Memory Alpha
Memory Alpha
MA DIS arrowhead
This page contains information regarding Star Trek: Discovery, and thus may contain spoilers.

"Cardassians are like… timber wolvespredatorsbold in large numbers… cautious by themselves… and with an instinctive need to establish a dominant position in any social gathering."
"Cardassians are all alike. You talk too much."

The Cardassians were a humanoid species from the Alpha Quadrant. They were native to the planet Cardassia Prime, capital world of the Cardassian Union. Known throughout the Alpha Quadrant for being extremely ruthless, the Cardassians became one of the greatest enemies of the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, when the Cardassian Union joined the Dominion in 2373. Cardassians had a xenophobic attitude towards other species, which was well established throughout the quadrant after the Setlik III massacre during the Cardassian Border Wars, as well as when Cardassian atrocities during the Occupation of Bajor were revealed after they withdrew from the planet Bajor in 2369.


Dukat's skull

A Cardassian skull

Cardassian Empok Nor soldier 3

Partially mummified corpse with visible ribcage

Cardassians preferred a darker, hotter, and more humid environment than Humans or Bajorans. (DS9: "The Wire", "For the Cause") Like other humanoid species, they evolved in a process influenced by the ancient humanoids. (TNG: "The Chase")

Externally, Cardassians were easily recognizable by each having light-gray skin, two thick, vertical neck ridges that receded back to the crown of their head, and an inverted tear-shaped ridge in the center of the forehead. The ridge was thickest immediately above the eyes, protecting them and creating an especially deep-set appearance. This trait earned them the derogatory nickname "spoon heads." Some Cardassians (such as Natima Lang) had another ridged feature, also in the shape of an inverted tear, in the center of their chests, while other members of the species (such as Rekelen) were missing this trait.

According to the script notes from "The Wounded", the Cardassians were initially described as "humanoid aliens–sleek, handsome, intense." Later, according to the script notes from the first draft of "The Chase", it was suggested that for the design of Ocett, being that "this is the first time we've seen an adult female Cardassian," that "they could possess the kind of sexual dimorphism apparent in many species – the neck "veins" for instance, might be more pronounced and colorful in Cardassian females than in males."

On Cardassian females, the ridge in the center of the forehead often had a blue coloration, as did the second or third rung down on their neck ridges. This coloration may be a form of cosmetic make-up, similar to henna ink make-up and markings. (DS9: "Cardassians") Cardassians had straight hair that varied in color from dark brown to jet black, though the latter coloration was far more common.

The blue coloration was stated to be make-up by Star Trek: Lower Decks producer Bradley Winters [1]

Males typically slicked their hair back, while the women had more varying hairstyles. As with Humans, their hair turned white with age. However, some male Cardassians (like Enabran Tain) tended to dye their hair, instead of letting it show white. (TNG: "The Wounded", "The Chase"; DS9: "Profit and Loss", "Cardassians")

Cardassian neck ridges were sensitive to touch and massaging them stimulated pleasure. (DS9: "Profit and Loss") Odo was known to perform an act known as the "Cardassian neck trick." (DS9: "Necessary Evil", "Improbable Cause")

Since scale patterns on Cardassian necks have been shown to change from appearance to appearance (Garak, for example), makeup artist Michael Westmore theorized, in a 2005 issue of Star Trek Insider, that Cardassians continually shed and regrow scales. See below for more information on the evolution of the Cardassian "look."

The Cardassians were known for their photographic memories, which, per Dukat, were enabled by rigorous childhood training. Some, including Dukat, had the ability to resist a mind meld, which Dukat explained as "simply a matter of discipline". Medical conditions to which Cardassians were susceptible included Rudellian plague, Coleibric hemorrhage, Kalla-Nohra Syndrome, Pottrik Syndrome, and Yarim Fel Syndrome. (DS9: "The Maquis, Part I", "The Maquis, Part II") Their sense of hearing was said to be less acute than that of Humans. (DS9: "Distant Voices")

Chemically, Cardassians had a toxic reaction to cobalt diselenide, but were immune to the toxic effects of trilithium resin. (DS9: "Rules of Engagement", "Duet", "The Wire", "For the Cause", "Ties of Blood and Water", "For the Uniform")

The color of their blood was red. (DS9: "Behind the Lines")

In common with many other humanoid species, Cardassians were able to produce offspring with a variety of species, including Bajorans and Kazon. Dukat was known to have two half-Bajoran children, including Tora Ziyal and another with Mika. Additionally, Seska had a son with the Kazon Culluh while stranded in the Delta Quadrant. It is also possible that Humans and Cardassians were able to cross-breed, as Seska nearly convinced Chakotay, who was Human, that the child was his. Furthermore, Gilora Rejal was willing to bear children fathered by Miles O'Brien, another Human, while she was convinced he wished to pursue a relationship with her. Although the basic facial features of half-Cardassians was softened by hybridization, they nevertheless showed additional unmistakable traits of their Cardassian heritage of dark hair and gray skin. (DS9: "Destiny", "Indiscretion", "Covenant"; VOY: "Basics, Part I", "Basics, Part II")

Patrick Stewart once jokingly suspected the Cardassians smelled bad. He wrote, "The Cardassians, I am sure, were too foul to want to get close to. (Any Cardassian reading this, please don't take it personally.)" (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 9)

Society and culture[]

Enabran Tain, 2370

Enabran Tain, an elderly Cardassian in 2370

Cardassian culture was hierarchical, with the State at the top in public life, and parents within the home. Cardassians valued advanced age as a sign of strength, power, and wisdom. In Cardassian culture, the thirtieth birthday was cause for celebration for a Cardassian, though the government may not have always been so open-minded in its policies. (DS9: "The Maquis, Part I", "Distant Voices") Cardassian architecture often reinforced established hierarchy by placing important individuals in physically high locations. (DS9: "Emissary") The emphasis on hierarchy and other factors were fertile ground for intense rivalries between individuals and families. As a result, Cardassians were generally suspicious and regarded those who were not as foolish. For instance, irony in the Human tragedy Julius Caesar was lost on Elim Garak, who thought Caesar a fool for not suspecting that Brutus would betray him. (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part II"; DS9: "Cardassians", "Distant Voices", "Improbable Cause", "Indiscretion", "In Purgatory's Shadow", "Sons and Daughters")

Organian scientists in the 22nd century observed how people of different species, including Cardassians, reacted when their crew members were afflicted with a contagious and lethal silicon-based virus. The Organian observer noted that a crew of Cardassians presented with the situation showed concern for their afflicted comrades, but, in the end, killed their infected crew members. (ENT: "Observer Effect")


Cardassian orphans left on Bajor after the Occupation

Cardassian culture valued family highly, as demonstrated in a Cardassian saying that proclaimed, "Family is all," despite the obligations to the State that might make Cardassians choose the State over family. Cardassian homes were typically multi-generational and hierarchical, with male and female parents sharing authority. Cardassian culture emphasized family loyalty. Similar to some other cultures, Cardassians placed great value on the continuation of family lines, and as such were pro-natalist, though they were not known for having large numbers of offspring. Sometimes, Cardassian children would visit their parents at work to see what they did, even if their job involved torture. (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part II") In contrast to the close-knit family unit, Cardassian culture did not regard orphans highly, and provided no obvious means of social welfare for them, though adoption was not unheard of. (DS9: "Destiny") When making a speech, the leader of the Cardassian Union may use the send-off "This I vow with my life's blood, for my sons, for all our sons." (DS9: "By Inferno's Light", "Statistical Probabilities")

Ulani Belor and Gilora Rejal

Two civilian female Cardassian scientists

Neither of the two Cardassian genders is considered universally dominant over the other, though each tends to be dominant within certain specific fields within their society. Patrician Cardassian males lead a life focused on military and political service, and thus societal advances in technology and engineering have always been spearheaded by Cardassian females. Most Cardassian scientists tend to be females, or as Gilora Rejal put it, "Men just don't seem to have a head for this sort of thing… That's why women dominate the sciences." (DS9: "Destiny") This does not mean that women are relegated to maintaining the Cardassian technological base, as there were various female ship commanders and political leaders, such as Gul Ocett and Archon Makbar. (TNG: "The Chase"; DS9: "Tribunal") Cardassian women were also stereotyped as emotive, since Aamin Marritza made a reference to himself "weeping like a woman." (DS9: "Duet")

Cardassians enjoyed debate and conversation in general. Cardassian meal time was as much about discussion as it was about eating. They would speak at length about a topic to show their knowledge, avoid saying something incriminating, or to obtain some piece of information from the person they were speaking to. Such was their love of conversation that it played a major role in their courtship. Courtship among Cardassians may include bitter, ferocious arguing, a fact not remembered by the confrontational Miles O'Brien, who engaged in repeated disputes with his female Cardassian co-worker Gilora Rejal, only to be shocked when it led to her becoming infatuated with him. (DS9: "Destiny") Pressing the palm of one's hand to another's palm was the equivalent of a kiss on the cheek, as demonstrated by Elim Garak and Tora Ziyal. (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow")

Cardassian engineering standards were usually lower than Starfleet's. When Miles O'Brien ran a diagnostic of Deep Space 9's fusion power plant, it revealed that it was operating at 13% below peak efficiency. The station's computer, still running by Cardassian standards, explained that Cardassian specifications accepted operating efficiency within 20%. (DS9: "The Forsaken")

Cardassians were well known for genetic engineering, even allowing other galactic powers to study their creations, such as the Federation. To distinguish their own creations, Cardassians always built distinctive monoclonial links into the DNA they used. (DS9: "Babel")

A year after the conclusion of the Federation-Cardassian War, Worf stated, "Cardassians have no honor." Conversely, during the Klingon-Cardassian War, an officer aboard a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, the IKS Rotarran, stated that the Cardassians were honorable warriors in comparison to their Jem'Hadar counterparts. (TNG: "The Wounded"; DS9: "Soldiers of the Empire")

Cardassians were meticulous record keepers, using well-organized files and databases. Garak claimed that his people had instructed many other worlds, including Bajor, in their archival methods. (DS9: "Cardassians") Cardassians were known for their punctuality. They also valued cleanliness. (DS9: "Distant Voices", "Destiny", "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night")

Cardassians were similar to Romulans in their xenophobic tendencies, and also shared a Romulan belief that there was no such thing as luck. Like the Breen, they treated their prisoners with little tolerance or sympathy, and had no qualms with using torture to extract information. Some Cardassians were even known to enjoy torturing their prisoners and to do it whether there was information to be extracted or not. (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part II") Within the Obsidian Order, at any rate, the practice of torture was so much a cultural custom that having to torture someone closely acquainted with the torturer was sometimes used as a test of loyalty for those who wanted to join the Order or rejoin the organization. (DS9: "The Die is Cast") Additionally, Cardassians were similar to Ferengi, in that they were known for paying their bills. During the Cardassians' military occupation of Bajor, many officers accepted bribes to overlook suspicious activities, for additional food, or for other "favors." To many Alpha Quadrant species, Cardassians were seen as nothing more than arrogant, cruel, cold-blooded killers. (DS9: "Cardassians", "Necessary Evil", "The Wire", "Distant Voices", "The Way of the Warrior", "In Purgatory's Shadow", "Call to Arms", "Behind the Lines", "The Changing Face of Evil", "The Dogs of War")


Cardassians considered their educational system to be unparalleled in the Alpha Quadrant, and educational attainment was regarded as a key asset in Cardassian society. Cardassian children were often put into intensive mind-training programs, from as early as three or four. Cardassians were also trained, during this time, to have photographic memories. A typical Cardassian view of how children should be raised was summed up in Dukat stating, "Education is power… joy is vulnerability." (DS9: "The Maquis, Part I") However, Cardassian children were also indulged with pets, trips to Cardassian amusement parks, and other pastimes. (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part II"; DS9: "Cardassians", "Defiant")


Ancient Cardassian civilization exhibited vibrant religious practice; its rituals and structure were unknown. During this period prior to the establishment of the modern Cardassian Union, resource shortages, famine, and plague became rampant throughout the Cardassian homeworld, evidently killing large portions of the population. In order to survive, Cardassian society embraced a totalitarian police-state which would be strong enough to provide for the material needs of its citizens. As the ancient religion was a deviation from utter devotion to the government, the modern Cardassian Union was founded as a non-theistic society where loyalty to the state achieved profound importance. (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part II")

Modern Cardassians seemed to regard the religions of other galactic species as anachronistic or backward, as evidenced by their actions during the Bajoran Occupation, though extenuating circumstances may have played a role in this. During the period in which Cardassia was a member of the Dominion in 2373, most Cardassians did not view the Founders as deities, instead focusing on their physical properties as shapeshifters. (DS9: "Waltz", "Tears of the Prophets", "What You Leave Behind") Rather than believing in luck, Cardassians believed that all outcomes are ultimately determined by each individual's strength or will. (DS9: "Destiny")

Modern Cardassians exhibited involved funeral practices. Funeral services were open to the entire Cardassian public, especially memorials for memorable figures such as Gul Darhe'el. Cardassian graves are believed to be only in ground burials, and are marked, especially those of high-ranking or famous people, such as war heroes or great scientists, with monuments of varying degrees of ornamentation and size. Cardassians considered viewing of their corpses by non-Cardassians taboo. (DS9: "Indiscretion", "Duet") A unique aspect of Cardassian end-of-life practice was known as Shri-tal, when a dying family member passed on all their secrets to their surviving relatives so they could use them against the dying one's enemies. (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow", "Ties of Blood and Water")


Cardassian Court TV

Cardassian trials were publicly broadcast

"Confession is good for the soul."

The ideal Cardassian life was one of complete loyalty and servitude to the State and family. The Cardassian government was assumed to be omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent. In a sense, when the Cardassians abandoned their spiritual ways and began their expansion throughout the Alpha Quadrant centuries ago, they simply applied a twisted form of their religion to their political philosophy. (DS9: "The Wire", "Second Skin")

A typical example of the Cardassian approach to life was found in their jurisprudence and criminal trials, in which the conclusion was always determined beforehand – the ruling of each case was a guilty verdict – and the purpose of the proceedings was not justice in the Human sense but bringing the offender to recognize the power and benevolence of the State. A trial, therefore, was an opportunity for the State to reveal how someone's guilt was proven by what they considered "the most efficient criminal investigation system in the quadrant." When Benjamin Sisko once asked Gul Dukat why bother with a trial at all, Dukat responded that the people demanded it, as they enjoyed watching "justice triumph over evil." The notion that they might try an innocent man by mistake was foreign to the Cardassians, as they believed in and always operated under the assumption that "Cardassians don't make mistakes." The typical Cardassian approach, therefore, was direct, simple, and ruthless, uncaring about how many aliens – or Cardassians – were trampled in the interests of the State. Cardassians prided themselves on their attention to detail and memories. They had no interest in science for its own worth, and demanded that scientific projects, like everything, serve military benefits. (DS9: "The Maquis, Part II", "Tribunal", "Destiny")

Cardassian philosophy placed a central value on strength; not necessarily physical strength, but strength of personal and collective will. When Dr. Bashir recovered from a mental attack by a Lethian, Garak held responsible Bashir's strength (rather than luck) for having enabled him to survive. (DS9: "Distant Voices") In general, Cardassians believed that the strong had a right to rule over the weak. While stranded on a planet with Benjamin Sisko, Dukat explained how the Cardassians justified the occupation of Bajor: "From the moment we arrived on Bajor, it was clear that we were the superior race. But they couldn't accept that. They wanted to be treated as equals, when they most certainly were not. Militarily, technologically, culturally – we were almost a century ahead of them in every way! We did not choose to be the superior race, fate handed us our role. And it would've been so much easier on everyone if the Bajorans had simply accepted their role." This kind of attitude, attributed to most Cardassians, was even enough to compel the Ferengi Quark into helping a resistance cell that Major Kira led against the Cardassians (and their Dominion allies), on the space station alternately known as Deep Space 9 or Terok Nor, in 2374. (DS9: "By Inferno's Light", "Favor the Bold", "Sacrifice of Angels", "Waltz")

Cardassian philosophy typically upheld the idea that the ends justified the means. After the Cardassians unearthed the burial vaults of their ancestors, which were filled with rare artifacts, they sold them to other species to pay for their own war efforts as well as to feed the starving population on the Cardassian homeworld. Additionally, the extraction of Bajor's natural resources was considered an appropriate means to feed Cardassia's population, despite the fact it required the occupation of the Bajorans' homeworld. Furthermore, in an attempt to help the USS Voyager make it back to the Alpha Quadrant safely, Seska (a Cardassian in disguise) was willing to sacrifice a Starfleet replicator to the Kazon-Nistrim in return for their protection, believing that Voyager's quick and safe return home would justify whatever actions were taken to attain that end. (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part II"; DS9: "Duet"; VOY: "State of Flux")

In the aftermath of the Dominion War, the Cardassians were left in a state of almost-entire devastation, their homeworld completely ruined. One of the greatest questions facing the Alpha Quadrant was whether Cardassia would remain entrenched in its old, bloody system or if a reform to a "weaker" more Federation-style democracy was possible. (DS9: "What You Leave Behind")


Arts, specifically literature and painting, were highly regarded in Cardassian culture. Cardassian literature often reflected Cardassian values, such as family, duty and the glorification of the state. Examples of Cardassian literature include The Never Ending Sacrifice, an epic tale spanning seven generations of the history of a Cardassian family which displays selfless obedience to Cardassia; Meditations on a Crimson Shadow, a novel by Preloc set in the future concerning a war between the Cardassian and Klingon Empires; and the enigma tales of Shoggoth, a series of mysteries in which all of the suspects are guilty but the trick is in figuring out of what (demonstrating the presumed infallibility of the Cardassian justice system). (DS9: "The Wire", "Distant Voices")

Iloja of Prim was a serialist poet who lived during the First Republic of the 21st century and had to spend an exile on Vulcan. (DS9: "Destiny")

Nanpart Malor was a painter who originated the Valonnan School art movement. (DS9: "Sons and Daughters")

Tavor Kell was a famous architect known throughout the Alpha Quadrant. He was quoted as having said every element had to be "of a piece, yet have a beauty all its own." (DS9: "The Muse")

Citizenry and the state[]


Makbar, Chief Archon

Cardassians gave their first molar to the Bureau of Identification at age ten.

Cardassian society had the most rigid and, to the Federation, incomprehensible of all legal systems. Every suspect was irrefutably deemed guilty before even appearing in court, their sentence already spelled out – almost always either death or imprisonment in a harsh labor camp. The criminal was given a Conservator, equivalent to a public defender, except that the Conservator was not supposed to win but to prepare the criminal for a moving confession of guilt on the floor of the court. The accused was also permitted an advocate, the Nestor, to advise them during the trial. The Chief Archon, or judge, of the court played to a televised audience, their duty not to judge the prisoner's innocence or guilt, but rather to give an emphatic display of the futility of crime on Cardassia and reinforce the public's trust in the judicial system. Charges against the accused were announced at the commencement of the trial itself, the execution date was set in advance, and only the offender's spouse as well as the court-assigned nestor and counsel could attend the trial. (DS9: "Tribunal", "The Die is Cast")


The modern Cardassian Union employed a military made up of both males and females. The actual size and percentage of males and females serving was unknown, but it was primarily male. This did not mean gender bias existed within the military hierarchy, as female Cardassians were just as able to promote to the rank of gul and legate as their male counterparts, and male subordinates showed no hesitation in following the orders given by a female superior officer. (TNG: "The Chase")


The Cardassian military normally was administered by the elected Detapa Council. Under the Detapa Council was Cardassian Central Command, made up of career military, which often operated autonomously. In 2372, after the destruction of the Obsidian Order the previous year, actions of the Cardassian dissident movement restored the Detapa Council's authority. During Cardassia's membership in the Dominion, Gul Dukat appointed himself leader of the Cardassian people, eliminating civilian oversight. (DS9: "Defiant", "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light") Under the Central Command were a number of "Orders". (DS9: "Emissary", etc.)


The Cardassian military made extensive use of booby traps, especially in retreat and tactical withdrawals. The Cardassian military tended to favor covert action and deception over direct confrontation. While making an attempt to take over Minos Korva, the Cardassians hid several vessels in the McAllister Nebula and waited to see if the Federation would trade the planet for the release of Captain Jean-Luc Picard before striking. During the Klingon-Cardassian War, the Cardassians were able to win many engagements against the Klingons by implementing decoys with sensor ghosts and holo-projections, before striking their confused enemies. When direct confrontation was unavoidable, the Cardassians employed a number of well-coordinated fighters in tight formation, in order to cover for any relative technological weaknesses. A typical Cardassian plan was complex and was said to consist of a "plan within a plan within a plan, leading to a trap." (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part II"; DS9: "Armageddon Game", "The Maquis, Part I", "Soldiers of the Empire")

State intelligence[]

To ensure that the population remained completely loyal to the State, the Obsidian Order – the Cardassian Union's primary intelligence agency – watched over the people. It was said that a Cardassian citizen could not sit down to a meal without each dish, complete with its preparation and ingredients, being duly noted and recorded by the Obsidian Order. Like the military, the Obsidian Order was supposed to submit to the Detapa Council, but in practice, the Order had far more independent authority. Even members of the Cardassian military were not immune to Obsidian Order inquiries, although Legates could be well connected and protected from the Order's observations; Tekeny Ghemor was able to turn off Obsidian Order listening devices. He and other well-connected Cardassians frequently reminded high-level Order operatives that the Obsidian Order's charter to operate was a privilege that could be revoked at any time. Almost every Cardassian lived in fear of the Order, as its constant surveillance led to sudden eliminations of numerous "traitors." (DS9: "The Wire", "Defiant")

The Order was equally as obsessive in its collection and storage of artifacts and information, never knowing when it might become useful in the future. Among its vaults were archaeological finds from across the quadrant, art, cryogenically stored biological samples and cadavers, banks of computer drives storing an exhaustive variety of information, and more. (DS9: "Second Skin")

After the Battle of the Omarion Nebula, the Obsidian Order ceased to exist. However, after Cardassia joined the Dominion in 2373, the Order's role was replaced by the Cardassian Intelligence Bureau, which was just as effective, if not more so. In fact, when Elim Garak attempted to contact some associates of his, who were on Cardassia Prime in 2374, every one of them was found and killed within one day of speaking to him. Garak called it "a testament to the effectiveness of Dominion security," adding, "One should admire such… efficiency." (DS9: "The Die is Cast", "The Way of the Warrior", "Rocks and Shoals", "In the Pale Moonlight")


Cardassian logo

Insignia of the Cardassian Union

The governing body of Cardassia was the Cardassian Union. The elected Detapa Council had ruled for centuries. Over the years, the Council's power was usurped by Cardassian Central Command, the military branch of the government, and the Obsidian Order, the intelligence agency, transforming Cardassia into a fascist police state. By the late 24th century, the Central Command's control was slipping, due to civilian protests and the Cardassian dissident movement. The Obsidian Order had been given limited autonomy and thus took a very active role in Cardassians' lives, but it was forbidden from raising an army and its autonomy could be revoked at any time. (DS9: "Emissary", "Defiant", "Second Skin")

The latter half of the 24th century saw significant changes. A secret joint operation between the Obsidian Order and the Romulan Star Empire's Tal Shiar, intended to cripple the Dominion, raised an armada of ships equipped with cloaking devices. Led by Enabran Tain, the plan nearly succeeded but had been sabotaged by a Changeling infiltrator. The joint Cardassian-Romulan fleet was destroyed utterly at the Battle of the Omarion Nebula, and the staggering losses suffered by the Order, combined with public outcry, had caused its downfall. (DS9: "Improbable Cause", "The Die is Cast")

Without the Obsidian Order to keep the populace in line, the dissidents' power grew and eventually succeeded in securing control of the government. A civilian revolution reinstated the power of the Detapa Council, but this drew the attention of the nearby Klingon Empire. Claiming that the Detapa Council was replaced by Changelings, Chancellor Gowron and General Martok (who was himself under the influence of a Changeling infiltrator) initiated the Klingon-Cardassian War, in a thinly veiled attempt to seize control of Cardassian territory. The invasion, combined with terrorist pressure from the Maquis in the Demilitarized Zone, resulted in utter chaos. In an attempt to restore Cardassia to its former glory, S.G. Dukat secretly negotiated Cardassia's entry into the Dominion. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")

When Gul Dukat completed negotiations with the Dominion in 2373, the Detapa Council ceased to exist altogether, just as the Obsidian Order and Central Command had years prior. The majority of Cardassian affairs were thereafter handled by Dukat, since he was placed as the leader of the Cardassian Union and given the rank Legate, though he was constrained to work under the regulations of the Dominion. While the two groups were occupying Deep Space 9 during the first three months of the Dominion War, Dukat generally controlled the Cardassian and Dominion fleets, with Weyoun overseeing his decisions. The two individuals were able to maintain an equal standing with each other, though both were subject to the unquestionable authority of the Founders. Major Kira once noted, however, that the Cardassian and Dominion troops mutually hated each other. Subsequently, it proved relatively easy to turn the groups of opposing troops posted to DS9 against each other, with subtle manipulation on the part of the resistance cell operating on the station. (DS9: "The Die is Cast", "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light", "Call to Arms", "A Time to Stand", "Favor the Bold")

Cardassians switch sides

The Cardassian fleet attacks the Breen-Dominion Alliance

Because the death of his own daughter Ziyal caused Dukat to suffer a breakdown, the responsibility of commanding the Cardassian people (as well as holding the rank of Legate) was adopted by Damar. Since the new leader lacked the self-confidence and leadership skills of his former mentor and predecessor, however, Weyoun was able to take increasingly more control over the Cardassian people, with Damar becoming little more than a figurehead. Eventually, Damar had absolutely no say in any political decisions. This became blatantly obvious when Female Changeling made territorial concessions to the Breen in 2375, in order to convince them to ally with the Dominion. Eventually, the Cardassians revolted, and Damar defected to the Cardassian Rebellion as its leader. Legate Broca was installed as a puppet leader, completely under Weyoun's control and subservient to the Breen. Weyoun ordered escalating atrocities against Cardassian civilians attempting to quell the revolt, which enraged the military. Near the end of the Dominion War, the Cardassian fleet turned on the Dominion, allowing the Federation Alliance to gain a decisive advantage during the Battle of Cardassia and eventually win the Dominion War. The Cardassians had opted for independence rather than Dominion governance. (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels", "Statistical Probabilities", "Strange Bedfellows", "The Changing Face of Evil", "What You Leave Behind")

The political future of the Cardassians is left unknown at the end of the Dominion War, which concludes Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. However, Captain Braxton, a Starfleet officer from the 29th century, refers to a 1996 Los Angeles police officer as a "quasi-Cardassian totalitarian" after being thrown back in time to the 20th century, in VOY: "Future's End". This would suggest that Cardassia did not abandon its tendency towards an aggressive, militaristic police state by the 29th century.

In the non-canon Deep Space Nine relaunch novels, Garak was the leader of a civilian restoration, working with Alon Ghemor, the nephew of Tekeny Ghemor. Keiko O'Brien also aided Cardassia in its reconstruction efforts.

Parallel universes[]

In the mirror universe, the Cardassians were a founding race of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. (DS9: "Crossover")

In one quantum reality, the Cardassian Union had been overthrown by the Bajorans, who became increasingly aggressive towards the Federation, prior to 2370. By that time, the helmsman of the USS Enterprise-D, under the command of Captain William T. Riker, was a Cardassian ensign. (TNG: "Parallels")


By 2367, Cardassian spacefaring technology had become notably inferior compared to newer classes of starships operated by the Federation, particularly Galaxy-class and Nebula-class vessels. A Cardassian warship was easily destroyed by the USS Phoenix, even when the warship had the ability to penetrate the Phoenix's shields. The Phoenix's use of photon torpedoes at long range gave the vessel superiority over the warship. Furthermore, Cardassians on board the USS Enterprise-D made several comments about the superiority of Federation technology, notably the ship's transporter technology, as well as the vessel's sensors, which were able to determine Cardassian transponder codes at long ranges, an ability that Cardassian sensors did not have at the time. However, the Cardassians did possess the ability to mask the contents of their supply ships from the Enterprise's scans. (TNG: "The Wounded")

Galor class, weapons array, bridge and aft dorsal

A Cardassian warship destroying Federation fighters

Despite advances in Federation technology, the Cardassians remained formidable opponents. While their shield technology matched unfavorably against both Federation and Klingon weapons, Cardassian weapons were quite capable on their own terms. All Cardassian warships generally relied upon a single large, powerful, forward-facing phaser/disruptor-style weapon, similar to Klingon and Romulan ship design philosophy. However, the vessels also featured multiple dorsal phaser arrays to deal with attacks by swarms of smaller vessels, such as Maquis raiders and Federation attack fighters. In battle, Cardassian ships also employed missile weaponry similar to photon torpedoes. (TNG: "The Wounded", "Ensign Ro", "Preemptive Strike"; DS9: "Return to Grace", "Sacrifice of Angels")

Despite the Federation's production of superior vessels by the 2360s, the Federation-Cardassian War featured a stalemate between the two powers. After the conflict ended, Admiral Haden told Captain Picard that the Federation wasn't "prepared for a new sustained conflict" with the Cardassians, revealing that – despite technological advantages and new classes of superior ships – the Cardassians remained a legitimate threat to Starfleet. (TNG: "The Wounded"; DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels")

The bulk of the Federation fleet continued to consist of smaller, primarily scientific vessels, such as the Excelsior-class and Miranda-class, well into the Dominion War. The late entry of ship classes like the Galaxy-class and Nebula-class was likely one reason why the conflict ended in a stalemate. Furthermore, the end of the Federation-Cardassian conflict came during a period of threat from both the Borg and the re-emergent Romulan Star Empire, so it is likely that Haden's comment represented an overall consideration of the Federation's strategic position. The Cardassian Union itself never appeared to match the Federation in sheer scale, although it did appear to allocate much more time and resources towards its war industry. Finally, it is likely that the Cardassians were qualitatively and quantitatively inferior to the Federation, but represented a disproportionately dense concentration of military power, sharing a border with the much larger, but consequently more logistically demanding to guard, Federation.

in spite of being technologically inferior in some, if not most areas, at least in comparison to the Federation; the Cardassian Union or at least the Obsidian Order is proficient enough to hold superior mastery of espionage technology, genetic engineering, surgical alteration, torturing techniques and devices, and even memory wiping and implantation technology.

During the Klingon-Cardassian War, the Klingons inflicted considerable damage on the Cardassian military due to their sudden, unprovoked invasion. Nevertheless, the Cardassians were able to sustain a stalemate after the invasion was blunted. Compensating for their ships' relative weaknesses, the Cardassians were able to win many engagements by employing unique tactics (see above). (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior", "Soldiers of the Empire")

Despite its increasing technological inferiority compared to newer Starfleet ships, the bulk of the Cardassian military continued to consist of Galor-class ships. While they remained inferior to the Galaxy- and Nebula-class vessels in one-on-one engagements throughout the Dominion War, the Cardassians tended to deploy these ships in attack groups of two or three ships, to compensate for their relative weakness. In 2374, a wing of Cardassian destroyers managed to destroy the USS Honshu. During the Second Battle of Deep Space 9, Captain Benjamin Sisko was forced to dispatch two wings of Galaxy-class ships to engage a group of Galor-class destroyers, which posed a serious threat to the Federation's smaller vessels. (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels", "Waltz")

By the late 24th century, the Cardassians used beritium, dolamide, kelindide, rhodinium and uridium in the construction of their ships and military equipment. (DS9: "The Search, Part I", "Indiscretion", "Dramatis Personae")

Cardassian ships were slightly altered between Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. "The design of the Cardassian ships is a little grimmer," noted Robert Legato. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, Nos. 3/4, p. 105)

Illustrator Jim Martin designed several Cardassian tools, including a weapon and an eyepiece, the latter of which is worn by Garak in DS9: "Cardassians". Martin commented, "You do different Cardassian devices, and then you start pulling from those shapes." ("Deep Space Nine Sketchbook", DS9 Season 2 DVD special features)


Main article: Cardassian history

In its ancient history, before Cardassia became a military dictatorship, the Cardassian society was known as the First Hebitian civilization. It was home to fine art and beautiful architecture. Once the Hebitian civilization fell into decay from lack of natural resources, millions of Cardassians were starving and the planet was subjected to utter chaos. Though the Hebitian society and way of life eventually became extinct, the remaining Cardassians turned to the military to solve their problems. This began the Cardassian policy of expansion into the Milky Way Galaxy, to provide the much-needed natural resources to sustain its population. (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part II"; DS9: "Duet")

Cardassians were capable of interstellar travel by the middle of the 22nd century. At some point before 2154, Organian scientists observed a starship crew that had been infected by a silicon-based virus found on the surface of an M-class planet. (ENT: "Observer Effect")

See also: Occupation of Bajor

During the 24th century, Cardassians were involved in three cataclysmic wars. The first major war was with the Federation in the mid-24th century, which ended in a turbulent peace treaty. (TNG: "The Wounded") A second war broke out when the Klingon Empire launched an unprovoked and unjustified invasion into Cardassian territory, after a successful rebellion had overthrown the military's rule. The Klingons believed the coup to be a result of Changeling infiltration, and therefore attempted to take over the Cardassian Union. The coup was in fact successful, due to the Obsidian Order having collapsed after the Battle of the Omarion Nebula. This war devastated Cardassian infrastructure, with a great loss of life and territory. (DS9: "The Die is Cast", "The Way of the Warrior")

The third and largest of these conflicts was the Dominion War. In order to drive out the Klingons from their territory, destroy the Maquis in the Demilitarized Zone and regain Cardassia's status in the Alpha Quadrant, Gul Dukat signed a treaty making Cardassia a member of the Dominion. Cardassian and Dominion forces proceeded to push the Klingon fleet out of Cardassian territory and wipe out the entire Maquis movement within a few days. (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light")

Cardassia in ruins

Cardassia Prime lies in ruins

While initially the alliance with the Dominion seemed to be beneficial to Cardassia, in the long run, it resulted in an exponential loss of life. Near the end of the Dominion War, Cardassia Prime was struck by Jem'Hadar raids and orbital bombardment from Dominion and Breen forces in orbit of the planet, which attempted to wipe out the Cardassian species entirely for their betrayal. Nearly one billion Cardassians were killed in a few short hours. (DS9: "A Time to Stand", "What You Leave Behind")

After the Burn in the mid-31st century, Cardassians were present in both Starfleet and the Emerald Chain. In 3190, Laira Rillak, a Human-Bajoran-Cardassian hybrid, was elected President of the United Federation of Planets. (DIS: "That Hope Is You, Part 1", "Anomaly (DIS)", "Kobayashi Maru")


Related topics[]


A Cardassian also appears briefly in the 1995 film Indian in the Cupboard.

Background information[]


Jeri Taylor – an executive producer for TNG and the writer of "The Wounded", the first episode to feature the Cardassians – invented the group name for the species. "I came up with 'Circassians' which I thought had a vaguely alien sound, though something in the back of my mind thought it came too easily," Taylor explained. "And someone (probably Joe Menosky) pointed out that the Circassians were a real people on Earth, in antiquity. So I just played around with the sounds and 'Cardassian' kind of fell into place." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 21)

Physical appearance[]


Macet, wearing a beard and early Cardassian uniform

Cardassian make up

A Cardassian prosthetic gets created

Karen Westerfield and Fritz Weaver

Cardassian makeup is applied to Fritz Weaver by Karen Westerfield for DS9: "Tribunal"

The final draft script of "The Wounded" described Cardassians thus: "These are humanoid aliens -- sleek, handsome, intense."

It is worth noting that Macet (the first Cardassian seen on-screen) is the only Cardassian known to wear a beard.

An actor who was instrumental in defining the Cardassians was Marc Alaimo. "He basically created the race, I think," noted fellow actor Casey Biggs. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 77) According to Michael Westmore, even the Cardassian makeup was directly inspired by Alaimo, particularly the casting of him as Gul Macet in "The Wounded". When Westmore got Alaimo's face-cast, he saw that Alaimo had an unusually long neck, and this led to what Westmore later referred to as "long, sloping, snaky shoulders." (Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season One, DS9 Season 1 DVD special features)

In fact, Michael Westmore, who took many of his ideas from wildlife, had been toying with the concept of creating a snake-like makeup, and he regarded the advent of the Cardassians as an opportunity to do so. (Star Trek: Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier, p. 200) The Cardassians thus became the first Star Trek species for which the makeup team created a shoulder piece. (Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season One, DS9 Season 1 DVD special features) "I created a row of bony ridges," said Westmore, "that went down the sides of the neck and flared out onto the shoulder tips, giving a strange, menacing appearance, like a praying mantis or a king cobra." (Star Trek: Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier, p. 200) Westmore thought the Cardassian shoulders "worked absolutely perfect" on any performer who had a long head. (Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season One, DS9 Season 1 DVD special features) "A long neck and sharp, angular face lent itself to that makeup, so it was important to find actors with the proper physical characteristics," he noted. (Star Trek: Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier, p. 200)

In terms of the "spoon" design on the forehead of Cardassians, Michael Westmore was influenced by an abstract painting of a woman with a spoon in her forehead. He saw the image one night, while out for dinner with his wife. The painting was in the window of an art gallery. (Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season One, DS9 Season 1 DVD special features) "I looked at this picture and I said, 'Someday I'm going to use that on an alien,'" Westmore recalled. "When the Cardassians came along it was the perfect opportunity to try to use it, and it worked very well." ("Designing Cardassians", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, No. 4)

Using the influential painting as a starting point, Michael Westmore proceeded to create the Cardassians as a relatively complex-looking species with very tough skin. "Their skin has more of a lizard type of scale that blends in with their own skin tone and their own skin texture," he noted. "They have so many individual little [prosthetic] parts. It's not a full mask." The makeup featured not only shoulders and the forehead piece but also a chin piece and a nose appliance. ("Designing Cardassians", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, No. 4) Also included in the Cardassian makeup were ear pieces. ("The Deep Space Nine Scrapbook", DS9 Season 1 DVD special features) All these elements had to be put together and blended into each actor's face. ("Designing Cardassians", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, No. 4) According to Casey Biggs, the Cardassian makeup was basically comprised of "two pounds of rubber" on the actor's face. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 77)

Following the introduction of the Cardassians in TNG: "The Wounded", their physical appearance and uniforms changed after "Ensign Ro" (their second appearance). The make-up used in later episodes and particularly throughout Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is smoother, and their uniforms changed entirely from a bulky, brown design to the familiar sleek, black one. Addressing how DS9 changed the Cardassian makeup scheme, Michael Westmore stated, "We didn't make any changes in them […] [except] there was a small change in the earpiece, but that was because the original mold was broken, so we redesigned it. It's the piece that comes down the side of the ear, and it's not quite extended as it was before. Everything else is the same; the forehead, chin, nose and shoulder blades." (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 1, p. 29)

When Cardassians began to appear in Star Trek, the makeup for the species took three-and-a-half hours to apply. (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 6, pp. 50-51) At about the start of DS9's series run, the makeup took around four hours. "It's a very time-consuming makeup for an individual to do," observed Michael Westmore, "so we try to use two make-up artists." ("The Deep Space Nine Scrapbook", DS9 Season 1 DVD special features) Marc Alaimo revealed, "They were worried about whether or not the makeup was going to work." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 53) By midway through DS9's second season, the makeup process required for Alaimo to play Dukat was lessened to two-and-a-half hours. (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 6, p. 51) Commented René Echevarria, "This is a very strong design, I think, and it's a big design […] Every Cardassian, you know, takes four/five/six hours in makeup, before you start shooting." ("Lower Decks" audio commentary, TNG Season 7 Blu-ray special features) As evidenced by the episode's call sheet, the Cardassian-playing actors who featured in "Profit and Loss" went through four hours of make-up, hair, and wardrobe. Also, each Cardassian required at least one make-up artist, sometimes two. Extras portraying Cardassians cost US$1500 per day. (The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, pp. 4 & 5) By the end of DS9 Season 4, Dukat's Cardassian makeup took about two or one-and-a-half hours to apply. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 53)

Upon portraying Kira Nerys as a Cardassian in third season DS9 outing "Second Skin", Nana Visitor's make-up took five hours to apply each morning. "When I see Cardassians starting to get into a little bit of a state of panic after eighteen hours, I know exactly what the problem is," she empathized. "It's very, very hot when you're covered in rubber in the head area. You can't sweat, and when you're doing it in hundred-degree weather, it can be tough." Performing in so much latex make-up could also be distracting. "The most important thing is to get over the fact that you have makeup on your face, and not let that do your work for you," Visitor added. Her own Cardassian makeup covered "over my nasal passages and every other place a claustrophobic doesn't want to be covered up," she recalled. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 178-179) Another difficulty with the makeup was the odor it produced, Visitor citing the Cardassians as the most foul-smelling alien species in Star Trek. "The rubber is really smelly. It gets a sulfurous egglike smell after a while. And Cardassians are the worst!" she laughed. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 561) Visitor summarized, "It's something that doesn't cross people's mind so much, but it is very difficult to wear that make-up, especially if you are at all claustrophobic." ("An Unlikely Surrogate", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, No. 12)

The selection of performers chosen to portray Cardassians was influenced by how tight-fitting their costume was. "The actor who wore it had to […] [have about] zero percent body fat," explained Robert Blackman. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 138) The actors also needed to be able to withstand the Cardassian makeup. "Sometimes you put people in this makeup and they can't get past it," said Casey Biggs. "Because still, to this day, you don't know how much is coming across with all these pieces on your face, in terms of what's reading. You just have to trust the director and trust yourself, I guess." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 78)


Gul Ocett, a female Cardassian

The Star Trek makeup artists wanted to differentiate the Cardassian females from their male counterparts, as there was little to distinguish one from the other when in uniform. ("Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season Two", DS9 Season 2 DVD special features) An early attempt to remedy this can be seen in "The Chase", where a female Cardassian, Gul Ocett, appears with pigtails. The desire to make the Cardassian females different from the males of the species led to such physical aspects as the addition of the blue pigment to the females' "spoon" area, and the blue coloration on the second or third rung of their neck. "So, all female Cardassians always had those blue markings," stated Michael Westmore. The DS9 makeup team also wanted to make the Cardassian females, at least a group of them in "Profit and Loss", as attractive as possible, which resulted in Natima Lang's forehead being relatively softened. The character's Cardassian makeup, which Westmore referred to as "reptilian type of armor skin" and "painted all grey and scaly," additionally included a chest piece which had to be glued on, every day. ("Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season Two", DS9 Season 2 DVD special features) Although only female Cardassians should have a blue coloration in the ridge of the center of the forehead, Andrew Robinson's Elim Garak also has a blue coloration in a few scenes of "The Way of the Warrior". It has not been established whether, in-universe, the females' blue coloration was meant to be a natural gender difference or some kind of makeup.

Another example of how DS9 departed from the usual appearances of Cardassians was the atypical physique of Legate Parn in "The Maquis, Part II". "We were afraid that the Cardassians were all becoming too alike," reflected Ira Steven Behr. "We wanted […] just to show that they're not all alike." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 137; Star Trek: Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier, p. 200)

By DS9 Season 4, even though the show's makeup team was used to applying Cardassian prosthetics to performers, errors were still occasionally made. As an example, Michael Westmore remembered, "We had a bunch of Cardassians in last week, and somebody who was making up a young female Cardassian picked out an old man's forehead." (Star Trek Monthly issue 9, p. 47)

By the end of the series, the Cardassians had begun to seem increasingly different from one another. "They have taken on their own individual look by the individual makeup artist who actually does [the characters]," Michael Westmore explained. "Each makeup artist does a little scallop pattern on the back, or adds shading in a certain way." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 123, p. 29)

Michael Westmore named the Cardassians as one of his favorites of all the Star Trek alien races he worked on, though he also thought they still left room for improvement. "I think out of all the characters, the ones I enjoyed the most were the Cardassians," he remarked. "We could have made them even better for a feature film, but for a TV show the design was fine. We didn't have the time or the need to redesign them to maybe make them better by adding little multi-layers of scales down the shoulders, and do some feature refining." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 103, pp. 15-16)

Michael Piller thought the Cardassians "had a good look" when they were first introduced. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 76) Casey Biggs agreed, "It's great makeup. It's very strong, pretty black and white." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 77) David Livingston thought likewise, feeling ecstatically pleased with the Cardassian makeup. "I thought that was the best makeup for an alien race that Michael [Westmore] had done," he enthused. "They looked so realistic and unique and powerful." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 214) Owing to the fact the Cardassian make-up was much more expensive than Bajoran make-up, though, Livingston thought it fortunate that Rick Berman and Michael Piller opted to have them leave space station DS9 and the Bajorans to remain there, rather than vice versa. (The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, p. 5)


Originally, the Cardassians were intended to appear only once, as an alien of the week. ("Who are the Cardassians?", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, No. 4) Making the Cardassians Human-like was central to their conception. "The Wounded" Director Chip Chalmers explained, "We introduced a new enemy that's finally able to speak on the level of Picard. They're not grunting, they're not giggling, they're not mutes or all-knowing entities. Here are the Cardassians who also graduated first in their class and they're able to carry on highly intelligent conversations with Picard, but they're sinister as hell. It was fun to introduce a whole new alien race." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 214) However, some members of the production staff weren't entirely satisfied with the introduction of the species. "The Cardassians the first time we met them were very undefined […] It took two or three years before I really felt good about them," professed Michael Piller. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 76) Robert Hewitt Wolfe agreed, "I think they started out as very much stock heavy bad guys." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 107) Marc Alaimo phrased it another way; "When they came on the scene, they were one-dimensional, in that they were aggressive and militaristic, and mean, and ugly." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 44)

Although the earliest script for "Ensign Ro" featured the Romulans as conquerors of Bajor, the aggressors were later changed to the Cardassians, thus originating the Cardassian occupation of Bajor and the idea of using the Cardassians more than once. It was Rick Berman who, remembering the Cardassians from "The Wounded", substituted them for the Romulans. ("Who are the Cardassians?", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, No. 4)

Although the Cardassians were introduced in "The Wounded" and further developed in "Ensign Ro", neither the advent of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine nor the Cardassian's involvement in that series was envisioned at that time. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, No. 0) The Cardassians weren't even initially announced as being the creators of space station Deep Space 9. "We didn't have any solid information on who built the space station in the early weeks," Rick Sternbach explained. (Deep Space Nine: A Bold Beginning, DS9 Season 1 DVD special features)

Developing the Cardassians was what initially attracted Star Trek: Deep Space Nine creators Rick Berman and Michael Piller to the prospect of making the species a regular adversary on the series. "We decided to try to further develop the Cardassians, which will be a continuing process," Berman declared. Having the Cardassians sabotage space station DS9 while leaving it, as part of their "scorched earth" routine, came about as a way to differentiate the show from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a notion invented by Piller and inspired by recent riots in Los Angeles while he was scripting DS9 pilot "Emissary". (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, paperback ed., pp. 155 & 157) Berman summarized, "Michael and I […] brought back this imperial race, the Cardassians, who abandon the space station and Bajor, the planet they were mining." (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 2, p. 7)

The Cardassians were significantly altered with the introduction of Dukat. Regarding how the species was changed by the advent of that character, Marc Alaimo said, "These creatures, whatever they are, are not one-dimensional creatures. They believe in loyalty, they believe in honor." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 44)

The creative team continued to imagine how the Cardassians might think while designing such relevant production aspects as uniforms for the species as well as DS9. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 23, No. 6, pp. 28, 29 & 36) Production Designer Herman Zimmerman recalled, "We decided the Cardassians like structure and they'd like to see the structure on the outside instead of hiding it inside the walls […] The Cardassians are a militaristic people and they prefer to command from a high point, as any general would, so we placed the [DS9] commander's office on the upper level of the operations center to give him a vantage point." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 23, No. 6, pp. 28 & 29) Other notions concerning the Cardassian design ethic, also thought up while the station was being designed, included the species supposedly preferring dark colors, things in sets of threes, and a sense of symmetry. According to the design team, the Cardassians additionally favored trapezoids instead of squares, and ovals instead of circles. (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 3, p. 36; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 56) Illustrator Ricardo F. Delgado noted, "[Set designers] Nathan Crowley and Joe Hodges set the standard for Cardassian architecture, which is a wonderful mixture of pseudo-fascist and crustacean." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 23, No. 6, p. 36) Regarding a supposed Cardassian mentality related to the Promenade, Michael Piller stated, "We're speculating that, when the Cardassians were here, they sold concessions to the highest bidder." ("Deep Space Nine: A Bold Beginning", DS9 Season 1 DVD special features)

From DS9: "Duet" onwards, Cardassians were repeatedly given what the DS9 writers referred to as "Cardassian monologues." Ira Steven Behr noted, "Cardassians love to speak." He went on to list members of the species which this was true of, including Garak, Enabran Tain, Dukat and Aamin Marritza. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 65) Behr also said, "Let's face it, the Cardassian monologue is great and Cardassians like to talk. They're also great fun to write." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 73) It was Behr himself who devised long Cardassian monologues as a defining aspect of the species. "Ira characterizes the race as a bunch of people who talk like the people in Russian novels," observed Robert Hewitt Wolfe. "They talk a lot." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 275)

In its first three seasons, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featured sympathetic Cardassians, like guilt-ridden Aamin Maritza, pacifist professor Natima Lang, and loving fathers such as Kotan Pa'Dar and Tekeny Ghemor. "When you spend as much time around a culture as we've spent around the Cardassians," explained Robert Hewitt Wolfe, "you get to realize that there is more to it than just these 'bad people.' It was a natural progression. We didn't sit down and say, 'This year, let's humanize the Cardassians.' I think that you come up with a nice story that's about people during a war and after a war, the guilt of what it feels like to have taken part in something terrible like the occupation of Bajor. And you're able to feel a little more sympathy for them than you might have before you knew the story." (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, paperback ed., p. 198) Furthermore, the creation of sympathetic Cardassian women in DS9 (characters such as, in addition to Natima Lang, Gilora Rejal and Ulani Belor in season three's "Destiny") was not so much an effort to soften the Cardassians as it was a way of demonstrating there were, as phrased by Wolfe, "different kinds of Cardassians." He also observed a similarity between the species, when viewed from such a three-dimensional perspective, and Soviets of the Cold War era. From the viewpoint of the United States, he remarked, "At the height of the cold war with the Soviet Union, there were sympathetic scientists, people we could work with and talk to." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 211)

The DS9 writing staff hoped to further explore the Cardassian mentalities and establish the species as more varied in the second season of the series. Said Robert Hewitt Wolfe, "I think Deep Space Nine will really explore the Cardassians in the future in the way The Next Generation did the Klingons." Ira Steven Behr added, "Not every Cardassian is the same […] I'd like the Cardassians to be a little more specific than the Romulans […] I think we can show Cardassia is not a planet of goose-stepping males." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, Nos. 3/4, p. 108)

Relations between Garak and Dukat were purposely developed in DS9: "Cardassians", a second season offering whose title seemed to indicate the installment would be a harsh show about a species which had been, up til then, depicted quite negatively. "It seemed perfect to establish a link between these two Cardassians," noted Ira Steven Behr. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 90 & 91)

Although he was instrumental in originating the role of the Cardassians, Marc Alaimo was somewhat unsure how the writers wanted them to be played. Midway through the second season of DS9, Alaimo admitted, "I [initially] had no idea of the characteristics of this particular type of creature […] I've never been able to sit down with the writers and talk about the race's qualities […] They're known for their viciousness and aggressiveness, but despite that, there must be some of them who are reasonable and logical." Furthermore, Alaimo felt the species hearkened back to roles in classical theater. "The Cardassians speak well and are articulate," he observed, "and they need to be played with a certain classical sense of importance." (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 6, pp. 49-51) At about the same time, Alaimo remarked, "The Cardassians are incredibly intelligent and intuitive […] Some I have seen […] are the one-dimensional idiots who are evil and screaming and yelling and want to eat people alive." Alaimo additionally observed that "the Cardassian philosophy" was to fight ceaselessly until victory had been achieved. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 73)

When Ira Steven Behr wrote a line of dialogue pertaining to the Cardassian judicial system in the script for "The Maquis, Part II", he set the ground rules of the Cardassian legal system in stone. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 149) The line thereafter inspired Michael Piller into realizing a whole episode, the later-penned "Tribunal", could be written about the same subject. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 75)

Upon creating a matte painting to represent Cardassia in "Tribunal", Robert Stromberg proceeded from the notion that Cardassians do not like light. Several people from Illusion Arts, Inc., a company Stromberg was also part of, briefly portrayed Cardassians for the cityscape, populating the view. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 25/26, No. 6/1, p. 72)

Ira Behr was ultimately happy with how the Cardassians are portrayed in DS9 Season 2. At the end of that season, he summarized, "We made the Cardassians a lot more interesting […] We could spin off the Cardassians they are so damn good." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 25/26, No. 6/1, p. 98)

In the original version of the largely Bajoran story "Destiny" in season three of Deep Space Nine, the Cardassians didn't play a large part, if indeed referenced at all. "Since it was following 'Life Support', we could make the Cardassians integral to it," noted Ronald D. Moore. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 92)

Editor Robert Lederman similarly hit upon a notion involving the Cardassians while he was editing third season DS9 outing "Second Skin". "As I was sitting there working on [a scene in which Garak shoots Obsidian Order member Entek] […] I thought, 'The Cardassians can't just let him live in exile without any problems,'" recalled Lederman. He and writing partner David R. Long thereafter came up with a story concerning the Cardassians' retaliation against Garak, which became the episode "Improbable Cause", the first installment of a third season two-parter. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 225) Ira Behr thought that, in "Improbable Cause" and sequel episode "The Die is Cast", the inclusion of Cardassians, with their penchant for verbiage, made that pair of episodes "a little talky." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 96)

By the time of DS9 Season 4, the Cardassians were no longer portrayed as the biggest antagonist on the show, with the Dominion and the Klingons becoming more threatening. This was because revealing too much about the Cardassians "makes it very hard to keep them as a viable threat," commented Ira Steven Behr. "Ultimately," he said, "we may have made them too multidimensional for the confines of an hour-long television show […] We've enabled the audience to empathize with the Cardassians, perhaps a bit too much […] After three years of playing around with the Cardassians, we had made them so complicated, you just can't hate them anymore." (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, paperback ed., pp. 198 & 202) Offering a different perspective, Robert Wolfe stated, "I think we've really come to understand the Cardassians a lot better than anybody expected us to. I think they […] have evolved into people. But they can still do some pretty rotten things, which is good too." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 107)

The fourth season outing "Indiscretion" presents another demonstration that the Cardassians were not as evil as first portrayed, a traditional Star Trek way of depicting alien species and exemplified in how the episode represents Dukat. (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, paperback ed., p. 203) The Cardassian passion for speaking was referenced in "Indiscretion" with an in-joke, Kira Nerys criticizing Dukat for having this quality. For the same episode, Robert Wolfe used historical reference to base the Cardassians on, modeling them on the Soviets during the era after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the communist Soviet Union could no longer maintain its rulership following the collapse of the KGB. Unlike with the Soviets, though, the DS9 writers intended for the change to the Cardassians – ruled by a "new civilian government" – to be only temporary. "We always planned to go back," Wolfe emphasized. "We always planned to make them go military again." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 275 & 274)

Subsequent fourth season episode "Return to Grace" focused on the Cardassian perspective of them waging conflict against the Klingons. The writing staff had long-standing aspirations to create an installment about the Cardassians fighting a war that, despite having nothing to do with the characters aboard DS9, could involve Kira Nerys. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 114) The story for "Return to Grace", as pitched by DS9 Editor Tom Benko, therefore used the Cardassians as metaphors for the Nazis after World War II, being forced to work with Kira, who represented the Jews in the aftermath of the war. The Cardassians being referred to dismissively by Dukat was based on the American Indians being referred to dismissively by Sitting Bull. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 307 & 308) When Casey Biggs started playing Damar, in "Return to Grace", he knew nothing about Cardassians, so Marc Alaimo tried, as best he could, to educate Biggs about the species. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 77)

At the end of DS9 Season 4, the Cardassians seem less of a threat than when the series began, Robert Hewitt Wolfe remarking, "The Cardassians are on the way to being our buddies." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 102)

In DS9 Season 5, the show's writers wanted to return to exploring the Cardassians, ending their fourth season focus on the Klingons. At the start of the season, the writers had not yet had the idea of the Cardassians allying themselves with the Dominion. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 357) Casey Biggs noted, "When the Klingons became good guys, they needed some bad guys." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 77)

Cardassians were originally to have appeared in fifth season DS9 outing "Nor the Battle to the Strong", as a medical center in the episode was initially planned to be a Cardassian hospital. "[They] were primarily females, since we've established that Cardassian women are the scientists and the doctors," explained René Echevarria, who wrote the episode's teleplay. Since the creators of DS9 had learned from season five opener "Apocalypse Rising" that having so many extras in alien makeup could prove prohibitively expensive, the Cardassians were omitted from the show, the hospital becoming a makeshift Federation medical facility on planet Ajilon Prime. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 379-380)

Making the Cardassians more villainous made sense to Marc Alaimo, since he knew that the writers needed conflict for the continuing storyline of the series and that the Federation had allied themselves with the Klingons. ("Cold Warrior?", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, No. 12) Robert Wolfe once remarked that, prior to joining the Dominion in fifth season outing "By Inferno's Light", the Cardassians "were getting their asses kicked by everyone's forces" and that that losing scenario motivated the Cardassians to collaborate with the Dominion, much as some Germans were historically persuaded to support Hitler because they perceived it as a method of escaping Germany's ruinous situation. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 427) Weyoun actor Jeffrey Combs felt sure (at the end of the fifth season) that the Cardassians hoped to at least obtain what they wanted out of the alliance and then to rid themselves of the Dominion at a later point. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 61)

In "Empok Nor", after two Cardassians are killed by Garak, their corpses were initially planned, by the DS9 production team, to hang from the top of the Promenade, along with the bodies of several deceased Starfleet officers. Ultimately, the Cardassians weren't hung up, although the Starfleet officers were. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 462)

At the end of the fifth season, Marc Alaimo suspected the relationship between Dukat and Garak would be addressed further. "Their history, there's something there," Alaimo observed. "Garak and [Dukat] […] will probably face off at some point." If so, Alaimo was uncertain as to who would win. Garak actor Andrew Robinson was entirely unsure if such a fight would be written into the series. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, pp. 46 & 58)

At the start of DS9 Season 6, Ron Moore couldn't foresee a time when the Cardassians wouldn't be allied with the Dominion. However, he stated, "The Cardies definitely still have their eyes on Bajor and this may cause tension in the relationship with their new buddies, the Dominion." (AOL chat, 1997)

The DS9 writing staff found they kept running out of Cardassian characters who were plain evil. This became especially problematic by the time the writers reached a series-ending multipart story arc, in the show's seventh and final season. "Dukat and Damar had become so multidimensional," Ira Behr reckoned. He believed that, by being callously disregarded and underestimated by the Founders but then rising against them in conflict, the Cardassians were similar to other opponents who were historically underestimated, such as the Viet Cong and the Native Americans tribes that fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Andrew Robinson was disappointed that the arc didn't include more tension between his own character of Garak and Damar, motivated by Damar's murder of Tora Ziyal. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 697, 709 & 699)

The writers felt compelled to comment on the near annihilation of Cardassian civilization in the script for DS9 series finalé "What You Leave Behind". They chose to present perspectives from Human, Klingon and Bajoran viewpoints on the hundreds of millions of Cardassian deaths. Noted Martok actor J.G. Hertzler, "The fact is, the Cardassians brought it upon themselves." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 709)

Una McCormack commented, "I do like my Cardassians! Initially, I was pretty shocked by the destruction on Cardassia at the end of the Dominion War. I kept thinking about how many people had died and what that would mean for a civilization, particularly when the person who had been built up to be its redeemer – Damar – gets summarily killed off in the blink of an eye." [2]

By the time "What You Leave Behind" was shot, Marc Alaimo and Casey Biggs were the two most prominent performers of Cardassians. The latter stated, "Cardassians have come and gone, but I think Marc and I are pretty much the ones that have gone the longest." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 77 C

Ira Behr once described the Cardassians as "the most arrogant guys" in the galaxy. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 703)

Andrew Robinson came to the opinion that Cardassians are very different from Humans. "The Cardassians have a whole different ethos," observed the performer. "There's a whole different attitude about life, and the value of life." (Hidden File 09, DS9 Season 2 DVD special features)

Andrew Robinson has likened the Cardassian brain to the theorized reptilian portion of the Human brain which, in Robinson's words, "knows what boundaries are … [and] how to take care of itself so that the species survives." [3](X) Consequently, Cardassian philosophy places order above both freedom and equality, resulting in an Orwellian society where the good of the state is placed above that of the individual. The Cardassians, by and large, are willing to sacrifice freedom and equality for order. Noted Robinson, "They have a very organized society. I always liken it to, you know, the reptilian brain dominance, but in terms of caring about whether people live or die, they go by a very strict code of justice. If it's time for you to die, you die, if you've broken the law, you've broken the law, you must suffer the consequences. Mercy is not a big item in their world." (Hidden File 09, DS9 Season 2 DVD special features)

Orderliness wasn't the only aspect of Cardassians that Andrew Robinson attributed to them having a reptilian mental complex. "I think of them as really working from the reptilian part of their brain," he admitted. "They're very suspicious when anyone tries to interfere or pry or get inside their very carefully constructed perimeters." Robinson also hypothesized that the reptilian portion of the Cardassian brain was responsible for their "need to defend and be loyal to your own territory." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 607 & 608)

There are numerous similarities between Cardassians and reptiles. For example, while their skin is closer to that of Humans than reptiles, their neck ridges bear a resemblance to scales. Additionally, they prefer relatively dark rooms, enjoy the heat, are intolerant to cold (reptiles are cold-blooded), and are frequently portrayed as aggressors, an attribute often associated with reptiles.

Regarding parallels between the Cardassians and real-world cultures, Ronald D. Moore commented, "Depending on the episode […] the Cardassians could be Germans, or Russians or several other examples […] These parallels do enter our discussions and sometimes are more overt than others […] Blending the experiences of many Earth peoples and races into our storytelling allows us to comment on these subjects without advocating a particular political point of view, while at the same time allowing us to view the topics in a different light without the baggage of contemporary politics." (AOL chat, 1997) Director Winrich Kolbe stated about the Cardassians, "They're the Prussians of the universe, always 'kill, kill, kill.'" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 22) On the other hand, episodes such as DS9: "Duet" and "Return to Grace" used the Cardassians as metaphors for the Nazis (with the Bajorans representing Jews). (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 307) Providing yet another viewpoint, the Cardassians were once likened, by writer Jeanne M. Dillard, to American Indians. The species was imagined in this way as part of a Western anology in Dillard's official reference book Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before (paperback ed., p. 156).


The silhouette of the Cardassian exoskeleton became a hallmark of Cardassian design. It ended up being reflected in DS9's docking pylons, the support pylons in the station's Promenade, and even the Cardassian wall button panels. (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, paperback ed., p. 168)

In DS9: "Battle Lines", Cardassians were initially to have been one side fighting in what had been a very long war, opposing the Humans. However, the battling forces were thereafter changed to the Ennis and Nol-Ennis. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 44)

According to Cinefantastique (Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 46), Garak and Dukat were the two "beloved Cardassian[s] in the fan world." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 46) Marc Alaimo and Casey Biggs both had passionate Star Trek fan clubs. The popularity of Cardassians among fans of Star Trek surprised Biggs. "They are great characters […] Women find them sexy, too," Biggs laughed. "It's unbelievable to me." The Cardassian fans were upset by Damar killing Ziyal. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, pp. 77 & 78) One fan of the Cardassians was comics writer Mike Johnson, who regarded them as "One of my favorite all-time Trek alien designs. Hopefully not the species we make first contact with in our reality." ("Top 50 Alien Species!", Star Trek: Ongoing issue #50, "Live Evil, Part 1")

Nana Visitor speculated that "many Cardassians" were presumably tricked and charmed, from time to time, by Kira Nerys acting seductively, when she was a terrorist during the Occupation. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 665)

An extra script page from ENT: "Observer Effect", written by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens for dialogue to be performed but deliberately not heard on-screen, referred to the Cardassians and compared their violence to how violent Humans were and had been. ("Observer Effect" audio commentary, ENT Season 4 Blu-ray special features)


According to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Millennium trilogy, the tear-shaped ridge in the center of Cardassians' foreheads is actually the species' equivalent of a belly button, although Cardassian myth says it is where the gods planted their mark to show the Cardassians had achieved true wisdom. In the alternate timeline of the same book series, the Cardassians were all but extinct. When Weyoun took a fleet of Dominion warships to see if the second Bajoran wormhole would lead to the Gamma Quadrant (the original Bajoran wormhole would not open), he returned with a fleet of Grigari warships, as well as claiming that the Pah-wraiths had made him their Kai. Weyoun took his fleet to Cardassia Prime to request of the Female Changeling and Damar that the Dominion join the Grigari. When they refused, the Grigari fleet laid waste to the entire Cardassian Union. By the time they were done, less than a million Cardassians were left in the Alpha Quadrant, the survivors driven insane, or leading a life of piracy.

In the Pocket DS9 novel Fearful Symmetry, Macet grew a beard so that he would not resemble Dukat quite so closely. The book, as well as other stories, states that the two characters were cousins, both of them having been played by Marc Alaimo in their canonical appearances.

By the time of the miniseries Star Trek: The Fall, the reconstruction of Cardassia Prime had been mostly completed, although the assassination of the Castellan of the Cardassian Union and the Federation President nearly compromises the alliance between the two powers until an investigation revealed that the two leaders were killed by the True Way. Once the crisis is over, Garak is chosen as the new Castellan due to his existing ties to the Federation and interest in exploring the future of their alliance.

After appearing in a number of roles in Star Trek Online, Cardassians were finally made available as a playable species in the "Victory is Life" expansion released in June 2018, purchasable from the in-game store. They are able to serve in either Starfleet or the Klingon Defense Force.

External links[]

This is a featured article. At the time it was featured (July 2007), it was considered one of the best examples of the Memory Alpha community's work. This article was featured more than five years ago though, and its status should be reviewed. You can use the links below to see how the article has changed since it was last featured.
Featured revision (641981)Diff to currentBlurb