells him he should not be worried about her safety, since she is member of the Order. Ghemor tells Kira that he will be right in the next room anyway.
Entek interrogates Kira about Deep Space 9. She does not take him seriously and offers obviously false answers. Entek is not satisfied with the information she gives him and decides to use other methods to convince her she is really Iliana. He tells her the Order saves everything and has a biological specimen beamed into the room. Kira pulls back the covering sheet to reveal a Bajoran corpse. She is looking at her own body.
She insists it has to be a clone or a hologram. But now fear has started to set in. Entek reminds her of an incident during her time in the Resistance, when she shot a hara cat. She had never told anyone about it and Entek says he knows about it because he implanted that memory. Kira's doubt deepens. Entek leaves her, saying that he cannot wait much longer for the information he needs from her. If she does not supply it soon, he will have to take it from her mind by force.
Later, Ghemor walks in on Kira while she is disabling the window force field. He tells her she tripped a silent alarm and in any case would not get far if she tried to escape. Kira tells him that she will never cooperate with the Order and, if he wants to help her, he has to get her off Cardassia. Ghemor assures her that, no matter what happens, he would never let them hurt her. He begs her to watch the recording Iliana made before she decides what to do.
Kira watches the recording, which shows a young Cardassian woman who looks and sounds very much like her. She is earnest in her belief that she is doing the right thing in going to Bajor to stop the terrorism even though her parents do not agree.
On the Defiant, Garak is caught snooping around the ship's weapons. Sisko is ready to have Garak confined to quarters under guard when they are intercepted by Cardassian warships giving the crew a chance to test their ruse. Through the holofilter, Sisko informs Gul Benil that he is Captain Viterian of the Kobheerian freighter Rak-Miunis, on its way to Cardassia Prime. Benil is skeptical and insists that all incoming ships must be searched on the order of Central Command. Garak tells Sisko to drop the holofilter and let him talk to Benil. The crew are wary but do it. Garak speaks to the surprised Benil: "This is an Alpha Red priority mission, clearance verification Nine Two One Eight Black. By the authority of the Central Command, you are ordered to turn your ships around. Erase all record of this encounter from your logs and speak of it to no one." The crew are astonished when Benil agrees. Garak explains himself with "Just something I overheard while hemming someone's trousers."
Entek continues his interrogation of Kira. He is starting to wear her down, although she still gives away nothing. She is near the point of tears. Ghemor enters and orders him to stop. Entek is furious that Ghemor would second guess the Order but backs down. He tells Kira that the next time he sees her, it will have to be at Order headquarters. He leaves and the distraught Kira smashes the mirror on the wall. Ghemor comforts her and, to her amazement, tells her he will get her off Cardassia.
Later, Ghemor gives Kira a bracelet he says belonged to her mother. She does not want to accept it but he insists. Then he introduces her to Ari, the young Cardassian who is going to help her escape. Ari states his belief that Central Command wields too much power over the lives of Cardassians. Kira is shocked by what she is hearing. She now realizes that they are members of the Cardassian dissident movement. Ghemor urges Kira to get away while she can but she hesitates because she cannot believe that this is mere coincidence. She begins to realize the Order was never after her at all, but is trying to expose Ghemor's ties to the movement by forcing him to save her. This is confirmed when Entek and two aides arrive, phasers drawn. Ghemor calls for a beam out but finds that there is a transporter suppression field around the house. Entek shoots and kills Ari when he tries to resist. Entek gloats that he has now put an end to the resistance, and tells Kira that while he would prefer she lives so she can give testimony he is willing to dispose of her if she causes any trouble.
Just then, Garak and Sisko, who is carrying a backpack, arrive. Sisko throws the backpack onto the floor and it turns out to be Odo, who surprises and disarms Entek. Sisko offers to take Ghemor with them to the Defiant and he quickly agrees. As the group is leaving, Entek warns Garak that the Obsidian Order was happy to let him live in exile but after this… however Garak doesn't let him finish the threat, and makes to leave. Entek suddenly pulls a hidden phaser and Garak kills him, coldly remarking, "A pity… I rather liked him."
Back on the station, Kira is back to her old appearance, and tells Ghemor that Dr. Bashir has confirmed that she is indeed Bajoran, she was only surgically altered to appear Cardassian. Yeln has disappeared, having apparently been a spy planted by the Obsidian Order who also altered the Elemspur records. She wonders why Entek went to all the trouble of altering her, when the real Iliana would have done just as well. But Ghemor reminds her that the memory drugs would have worked on Iliana and she would have cooperated with the Order, giving Entek no opportunity to attack Ghemor. Kira wonders if Illiana is still alive, and Ghemor believes that she is and hopes that they will someday be reunited. Meanwhile, the Mathenite government has offered him sanctuary, although Kira, who has grown fond of him, wishes he would stay but Ghemor believes Deep Space 9 is not the place for him. Before he goes, Ghemor gives Kira some fatherly advice: never trust Garak. She tries to give him back the bracelet but Ghemor says she should keep it, since she is the closest thing he has to family. Kira tells him she knows he is an honorable man and that his daughter must have loved him very much.
"Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder."
- - Garak
"Commander, this is extortion."
"Hmm… Yes it is."
- - Garak and Sisko
"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 sign of trouble at all… you're on your own."
"Mr. Garak… I believe that's the first completely honest thing you've ever said to me."
[smiling] "How perceptive of you, Commander."
- - Garak and Sisko
"Hmm… thirty, forty thousand. But don't tell them I told you."
- - Kira, when asked by Entek how many Starfleet officers were stationed on DS9
"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?"
"My apologies. I had no idea."
"You were doing your duty. End transmission."
"Mr. Garak, I'm impressed."
"Oh, it was just something I overheard while I was hemming someone's trousers."
- - Garak, Gul Benil, and Sisko, when confronted by Benil's ships
"Major, I don't think I've ever seen you looking so ravishing."
- - Garak, remarking on Kira's appearance as a Cardassian
"A pity. I rather liked him."
- - Garak, having just killed Entek
"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."
"I'll keep my eye on him."
- - Ghemor and Kira
Story and script
- 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 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. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- Wolfe says he was influenced in writing this episode by the work of Philip K. Dick, especially Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the book upon which Blade Runner was based) and "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (the short story upon which Total Recall was based). (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- Writer Robert Hewitt 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. (DS9 Season 3 DVD Special Features: Hidden File 02)
- During production of this episode, 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 as regards the enigmatic tailor. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- The final draft script is dated 19 August 1994. 
- 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. When Landau wanted to continue shooting a while longer, Visitor began physically removing the claustrophobia-inducing makeup on the set. (DS9 Season 3 DVD Special Features: Hidden File 01)
- After the second season episode "Profit and Loss", this is the second episode to mention the Cardassian Dissident Movement.
- Robert Hewitt Wolfe is extremely proud of this episode, especially the thematic continuity; "Without sounding pretentious, 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." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 178))
- A review on Tor.com rated this episode as 9\10, with the reviewer writing: "the episode as a whole is brilliant, brilliantly scripted, brilliantly directed, brilliantly executed".
- When Garak is lamenting not having travelled much since his youth, he cites the trip he and Bashir took to Bajor as the only time he has left the station in 3 years. This is a reference to the events of "Cardassians", when they both visited the Tozhat Resettlement Center.
- This is the first episode of the series to have music composed by David Bell.
- In the first sequence where the Cardassians contact Sisko while he is using the holofilter, the only shot of the Kobheerian disguise is stock footage of the original Captain from "Duet", with Avery Brooks lip synching the first sentence. Norman Large, the original actor in the makeup, was not credited in this episode.
- Ghemor appears again in the fifth season episode "Ties of Blood and Water".
- Colm Meaney (Miles O'Brien) and Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) do not appear in this episode.
- Garak's reference to the Defiant's cabins feeling claustrophobic hints at the fact that he suffers from claustrophobia, which is revealed later in the series. (DS9: "By Inferno's Light", "Afterimage")
- Kira says to Ghemor at one point that her mother died of malnutrition when she was three. She later learns that her mother Kira Meru was actually taken as a comfort woman for Dukat in the Season 6 episode "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night".
- The brief scene of two Cardassians watching the outdoor monitor playing the "look to the children" message is taken from "Tribunal", though with some changes. In Tribunal, the shot starts by showing a wider angle of the city and pans over to the screen as two Cardassians walk into view, ending just after one turns toward the other. In this episode the shot starts as the one Cardassian turns toward the other, and continues for several seconds more compared to when it ended in the original version. The message on the screen is also playing from a different timestamp.
- Iliana Ghemor appears as an antagonist in the DS9 novels Warpath, Fearful Symmetry, The Soul Key, Sacraments of Fire and Ascendance.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.3, 13 March 1995
- As part of the DS9 Season 3 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- Sue Henley as Starfleet command officer
- Randy James as Jones
- Norman Large as Viterian (archived footage)
- Michael Prokopuk as Starfleet command officer
- Nana Visitor as Iliana Ghemor
- Michael Wajacs as Bajoran civilian
- Unknown actor as Starfleet operations crewman
2346; 2361; 2368; ability; access plate; Alpha Red priority mission; anti-grav sailing; Bajor; Bajorans; Bajoran Central Archives; Bajoran Militia; Bajoran Provisional Government; Bajoran Resistance; Bajoran space; Benil's warship; Benil's sister ship; Bestri Woods; bone-carving; bracelet; burn; Cardassia Prime; Cardassian; Cardassian Central Command; Cardassian dissident movement; Cardassian government; Cardassian phaser; Central University; claustrophobia; constable; cryogenic chamber; Dahkur Hills; Dahkur Province; debriefing; Defiant, USS; Demilitarized Zone; desegranine; disruptor; Dominion; Eighth Order; electrostatic charge; Elemspur Detention Center; extortion; Federation; Garak's Clothiers; Ghemor's wife; Great Erg; hara cat; hasperat; heart; holosuite; holo-filter; homesick; icon; icon painting; inquisitor; isolinear rod; kilometer; Kira and Yeln's cell mates; Kira Meru; Kira Taban; Klaestrons; Klaestron IV; Kobheerians; Kobheerian freighter; legate; liaison officer; Maquis; sector with increased Maquis activity; Mathenites; Mathenite government; Milky Way Galaxy; mutilate; New Mecca; nursing; Obsidian Order; Obsidian Order's Headquarters; paranoia; phaser; power cell; Rak-Miunis; Replimat; screech rhino; Shakaar resistance cell; shield harmonics; shield modulator; Singha Refugee Camp; spaceport; Starfleet; Starfleet Intelligence; toranium; traitor; undercover operative; winter
- "Second Skin" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Second Skin" at Wikipedia
- "Second Skin" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Second Skin" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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