Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine



Air date: 10/25/1993
Teleplay by James Crocker
Story by Gene Wolande & John Wright
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Cardassians" is another stellar episode that highlights what DS9's true strengths are. A young, adopted Cardassian boy named Rugel comes to DS9 with his Bajoran father, but when Rugel bites Garak's hand, a troubling issue appears: Is this a person who has been taught by his Bajoran parents to hate his own kind?

Like many DS9 installments, this episode brings up some extremely sophisticated, relevant themes with tough grey areas: racial hatred, the problems of making generalities, the burden of prejudices by a devastated people, and even agonizing child custody issues. One thing for certain has been reiterated by this story: The Cardassians are not simply villains to be exploited for shallow plots; they're a fountain of potential for asking probing, intelligent questions that force us to think about a situation from many sides—as this episode does.

Big issues aside, this episode packs quite an emotional wallop, as the young boy, his Bajoran father (Terrence Evans), and even the Cardassian father (Robert Mandan)—who suddenly learns his son is still alive—become the victims in a game of political intrigue set in motion by none other than the self-serving Gul Dukat. The complex plot is wound together with extreme adeptness, and benefits from the entertaining pairing of Bashir and the incredibly interesting and observant Garak, who persistently investigate the political intrigue as it unfolds.

The scenes with Miles, Keiko, and Rugel are also enlightening and well-acted. Amid the fury of revelations supplied at the end of the episode, it's not exactly clear how Dukat was able to obtain the young Rugel all those years ago, but overall this plot is very sensible and executed with confidence. This is a quiet episode you shouldn't miss.

Previous episode: Invasive Procedures
Next episode: Melora

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21 comments on this review

Paul York - Wed, Jun 6, 2012 - 9:16am (USA Central)
Sad that no one cared for the Cardassian orphans ... not even Garek. It seemed a bit implausible that they should be there. Much more plausible is that many children would have Cardassian fathers whom they did not know, and Bajoran mothers who had been raped (we know that the two species can produce offspring, as Dukat's daughters' existence reveals).

A minor issue: in a real legal hearing, heresy testimony (that of the Bajoran administrator who compiled the records years earlier) would not be allowed. To admit her testimony into the record, she would have had to have travelled to the station with Bashir or spoken over a screen, live, to the group, and been sworn in as a witness.

Lastly, it seems strange that Sisko would be in the position to act as a judge in a custody hearing. Doesn't DS9 have a legal expert on hand, versed in both Cardassian and Bajoran law? And what of the boy's wishes -- he seemed to be of the age of reason.

This episode raised some good issues.
Mat - Tue, Oct 16, 2012 - 7:59pm (USA Central)
It wasn't a legal matter. Sisko was merely acting as a mediator for the boy's two fathers.
Arachnea - Tue, Nov 6, 2012 - 9:29pm (USA Central)
I have to say that the end appalled me !

Garak and Dukat are two of the most interesting characters on DS9 and the uncovering of the political conspiracy was captivating.

But the problem of the custody has been poorly handled. In TNG's Suddenly Human, the blood family of the boy doesn't get a chance to see him (the end was too rushed), but at least the boy's voice was heard.

Here, the poor child's voice is lost in the vacuum of space ! Because he's been raised by Bajorans, he fears cardassians. He doesn't remember anything before he was adopted, yet he's given no choice but to go to Cardassia with a total stranger (to him) ? His adopted family was obviously loving and it was reciprocal. Will they even get to see him again ?

I could have settled for a visit to Cardassia in order for him to learn about his roots and culture and then let the child choose for himself. Maybe I react so hard because I've been adopted and I can't imagine being ripped of my adopted parents at age 12 even if I suffered a lot from racism (40 years ago, there weren't many asian or black people in my country)and by the fact that I was completely stripped of my original culture: that didn't impede me to learn it later. Well, you can see the parallelism and you get my point, this end doesn't feel very Trekian to me and ruins an otherwise above average episode.
Rob - Fri, Feb 22, 2013 - 7:34pm (USA Central)
@Paul York - Hearsay is generally not admissible in the United States, but this is not necessarily true in other countries. For example, in England hearsay is generally admissible in civil cases (like a custody case).

So considering this case has a Federation citizen acting as a mediator between a Bajorian and a Cardasian, Sisko allowing hearsay testimony doesn't seem out of line.
T'Paul - Mon, Jul 1, 2013 - 5:45pm (USA Central)
This shows why a static Star Trek was able to do things starship Star Trek couldn't...

Seeing Miles come to terms with his hate for the Cardassians over the dinner table with Molly, having a wide range of Cardassians (and Bajorans) appear on the show, etc., etc., we get to see the consequences of "exploration" and wheeling and dealing that Picard and co. don't have to deal with
azcats - Fri, Sep 20, 2013 - 1:11pm (USA Central)

i agree, i thought it was interesting that O'brien said his "hateful" thing then realized later that he caouldnt hate all cardassians.

i enjoyed this episode. once again, Garak and Dukat make for fascinating story lines.

cardassians are the best alien species on Trek.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 3:32pm (USA Central)

I found the kid annoying, but Cardassians a very interesting species. A solid episode.

Jack - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
Cardassian flesh is almost human colored in this episode...odd to see it compared to the gray it was both earlier and later.
Dusty - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 5:03am (USA Central)
A great, great episode except for Rugel going back to Cardassia. That just wasn't convincing. Why would he care about the circumstances surrounding his adoption? It's important insofar as Dukat's plan being foiled (which Bashir did a great job of, incidentally), but I still think the kid would want to stay with the family that brought him up. Garak, as usual, was brilliant.
Frank - Sun, Mar 2, 2014 - 10:30am (USA Central)
Wouldn't the O'Briens be made aware of the child's upbringing on Bajor and aversion to Cardassians? I cringed when Keiko made the Cardassian dish. They were clearly improperly briefed about this temporary guest.
Ravo - Sun, Jun 15, 2014 - 5:11am (USA Central)
Just rewatched this and while I enjoyed it, I also noticed two terrible flaws;
1) Why on earth did Sisko arbitrarily decide to send a Cardassian boy to Mile's quarters? Especially a boy who just bit the hand of another person? And why does it seem like no one consulted O'brian with this decision, one I doubt he would have initially agreed with. Surely Sisko could not have ordered him to do so. Maybe an explanation got left on the editing room floor?
2) Who told Dukat that the orphan was on the station? The only air time this question gets is Sisko briefly mentioning it to Dukat. After that, it seems no one cares.
Yanks - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 7:59am (USA Central)
Interesting episode.

I don't know that the hearsay concerns are warranted. This wasn't a trial, and Dukat clearly acknowledged the validity of Bashir's "story".

Garak is just so frakin AWESOME!! I just loved it when he just stood back and smiled, letting Bashir win the moment. I truly enjoy the Bashir/Garak relationship.

There is no doubt that the Bajoran parents would have been anti-Cardassian and probably taught the boy the "truth" with an edge, but damn.... they looked past their hatred for Cardassian's enough to care and love this boy for what, 8 years? The boy CLEARLY wanted to stay with his adopted parents... screw them I guess.

“After long and difficult deliberations, I have decided to allow Pa'Dar to take his son back to Cardassia. Although I am convinced his Bajoran foster parents treated him with love, Rugal has been the clear victim in this conspiracy. I believe it's time for his healing to begin.”

I’m not saying that Sisko’s decision was wrong, but at least indicate that the Bajoran parents agree or this is a trial period to allow the boy to make an informed decision or something. I think that’s a key part the writers left out.

I am continually impressed with the actors DS9 casts to play Cardassians. VERY impressed with Robert Mandan. Great presence and projection. I was truly convinced that "family" is a prominent part of Cardassian culture, not just thrown in here to save face.

I too thought the boy’s complexion was off for a Cardassian. He looked to have a “Bajoran tint” to him. I kept thinking during this episode that we’d find out the mother was Bajoran or something.

This is one of the few episodes I liked Keiko. The way her and Miles handled this uncomfortable situation was outstanding.

3 of 4 stars for me. Very intriguing episode.
DLPB - Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - 9:43am (USA Central)
The ending was appalling. The kid's wants were completely ignored. In real life, if you have never met your father, and you don't want to go with him, and you have good foster parents... that's the end of it. Sending a child to live in a totally alien culture (to him) and to leave behind people he is now fully bonded with, is a crime.
Robert - Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - 10:22am (USA Central)
"The ending was appalling. The kid's wants were completely ignored. In real life, if you have never met your father, and you don't want to go with him, and you have good foster parents... that's the end of it. Sending a child to live in a totally alien culture (to him) and to leave behind people he is now fully bonded with, is a crime. "

The catch here is that the child was stolen. I don't know that I agree with the verdict either... but Gul Dukat LITERALLY stole the child and brought him to an orphanage. This happens in real life... children are taken from their parents in some countries and end up in orphanages where American parents adopt them only to find out years later the child was not really given up for adoption or orphaned.

There's LITERALLY no good solution to these cases.
DLPB - Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - 6:34pm (USA Central)
I'd say ripping him from two loving parents who he considers his parents, is the worst solution.
JanB - Fri, Nov 28, 2014 - 7:53am (USA Central)
The wishes of the child were completely ignored and he would be taken to a planet where he knew no one, probably couldn't even speak or read the language.

Also, am I the only one who thinks it's weird that they completely ignored that Cardassia was an Orwellian dictatorship where you could be murdered by the state for the smallest things, while Bajor was a free society expected to become a Federation member within a few years? About the only thing Cardassia had over Bajor was that it was more wealthy but the boy's adopted Bajoran parents didn't seem to be anywhere near starvation, he even went to school, so that difference wasn't relevant here.
Dimpy - Sat, Jan 31, 2015 - 2:19am (USA Central)

Sisko ruins kids life.

The real resolution is joint custody. Spend time with both sets of parents.
SamSimon - Sat, Mar 14, 2015 - 3:00pm (USA Central)
This is one of the many episodes that prove that Garak is possibly the best character in the DS9 universe.

Simply amazing. Great episode, great themes, great characters.
MsV - Mon, Apr 6, 2015 - 5:56am (USA Central)
Did anyone notice Keiko's blunder? Why would she prepare Rugal Cardassian food. She knew he hated Cardasians.

I think the boy should have been placed with his bio father. This way he could start his healing process and truly accept who he is.
Nathan B. - Fri, Jul 10, 2015 - 8:01pm (USA Central)
I think Keiko's offering of Cardassian food to Rugel is an instance of very adept scriptwriting. The choice of Cardassian food could be understood as tone-deaf. But it could also be that Keiko and/or Miles were asked by Sisko to provide food that would "expose" him to Cardassian culture. Both explanations are not mutually exclusive. With that one simple dish serving, the storytellers have shown the DS9 crew as human: well-intentioned in a very difficult situation, but ham-fisted. The dish thus foreshadows the atrocious ending.
Nathan B. - Fri, Jul 10, 2015 - 8:06pm (USA Central)
I should probably say, "the tragic ending." I thought the choice and the way it was made (without consulting Rugel at all) atrocious--but that was Sisko the character's fault, not a fault in scriptwriting.

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