Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


3.5 stars.

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

Review Text

"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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108 comments on this post

    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.

    It wasn't a legal matter. Sisko was merely acting as a mediator for the boy's two fathers.

    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.

    @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.

    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


    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.

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


    Cardassian flesh is almost human colored in this episode...odd to see it compared to the gray it was both earlier and later.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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 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.

    I'd say ripping him from two loving parents who he considers his parents, is the worst solution.

    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.


    Sisko ruins kids life.

    The real resolution is joint custody. Spend time with both sets of parents.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    As in "In the Hands of the Prophets," "Cardassians" presents a dilemma with clear social commentary, only to (eventually) pull the rug out from under it, to reveal that the situation was manufactured by an unscrupulous person for political gain. And as in "ItHotP," this has mixed results. On the one hand, revealing (eventually) that Rugal was found by Dukat's people and sent to a Bajoran orphanage so that he might, years later, be used to destroy Dukat's rival's career at an opportune moment underlines the way in which personal lives are destroyed due to the political scheming of power-hungry men at the top, rather like the notion that Keiko and the Bajoran children's lives are upended in order for Winn to carry out her assassination. This has real-life resonances for all politicians who manufacture crises in order to gain power, and is a valuable tragedy in that sense. On the other hand, it means that the episode gives the short shrift to the social commentary of the complex, murky situation itself. Dukat is a fascinating and complex character, but in this story in particular he is a villain, and his entry into the story ends up distracting from the initial, no-true-villains situation with Rugal and his Bajoran and Cardassian fathers, to the point where the "resolution" to this significant plot is done in a *log entry*, with half a sentence of justification, after Bashir showboats at the arbitration to reveal Dukat's villainy. While we can view this as again bringing forth the tragedy of Rugal's situation -- the distraction of the political maneuvering of Dukat ends up eclipsing what is best for Rugal -- I think some of the blame lies on the episode itself for "deciding" that the political maneuvering is that much more interesting a story.

    So, to reiterate, the big, gaping flaw in the episode is the way Sisko's decision at the end of the episode, about Rugal, is given the short shrift. It is by most measures I can think of the *wrong decision* and I don't think I understand why Sisko made it. I don't require that I agree with the decisions made by main characters, but I must at least understand them and feel that the proper weight is given to these decisions. In that sense, the resolution to the custody case makes me retroactively find greater appreciation for TNG's "Suddenly Human," which I laid into a fair bit. While I do think that's a deeply flawed episode, and I think there are some significant errors in the logic presented, Picard's decision takes into account Jono's wishes, allows time for us to see Jono's connection to both cultures, and Picard's reasons are clearly indicated. We get none of that with Sisko.

    Here is what I think Sisko's decision is based on, based on the structure of the episode: Bashir's interrogation of Dukat at the episode's end is the last we see of the hearing Sisko convenes, and there it is revealed that Rugal was kidnapped by Pa'Dar, not abandoned as the result of deliberate or incidental neglect. This means that it is not Pa'Dar's fault what happened to his son, *except insofar as* it's his fault for participating in the Bajoran Occupation by his presence at all. However, that Pa'Dar is blameless as an individual parent makes his having his child kidnapped *tragic* and a great injustice, but does not automatically mean that the return of the child against the child's wishes is the best outcome remaining, since children are not property but thinking and breathing creatures. There is no final conversation with Rugal's Bajoran parents (and his mother doesn't even get transportation to the station for the hearing, seemingly), nor a final explicit statement on how Rugal feels about the decision.

    This is a shame because the episode had generally done a good job of showing Rugal's perspective, as well as the complicated feelings underlying it. While I do think it's very likely that his Bajoran parents were not abusive and were not taking their hatred of Cardassians out on Rugal; I tend to think that the freighter captain was paid off by Dukat to say something like that in order to expedite the process of returning Rugal to Cardassia, removing his Bajoran parents' rights so that the return and disgrace could be expedited. And his parents do indeed seem to have been pretty truthful about what Cardassians did to Bajor, though their generalizations about what all Cardassians are like are bound to be incomplete. What the episode does do is demonstrate that it is somewhat unavoidable that there will be some consequences to instilling this kind of disgust with "Cardassians," as a group, when one is biologically Cardassian; most Bajoran adolescents don't go biting Cardassians, for example, and the enmity that Rugal shows seems to me to be a need to separate himself from his Cardassian-ness as much as possible. He is going to go through life feeling that people look at him as a people that he has been trained to hate; and to embrace his Cardassian heritage would be a betrayal of the people who raised him, scarred as they were by the Occupation. Meanwhile, even if he does, eventually, manage to sever his roots from Bajor when he returns to Cardassia, anyone who knows about his past will likely look down on him, as orphans are given no status in Cardassia and he spent much of his time that way, and people who don't may start on an intense rant about Bajorans or some such, because Cardassian society is awful.

    Rugal's scenes with O'Brien do, I think, help him, by giving him another perspective on what it means to be Cardassian from another person who shares Rugal's initial distaste for Cardassians. I like that O'Brien's unhappiness with having Rugal staying in their quarters is not pure racism, but a combination of his own issues with Cardassians piled on top of an understandable reaction to not being consulted about a weird kid staying in his home (Keiko agreeing to be amateur schoolteacher also means that she's now the station's full-service social worker?) and that said weird kid just attacked someone by biting them. However, while I think O'Brien has been aware that his feelings of Cardassians are not wholly rational and have elements of guilt for what he had to do during the war, it's still difficult to adjust to a Cardassian in his own home. He and Rugal end up bonding over it, and O'Brien's realization that Rugal is a decent kid whose internalized disgust at Cardassians manifests as self-hatred helps O'Brien to use his *own* experience pushing through his own prejudices to teach Rugal that he can do the same. In a sense, all O'Brien is doing is convincing Rugal that Rugal is a good person, which his parents no doubt have told him; but I suspect that his parents' reassurances always have some element of "you can't help that you're Cardassian," whereas O'Brien finally settles on "you are Cardassian and are still a good person." Since Rugal can't quite exorcise his Cardassian-ness, finding some level of acceptance that Cardassians *can* be good people, even if they have to be separated from Cardassian society for this to be done, is probably helpful.

    The Bashir/Garak/Dukat material, meanwhile, is not quite as meaty (and ends up distracting from the Rugal story, at the end) but is a lot of fun, dropping hints about what makes Garak and Dukat tick while Bashir finds himself attempting to function in a situation he's been bizarrely thrust into. I love the way that Garak essentially uses Bashir as something like a "beard"; the one Cardassian on DS9 is hardly in a position to start poking around Bajoran orphanages for information, nor having a direct line to Sisko. That Garak is very much using Bashir is uncomfortable and Bashir does not quite seem to know what to make of it, but I think Garak also sees something in Bashir that makes him a perfect candidate for the lonely guy to spend his time with. I think in "Past Prologue," it was simply that Bashir is young and impressionable, but by this point Bashir has very much gotten into, and is fascinated by, the conversational games, and his enlisting Bashir as the front for his own investigation is an act that is good for Bashir too, both in terms of helping him get to the truth, which these do-gooder Starfleet types want, and in giving him quite the adventure. That Garak genuinely seems pleased with Bashir's performance at the end of the episode further suggests the way Garak sees Bashir as protege who, maybe, can be made into enough of a spy/companion to...what? For Garak to share some of his secrets with? For Garak to share some of his methods with? For Garak to simply have a friend (perhaps with some homoerotic subtext) who can understand him, even if he cannot reveal everything? Garak's reasons for devoting so much energy to Bashir are not simply a matter anymore of how useful he can be, but the exact reasons are suitably vague.

    One scene that gains particularly power later in the series is Garak's reaction to the Cardassian orphans who ask him if he is there to take them away. "I'm afraid not, child." There is a hint of sadness in his voice. Next scene, he is back to chipper-Garak, saying that he doesn't make the rules about orphans being nothing in Cardassia, and it can read on first glance as if Garak is coming from a position like Dukat's, viewing the plight of the orphans as mostly irrelevant except as a tool for political maneuvering. But later in the series (spoiler), it is established that Garak is Tain's illegitimate child, to say nothing of Garak's almost-relationship with Ziyal, to say nothing of the fact that Garak is himself an outcast in exile from Cardassia, discarded by the machine that he had so completely served. Garak's unwillingness to *seriously* question the Cardassian value system, instead taking potshots at particularly egregious offenders like Dukat, has its own elements of self-loathing as well as a fairly typical response of a neglected, unwanted child growing to idealize and love his parent all the more -- parent here being Tain, yes, but more broadly Cardassia, which holds his love even as it dooms itself further and further.

    Bashir's own enthusiasm is fun to see, and one of my favourite Sisko moments in the season is this scene with Bashir, which I quote in full because it's funny:

    BASHIR: He's lying.
    SISKO: Is that an opinion, or do you have evidence to support it?
    BASHIR: I have Garak.
    SISKO: Garak.
    BASHIR: He seems to think there's more going on here than we realise.
    SISKO: What exactly does he think is going on?
    BASHIR: I'm not sure. He doesn't actually tell me what he really thinks. I sort of have to deduce it.
    SISKO: So, you deduced that Garak thinks Dukat is lying about something you're not sure of and you proceeded to interrupt my conversation to confront him about whatever that may be.
    BASHIR: I'm sorry, Commander. It just seemed an opportune --
    SISKO: Don't apologise. It's been the high point of my day. Don't do it again.

    That Bashir turns his initial, embarrassing attempt to extract information out of Dukat into the victorious win he has at the end of the episode, while still basically acting out Garak's interests for him, is a lot of fun.

    I don't really feel I need to elaborate further on why Garak and Dukat's personalities are so appealing to have in an episode. My favourite Garak moment is when he bursts out laughing, nearly choking on Dukat's ridiculous "THINK OF THE CHILDREN" passion for helping the orphans of Cardassia, and the follow-up question, in which he asks Bashir for a single trait to describe the Cardassians and settles, somewhat improbably, on "attention to detail."

    The Bashir/Garak/Dukat material is a delight from start to finish, and *most* of the Rugal material is fine. If only Sisko's decision at the end weren't rendered with no explanation.... I don't even mind main characters making clearly wrong decisions, but some reasons would be nice. In spite of that, I think this episode can hang onto a marginal 3.5 stars, though it's on the border with 3 stars.

    To William B, I enjoyed reading your lengthy but well expressed post. I have found it very difficult to understand how you didn't take a personal stance on the Rugal portion of your post. I'll tell you why I looked at this from a personal view point; I am a mother, if someone stole my baby from me and stuck him in an orphanage, allowing my enemy to raise him, I would have been crushed. While adding insult to injury, my child thinks I am a butcher, and hates who he is. I will assume I still had some sanity left and reluctantly allowed Sisko to intervene, there would be nothing he could say but take your child home.

    I would not share him with anyone. I would try everything I could to get those 8 years back. We would have extensive counseling, I would introduce him to "good" Cardassians. I would find a priest to cast those demons out of him. I am saying Aint no mountain high enough to keep him from me and to teach him to love himself. That Bajoran father was so full of hate, he poisoned Rugal's view of himself. In my opinion, that's worse than a beating.

    PaDar should not have been on Bajor, but since he was there was no reason for Dukat to do this to the man or his son. Personally, the show would have ended because Dukat would be dead.

    @MsV, thank you. I understand and respect what you say here -- but I disagree and I come about it from a very different perspective. I am not sure what to say about my not explaining my stance well enough or emotionally enough regarding Rugal. My personal take is that it seems as if Rugal's adopted parents raised him and gave him love, and Rugal clearly wants to stay with them. Rugal seems to me to be well old enough to make his own decisions. I do think his adopted parents told him awful things about Cardassians, and that has affected Rugal's psyche, but that doesn't mean that his adoptive parents are wrong. Given that Pa'Dar had no responsibility for his son being taken from him, I don't hold Pa'Dar in any contempt and nor is there any reason he should *not* want to recover his son. But Rugal's wishes should come first, unless he truly has been brainwashed by the Bajorans -- which is, yes, a possibility worth examining, but which I object.

    Here is my *personal* perspective, and maybe this will help explain things: my parents divorced when I was very young. My father was very abusive. My mother took me away in the middle of the night. My father very much believed that she had no right to take me away. Now, I *did* continue seeing him (visitation) for several years, but eventually he and I lost contact. Nowadays, I am told he tells other people that my mother denied him visitation. My mother did not deny him visitation, but she did tell me enough about what he was like for me to not want to see him. I would say that this has had some negative impacts on me; that my mother hates my father for what he has done to her is not always easy for me, particularly when I see some of his traits in me. I think she could have dealt with the emotional dynamics much more delicately with me than she did. But the bottom line is that she was trying her best to be honest with me about a very difficult situation, and she is the person who gave me the greatest care. My father may well have loved me, and may still do so, but he is/was also a dangerous person, who treated my primary caregiver very badly.

    There are many key differences in our situations, and I am not claiming that they are the same. But I sympathize most with Rugal and I think his right to make the decision about where to go trumps other concerns. His having developed self-hatred of a sort as a result of what his parents told him, truthfully, about the Cardassians is tragic, but it does not mean that his parents should have told the truth either. Rugal cannot automatically be shipped off to his biological relative just because that biological relative wants to have a relationship with him, and removing him from the people who cared for him for years and years without his approval is about the worst thing I can imagine happening to him. That Rugal has some ambivalence -- with O'Brien he seems to recognize that maybe there are things about Cardassians he might want to learn more about -- complicates matters, maybe, but it doesn't change the fundamental balance.

    I didn't go into this because, well, it's personal, but also because I think it's more a flaw of the episode that Sisko's reasoning isn't discussed, and thus Rugal's character arc is left floating in the wind. The episode doesn't fully deal with what this decision means for Rugal, so I skimmed over that besides pointing out what the episode was failing to do.

    This is all, of course, my own personal opinion, influenced by my own experiences, and I do not claim to hold the absolute truth or to know that I am right.

    Teaser : ***, 5%

    Hark! What do I see, but the return of Garak! Rejoice!

    Garak toys a bit with Bashir (come on boys, hook up already!), while the latter tries to get Garak to confess his [former] status as a spy. Amid their conversation about lingering distrust between Cardassians and Bajorans, a Cardassian child (a rare sight on DS9 to be sure) arrives accompanied by a Bajoran guardian. The boy is wearing a Bajoran earring (because they ALL practise exactly the same religion, don't be stupid) and gives Garak a cold stare. Garak attempts to make, erm, conversation (“What a handsome young man you have here.”) The boy bites Garak severely on the hand. At this point, we have to assume that the boy was raised in the Catholic sect of the Bajoran uni-religion and has been conditioned to react this way to pædophilic advances...

    Act 1 : **.5, 17%

    Kira deduces that the boy is an orphan left behind after the Cardassians pulled out of Bajor. Apparently, many Bajorans chose to raise the orphans as their own children. Cue a message from Dukat, who learned of the “assault” on Garak before Bashir even made it up to Ops. Dukat naturally uses the event to justify his own opinion that the war-orphans are being raised to “hate their own kind.” His next bit, “Why would he attack poor Garak, an amiable fellow if ever there was one?” is difficult to scrutinise as a viewer who knows the later exploration of their history and relationship, but I'm going to try in the context of what we know at this point; Garak is the only Cardassian who chose to remain on DS9 after the Occupation; the only Cardassian we have seen arrive on DS9 so far was murdered by a Bajoran; the Cardassians actively tried to oust the Federation from Bajor by supplying the rebels in the Circle. So, Dukat finds his fellow Cardassian Garak amiable but is willing to risk his being murdered by vengeful Bajorans and makes no mention of his involvement in or collusion with the takeover of DS9 just a few episodes prior? That should be a big red flag to Sisko, but he seems to miss it entirely.

    Question: Bajor has been a free nation for about a year now correct? So it's safe to assume that Rugal (the boy) was adopted by his foster parents around that time as well. Rugal is at *least* ten years old, I'd say, so how did his intense hatred for Cardassians arise in just a year's time?

    Rugal's foster father makes a good case for why trauma victims like the entire Bajoran population might not make the best parents for trauma victims like the war-orphans; he made no attempt to curtail his son's hatred for his people. Now of course, no one really had a choice, but the Bajorans continue to be presented in this series like battered wives or soldiers with PTSD, in other words, not as people who should be making the kinds of decisions with which they are entrusted.

    Bashir strikes up a conversation with Rugal's foster father's travelling companion trying to learn more. The companion reveals the other side to his foster parents' attitude of acceptance—the constant abuse by other traumatised Bajorans who view his as “Cardassian scum...Rugal is their revenge, their revenge against all Cardassians.”

    And again, I'm stumped by legal questions: Sisko insists (nay, demands) that Rugal be kept under Keiko's watch while they investigate claims about Rugal's mistreatment. Okay, surely the treatment of foster children is entirely a civil matter and thus the purview of the civilian (Bajoran) government, meaning whoever replaced Jarro should be making this call, correct, or at least Kira? It seems highly unlikely that the Bajoran government, such as it is, would sanction the separation of child and parent on the grounds that the Bajorans are brutalising a Cardassain! So, is this a Federation initiative? Is Sisko doing this to appease Dukat? How does the Bajoran government feel about that? They've had a say every other time Sisko has stepped in during civil matters haven't they? Remember this kind of thing when criticising Voyager's issues with addressing the Maquis...

    Act 2 : **.5, 17%

    Bashir it seems has completely accepted the premise that Rugal's life was in jeopardy while he remained on Bajor, disclosing to Garak his feelings that “a wounded hand is certainly worth saving a boy's life.” A priceless moment follows when Garak bursts out laughing at the suggestion that he and Dukat were friends. Garak points out the obvious to Bashir : “Do you think we simply forgot about those poor orphans when we left Bajor?” It turns out Dukat was in charge of the Cardassian withdrawal; the same man who is so eager to bring home the war-orphans is the one who purposefully left them behind.

    Dukat and Sisko are discussing the details of determining Rugal's parentage when Bashir pipes in and directly addresses Dukat, prompting an hilarious grimace from Sisko. Dukat claims that he was ordered to withdraw and to leave the orphans behind. William B's quote above follows, and I fully concur that it's a golden moment in this episode.

    And the writers decide to remind us they hate us by continuing to present Miles as the regressed trauma victim he was in the first part of “The Wounded:” by having him utter a statement so baldly racist that Keiko has to point out how “ugly” it was.

    I have made statements before alluding to the ineptitude of DS9's writers in questioning the Star Trek ethos and this is a prime example. It's one thing to say, “The Roddenberry human seems too perfect. I'm going to use our show to expose cracks in the veneer that reveal a more complex truth to this Universe,” and quite another to say, “The Roddenberry human seems too perfect. I'm going to have one of them exhibit a racism on par with your average Klan member.” Subtlety, thy name is DS9.

    Anyway, at least Keiko continues to be my hero on this series, having absolutely no tolerance for Miles' character assassination, I mean character growth. Ah, but we get this great moment where both Rugal and O'Brien push away their Cardassian meal which Keiko thoughtfully prepared and lock eyes, creating a bond between them. Nothing like blind, hateful bigotry to bring people together!

    I apologise that this act seems to keep inviting digressions, but I can't help myself. Later that night, O'Brien comments to Rugal that it must be hard living amongst Bajorans as a Cardassian, to which the boy responds, “It's not my fault! I was born that way.” The immediate association this brings to mind is, of course, homosexuality. O'Brien uncomfortably responds that there's “nothing wrong with being Cardassian,” (rather tepidly, but at least he says it). Rugal is convinced (by his adopted parents) that there *is* something wrong with it. After all, Cardassians occupied Bajor and all but destroyed their society. The allegorical translation is that Rugal's parents have told him that the way he is is wrong, but not his fault, akin to “you didn't ask to be born as a sinful homosexual, but you are.” I can't think of anything more damaging to a child's psyche than this kind of taught self-hatred. Bear this in mind.

    Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

    “Come doctor. Get dressed. We need to be going,” cooed the mischievous tailor to his sleeping companion...

    Bashir, unsure, but titillated, awakens his commander. Benjamin greets the young doctor in his velvet, barely-there robes. He is clearly unhappy with the young man. He might need to be punished.

    “I'm waiting,” he says.

    Commence the fan fiction!

    Dukat, who is apparently content to sit dressed in his military uniform at his desk during every waking and unwaking hour, calls Commander Naughty Robes to inform him that he has discovered Rugal's biological parentage. Dukat has sent the boy's bio father to DS9 to collect him. In light of this mysterious behaviour, Sisko authorises Bashir and Garak to travel (alone) to Bajor. Ahem.

    At the orphanage, Garak is his usual magnanimous self, making's all pretty hilarious stuff. During the humorous search, a few Cardassian orphans emerge and ask if Garak is going to return them to Cardassia, jack-knifing a bit of pathos into the mix. Quite a different take from Rugal's, I see.

    Act 4 : ***, 17%

    Bashir has had enough work for the day. He orders the computer shut down all engines, dims the lights and turns his heavy gaze to Garak...

    Actually, he's angry with Garak for “playing games” with the lives of the abandoned children on Bajor and Garak returns to his Socratic method. His “I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences,” is worth the price of admission here. It turns out Rugal's father is a political enemy of Dukat's and thus, it appears that Dukat has been manipulating the situation with Rugal since before the Cardassian withdrawal.

    Pa'dar (the biodad) arrives and, for not the first time, Sisko has sent O'Brien, his engineer, to greet a foreign visitor. Geez.

    O'Brien warns Biodad about Rugal's prejudices, and Biodad is clearly a social conservative when it comes to Cardassian culture, disgraced that he has not been able to raise his son. Rugal is brought in by Keiko, who tries to facilitate the beginnings of a bond between Biodad and his son. Alas, Rugal has been too indoctrinated against his people to allow himself to be open to his father's overtures.

    Sisko agrees to arbitrate the dispute between the dads as to Rugal's custody. Aren't there any lawyers in the Federation? Why is it that command officers end up fighting legal disputes in civilian cases so often?

    Odo calls in to inform Sisko that Dukat has arrived on DS9.

    Duhn duhn dunn!!!!!

    Act 5 : *.5, 17%

    Dukat does his best Helen Lovejoy “What about the children!?” while Garak makes a realisation: Dukat must have purged Rugal's adoption file.

    Bashir contacts Rugal's adopting agent, who reports that Rugal was brought to the orphange by a female Cardassian solider serving on Tarak Nor (DS9 before it was DS9, of course).

    Considering Sisko's, “don't do it again,” from before, he sure takes Bashir's interruption of the trial rather easily...Bashir begins to unravel Dukat's scheme: he had Rugal stolen from Biodad and planted as an orphan on Bajor in order to “someday humiliate” Biodad (there's a hearing taking place on Cardassia and apparently Dukat would benefit from Biodad's career ending). Except, the only real evidence Bashir has in the testimony of the social worker. Anyone ever heard of circumstantial evidence? Eh, whatever. Dukat leaves in a huff, so we can assume it's all true.

    As William B. pointed out, Sisko's decision regarding Rugal's custody is not even glossed over, it's just skipped entirely.

    There's a little coda with Bashir and Garak. Something about crumbs...

    Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

    I actually find this episode very difficult to rate. As William B. rightfully complained, the meatier, emotionally complex story of Rugal is sacrificed to the political story with Dukat, Bashir and Garak. But the latter story is so much better executed and enjoyable, I almost want to forgive them. I'm reminded of Star Trek IX, where complex issues are brought up, glossed over and basically forgotten in order to have a “fun and sexy” romp in space. In the end though, too much of the story here is devoted to the meatier issues and the better B story (though it's technically not a separate story) is not nearly as amusing as it thinks it is, though it does have some notably brilliant moments. For me this story's value is in furthering my own Bashir/Garak fanfic and for reminding me that Keiko is awesome. But really, as intended, the episode is actually and tragically a failure. I have no idea what to think about Rugal or the issue of wartime orphans other than what I might care to make up in my mind (or observe as speculated by others). Dukat's political duplicity is nothing new. The real success here is introducing us more fully to Garak, which earns this episode its points.

    Final Score : **.5

    @Elliott, it's funny that I agree with most of your review and still rate the episode more highly. Your post (and MsV's comment to me) did make me realize that I gave a bit of the short shrift (originally) in talking about why I think Rugal's desire to stay with his parents probably should be respected.

    First point: I assumed that the Rugal was adopted before the end of the Occupation. We know he was dropped off by Dukat's lackey eight years ago, at the Bajoran orphanage. We know that the Bajorans ran some functions in the Occupation, and this is probably one of them.

    That Rugal bit another Cardassian is a big, neon sign pointing at big self-hatred, and it's hard to believe his parents did not indoctrinate him with race-hatred, especially when they say things like YOU CAN TRUST THEM, THEY'RE HUMANS, NOT CARDASSIANS -- which does make it very much seem like he is in need of some real counseling, and maybe even some stable foster care, maybe part time. However, the choice is still kind of between Bajoran parents who do seem to love him, with big blinders, and a Cardassian father he has not seen in years, and who was an active, high-level political participant in a huge machine of destruction, i.e. the Occupation. That his Bajoran parents are unconcerned about his hatred of Cardassians is a huge red flag that they are not fully fit parents, but I am not sure that it's cause to take Rugal away against his wishes -- and especially not to remove him to Cardassia which is itself repressive, anti-orphan, and to Pa'Dar who we also know has little interest in helping the Cardassian orphans beyond his son, and so is also likely to send his son signals that he dislikes him for his Bajoran-ness. It's a bad situation, and short of letting Keiko or another enlightened (?) neutral person with no cause to hate or disrespect Cardassians or Bajorans or orpahns raise him, nowhere will result in the best outcome for Rugal, which means that his preferences rule even though those preferences are obviously going to be dominated by some of the unhealthy things he's been told. Rugal, and those he represents, are in quite a bad spot -- despised by Bajorans as Cardassians, despised by Cardassians as orphans.

    I do think that the writing and acting around Rugal is strong enough to get to some of these complexities -- though I'd have to rewatch to talk about this closely. I mean, Rugal biting Garak is a very weird, off-putting way to start the episode, and makes his more nuanced, reasonable response later a bit odd -- so it's not like it's perfect. However, neither his Bajoran parents nor Pa'Dar are particularly well developed, so that his character exists somewhat in isolation and it is a bit hard to evaluate the larger social forces at work that act to squeeze the kid out to an unhappy place.

    "I have no idea what to think about Rugal or the issue of wartime orphans other than what I might care to make up in my mind (or observe as speculated by others)."

    And that's the crux of it. I feel that the episode did give enough for Rugal to come alive in the ways I articulte here, for me -- but I also know I'm bringing my own baggage and history to it, and the episode's running off for fun times with Garak and Bashir, while I'm certainly not complaining in those scenes in and of themselves, do mean that I can't say with much certainty what is actually going on. I also feel frustrated with DS9 sometimes because I can't quite tell if what I'm seeing is ambiguity or sloppiness -- which makes episodes like this hard to rate. (For the record, Blood Oath comes to mind as another where I can't quite tell what to think about the ostensible central character -- Jadzia, there -- but I like the episode so much that I am tempted to overlook it, and mostly do, provisionally.)

    I really agree about O'Brien. O'Brien's casual racism is so bizarre, especially because he wasn't even like that in the beginning of The Wounded, where he was understandably wary and standoffish with Cardassian soldiers rather than using racial epithets about teenagers -- and there he had already gotten to "It's not you I hate, Cardassian" within about a day.

    @William B. : Episodes like this are exactly why I chose to do the act by act reviews. I think I enjoyed the episode as much as you did, but, as the "Episode as Functionary" paragraph points out, I do think the episode failed at what it had set out to do overall. Sometimes that's just the way these things go--I have similar feelings about VOY episodes like "Fair Haven." Unlike many, I generally enjoy the interaction of the characters there and find the story understated but pleasant. I do agree with most however who say the premise of the episode is completely flawed. I suspect my review when we get there will be similar to this one.

    "I also feel frustrated with DS9 sometimes because I can't quite tell if what I'm seeing is ambiguity or sloppiness -- which makes episodes like this hard to rate."

    I have gone on the record about this before--I don't really think it's either most of the time. Or rather, it *is* ambiguity over sloppiness, but the ambiguity is there for its own sake rather than because it makes any sense. It's a kind of slight-of-hand magic trick meant to mimic depth or complexity, but too often it's really just a bit of audience pandering or writers' righteousness. The early seasons aren't so egregious in these tricks but it starts to get really frustrating during S5-7.

    I remember enjoying Fair Haven when it aired and then agreeing when I read the negative reviews a few days later, actually (I have not revisited it any time recently), so I can see that as another example.

    I was curious a while back when an episode might have an "Episode Functionary" rating significantly different than an act-by-act rating, and this seems like a good example. It really is, to me, a very good episode hampered by a frustrating non-ending -- but it's not as simple as that, because it's not like one could really fix the episode's problems by rewriting the last few minutes.

    Actually, what may have helped the episode is simply to have the decision be taken out of Sisko's hands for some reason. The Prime Directive causes a lot of headaches for fans and the series, but one advantage of it narratively (in addition to its various other advantages) is that it also allows tragedies to unfold without (necessarily) forcing our heroes into making bad decisions (or glossing over the ambiguous decisions they make). It wouldn't remove the episode's problems, but having Rugal unhappily go off with his father, uncertain of what lies in store for him, would be a more satisfying ending if this was *also* the result of the larger sociopolitical machine that unscrupulous characters like Dukat manipulate for their gain, rather than because Sisko decided it offscreen for some reason.

    William B, Thank you for sharing you personal experience. I will be brief, as I truly understand what you went through when your parents divorced. I had a similar experience after my divorce. I said nothing to my son until he was a about 5 and he asked me where was his daddy. I told him that he lived across town and I didn't know why he didn't come to see him but he could come anytime he wanted to see him. I gave him all the love I had, I even attempted to watch football and baseball with him. (I never liked sports) I refused to unload all of our garbage on my son. I remarried when he was 6 to a wonderful man that doesn't care for Star Trek at all. My second husband came in like a straight arrow,he told my son that he would be his dad and he would never have to look for him because he would always be there; He has kept his word. Ex- husband took us to court to re-gain his parenting rights, when my son was 15. My ex was rejected by my son because he started accusing me of keeping them apart. I took this approach because I wasn't going to be the villain, I let him learn about his dad on his own.

    @Elliot I like your "Acts" I agreed with most of it especially about Dukat sitting at his desk in his uniform at any hour day or night. Also when you asked "aren't there any lawyers in the Federation" I think they could have gotten that Admiral from TNG "Drumhead" to arbitrate and it really would have been a fiasco.

    @William B, I agree they should have had Sisko give a more detailed explanation of his decision to give rugal back to his father, but I don't think Rugal is capable to making this decision because he doesn't have all the pieces to the puzzle, when he goes home with the butcher he will find that all Cardassians are not the same.

    Contemporary Western legal practice only considers the well-being of the child. It's tragic what happened to Pa'Dar, but it doesn't matter at this point.

    Rugel is loved by his parents and Bajoran society seems pretty accepting of Cardassian orphans. Uprooting him from this environment against his will can hardly be called "healing process".

    Sure, everybody could do a better job at not being racist and separating what *some* Cardassians do from the whole of the Cardassian people. But most Cardassians depicted on the show thus far, including Pa'Dar (just watch his reaction) seem to look down on Bajorans universally, too.
    So after eight years of hating Cardassians, the boy will now spend the next eight learning to hate Bajorans.

    There's also the fact that he is handed over to a totalitarian regime. One, where he was already used once to get to his father and might very well be again - it's seems rather commonplace on Cardassia.

    Lastly, it was never explored whether or not Pa'Dar is actually a good father.

    In the end, the motives of giving Rugel to his father seem racist: Each to his own.

    One thing I'll say that DS9 has over TNG is the use of child actors. I was also impressed with how pulled into the Garak/Bashir/Dukat dynamic I became. I'm viewing this for the first time so I don't know how everything is going to turn out, but neither Garak nor Dukat really strike me as having anybody but their own interests at heart.

    I disagreed with Sisko's choice, and I can certainly see the other side of the issue, but it's disconcerting that the authors felt no need to explain his position. Maybe this is meant to make the Sisko character come off as wise and mysterious, but without the explanation the decision comes off as arbitrary.

    Strong episode. We deal with a number of sophisticated themes in a balanced way, all underpinned by intriguing political machinations.

    Garak is of course a joy - his beaming face behind Dukat towards the end a particularly pleasure. Once again we see Cardassians portrayed as family centred rather than simple comic book villains. O'Brien has to deal with his own prejudices. And it all comes to a conclusion where there are no perfect answers. 3.5 stars.

    Found this page after wondering about the ending. Took me a while, but it seems obvious that, even though Dukat did not get what he wanted (or did he?), the consequences if his actions forced Sisko into his funal decision. I think its deliberately left unclear. Notice Bashir's and Garaks talk of "coincidences", and his final words about "crumbs on the table" representing evidence that Bashir is more than capable if putting together ... just as we are. That's what I liked bout this episode, its not all spelt out ... and remember when it was made ... well before 911, Iraq, WoT and what we now casually dismiss as scheming politicians. Back in 93 we were all the good guys after the fall of the Berlin Wall ! But the writers of this episode seemed a bit wiser.

    I feel like the ending was rushed and rewritten at the last minute. When Rugal was asked about his first memory, it seemed to be leading to a revelation that his biological father was actually somebody else. This was supported by the fact that the orphanage's administrator was told the boy's name by a third party (it was not his real name). This way, the custody hearing being hijacked to expose Dukat would not be an issue. Rugal's biological father would be dead (or at least unknown), and he would have gone back to Bajor.

    It has to be the case that someone realized that having the episode resolved this way would have brought down Dukat, for whom they already had other plans. But the custody hearing was only minimally rewritten and there was no time to provide a satisfactory resolution, so, sure, let's just cover it in a captain's log.

    "Cardassians" is an excellent episode with one major, and one minor, flaw.

    This episode has world-building galore for the Cardassians (including a continuity reference back to the events of the Bajoran Trilogy), gives us our first true focus on Cardassian society and politics, a wonderful use of Garak, the first stirrings of the relationship between Garak and Dukat (that look they give each other towards the end speaks volumes) and an interesting look at a serious social issue. The interaction between Garak and Bashir and the orphaned Cardassian girl is phenomenally well acted. It's episodes like this, and to a greater extent others which come later, that make DS9 my favorite Trek series. They show a real confidence in the setting and the writers' comfort with established races and characters. They didn't need to create some new alien-of-the-week in order to tell this story. They were capable of using pre-existing elements and used them to great effect. It shows that DS9 doesn't just take place in the Trek universe, there's an actual sense of familiarity which allows the writers to be inventive - to stir things up while simultaneously working with what they have.

    That, in my humble opinion, is the true spirit of exploration - not "seeking out new life and new civilizations" but dealing with familiar ones and how they interact amongst each other. You know, the whole part of IDIC that involves infinite combinations. DS9, thus, represents Trek's exploratory theme at least, if not better, than all the other shows and I always find it funny when people complain that "it goes nowhere" or "you can't have Trek without going to new places". To quote Q from "All Good Things" - "That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknowable possibilities of existence."

    But, as for the problems the episode has, the minor one is Keiko. I usually defend Keiko. A lot of people don't like her and find her whiny or needlessly confrontational with O'Brien. I love that about her. The O'Briens' bickering and marital conflicts make them seem like a more fully fleshed out couple, in my opinion. But, this time I can't defend her. She's an absolute idiot in this episode, mostly in the scene between them and Rugel having dinner. It starts out with O'Brien expressing concern that Molly not interact with Rugel because he tried to bite someone's hand off earlier that very day. Keiko just dismisses it with a wave of a hand because "he's actually really gentle". Okay, back up. Let me restate this - he tried to bite someone's hand off! Clearly he's got anger issues! O'Brien is absolutely justified in having doubts about letting him play with his daughter. Then, in order for the audience to ignore Keiko's idiocy, they have O'Brien openly act like an out and out racist. Granted, he's been shown to be uneasy around Cardassians ever since their first appearance on TNG, but he's never been overtly racist against them. In other words, they assassinated his character just to make Keiko look better! It's even more striking because in the next scene he's back to his usual uncomfortable, but not racist, self.

    Of course, we're also asked to ignore Keiko's outright racism in that very same scene. Even ignoring the stupidity of serving Cardassian food to two people who clearly have problems with Cardassians, she serves it because Rugel is Cardassian and so therefore will naturally want Cardassian food. *facepalm* That's just as racist as O'Brien's statement was and yet it's never addressed. It would be like saying "oh, here's some food traditionally eaten out on the Serengeti, you'll love it, after all - you're black!"

    Still, I can forgive that lunacy because it's just one scene. The only unforgivable problem with "Cardassians" is Sisko's final decision. His decision to send Rugal back to Cardassia was wrong, no ifs, ands or buts about it. What he should have done was have Rugal remain with his Bajoran parents and have his biological father slowly get to know him and become part of his life. That way all the parties would be happy. Simply ripping him away from everything he's ever known and loved, forcing him to live with someone he resents and essentially saying "here you go, deal with this, bye" isn't going to make him love that man. It's time for his healing to begin? Well, Sisko, you've pretty much ensured that that won't happen! And sending him off to live in an oppressive, totalitarian regime isn't going to help matters either. The decision also just comes right out of left field! If it wasn't for this inexplicable ending, I would have probably given the episode a score of 10.


    I still stand by my view that Rugal should have returned with his natural father. Rugal is a Cardassian and will always be a Cardassian. No matter how much so called love his Bajoran parents gave him, he remains a Cardassians and needs to begin his life as one. He should never hate who he is and this never should have been allowed to happen. Gul Dukat was not a good Cardassian, but Ilianna Gamohr's father was. All Cardassian are not oppressive, totalitarians.

    After loving TNG since the 90s I'm finally now watching DS9 for the first time. Season 2 is pretty strong so far after a disappointing 1st season (except for the outstanding Duet).

    Loved the intrigue in this ep and loved seeing Garak and Bashir investigating. Bashir is much improved from his irritating smugness of last season. Also loved Keiko calling out O'Brien on his casual racism, especially because it actually seemed to make an impact and he grew to change his attitude by the end.

    I didn't like the ending though. I can see the arguments in favour of sending Rugal to Cardassia and no, it's probably not healthy for him to hate his biological heritage the way he does - but it's not clear that his new life on Cardassia will be any better and he certainly doesn't deserve to have the decision made over his head and against his will. At 12, in most cases, the child's wishes would carry significant weight in any custody case (in Europe anyway, and I expect in America too). Sisko's decision seemed to place far too much importance on Rugal's father's interests and wishes, when it should have been Rugal's interests and wishes that were paramount. The wishes of both fathers should be irrelevant - children are people, not the property of their parents. TNG's Suddenly Human handled this much better in my opinion. Picard didn't just send Jono home, he acknowledged that he'd been wrong to try and forcefully separate him from his adoptive father in the first place.

    I can live with the lead characters making decisions I disagree with from time to time but I hope it doesn't happen too often. That's what ruined Voyager for me - by the end of the series Janeway had made so many horrible choices that I was rooting for her to be assimilated by the Borg. On the plus side, at least Sisko's weird OTT mannerisms are being toned down...or maybe I've just got used to them 😁

    @Caroline - For what it's worth I think that Sisko made a sort of wrong choice too... but it makes a lot of sense. Characters making wrong choices are ok if they are in character I think.

    Sisko is a father, to expect him to not empathize with a father who's beloved child was LITERALLY stolen from him... is not so believable.

    It's interesting because in both Suddenly Human and here (even though different decisions were made) the child was sent back to our "enemies", instead of staying with "us" (in that case "us" being the Federation and in this case "us" being the Bajorans). I think that might have colored my reaction when I first watched it, which is interesting as well. Cardassians are space Nazis... so the boy was sent away from his good parents to go be a space Nazi. Would you feel differently if he was sent back to Betazed?

    I also disagree that a 12 year old would have that much say. If you find your adopted 12 year olds face on a milk carton you're probably going to lose that child.

    Agreed, I see where Sisko was coming from. I also don't mind characters making wrong choices for understandable/believable reasons, as long as it's not all the time (because then I can't really root for "our guys"). But this is Sisko's first strike for me so no biggie (yet)!

    I think it'd be different if it was the Bajorans who had kidnapped him. But they didn't do anything wrong and they are now his family. He wants to stay with the people who brought him up and cared for him and not be sent away with a man he doesn't even remember. Who can blame him? Pa'Dar may be his biological father but he's not his real father in an emotional sense. Like you said upthread, there is no good solution that makes everyone happy - except perhaps shared custody (which would've been an interesting diplomatc exercise between Bajor & Cardassia!)

    From what I know of the law here in the UK, if a child is wrongly adopted or something similar it's not a simple process to return them to their biological family, even in early childhood. Certainly at age 12, if they want to stay with their foster/adoptive parents, I don't think they'd be forced to leave against their will unless something major, like abuse, was going on. They might be encouraged to spend some time with their biological family but it would be their choice whether to explore that or not. That's basically how it went down in Suddenly Human.

    Yeah, it's interesting that both times the boys are sent back to "the enemy". But no, I wouldn't feel better if Rugal was sent to Betazed - ok, at least it's not run by Space Nazis but it still wouldn't be his home. Bajor is his home. I guess one of the other interesting ironies of this ep is that the kids who actually DID want to go to Cardassia weren't allowed to, while the one who really didn't was forced to against his will.

    Only 15 million Bajorans died during the Occupation? The way the Bajorans always talk about how The Cardassians used them as slave labor,engineered famines,Stole resources,Destroyed entire regions in retaliation for Resistance attacks for 50 YEARS! I expected the casualties to be well over 150 million.

    @ Ivanov Exactly my thoughts as well. Given the level of brutality described whenever the Occupation is discussed, I would think the death toll would have been much, much higher.

    I've noticed that Trek often has a problem with stuff like this, however. Whenever the writers want to impress us by throwing out some huge number they almost always pick one that is massively low. For example, whenever a colony or planet's population is described it's almost always in the hundreds of millions, at the most. It's almost never in the billions, which is where one would expect a highly advanced technological planet to be in terms of population. In "The Last Outpost" Picard is even shocked that an ancient empire that spanned huge areas of the galaxy had trillions of inhabitants. In "Star Trek: First Contact" it's said that World War III killed around 600 million people. You would think a global nuclear war would kill more than just 1/10th of the population!

    I'm with MsV--that child belongs with his biological father. With all those above yelling that he LOVED his foster parents, does no one notice that his foster parents have taught him to hate who he is?

    I kept thinking of fundamentalist Christian parents who have a gay child--instead of teaching the child about gay history, and helping him accept who he is, they try to erase reality and fill their child full of hate for what is inside him. Those Bajoran parents were wicked and evil--they should have celebrated his Cardassian heritage and helped him learn about them. IF they truly loved him, they wouldn't have denied who he was.

    I cannot imagine what kind of psychological problems this child will have going onward--he's been taught to hate his people and himself. I only hope he'll be able to get past it.

    Honestly this episode was pretty dumb, as everyone has pointed out it was filled with plot holes and the only thing worthwhile was garak and bashir sluething around. It had that shitty "Oh you're race is your culture" crap we always saw in the worf episodes in tng (Especially the one where he literally ruins a peaceful community because the kids there didn't reflect his own grade school bully recovering manchild personality. Oh thinking about fighting and killing all the time isn't genetic worf? How horrid!)

    Also Grumpy_otter: The kids were clearly not persecuted or anything for their race and yeah, while the whole anti-cardassian thing maybe makes putting defenseless children with angry victims the boy understood the difference between the race he is and the culture of cardassians.Going on and saying that its wrong to teach the boy to hate cardassians is dumb considering its the bajorans, its kinda been shown the whole show that they will never forget what happened. The rest of the kids aren't exactly sitting around going "Well mom says the cardies are space nazi's but hey, hate begets hate haha."

    I mean yeah, good people can be wrong but the whole thing was just thrown to the fast lane with such little notice and I'd think the episode would be a whole lot greater if they maybe did show the kid having actual doubts about being a cardassian amongst bajorans and that maybe, he didn't find the life with his current parents all that well. Maybe the father were dead yet the law forces the kid to move to cardassia. But we've literally seen sisko throw the kid to a parent he doesn't know, with a people he's disgusted by (and lets be honest, the cardassians from their pretty much deserve all the hate they get). I mean lets take the situation in reverse, sisko finds out that jake is an illegitimate son to a asshole clearly not fit to take care of them, the first thing sisko does after a quick court session after jake begs his dad to let him stay is to say with a smile "Well then kid, fuck off. Take the fast buss you don't wanna keep your dad waiting." because oh, his real dad is white, which means jake is half white and cant be with sisko and it pisses me off so much.

    Also the twist with dukat wasn't even that clever.

    4/10 had some good moments, couldn't save the aneurysm inducing ending.

    Strong, probing episode that can only be in DS9 as opposed to any other Trek. So much can be built out of the years of Cardassian occupation and orphan children is a worthy topic. What's unfortunate is Rugel's wants are least important here -- which can be very similar to what happens real life -- and the episode doesn't do right by him in the end.

    Tying the orphan child angle with the political aspect adds more spice to the episode and cements Dukat as devious actor. Coming after the 3-parter to start S2 (Cardassians supplying the Circle with weapons to get rid of the Federation on DS9 ultimately), it seemed odd to me that Dukat and Sisko weren't outwardly hostile to each other. Sisko initially shuts down Bashir for his doubts about Dukat.

    Actually the most enjoyable parts in "Cardassians" was Garak/Bashir. Garak is a joy to watch and the opening teaser where Bashir is always suspicious of the Cardassian is a great intro. I just think Bashir should have been more forceful in trying to get what was going through Garak's mind before jumping in on Dukat/Sisko -- seemed he allowed himself to believe Garak too much before questioning himself. Still a bit green is Bashir.

    Not sure what DS9 is saying with Rugel forced to go with his Cardassian dad despite him wanting to go back to Bajor. So Dukat won't shame Rugel's dad (the stalemate from the hearing) but won't the dad still lose his post when seen with a son all of a sudden? But I guess it's less likely that Dukat's deeds with the kid get uncovered so the Gul still has things in his favor.

    The hearing was a bit awkward in its informality -- all of a sudden Bashir shows up and starts questioning. Reminded me of "A Few Good Men" with Dukat as the colonel (Jack Nicholson) -- "Is there a question?". The dynamic between Dukat and Garak is starting to build as well as the tailor's background (computers etc.)

    A strong 3 stars for "Cardassians" -- classic DS9 formula in use here. Works very well to tell a social issue story and tie it in with Cardassian (or Bajoran) politics. All around convincing performances, except for Rugel who could have been more vocal -- but child actors rarely get it right on Trek. Some insights into Cardassians -- family is very important to them (as is their record-keeping!) -- were appreciated as were Dukat/Garak.

    Who played the Cardassian girl at the orphanage, in Deep space 9 S2-E5?¿?

    There is a fantastic novel called The Neverending Sacrifice that follows up on this episode. Highly recommended.

    I agree with the decision to return Rugal to his biological father. He needs to spend time with his bio father before he can make a fair decision about who he prefers. In a few years, he will be old enough to leave the bio father again if he chooses.

    Something about the Cardassians tends to bring out the best in Star Trek. On TNG, many of the episodes in which they appeared were classics ("The Wounded", "Ensign Ro", "Chain of Command", "Lower Decks"). Here on DS9, they've already been set up as a nuanced and complicated race, so they automatically fit in well. "Cardassians" dives into complex, intricate questions with surprising nuance and depth, and managing to fit in some political intrigue at the end as well. An episode that plays to DS9's strengths.

    3.5 stars.

    Maybe one of you can correct me if I'm wrong. I think there is a problem with this episode that I didn't see anyone mention in the comments yet. Dukat's whole plan was to embarrass a political rival ahead of an upcoming inquiry concerning a military coup on Bajor. Let that sink in for a minute.

    Now think about the beginning of the episode. The boy's dad brought him to the station, and then the kid bit Garak. This prompted an investigation and the kid's story began to be told. Basically, the whole thing happen by chance. If Garak didn't get bit, the whole story about him would not have been revealed, and the boy's true dad would not have been revealed.

    So did Dukat plan the biting? I would not think do.
    Did Dukat force the kid and his adoptive parent to come to the station? It didn't seem like it.

    These random events just happened to occur right before the inquiry on Cardassia. I think that's a giant plothole, created when they made changes to the script.

    Despite good efforts by both the Dukat and Garek actors, this was a weak episode. The kid hated cardassians. That's it. That was his entire personality. Watching such an artificially simplistic character was tough.

    This episode is excellent in my opinion, though the ending is admittedly a little odd.

    High point, though, has to be Sisko's amazing deadpan sarkiness when Bashir tells him Garak says he needs a runabout: "Oh? Will just one runabout be enough?"

    Viewed objectively, this is a good ep (though Kira input would have been good - why no Kira?).

    But as someone who did foster care for years, I didn't view it objectively.

    It was disappointing to see foster kids get treated, in the distant future, with even less concern and sensitivity than they are now.

    Just yank the kid out? After 8 yrs and a solid attachment to his adoptive parents? Really?

    Ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh. Horrendous.

    Wowsy wow wow to these comments about Sisko's decision to send the boy to Cardassia with birth-dad. Some thoughts:

    SHOULD IT BE UP TO RUGEL?: Oh no, no, no. He should be heard, should say his peace for consideration. But ultimately, traumatized, angry, self destructive 12 yr olds aren't very good at making these sorts of decisions. They need guidance much more than they need agency. Much more. This responsibility shouldn't fall on his little shoulders. No.

    SHOULD IT BE UP TO BIRTH-DAD?: No. Of course he wants his child back more than anything else in the world. Who wouldn't? But the number one concern here shouldn't be what birth-dad wants or what the adoptive parents want. It should be what's best for the child.

    WHAT'S BEST FOR THE CHILD: Well now, that's the question, isn't it? And it's a question that can't be answered, in this situation, without a thorough examination of circumstances (what are the options, what sort of home will birth dad provide, what sort of home are adoptive parents providing) and some psychological testing for Rugal. Then a plan can be put in place. A gradual transition to a set goal would be likely.

    A clean break from Bajor and his foster parents could be what's best, here, or leaving him on Bajor could be best. It's Sisko method that's wrong; his decision could be right.

    I've had foster kids that left, it is really hard to handle, but bucking up and doing what's best for Jr is what you've got to do. This has included completely, 100%, cutting ties, though I hated to do it, was worried sick, continue to be.

    Another point: Whatever is decided is not as important at Rigel's age as it would be for a baby or toddler. It seems to me that he's basically been raised "well enough," (basic needs met, given some love, medical care, education - many, many children don't get these basics) and my guess would be if he survives his (guaranteed!) tumultuous, rebellious, self destructive, teenagehood to come, and if he's not someone with an unusually vulnerable mental make up, he'll be Ok.

    @ Springy,

    This isn't a normal foster care situation. There are two factors that influenced sending Rugel back to Cardassia:

    1) He wasn't a real war orphan, he was a child stolen from his family deliberately to humiliate them, and then placed in foster care. By all rights the amount of time that's passed should have no bearing on whether he's returned to them.

    2) He was literally raised to hate his own people. If that happened in the U.S. or Canada right now he'd most likely be taken away from his current family no matter what else they've done to help him.

    As far as your comment on how foster kids get treated in the future, it's strange to compare that to now because you're not seeing foster care *on Earth*. You're seeing Bajorans taking care of Cardassians, which for comparison's sake, would be like Polish Jews taking care of the children of Nazis with swastikas stuck on their faces. It's not an easy situation all-around. But I don't think the episode is a statement about the future of foster care as such.

    @Peter G

    Yes, of course - to all of that.

    My statement about future foster care was just a way to express my frustration with the portrayal. It's obvious that's not what the ep is about.

    My main point: Proper care to determine "what was best for the child" was not taken.

    I don't like the way the decision was made. At all. I mentioned how it reminded me of current, human, on Earth, horrible decision- making to explain my high level of frustration with how it was done.

    @ Springy,

    "My statement about future foster care was just a way to express my frustration with the portrayal. It's obvious that's not what the ep is about."

    It's not that the episode *isn't* about that. In fact, they do discuss what might be best for Rugel. But in the end Sisko has to adjudicate on Cardassian and Bajoran culture, and those two peoples have different values and laws, and differing views on what is best for a child.

    But again, the reason the ending isn't about the best foster situation isn't because it chooses not to focus on that: it's because it turns out that the foster care situation turns out to have actually been a result of kidnapping. In the case of kidnapping there is simply no question about deciding what's best for anyone: the child should go back to its rightful home. If you open up a discussion about 'what would be best' for a kidnapped child it would open up the possibility of arguing that children should be taken away from their rightful parents if they can be given a "better" situation elsewhere. And I think you could imaging where that argument might lead.

    I think Peter is right. If you walk into a hospital nursery and just steal a baby and the raise it for the next 5 years as your own, I don't think there's any debate where the child ends up when the cops catch you. Even if you are a lovely parent and the child really would be better off with you - it's not staying with you.

    I've always felt since studying family law, that the "best interests of the child" standard is one that's been fraught with bias, and resulted in highly self-serving conclusions. Since both sides inevitably claim *their* position is in the child's interest, and since the determination is so subjective (a child may have many overlapping interests - the need for stability versus the need for a relationship with both parents etc...) what you end up with seems less an objective determination and more an ideological exercise.

    That Rugal was kidnapped by Dukat (and/or his cronies) as a child is relevant but it's not the only thing going on here. The scenario Jason is describing is completely different from what happens here. The Bajoran foster parents had zero responsibility for the kidnapping, nor did they have any idea it happened, so the analogy of kidnapping a baby and raising it oneself falls apart there -- because in that analogy, the current parent was a participant in the original crime, rather than another innocent who was duped.

    "But again, the reason the ending isn't about the best foster situation isn't because it chooses not to focus on that: it's because it turns out that the foster care situation turns out to have actually been a result of kidnapping. In the case of kidnapping there is simply no question about deciding what's best for anyone: the child should go back to its rightful home."

    The foster parents have zero responsibility for the kidnapping and the child is already more than halfway to adulthood. More than that, not only will he be removed from his foster parents but his entire *planet* in sending him back to his birth parents, and in particular will now have to go live with someone who participated in the brutal occupation and destruction of the planet he calls home.

    "If you open up a discussion about 'what would be best' for a kidnapped child it would open up the possibility of arguing that children should be taken away from their rightful parents if they can be given a "better" situation elsewhere. And I think you could imaging where that argument might lead."

    One can acknowledge that a wrong has been done without requiring that all discussions about what would be best to deal with the wrongs must be off the table. The political realities of this specific situation are complicated and prosecuting Dukat is largely off the table. But if there were another situation where someone kidnapped a child and then dropped said child off into foster care, where the foster parents remained ignorant for decades, it's obvious that the kidnapper has committed a crime and should be charged, but I don't think that this would negate the reality that the child's welfare needs to be determined and that there are claims by both the birth parent and the person who raised the child for the child's entire life.

    More to the point though, Dukat took advantage of Cardassia's withdrawal from its brutal Occupation of Bajor in order to commit another atrocity to harm a political rival. This is totally not representative of an "ordinary" situation where someone kidnaps a child, but is more in line with what happens in extreme international conflicts involving war. That the prefect of the Occupation kidnapped the child to harm his political rival doesn't make it *less* about the thorny issues involving responsibility for children in the wake of catastrophe, but more. I'm not saying the kidnapping is irrelevant to the situation but I really disagree the idea that "what is best for the child" should not be even considered because the child's fate was determined by a criminal and immoral act by a malevolent third party.

    @ William B,

    For once I'll remain in full disagreement with you. The fact that the foster family was ignorant is very sad for them, and more still for the child, but that doesn't change the fact that a child should without question always be returned to the family from which it was stolen if they had no intention of giving it up. Can you imagine the crazy circumstances that would develop if kidnapped children remained separated from their legitimate family when some third party causes the separation? Then you could have someone kidnap a child and leave it in an orphanage, or anywhere really, and then claim the biological parents have summarily lost their rights to their child after X time has passed.

    I actually do agree with you that in terms of criminal prosecution the issue here is thorny, but my point wasn't about culpability. I don't think the Bajoran parents did anything wrong in adopting him - quite the contrary. But that the 'stolen child' ended up with them, even if not their fault, doesn't change the fact that it was stolen. Buying a stolen stereo, just for a materialistic analogy, doesn't change the fact that it's stolen. If the cops find out and you had no ill intent, you'll still lose the hot merchandise. Your culpability in the original theft would have no bearing on who the rightful owner is, and likewise, having spent quality time with the stolen laptop wouldn't make it any more yours than if you had just found it a minute ago.

    The one mitigating factor here would be, I do agre, Rugel's age. If he was beyond the age of self-determination it would simply be his choice. But as s child under custody of parents, I can't see a case where the biological family simply loses the valid claim that they want to reclaim a stolen child. And I wouldn't so quickly discount the issue of Rugel being raises to hate his own kind, either. In today's society if you rephrased the variables a little (imagine it was Jewish boy raised to be an anti-Semite) I think the general opinions would shift wildly towards the boy going back to his natural family. It's only hard to say that here because Rugel was on Bajor for so long and we're told often enough that it's the Cardassians that are the Nazis. But I still don't see (even ignoring Cardassian law and focusing only on human values) how the crime of kidnapping should result in the natural family - whatever its beliefs - losing its claim to its own child. It just seems like that would be an abhorrent result regardless of any other considerations.

    @Peter G

    I like how you have zeroed in in exactly where we disagree.

    I think determining what is "best for the child" should always take precedence, regardless of circumstance.

    Rugal isn't a piece of property. A stolen car should definitely be returned to its owners, regardless. A stolen kid . . . a little more time and care and caution and sensitivity should be used. Birth parents do have nearly "ownership" rights when it comes to kids, but wow, it's not fun to see what sometimes results from that idea.

    @ Springy,

    I understand the sentiment you mean. It sounds nice to say we should place what's best for the child above other considerations. But best according to whom? The state? And if it's the state's opinion, when will this be invoked, always? So that by this reasoning birth parents have no rights to their children and the state can take them away at any time if it's determined they can find a 'better' situation for them? Although state intervention is certainly called for now when there is abuse or dangerous conditions, it is generally considered to be an extraordinary intervention. But change that standard to "whenever the state decides the child can have an improved situation" and you effectively remove all rights of the birth parents.

    I would suggest that if this was made into a general rule it would be the most likely change to lead to total revolt. I can't think of a drive more important to people in general than protecting their children (from outsiders). And yeah, the children are the parents' property in terms of sovereign rights, but of course not in terms of being dehumanized. Treating them legally as such, confiscation of the children would be warranted if and only if the parents have transgressed legally or perhaps morally. But absent any wrongdoing by the parents, as I mentioned above, I can't think of a more abhorrent result than one where a child is stolen from biological parents and the state decides it's better to let the 'new parents' keep the child because they're richer or more respected, or whatever other reason. As children in general don't get to vote on who their parents are I would suggest that even an extraordinary situation like kidnapping shouldn't alter this basic fact. The child doesn't suddenly get new powers of determination because some third party had committed a crime.

    I know this sounds harsh, but I don't think you realize the implications of suggesting that birth parents don't automatically have a right to their own child.

    @Peter G

    I do realize the implications of saying "birth parents don't automatically have a right to their own child." They would be horrendous indeed.

    BUT I didn't say that.

    The implications of "birth parents having a right to their child, regardless of circumstance," are just as horrendous.

    BUT you didn't say that.

    We're talking about extraordinary circumstances here. And to paraphrase Carl Sagan, they require extraordinary care and consideration.

    We're disagreeing on whether Sisko handled THIS situation correctly (I think). I'm not even saying he made the wrong decision. I'm saying it was he made it without enough investigation, care, and consideration. I can't really tell if he made the right decision.

    I doubt we disagree on the broader subject of parents having a right to their children outside of truly extraordinary circumstances (yes, they should!), or truly abusive parents losing their children despite their inherent parental rights (yes, they should!).

    I did a a lot of foster care; I adopted three kids over the years, and I had one bio son. Believe me, my faith in the state's ability to do "what's best for the child" is very low. I've seen plenty of crazy, in all directions.

    I'm just saying "what's best for the child" should be the goal in these extraordinary situations. But it rarely is, which is hard to helplessly watch.


    "We're disagreeing on whether Sisko handled THIS situation correctly (I think). I'm not even saying he made the wrong decision. I'm saying it was he made it without enough investigation, care, and consideration. I can't really tell if he made the right decision."

    I'd even say that it's possible Sisko did do this -- but that we're not shown it, and nor are we really given enough information on what his thought process was.

    It is possible, for example, that the episode is taking the perspective that Peter took -- that once it was revealed Rugal was not left by accident or negligence but due to malicious intent on Dukat's part, that was it and Sisko didn't consider any other factors. However, I never got that impression watching this episode.

    I never really got a clear sense of what Sisko's thought process was. I don't blame Sisko the character for this, because I don't think there's evidence that he definitely *didn't* consider what was best for Rugal, but I blame the episode for (IMHO) neglecting this aspect of the story once it gets into the political maneuvering stuff with Bashir, Garak, and Dukat (which is effective, well acted etc. but overshadows Rugal's story, which should have remained more central IMO).

    tempeh - it was all set up by Dukat. The Bajoran father came to DS9 for a job offer, with that alien. That alien is either some agent of Dukat's or simply someone who can be paid to lie. He's the sole source of the "the Bajoran parents are abusive" story, and Odo notes that he then disappears without a trace and no-one got his name. I think he even claimed to have been a family friend, but the Bajoran father can't name him so he's clearly not!

    Dukat couldn't set up that the boy would bite Garak, but he basically had a minder with them who I assume was presenting himself as the intermediary for the false "job offer". He could have set up any kind of problem. He could have simply approached a federation officer and told them about the "child abuse", without even a scandal. I'm sure the boy biting Garak was not what Dukat wanted because I'm sure he didn't want to get him involved, in case he found out what he was up to (which he did, easily)

    I liked this episode but Sisko absolutely made the wrong choice. But as a man who lost his wife and home in an attack and must have been glad he didn't lose his son too, I can see why his emotions got the better of him when presented with his unlucky counterpart. It doesn't explain why everyone else let him do something immoral and potentially illegal without protest, and I wish they'd gone into it more that it was wrong and personally motivated, pushing his buttons (like I have seen them do with Picard and Janeway in TNG and VOY when they were triggered into doing wrong things). I am new to DS9 and I find that you have to fill in the gaps an awful lot, which may feel like sophisticated writing sometimes but it's not really, not next to the bad editing and continuity, it's just mistakes. Still, there are some good stories if you look past the flaws and I'm enjoying reading Jammer and everyone else's thoughts.

    @ Ruth,

    I completely get why people might be of differing opinions about what was best for Rugal, and I think the episode tried to give a balanced account of that to some extent. I do find it a bit hard to believe, that, that for some the opinion of which is better is so strong that the either side of the issue seems to be non-existent:

    "But as a man who lost his wife and home in an attack and must have been glad he didn't lose his son too, I can see why his emotions got the better of him when presented with his unlucky counterpart. It doesn't explain why everyone else let him do something immoral and potentially illegal without protest, and I wish they'd gone into it more that it was wrong and personally motivated"

    Without disputing what would have been better for the boy (which I don't know), I'm wondering why you think it's immoral to give a stolen child back to its rightful family. Especially one that's been brainwashed against its own people. It also seems a bit problematic to ascribe to Sisko's choice that he's traumatized and emotional, as a way of writing off whatever was behind his decision. I'll grant William's point, that the episode seems to have skirted around exactly what was Sisko's deciding factor at the end, and so we have to fill in the blanks to an extent. For better or for worse, it means that the episode wasn't really about child care services (or adjudication) but rather was about uncovering a plot in which the children and their families were victims. From that point of view the episode wraps up neatly, even though I agree it shouldn't have avoided settling the matter of Rugal's well-being as well.

    I ask again to consider how much of "I like one set of parents more than the other" may be coloring your belief that Rugal clearly should have stayed on Bajor. Or perhaps more specific, "I like *the race* of one set of parents more than the other." Swap races - or scrub them and use a blank slate - and then consider whether your opinion about the immorality of Sisko's decision would be the same.

    "Cardassians" is a fascinating episode. The writers paint a complex conflict worth exploring, and the actors communicate that conflict convincingly. The dialogue, particularly between Garak and Bashir, and Bashir and Sisko (as others have mentioned above), is excellent.

    I'm not sure Sisko did the right thing at the end, but I understood his logic. I don't believe there was one right answer here.

    While some might have felt that either the family theme or political theme should have taken priority over the other, I think the writers did a marvelous job of balancing both.


    I just saw this episode for the very first time, and I think it is another four star episode for me. I had no idea how the crew of DS9 were going to solve the problem, and Sisko shined as a leader in this one. I really sympathized with the young Cardassian's situation, and I thought O'Brien underwent some excellent character development, very similar to Kira's in Duet. For the first time, I liked Dr. Bashir, and I think this is easily his best one so far. I thought Gul Dukat made for an excellent antagonist, and I'm really looking forward to his next appearance.

    This show really clicked for me this episode and for the first time, I want to continue watching, not because I feel I have to because it's a Star Trek show, but because I care about these characters and I want to see where they go. I'm surprised this happened so early. I wasn't invested in TNG until the second episode of season four.

    Yesterday I watched this episode. I had only watched it once-when it aired. Then, I was 15 and found it somewhat slow and boring. Now, at 40, I realize how wonderfully nuanced it is, and I appreciate the episode for its pacing and its patience. This episode, as filmed, could not get made today. That is a loss, and the loss is everyone's.

    @ Peter G - it’s not about liking the bajoran family more (I’m not sure I did) but only that a child is a person not a possession. His father was deeply wronged (as was he) but he’s not an object to be returned to its owner. Ripping a child from its family is nearly always wrong and the bajoran family was his family at that point. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    It might have been different if the bajoran couple had stolen him, not adopted him as an abandoned orphan. That would be a form of abuse towards him that could justify removing him. But what we were shown wasn’t like that.

    If it wasn’t an emotional decision on Sisko’s part I think it’s worse! He’s playing god and not taking the child’s wishes seriously enough. A child of that age is normally allowed to choose if they want to visit their non resident parent in the case of divorce for example, but Sisko wasn’t merely ordering visits with his cardassian father but moving the boy to another planet. I also don’t recall him insisting that he still sees his bajoran family regularly either.

    @ Ruth,

    "Ripping a child from its family is nearly always wrong and the bajoran family was his family at that point. Two wrongs don’t make a right. "

    Do you equate "his family" with "his foster family"? Because I don't think you end up on solid ground if you make the argument that a child should never be ripped away from their foster family. And especially not under extraordinary circumstances.

    "It might have been different if the bajoran couple had stolen him, not adopted him as an abandoned orphan. That would be a form of abuse towards him that could justify removing him."

    But he *was* stolen, just not by them. Does the involvement of a middleman justify allowing the 'theft' to be sustained? I don't think it should matter if the foster parents are the criminals or if another criminal was the one responsible; either way the child was literally stolen from its biological family.

    I guess my question for you remains mostly the same as before: why do you give so much weight to the desires of a child who is still a minor, and from what I can tell none at all to the biological family who had their child kidnapped? I can only imagine what would happen IRL if an American family had its child stolen, and years later it came out that the thief had dropped it at an orphanage. If this was discovered and that child wasn't returned to its original parents I imagine there might be riots in the streets over it. If I had to guess I would suspect that the vast majority of people would view it as an unacceptable outrage, in violation of all morality, to keep the newly-found child from its biological family. Now I'm not saying it's impossible to see it your way, but what puzzles me is how easily you call giving the child back immoral. I still find it hard to believe that it has nothing to do with them being Cardassian.

    @Peter, @Ruth

    What the child wants, what anyone involved wants - those factors should be considered. But ultimately - what it should be about is "what's best for the child."

    That isn't automatically the foster family, the bio family, or some other option.

    Sometimes, a quick, clean, complete break is best (break from what the child has known). Sometimes a gradual complete break. Sometimes, no break at all. Sometimes, a continuing shared relationship is best.

    Nothing is automatically best, except in obvious situations, say when one family is grossly abusive and another is very loving and nurturing.

    In this story, we get some confusing and conflicting info, and just like real life, it's not so clear what is best. The boy's departure does seem much too abrupt and complete for his emotional health . . . but absent the results of the psych tests and home studies they should have done, who knows? A few words from Sisko, about psychological testing and maybe the nature of Cardassian emotional make-up, and, say, a mention of professional recommendations, would have been in order, but we didn't get them.

    I won't wade into the politics of this episode, but I wanted to bring up something that's always bothered me...

    The scene in Ops where Sisko slaps Bashir down is really harsh. Bashir being belittled, in full view of the senior staff, is extremely jarring to me. Sisko's reaction to Bashir asking a couple of questions is way over the top IMO.

    ...and I say this as a guy who actually very much dislikes the character of Bashir but I felt for him here!

    Love the sensitive 90s guy voice R'gal has. Makes him seem so soft and emotionally intelligent

    The strength of this episode is demonstrated by the fascinating discussion that has developed here over the years. I have read everybody's thoughtful, nuanced contributions here and still can't even decide whether the episode was deficient in the manner in which the decision was presented, let alone whether the decision itself was right or wrong. It was great to see the writers and actors portray such complex issues with subtlety.

    My personal 5 cents. I feel that three factors may have tipped Sisko into making the decision that he did. First, at this point in the story most of the Bajorans that Sisko has encountered have displayed an implacable, uncontrollable hatred of Cardassian individuals, regardless of who they were. As one example, it's presumably just days or weeks since Sisko witnessed the stabbing of a Cardassian man by a stranger on the promenade just because he was a Cardassian. Subconsciously he may have felt that such a situation would have prevented the boy from ever healing.

    Second, it appears that Rugel will be introduced into Cardassian society without any stigma, Dukat and his father are covering up the whole incident in some kind of political stalemate, so Cardassia might seem to provide a context in which healing would be more likely.

    Third, I think it harks back to the central trauma of Sisko's life - the evacuation in the battle of Wolf 359. At one point Sisko is desperately looking for his son in the wreckage of a military encounter with the enemy in which (it turns out) his wife has been killed. This is almost exactly the same trauma that PaDar suffered, a key difference being that in the chaos Sisko found Jake. It seems reasonable to me that Sisko unconsciously equated the two scenes and projected himself (and his relationship with Jake) into the scenario in front of him. Perhaps flawed, but human, response.

    Great episode. 4 stars.

    The fact that the boy's foster parents had engraved a strong feeling of self-hatred into him really settles it IMHO - the boy deserves a better existence.

    On another note: what an absolutely fabulous episode! Garak in high gear (for the first time?) and Dukat to boost. It also features one of my favorite lines in all of Trek.

    "I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences."

    4 Stars.

    The interactions between Sisko and Bashir in this one are so much fun. I wish we'd seen a bit more of the naive, brash Bashir of the first couple of seasons. While he was annoying, the way others reacted to him was a joy to watch - including Kira's amusement when Sisko slaps him down in this one.

    I think Brooks did a good job of portraying an almost fatherly approach to Bashir, with a fondness for him coming across along with his irritation.

    Hi, everyone! Chiming in late to say (again) how much I love these reviews and this discussion. "Cardassians" is one of my favorite episodes precisely because it presents a situation with no easy answers--perhaps no answers at all. On rewatching, it was clear to me that Sisko made the decision he did because of the political situation on Cardassia. It was necessary to ensure Dukat didn't win. I do think his own feelings as a father entered into it as well--and, as he said, Rugal's Bajoran father clearly did love the boy. But the child had, nevertheless, been taught to hate his birth people. That's pretty serious psychological abuse.

    Summing up, a rather tragic episode, extremely well-acted, and not without hope. Four stars for me. And I want to reiterate the recommendation of The Never-Ending Sacrifice. It's an excellent novel. McCormack ages up Rugal, who is actually only 12 or 13, making him in his mid-teens. That's a tiny flaw, and made up for by absolutely everything else in the book. (She does this so that Rugal is believably in his mid-20s at the end). It's really fantastic, and anyone who's intrigued by Cardassians should give it a try.

    I am trying to like DS9 after having thoroughly enjoyed TNG.

    While I must say I am rather unimpressed by DS9 so far (except Duet, and perhaps a few other good moments), this episode in particular bothered me.

    Good set up, interesting insights into Bajoran / Cardassian history, good execution with complex characters... all kind of butchered in the end.

    No motive or reason for Sisko’s choice other than “Cardassians should be with Cardassians”... Not only is this so not Star Trek (at least what I saw in TNG), but it paints Sisko as an idiot who should not be given an arbitrator role ever again. Shame because Sisko is the only character I find interesting so far. Others are too mono-dimensional for me.

    Also — what is wrong with Pa’Dar? He just learned Dukat actually stole his son away from him years ago and shows no reaction? Should he not jump at Dukat straight away or at least swear to seek out revenge or something? So odd and weird.

    I'm going to take my hat off to Ms Rosalind Chao for her very short and extremely potent bit of acting in this episode.

    On one hand, Keiko telling Miles "You just said a really ugly thing" can seem like she just abhors racism. But when you consider that in World War II, Japanese people were regarded much as the Bajorans regard the Cardassians by people fighting on the Allied side (like the U.K., where Miles is from), the line itself brings a lot more depth to the scene than just "Oh she doesn't agree with his view."

    That's a whole lot to pack into a line, but Ms. Chao sells it perfectly. Wow. :|

    @MidshipmanNorris, sorry to nitpick but Miles (and actor Colm Meaney) are both Irish and not from the UK. Plus the Republic of Ireland was neutral in WW2.

    Rugel is the central character in one of the very best Trek books, "The Never-Ending Sacrifice" by Una McCormack.


    "Irish and not from the UK. Plus the Republic of Ireland was neutral in WW2. "

    1. I really thought Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England were all collectively referred to as "The United Kingdom." Shows what I know.

    2. I had no idea. Wow.

    Either way, Europeans/Westerners in general did at one time in history have a highly negative view of all Southeast Asians, and many still do. It's a well-earned nitpick, I guess, but still Rosalind Chao's line was executed extremely well. The propers are the propers, and Chao gets propers for that line.

    Northern Ireland is part of the UK, but Colm Meany is from Dublin, which is in the Republic of Ireland. Of course in the context of the show, Miles' nationality isn't so clear. He's Irish for sure, but there isn't anything to tell us what Ireland actually means in the 23rd century. Earth itself is run by a planetary government, so nationality is not so relevant.

    Anyways, regarding the episode as a whole: I think it's interesting to think about the Cardassians from different historical perspectives. After all, there are many forms of imperialism in our own history. Initially I thought of the Cardassians as Nazi villains, which leads to a very black and white interpretation. Recently I've been thinking about using other comparisons: Imperial Japan (in particular the occupation of Korea), Soviet Russia, the British Empire, contemporary China (in particular the occupation of Tibet), and of course the United States.

    In the case of this episode, there is a very interesting contemporary situation in Japan which has some relevance. That is to say, the case of North Korean nationals living in Japan. These people are the descendants of Koreans forcibly brought to Japan during Japanese imperial rule of Korea. Of course at that time there was no such thing as North Korea. It is only after the splitting of Korea that these people came to identify with North Korea, as a result of economic support from North Korea, which allowed Koreans in Japan to build schools and provide other services for their cultural group. It is because of this deliberate campaign that many Koreans in Japan chose to identify with North Korea, rather than Korea as a whole, or South Korea.

    Of course this isn't an exact parallel to the episode, but the very interesting component of this is that Koreans in Japan endure a lot of descrimination and racial resentment, which has been enflamed by continued nuclear weapons tests by North Korea. I think this relates to the situation that Rugal finds himself in, albeit imperfect. Being Cardassian, Rugal is a reminder of the very real threat that Bajorans face. Without the Federation, it is quite possible that the Cardassians might return and occupy them again. This results in the Nationalist backslide that we saw with The Circle. In any case, Rugal is doomed to face descrimination as long as he remains on Bajor. His adoptive parents are the only ones who see him as worthy of love, and they only do so in spite of their own internal prejudice.

    Which of course brings us the the very real contemporary problem of North Koreans in Japan. If they remain where they are, then they will continue to face discrimination and threats of violence, but if they "return" to North Korea, then they will be forced to live under the oppressive rule of an autocratic government. This is a "no-win" scenario.

    I think the Cardassians were initially conceived as Nazis and the Bajorans as Jews but I agree with "nyghtly" that this can only go so far.

    The showrunners definitely also had Orwell in mind for the Cardies given CoC II but as DS9 evolved I think Cardassia took on something more closer to today's communist China. In "Tribunal", the show trials, the presumption of guilt and trying to exclude outside parties for the accused from getting involved speaks to this. Much of the reverence for the state that comes across in several episodes speaks to this too.

    But as it relates to this episode, there is a very much racist/nationalist aspect to Chinese society against those who are not ethnic Chinese in the mainland.

    Of course back in the mid-90s the showrunners never could imagine what communist China could turn into since it only got into the WTO at the turn of the millennium and then started to act problematically in a global sense.

    According to memory alpha the Cardassians are similar to the late stage soviet union with some German influences aka Prussia and Nazis.

    China is quite different from the Cardies. In the 90s western analysts were convinced that soon, very soon China would collapse but that didn't happen. Now everybody is convinced that we will all speak Mandarin soon. Also the WTO, while being a popular talking point in right and left wing circles, is far less influential then many believe. China's ascendancy started with the reforms of Deng Xiaoping as did GDP growth. All the problematic behavior was also there all the time but the USA didn't consider them a rival so they weren't vilified in the media. Apart from Tibet they were mostly ignored. The whole WTO narrative stems from the right wing animosity towards global institutions (for the left the reasons are different) and as an easy explanation why China is successful.

    >He's Irish for sure, but there isn't anything to tell us what Ireland actually means in the 23rd century.

    It's the 24th century and in TNG 3x12 “The High Ground” @24:40 Data mentions the Irish unification of 2024 as an example of terrorism being successful. So I guess Ireland is one country by then.

    Looking through my notes, I only gave this episode a 3/10.

    "It's the 24th century and in TNG 3x12 “The High Ground” @24:40 Data mentions the Irish unification of 2024 as an example of terrorism being successful. So I guess Ireland is one country by then."

    LOL! I guess there is still a little more time...

    Loved everything about the episode except the ending.

    Don't get me wrong - I like the bummer aspect of the ending I just wasn't convinced, at all, that going that route made sense given what we've seen from Sisko so far.

    The ending just felt rushed in that regard. I didn't buy it.

    Some of the surprise in the ending of this episode was, for me, because it was the opposite of the surprise ending in TNG's "Suddenly Human," in which Picard, after spending almost the entire episode trying to "reawaken" the boy's humanity, sends him back to his adoptive father and his (frankly disgusting) adoptive culture. I felt a flare-up of my Star Trek Moral of the Story Whiplash Syndrome.

    I tried to think of what makes the situations so different, but all I can come up with is "One decision is made by Picard, the other by Sisko." And maybe that's what it's all about, that each is showing us what kind of person the leading character is. I know in real life, children's fate is often determined by the luck of the draw of which government employee happens to be deciding their case. One goes back to the only parents they have known, while another goes "home" to a stranger.

    I know some will say that Jono (the boy in TNG) hadn't been taught to hate his humanity the way Rugel was taught to hate being Cardassian, but Jono had certaintly been taught that his adoptive people were superior to all others, and therefore by implication that humans were inferior, that only his association with his adopted people spared him that inferiority. In both cases, there were loving birth relatives and loving adoptive relatives who wanted the child back.

    Is it really so, well, wrong for Rugel to be ashamed of being Cardassian? In-universe, the Cardassians are portrayed as having done much to be ashamed of, despite the fact that most Cardassians who WEREN'T raised by Bajorans have no shame for most of it. Maybe sometimes a little shame is not pathological self-hatred, but just facing reality.

    The other thing that strikes me as I think about both of these episodes together, TNG's "Suddenly Human" and DS9's "Cardassians," is how UNlike the story of Solomon's judgment they are.

    For anyone who did not grow up with Bible stories, Solomon is said to have been the wisest king in all of history, and his wisdom is illustrated by his handling of a case when two women came before him with one baby, each woman claiming that she was the baby's mother and the other woman was trying to steal the child because her own had died. With no concrete evidence to determine the truth, Solomon called for his servant to bring him a sword and declared that he would cut the child in two so each woman could have half to bury. One woman said, "That' fair," but the other said, "No, give the child to her. I give up my claim." Solomon pointed to the woman who had surrendered her claim and declared, "That is the true mother. Give the child to her."

    Maybe the writers thought it would be too obvious to retell such a classic tale. But it comes across like a very sad situation for the boy that the two fathers (as I recall, we are given no hint of what the mothers would have thought) never say, "I don't want to put my son into the middle of a tug of war. Enough people have already been hurt by war between Bajorans and Cardassians. Let him go with the other man, who can give him something I cannot." That man, whether the line would have been given to the Bajoran or the Cardassian, would have been the "real" father. In a sense, Rugal ends the episode truly an orphan.

    This is probably the biggest difference I've ever had with Jammer. I would give this 1/2 star at best, and that's only for some good character moments.

    This doesn't work for at all. There are good character moments. Garak, Bashir, Dukat are all good here.

    But sheesh, this whole thing feels like a Plot Plotting that yanks us around but makes no sense.

    All this intrigue is ridiculous. Neither Starfleet nor the Cardassians have the slightest authority here without going through the Bajoran court system FROM THE START.

    The ONLY situation here that is within Starfleet's purview is the boy attacking Garak. Starfleet doesn't suddenly have family court authority because the boy is a Cardassian and his father is Bajoran.

    And quartering the boy with the O'Briens? It's well known that Chief O'Brien has a history with the Cardassians. But hey, let's do that because how dramatic it will be.

    And, by the way, if you're Bajoran, don't ever go to your space station, or your child may be taken away.

    I pondered this more, and maybe the idea was Bajor didn't yet have fully functioning courts, but that still doesn't really wash. The correct thing would be to have the Feds assist them with that, not have The Sisko getting involved.

    And Julian running around playing detective seems rather odd.

    As for dragging the kid back to Cardassia-- what kind of life will that kid have there? He hates Cardassians, and they'll likely hate him too for growing up Bajoran?

    The episode is it course worth it for the return of Garak and the blossoming of the great Julian/Garak friendship.

    Why would the boy attack Garak?

    Maybe because stranger danger klaxons were going off. Could Garak have been any more creepy?

    One of the best episodes of the series. The ending also upset me, but the ending is supposed to upset us. The poor child has been treated like a political football his entire life, and now once again politics intervenes. Unfortunately, no one really does care what the boy wants, his fate was decided the moment Dukat told Sisko Cardassia would be very displeased if the boy wasn't returned. The decision was reinforced once it was revealed the boy was the son of such a high ranking Cardassian official. Everything after that was politics.

    I agree, this is a great episode. To me, the final decision to send Rugal to Cardassia was appalling and disturbs me to this day.

    What’s sad is that Star Trek has such little imagination to think that parenting will still exist in the future. Children will be raised collectively and adoptive or
    biological parenthood will be seen as a barbaric relic of the past.

    You definitely live up to your name, don’t you, Mike.

    It strikes me that this episode from 10/24/1993, anticipated the controversy that exploded six years later in the US concerning the custody of Elian Gonzalez. In that situation, Elian's mother tried to escape Cuba with him, but the small boat capsized and she drowned. Elian was picked up offshore and placed in the custody of relatives in Florida.

    A fight ensued between Cuba and the father on one side and the relatives in Florida over custody. US policy dictated that he go back to Cuba and his father -- which is what happened. The common issue was whether one environment or the other was in the best interests of the child.

    Given the animosity of many Cubans living in Florida against the Castro government in Cuba, the situation was fraught with politics, especially given the political importance of Florida and the role of the naturalized Cuban community in the state.

    The situation in "Cardassians" is even closer because of the extended time that Rugal had spent on Bajor. I think it's necessary he be surrendered to his natural father but that's not a happy alternative given his upbringing so far. It's a very good episode in presenting a moral dilemma not easily resolved.

    All the people saying Rugal should have gone back to Bajor seem to be ignoring the fact that his Bajoran parents have brainwashed him into an extreme case of self-loathing racism. That's a toxic way to raise a child no matter how much affection they may feel for him.

    Rugal is basically the Cardassian equivalent of TJ Kirk's parody of a white liberal who spends his days self-flagellating while shouting "Sorry I'm white! Sorry I'm male!"

    So we can start ripping children from their foster parents due to perceived "racism"? That's not how the world works.

    Is it possible for an episode that features that much of Garak to be bad? A rhetorical question: of course not. What a fabulous character he is.

    This episode makes me nostalgic for Old Trek, because NuTrek seemingly cannot write screenplays like this, small-scale dramas that make the viewer (at least me) care powerfully in the outcome, even though nothing remotely like the fate of the galaxy is at risk.

    Just bravo. This one earns 4 stars from me.

    As a side note, I started thinking of the most interesting character for each show (for me) -

    TOS - Spock
    TNG - Picard, Worf
    DS9 - Garak, Kira
    VOY - The Doctor, Seven
    ENT - Nobody (although I did like the show)

    That makes Jean-Luc the only fully human character on my list. I guess I like the outsiders.


    First off, it isn't "perceived racism". It IS racism. The boy thought assaulting Garak was okay, not because of anything Garak had done, but simply because Garak is Cardassian. He acted that way because his parents taught him that sort of thinking.

    Second, in addition to being racist, it's also blatant child abuse to teach them that their kind is inherently evil to the point where they hate themselves for being what they are.

    An episode I really enjoyed.
    Unlike Picard ting one, For me Sisko made the right decision at the end. Child who was abducted from loving biological parents, who has been indoctrinated to hate his own species to point of biting on meeting one is best out of that environment no matter the child’s current stated preferences.

    JohnR - What you find interesting are, for the most part, the "hybrid characters" who were purposefully designed to be 'on the boundaries' between worlds to enhance their interest. Each embodies tension that leads to stories that build on their dual nature. Your list, with some additions, confirms this character building technique:

    Spock - Half Vulcan; Half Human: torn between logic and emotion;
    Picard - may be the exception, but even he is torn between his career and his desire for a 'normal' life;
    Worf - Klingon, raised by humans; something of an outcast among the Klingon warriors;
    (Data - the android who is all-too-human);
    Kira - strong woman in a world of men, torn between her legacy as a rebel on the outside who now finds herself as one of the establishment serving on a station run by outsiders;
    (Jadzia Dax - combines all sorts of traits as one with multiple lifetimes; she was a pioneering character in quietly challenging gender roles);
    Garak - sole Cardassian in a Bajoran outpost; again an outcast.
    (Odo - starts sole one of his kind, he searches for identity throughout the series; finds himself at odds with the Dominion who are his people);
    (Quark - something of a unique Ferengi, separated from the main world);
    Seven of Nine - one of the strongest "split characters"; she's the once and present Borg who struggles against her experience to be part of a greater whole;
    (Nog - the Ferengi that went to Starfleet Academy; his desire for profit is moderated by his long developed sense of duty; no character travelled a greater arc than Nog);
    The Doctor - Very resonant of Data; a creature of "artificial intelligence" who is often more than human.
    (B'Elanna Torres - Half human, Half Klingon, Dawson did a great job with her but the tension that allowed Worf to stand apart from Gowron and the balance of Klingon society was missing for her).

    By contrast the rest of the list (and I may have missed a couple) are missing the "element of natural inherent conflict" that makes those listed such interesting characters. That so many of these were portrayed by very talented actors like Patrick Stewart or Andrew Robinson only enhances their appeal.

    As you note, there's really no one on "Enterprise" that carries this inherent tension. T'Pol, the Vulcan putting up with humans, comes close but her main role seems to have been to strip down and apply decontamination gel to fellow crewmembers in the airlock (not that I found that a problem).

    'Spock - Half Vulcan; Half Human: torn between logic and emotion;'

    This is a good point, and I always find it curious in an in-universe sense when these 'hybrid' characters are so very often referred to solely in reference to their alien element. How many times is Spock referred to as a Vulcan, or Torres as a Klingon - or more so, as *archetypically* Vulcan or Klingon? Most of the time, in fact. 'Your Vulcan logic' this and 'your Klingon rage' that.

    I've always seen it as a bit of a blind spot in Trek writing, stemming ultimately from Spock being the first 'Vulcan' we see.

    K'Ehleyr is an interesting outlier among the 'hybrid characters' of Trek as being consistently shown to be more like her human side than her Klingon side.

    Troi is another purportedly 'hybrid character' who is even more 'alien' than her actual fully alien mother. As far as I can recall off the top of my head, the fact that Troi is half-human is only ever referred to briefly via dialogue; it is never addressed in any storylines and isn't a source of conflict for her.

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