(written from a Production point of view)
Garak and Doctor Bashir investigate abandoned Cardassian war orphans on Bajor.
Doctor Bashir sits down at his usual table at the Replimat with Garak, and once again tries to figure out if Garak is a spy on the station with some thinly-veiled language about his clientele. Garak laughs it off, as he always does. When a young Cardassian boy, wearing a Bajoran earring and escorted by a Bajoran man, sits down near them, Garak cannot resist commenting on it. He goes over to the man and says what a nice boy he has. The boy bites Garak's hand, and shies away.
After making sure Garak's hand is not severely damaged, the doctor reports to ops, and tells the senior staff about the incident. Odo leaves immediately to investigate. Everyone is baffled; then Gul Dukat calls on subspace to ask about the issue. When Commander Benjamin Sisko skeptically asks Dukat how the news reached him so quickly, Dukat quickly changes the subject. He says the boy is one of the many war orphans left behind when the Cardassians left Bajor at the end of the occupation. He asks Sisko to investigate this incident, since he is trying to get the orphans returned to Cardassia. Sisko agrees.
First, Sisko talks to the father, Proka Migdal. He is initially agitated, thinking that Garak filed a complaint and they want to arrest him. When Sisko explains they just want to talk, he relaxes slightly. He wishes that the Cardassians would have paid as much attention to his boy then as they want to now. He insists that he adopted Rugal so that Rugal wouldn't have to suffer for the mistakes of others, and that Garak should have minded his own business. The doctor points out that the boy was terrified of Garak, and that he was probably raised to hate Cardassians. The father agrees that Rugal hates Cardassians, because the facts alone would – and should – make him hate Cardassians. He loves his son, just as if he were his own flesh and blood, and considers him a Bajoran.
Continuing the investigation, Doctor Bashir goes to Quark's and talks to Zolan, a trader who knows the family well. He is evasive, but when the doctor presses him, he explains that he had visited the family a few times when the father was looking for a new job. He tells Bashir that Rugal is being raised in a terrible way – being told every day that he is horrible for being a Cardassian – and that the parents are taking out their revenge against all Cardassians on the boy. When Sisko and Bashir confront Proka, he is outraged, saying he has done nothing. Sisko accepts his word, but has Rugal stay with the station's school teacher Keiko O'Brien for the time being.
Rugal says he didn't do anything wrong when his father brings him out. He is nervous, but finally goes with Sisko and Bashir when the father says they won't hurt him, because they're Human, not Cardassian. Before leaving, Sisko offers Proka a slight nod of his head.
Back in the infirmary, Doctor Bashir heals Garak's hand, and mentions Gul Dukat's attempt to resolve the war orphan predicament. Garak laughs and begins a line of questioning of his own. He plants in Bashir's mind that Dukat's story should not be believed: Dukat was in charge of the withdrawal from Bajor, therefore it is his fault that the children were left behind, so why is he trying to get them returned home?
Back in ops, Sisko is explaining to Dukat that it may not be very simple to send Rugal back to Cardassia. When the doctor arrives, Sisko asks Dukat to look up the boy's DNA to search for any surviving relatives, in case he does decide to send him home. Dukat agrees, then Doctor Bashir interrupts. He asks Dukat why he chose to leave the children behind. Dukat is not pleased, and explains that he was ordered to do it by the civilian leadership of Cardassia and had no choice. Bashir corrects him, and states that the civilian leaders do not have such detailed control of the military. When Dukat asks where he got this information, he admits it was from Garak. Dukat tells Bashir to tell Garak he had no choice, and cuts off the viewscreen.
Sisko asks why the doctor presumptuously interrupted his conversation with Dukat. Bashir explains that Garak thinks Dukat is lying – which he had to deduce, since Garak doesn't actually tell him anything. Sisko is not pleased, but lets him off with a rebuke.
Meanwhile, in the O'Briens' quarters, Chief O'Brien is initially uneasy around Rugal given his own previous experiences with Cardassians, and is aghast to learn that Keiko allowed Molly to play with him. Keiko warns him that she doesn't appreciate his prejudiced attitude. Later that night, Rugal is unable to sleep and O'Brien takes the chance to talk to the boy (who denies being abused) about his situation. O'Brien asks if it's hard on him being Cardassian. Rugal becomes defensive, saying he was born that way and it isn't his fault. The chief rephrases his question: "Isn't it hard to live with people who hate you?" Rugal answers that his parents hate other Cardassians, not him, and they have done nothing wrong to him. When he asks what Miles thinks of Cardassians, the chief explains that he can't generalize an opinion about an entire race – he has met Cardassians he didn't like, and Cardassians he did like. Rugal doesn't understand how the chief could feel that way, since the Cardassians killed ten million Bajorans, and wishes he were Bajoran.
In the middle of the night, Garak sneaks into Bashir's quarters and says that they need to go to Bajor now. The doctor wakes Sisko up and tries to explain, not very coherently, that he and Garak need a runabout right away to go to Bajor for something important, which Garak won't tell him. At the same time, Ops informs Sisko through the com that there is a communication for him from Gul Dukat. He informs Sisko that the boy's DNA has identified him as the son of a prominent politician, Kotan Pa'Dar, who is still alive – so the boy is actually not an orphan. Pa'Dar is heading to the station to reclaim him. Sisko repeats that it's not that simple; the boy wants to go back to Bajor, and he won't send him to Cardassia against his will. Pa'Dar will have to wait for the investigation to finish. Bashir points out that Garak's urgency, the trader who made the accusation of abuse vanishing, and the news about Pa'Dar can't be a coincidence, and Garak must know something. This convinces Sisko to give them the runabout.
Garak and Bashir head down to the Tozhat Resettlement Center, an orphanage for Cardassian children and ask about Rugal. Deela, the person in charge, says that since Rugal's adoption occurred eight years ago, when the Cardassians were still in charge, she probably doesn't have the information. Garak responds with a correction that Cardassians always keep meticulous records, and if they would let him use their computer, he might be able to find the file. When she says that the government hasn't had the resources yet to repair her computer system, he offers to fix it himself.
After repairing the computer, Garak downloads all the provincial records into a data clip. This again makes Bashir skeptical that Garak isn't a spy. The wind is taken out of Garak's sails, however, when he spots a couple of Cardassians watching him, with a young girl asking if he's there to take them back to Cardassia. Garak has to regretfully inform them that, no, he has not come to take them home. Garak informs Deela that the computer system is now fully functional before leaving.
When they are in orbit, Dr. Bashir gets tired of being strung along. He has the computer shut down the runabout's engines and demands that Garak give him some information or they will sit in space until they rot, he says. Garak explains that Dukat had to leave behind the children, as orphans have no status in Cardassian society. This isn't enough for Bashir, who demands some answers or they will sit there until they rot. With that ultimatum, Garak plays another round of twenty questions. He helps Bashir put it all together: Pa'Dar was one of the most notable civilian leaders at the time, and was involved in the decision to end the occupation and evacuate Bajor; Gul Dukat lost his job as prefect when that happened, so he hates Pa'Dar; and now, mysteriously, this boy turns up, and Dukat coincidentally finds out it is Pa'Dar's long lost son.
Pa'Dar shows up on the station, and Chief O'Brien talks to him before he sees Rugal. He explains that the boy hates everything he is, and probably won't react well to see him. Pa'Dar insists that he is the boy's father, so all of that will change. He explains that on his son's fourth birthday, a bomb blew up their house, and the father was convinced he was dead. Family is very important to Cardassians, he says, and he has come here despite the disgrace it will bring him (because there is no excuse for "losing" a member of his family) for that reason. When Rugal walks in, he is scared and stunned. He doesn't remember his father's face, and wants nothing to do with him, despite his father's pain and explanation of what happened. He says his father deserved his pain, and that his son is dead; he will never go back to Cardassia.
The next fight is between Pa'Dar and Proka. Pa'Dar demands that no Bajoran court rule on the custody hearing. After some loud words, Sisko suggests an arbitrator, and both suggest him. Pa'Dar accepts, and then Odo informs him that Gul Dukat has just arrived on the station.
- "Station log, stardate 47177.2. The arrival of Gul Dukat only powers my suspicion that we are being manipulated in some unseen manner. Dr. Bashir and Garak continue to search for anything of relevance in the adoption files. So far, they have found nothing, and the decision on custody for Rugal cannot wait much longer."
Dukat explains he has come to observe the hearing, because there is great interest in the case at high levels of the Cardassian government. He wants to see Rugal reunited with his father. He says the disagreements between him and Pa'Dar are not relevant; it is the children who are important. Since Sisko is trying to stall for time to give Bashir and Garak more time to search the files, he asks Pa'Dar to again revisit the events from eight years ago.
The doctor and Garak, however, aren't having any luck. Garak soon realizes it is because Dukat probably purged the file on Rugal, since there was something in it he didn't want anyone to see. So, he looks for – and finds within seconds – the person who created the file, Jomat Luson.
While Sisko asks Rugal what he remembers about his adoption and gets nothing, the doctor and Garak talk to Jomat. She remembers Rugal well, because his case was very unusual. Bajorans usually brought in the Cardassian children from the streets, but Rugal was turned in by a female Cardassian military officer who was attached to Terok Nor and, also unusually, knew his name. Garak helps the doctor put together the last pieces, and they go to the hearing.
With Sisko's permission, Bashir asks several questions. He gets O'Brien to reiterate the humiliation Pa'Dar is feeling, and when asked, Pa'Dar says it will be the end of his career when it is revealed to the people. Not only that, but the timing is very bad, considering there is an inquiry about to begin concerning the Cardassians' involvement in the recent attempted military coup on Bajor. It just so happens that Dukat is one of the key witnesses in that inquiry.
Dukat objects, and says it is irrelevant. Bashir quickly changes his line of questioning, and asks Dukat if he has ever been to the orphanage center where Rugal was adopted. He says no. That center, he explains, is located where Pa'Dar was living eight years ago. Rugal was brought in by a female Cardassian military officer, who seemed to know the child... perhaps she also knew that he wasn't an orphan. When Dukat says he knows nothing about that, Bashir points out that the officer was attached to Terok Nor, which was Deep Space 9's original designation under the Cardassians. The question for Dukat was: who was the commanding officer of Terok Nor eight years ago? Dukat walks out; he was that commanding officer.
- "Station log, stardate 47178.3. 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."
Pa'Dar thanks Sisko for salvaging his political career; Dukat will not make these events public, so this is a stalemate instead of a great loss. With a few words of encouragement from Miles O'Brien, Rugal goes with his father, hesitant, but willing. When the doctor asks Garak why he helped to defeat Dukat, he is evasive, as usual. If you can find all the details, he says, you can put it together yourself.
"Really, Doctor, must we always play this game? I am no more a spy than you are a..."
- - Garak and Bashir
"What exactly does [Garak] think is going on?"
"I'm not sure. He doesn't actually tell me what he really thinks... I sort of have to deduce it."
"Ah, 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 might be."
"I'm sorry, Commander. It just seemed an opportune–"
"Don't apologize; it's been the high point of my day. Don't do it again."
- - Sisko and Bashir
"I wish I wasn't Cardassian."
- - Rugal
"Come, Doctor. Get dressed. We need to be going."
- - Garak, to Bashir in his quarters in the middle of the night
"I assume this couldn't wait until morning."
"No, sir. I need to use a runabout."
"... I'm waiting."
"It's Garak, sir. He wants to go to Bajor."
"Bajor. For what?"
"He wouldn't tell me."
"Well, by all means. Will one runabout be enough?"
- - Sisko and Bashir
"I was in the underground."
"Really! Perhaps we have met!"
- - Deela and Garak
"I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences."
- - Garak
"Truth is in the eye of the beholder, Doctor. I never tell the truth because I don't believe there is such a thing. That is why I prefer the simple straight line simplicity of cutting cloth."
- - Garak
Cast and characters
- Marc Alaimo commented, "As an actor, when I got the script, I didn't realize Dukat was being set up to take the blame. But I played him as a man who was being set up. A man who was taking the dive because he had wanted to remove the children but his orders were to leave them." (The Deep Space Log Book: A First Season Companion, p. 64)
- Bashir actor Alexander Siddig pre-empted this episode by commenting, "The next time Bashir meets Garak, they'll get on better. He's not going to be so freaked out by the fact that he's a spy. He'll still be a little tentative about the fact he's a Cardassian however." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, No. 3/4, p. 91)
- On the episode, Andrew Robinson commented, "The best thing about that was the scene where [Garak] and Bashir go to Bajor and run into the orphans. We learned a little more about their culture, that children without parents have no status in Cardassian society, so they just abandoned them. The fact that Garak was faced with this, and realized that there is something very basically wrong about it, was great." (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 9)
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode.
- Director Cliff Bole defined this episode as being "about humanist values." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- A particular star chart, which had earlier been prominently shown in Remmick's office in TNG: "Conspiracy", is displayed in the background of the scene when Dukat, Sisko, and Pa'Dar are discussing the orphaned children.
- Ira Steven Behr commented, "I didn't have a lot of faith in this show at first. It was such an issue-oriented show that I thought it would oversimplify a complicated issue, but what got me into the show was when I realized this was not only a chance to bring back Garak but to do this whole weird little number with what is going on between him and Dukat. To me, that nailed the character and I knew after that happened we were going to see a lot of Andy Robinson, who's become quite popular on staff." (The Deep Space Log Book: A First Season Companion, p. 64)
- Mary Chieffo thought the episode interesting for depicting Rugal's plight. 
- The novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice depicts Rugal's life after "Cardassians". It begins just after the episode ends and continues for eight years.
- This is the first time since the pilot that Gul Dukat has visited Deep Space 9. Dukat had appeared in "Duet" and "The Homecoming" in the interim.
- This episode marks Garak's second appearance. He first appeared in "Past Prologue".
- This is the first reference to the Cardassian name of Deep Space 9, Terok Nor.
- This is also the first time hostility between Garak and Dukat is hinted at. The reason for this hostility was later explained to a certain degree in the third season episode "Civil Defense", where it's revealed that Dukat's father knew Garak and that Dukat tried to have Garak executed. Their antipathy towards each other also plays a part in the fourth season premiere "The Way of the Warrior". Of the intermittent use of the Dukat/Garak dichotomy, Ira Steven Behr stated, "It takes a while sometimes. You lay the pipe and then it'll take a year before you do another show where you can use it." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- This episode revisits O'Brien's prejudice towards Cardassians, first seen in TNG: "The Wounded".
- Garak's mechanical skills may be a hint to his past in the Obsidian Order, in a subtle nod to the John le Carré novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
- Remastered footage from the episode is featured in the documentary What We Left Behind.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 13, 23 May 1994.
- As part of the DS9 Season 2 DVD collection.
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- Rosalind Chao as Keiko O'Brien
- Andrew Robinson as Elim Garak
- Robert Mandan as Kotan Pa'Dar
- Terrence Evans as Proka Migdal
- Vidal Peterson as Rugal
- Dion Anderson as Zolan
- Marc Alaimo as "Gul Dukat"
- Sam Alejan as Starfleet sciences officer
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Kobheerian
- Brian Demonbreun as Starfleet sciences officer
- Kevin Grevioux as Starfleet security officer
- Charlie-Olisa Kaine as Kelly
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Mary Mascari as Bajoran woman
- Robin Morselli as Bajoran officer
- Randy Pflug as Jones
- Tammy Rodriguez as yellow-skinned alien dabo girl
- Unknown performers as
2358; 2362; 2368; ability; accusation; adopt; adoptive parent; adversary; age group; arbitrator; arrest; Bajor; Bajoran; Bajoran transport; Bajoran underground; Bonaventure; businessman; butcher; button; Cardassia; Cardassians; Cardassian law; Cardassian military; career; children; crime; dabo; Daedalus-class; data bank; Detapa Council; district; DNA; dozen; evidence; exarch; Federation; foster parent; Fredericks family; generation; heart; isolinear data subprocessor; Klingons; leader; leverage; Luna; medical report; memory bank; military officer; name; O'Brien, Michael; O'Brien, Molly; Occupation of Bajor; politician; political system; prefect; Proka's wife; Promenade; Prophets; Quark's; record keeper; replicator; Replimat; Rokassa juice; Rom; Rugal's mother; runabout; scum; sewing; sex; social volunteer; spanking; spy; swimming; Taal; Tarkalean tea; Terok Nor; Terok Nor female officer; Tozhat Province; Tozhat Resettlement Center; Zabu; Zabu stew
Library computer references
- Federation star chart ("The Explored Galaxy"): Aldebaran; Alfa 177; Alpha Carinae; Alpha Centauri; Alpha Majoris; Altair VI; Andor; Ariannus; Arret; Babel; Benecia; Berengaria VII; Beta Aurigae; Beta Geminorum; Beta Lyrae; Beta Niobe; Beta Portolan; Camus II; Canopus III; Capella; Daran V; Delta Vega; Deneb; Eminiar; Fabrina; First Federation; Gamma Canaris N; Gamma Trianguli; Holberg 917G; Ingraham B; Janus VI; Kling; Kzin; Lactra VII; Makus III; Marcos XII; Manark IV; Memory Alpha; Omega IV; Omega Cygni; Organia; Orion; Pallas 14; Phylos; Pollux IV; Psi 2000; Pyris VII; Regulus; Remus; Rigel; Romulan Neutral Zone; Romulus; Sarpeid; Sirius; Talos; Tau Ceti; Theta III; Tholian Assembly; Vulcan
- Language chart: Bajoran language; Cardassian language; Cardassian Union; English language; Ferengi Alliance; Ferengi language
- Evolution of Intelligent Life on Planet Denkir IV: Delphoidia; Delphoidia cochrani; Delphoidia cochrani obliquidens; Delphoidia cochrani tempus; Delphoidia moroboshi; Delphoidia moroboshi lum; Neopictis; Neopictis gourami; Neopictis spinotap; Neopictis spinotap cochrani; Oceosauroida; Oceosauroida mendo; Oceosauroida mendo shinobu; Oceosauroida mendo shutaro; Oniboshi lum; Oniboshi lum ran; Oniobshi benten; Squaluformus; Squaluformus vino; Squaluformus vino shiro; Vermacelli alfredo
- Table of Elements: accurentum; averyonium; babaloo; beium; bermanium; brownfieldium; bugsonian; californium; cavorite; chanockian; cheeseium; chico; chronister; cosmoium; craftium; curly; daffyduckium; dentium; dilithium; disneyium; drapanas; duckdodgers; estonianium; exitstageleft; fieldium; franconium; freedonia; Gamma series; groucho; grouchoian; harpo; hawkeye; hobbes; hydrogen; Hypersonic series; jamesium; johnsonium; jonesium; keiyurium; kryptonite; lithium; magnumium PI; mazdaium; meeseian; Mega series; monty; neskoromnium; Omega series; paramount; pillerium; poi; potatoeium; princessium; purseronite; quarkian; redskinium; rhubarbium; smutkoian; snarkium; sodium; stimsonium; stoogeian; stoogeium; sufferin'sucat; thomsonian; tngonian; Transonic series; World series; yacobian; zeppo
- Promenade Directory: Amphitheatre; Andorian Fast Food; Bajoran Consulate; Bajoran Customs Office; Banzai Institute; Berman's Dilithium Supply; Bowling Alley; Cargo Loading and Transfer; Cavor's Gravity Devices; Chief Engineer's Office; Curry's Martial Arts Training; Del Floria's Tailor Shop; Diet Smith Corporation; Diva Droid Corporation; Dock Master's Office; Federation Consulate; Fredrickson's Squid Vendor; Garak's Clothiers; Geological Assay Office; Gocke's House of Mirrors; Klingon Consulate; Import Protocol Office; Infirmary; Jacobson's Used Photons; Jupiter Mining Corporation; Lodging and Accommodation; Milliways; Pancho's Happy Bottom Riding Club; Quark's Bar; Replimat Cafe; Richarz' Accessories; Rush Dilithium Crystals; Schoolroom - Mrs. Keiko O'Brien; Sirius Cybernetics Corporation; Spacecraft Resupply; Spacely Sprockets; Station Operations; Subspace Communications; Tom Servo's Used Robots; Vince's Gym; Vulcan Embassy; Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems; Chez Zimmerman
- "Cardassians" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Cardassians" at Wikipedia
- "Cardassians" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Cardassians" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
- "Cardassians" script at twiztv.com
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