Weekend Trek “Second Skin”

So, I was watching this episode, and it’s a good episode.  It set up an interesting mystery and had an unexpected ending to it, one where the obvious explanation for everything that was going on, something even the characters seemed to think it was, was a red herring.

And that’s fine and all, but there was a part of me that felt that whole thing was a bit of a missed opportunity.

Allow me to explain.

See, as much as Deep Space Nine was eventually something of a serial sci-fi drama, it is still essentially a Star Trek series, so while there may be ongoing plots, barring a multi-part story, it is still essentially an episodic show.  As such, the show will probably revert to some kind of status quo before the closing credits run.  Our heroes will get back to the station in one piece, and a sudden, life-changing event (like unexpected marriage to a Klingon) will almost certainly be reversed.  That’s what happens here, and I somewhat wish it didn’t.

See, here’s the set-up:  Kira learns there are records of her being held in a Cardassian POW camp for Bajoran freedom fighters that she has no recollection of.  All evidence says it did, but then she is kidnapped from the station by Cardassian agents, taken back to the Cardassian homeworld, where she wakes up with a Cardassian face.  The Obsidian Order there claims she was a deepcover agent of theirs, the daughter of a ranking member of the Cardassian Central Command who never returned from her mission.  Apparently, the spy replaced a Bajoran rebel with memories so deeply implanted even she wouldn’t remember she wasn’t really a Bajoran.

In a nice touch, we see a bit of a video diary from the real Cardassian, and she is real, and the real agent was also played Nana Visitor.

But then there’s the twist:  the Obsidian Order is not trying to pry information out of Kira.  No, the real target is her Cardassian “father,” a reform-minded member of the government who would do anything for his daughter, even this one who of course never was his daughter.  By the time the trap is sprung, Sisko, Odo, and a suborned Garek show up in the nick of time to rescue Kira and the government officer, taking both back to the station where Kire is returned to normal as the Cardassian skin was all the product of surgery that Bashir could easily reverse.  She offers to be family for the counselor while he hopes his actual daughter eventually turns up.

So, yeah, Kira was never a Cardassian.  And that’s a bit of shame.

I live in an age when serial television is very much a thing.  It wasn’t back in 1994 when this episode first aired, but it was coming.  Hell, Deep Space Nine itself helped lead the way, but even early dramas that seemed more serial than episode, like The Sopranos, still followed an episodic structure.  As much as certain plotlines were ongoing and changes were possible, for the most part, a problem that came along at the start of the episode would be solved by the end of it.  That is less true today.

Point is, making Kira a Cardassian could have been a game changer.  She wouldn’t have to be the enemy.  Heck, she could still be the same basic person she always was, only now she would be a reformed Cardassian spy.

It could have worked out well.  Of the various enemy aliens on the various Star Trek shows, the Cardassians may be the most complex.  They aren’t a society based around a single concept like “logic” or “greed” or “warrior honor”.  We’ve seen Cardassians that are pure evil, but others (like Garek) who are probably somewhere in-between while others, like the fellow here who thought Kira was his daughter, are actually good people living under a repressive government.  Why couldn’t Kira have been a Cardassian ally in high rank on the station?  That would have complicated her relationship with the Bajoran Provisional Government to be sure, but that could have made for even more drama, especially if she continued her relationship with Vedek Barell, but that could have made for even more potentially good drama.

Which is not to say we don’t already get that.  I just saw this episode and wondered how things would have turned out if this show was made today and perhaps, just perhaps, the series would have committed to that change on a more permanent basis.

Oh well.  I knew she was going to be changed back even before I watched this one.  I’ll have to deal with the show I have, not one I wish I was watching.  It may even still turn out great as it is, but that just goes to show how much TV has changed in the past thirty or so years.

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