The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Cardassians

When a Cardassian boy bites Garak in the Replimat, Bashir and Sisko learn that he is the adoptive son of a Bajoran, and just one of many Cardassian orphans left on Bajor after the Occupation. With conflicting reports about whether the boy is happy with his adoptive family, and Gul Dukat demanding his return, it is up to Bashir and Garak to uncover the political motivations driving the situation.

DS9 does its own take on TNG’s Suddenly Human in this episode, with the old “should a child go back to his home planet and biological family, or stay with the adoptive parents he has grown to love?”. The unique DS9 spin on it is that this time the boy is a Cardassian being raised on Bajor, and that he just happens to be part of one of Gul Dukat’s elaborate plots. Whilst I didn’t really care much for yet another Dukat machination, it does herald the return of Garak, everyone’s favourite spy masquerading as a simple tailor. Garak’s relationship with Bashir really illustrates how much the young doctor has matured since season one – he’s still a bit tactless and liable to put his foot in it, but he holds his own much better than he ever did at the start of the show’s run.

Where Picard chose to let Jono stay with his Talarian father in Suddenly Human, Sisko makes Rugal go back to his Cardassian father, even though life with his Bajoran parents is all he has ever known. Whilst I appreciate that growing up on Bajor and learning to hate Cardassians might not have been the healthiest of atmospheres for Rugal’s mental health, he did have a loving family that he wanted to stay with, so I’m not entirely comfortable with Sisko’s decision. Is this an early indication of how Sisko differs from Kirk and Picard in his approach to moral dilemmas? Kirk did what he thought was morally right, no matter if the rules or the alien societies involved disagreed. Picard tried his best to take everyone’s feelings and the Prime Directive into account, but mostly did the right thing. Sisko considers the bigger picture, and tries to do what’s right by that, even if it means doing something questionable or hurtful in the short term – see In the Pale Moonlight for the best example of this.

Cardassian facts

  • Family is highly regarded on Cardassia, whilst orphans have no status. It would be a career-ending political embarrassment for the public to learn that one had abandoned one’s son, even inadvertently.
  • It was a long shot for Dukat to bother secreting Padar’s son away in the hopes that, eight years later, he might show up again. Was there really a need for such an elaborate machination? Couldn’t he have just caught the politician with a prostitute or something?
  • Keiko gets to look after Rugal, because anything vaguely caring in nature has to go to the one recurring female character who is a mother.
  • Despite his racism against Cardassians, O’Brien is able to fake a decent enlightened attitude with Rugal.
  • Andrew Robinson intended for Garak to be a pansexual character, but the powers that be weren’t ready for such things on Star Trek – hence it was toned down after Past Prologue.

Other points

  • Molly O’Brien is chronologically two years old, but said to be four here. Could it be the same effects of starship travel on growing up that caused Alexander to grow up so quickly?
  • Why does Keiko replicate the same Cardassian meal for everyone at dinner? When you’re cooking, it makes sense to cook the same thing for everyone because it’s less effort, but the replicator means everyone can just ask for what they want.
  • Bashir is impressed with Garak’s ability to find eight year old files. Clearly he’s never used a Linux terminal, find or grep.

Summary – Cardassians: Won’t somebody please think of the children?

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