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Cardassian
Damar, 2375.jpg
Damar, a Cardassian male (2375)
NatimaLang.jpg
Natima Lang, a Cardassian female (2370)

"It's not a good idea to stay too long on a Cardassian border without making your intentions known."

- Captain Jean-Luc Picard

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 their ruthlessness, the Cardassians became one of the greatest enemies of the United Federation of Planets and Klingon Empire when they joined the Dominion in 2373. Their xenophobic attitude towards other species was well established throughout the quadrant after the Setlik III massacre during the Cardassian War, as well as when their atrocities during the Occupation of Bajor were revealed after their withdrawal in 2369.

Physiology

Cardassians prefer a darker, hotter, and more humid environment than Humans. (DS9: "For the Cause") Like other humanoids, their evolution was 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. Some Cardassians had another inverted tear-shaped ridge feature in the center of their chests (such as Natima Lang), while others were missing this trait (Rekelen).

On Cardassian females, the ridge in the center of the forehead 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. They had straight hair that varied in color from dark brown to the far more common jet black.

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. Furthermore, a Cardassian's hearing was not as acute as a Human's. (TNG: "The Wounded", "The Chase"; DS9: "Profit and Loss", "Cardassians", "Distant Voices")

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

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, and some even had the ability to resist a Vulcan mind meld. Medical conditions to which Cardassians were susceptible included the Rudellian plague, Coleibric hemorrhage, Kalla-Nohra Syndrome, Pottrik Syndrome, and Yarim Fel Syndrome. (DS9: "The Maquis, Part I")

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", and more)

Like many 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 the child was his. Furthermore, Gilora Rejal was willing to bear Miles O'Brien's children, convinced he wished to pursue a relationship with her. (DS9: "Destiny", "Indiscretion", "Covenant"; VOY: "Basics, Part I", "Basics, Part II")

Society and culture

Enabran tain, the wire

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 value advanced age as a sign of strength, power, and wisdom. In Cardassian culture, the 30th 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. The 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", and more) Organian scientists noted that Cardassians in the 22nd century showed concern for comrades afflicted with a fatal and contagious disease - but in the end, the Cardassians killed their infected crew members. (ENT: "Observer Effect")
Asha

Cardassian orphans left on Bajor after the Occupation

Cardassian culture valued family highly as shown in the Cardassian saying "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, whether family loyalty trumped loyalty to the state remains to be seen. 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. 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 various female ship commanders and political leaders have been observed, such as Gul Ocett and Archon Makbar.

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 of 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") This, however, was not seen in other courtings, including the relationship between Elim Garak and Tora Ziyal 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")

The Cardassian design ethic shows a preference for dark colors. Their architecture tends to have things in sets of three, and to have a sense of symmetry. Designs favor trapezoids instead of squares, and ovals instead of circles. (Herman Zimmerman - The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine #3)

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 accept 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 creations, they always built distinctive monoclonial links into their DNA. (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 stated that the Cardassians were honorable and formidable 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. They instructed many other worlds, including Bajor, in their archival methods. (DS9: "Cardassians") Cardassians were known for their punctuality. Cardassians valued cleanliness. (DS9: "Distant Voices", "Destiny", "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night")

They were similar to the Romulans in their xenophobic tendencies, and also shared the 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. Additionally, they were similar to the Ferengi in that they were known for paying their bills. During the Cardassian's 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", and more)

Education

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. It is because of these mind training programs that some Cardassians were able to resist a Vulcan mind meld. Cardassians were also trained during this time to have photographic memories. A typical view of how children should be raised was summed up in Dukat's statement "Education is power... joy is vulnerability," (DS9: "The Maquis, Part I") although children were also indulged with pets (TNG: "Chain of Command"), trips to Cardassian Amusement Parks, and other past times.

Religion

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 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") Cardassians did not believe in luck; rather that all outcomes are ultimately determined by the individual's strength or will. (DS9: "Destiny")

Modern Cardassians exhibited involved funeral practices. Funeral services were open to the entire Cardassian public, especially 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")

Philosophy

Cardassian Court TV

Cardassian trials are 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 verdict was always determined beforehand - guilty - 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". Consequently, 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. 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 them 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")

The Cardassians often viewed themselves as superior to other species and cultures. This belief was summed up by Dukat when he announced Cardassia's membership in the Dominion saying, "The Dominion recognizes us for what we are... the true leaders of the Alpha Quadrant." The Cardassians were particularly adamant that the Bajorans were a weak and inferior race. While stranded on a planet with Benjamin Sisko, Dukat explained how the Cardassians felt about the Bajorans saying, "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 smug, cruel, arrogant attitude attributed to most Cardassians was even enough to push the Ferengi Quark into helping Major Kira's resistance cell on 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 unearthing the burial vaults of their ancestors, which were filled with rare artifacts, they sold them to other species to pay for their war efforts as well as to feed the starving population on the 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 Bajoran's 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, and the utter devastation it created for Cardassia, 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 more Federation-style democracy was possible. (DS9: "What You Leave Behind") The Detapa Council however was elected, although it is unclear if that is by the general populace.

Citizenry and the State

Makbar

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 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. (DS9: "Tribunal", "The Die is Cast")

Military

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. Ordinarily the Cardassian military was a volunteer force, but during emergencies Cardassians could be drafted.

Organization

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 semi-autonomous "Orders" which were roughly similar to a numbered fleet in function. Each order seemed to recruit its own members and while no hierarchy existed some orders were more prestigious than others.

Tactics

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. During their attempt to take over Minos Korva, they 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 Cardassian Obsidian Order – the 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 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 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 devises. Almost every Cardassian lived in fear of the Order, as its constant surveillance led to the sudden eliminations of numerous "traitors." (DS9: "The Wire", "Defiant")

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. In fact, when Elim Garak attempted to contact some of his contacts 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", "Rocks and Shoals", "In the Pale Moonlight")

Government

Cardassian Union 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, transforming Cardassia into a 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")

The latter half of the century saw significant changes. A secret joint operation between the Obsidian Order and the Romulan 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 dissident movement grew and eventually succeeded in securing control of the government. A civilian uprising 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 had two years prior. Placed as the leader of the Cardassian Union and given the rank Legate, Dukat had control over the majority of Cardassian affairs. However, he was constrained to work under the regulations of the Dominion. During the first three months of the Dominion War, Dukat generally controlled the Cardassian and Dominion fleets, with Weyoun overseeing his decisions. Dukat was able to maintain an equal standing with Weyoun, though both were subject to the unquestionable authority of the Founders. (DS9: "The Die is Cast", "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light", "Call to Arms", "A Time to Stand", and more)

Galor class, weapons array, forward

Cardassian forces rebel against the Dominion

The death of his daughter caused Dukat to suffer a breakdown. Damar was given the Legate title and placed in command of the Cardassian people. Since the new leader lacked the self-confidence and leadership skills of his former mentor and predecessor, Weyoun was able to take more and 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 join the Dominion. Eventually, the Cardassians revolted, and Damar defected to the Cardassian Rebellion as its leader. Legate Broca was installed as a figurehead, 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 political future of Cardassia is left unknown at the end of the war, with the Dominion forced to surrender their governance over them. 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. This would suggest that Cardassia did not abandon its tendency towards an aggressive, militaristic police state by the 29th century. (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels", "Statistical Probabilities", "Strange Bedfellows", "The Changing Face of Evil", "What You Leave Behind"; VOY: "Future's End")

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")

Technology

In 2367, Cardassian technology was notably inferior to that of the Federation. A Cardassian warship was easily destroyed by the USS Phoenix, even when the warship had the ability to penetrate the Phoenix's shields. 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 detect the classification of Cardassian ships at long ranges, an ability that Cardassian sensors did not have. At this time, 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

Nevertheless, the Cardassians were formidable opponents. While their shield technology matched unfavorably against both Federation and Klingon weapons, Cardassian weapons were quite capable in 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. In battle, Cardassian ships had also been seen to employ missile weaponry like photon torpedoes. (TNG: "The Wounded", "Ensign Ro"; DS9: "Return to Grace")

The bulk of the Cardassian military consisted of Galor-class ships, which were outclassed by Galaxy- and Nebula-class Federation ships, though they had little trouble dealing with Miranda- or Excelsior-class vessels. Despite the Federation's superior vessels, the Federation-Cardassian War saw a prolonged stalemate between the two powers. Admiral Haden told Picard "the Federation is not prepared for a new sustained conflict" with the Cardassians, revealing that, despite the technological advantage the Federation had, the Cardassians were an even match for the interstellar organization. (TNG: "The Wounded"; DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels")

The end of the Federation-Cardassian conflict came in 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. However, the Cardassian military occupied much of their race's time and energy, in a way that seems to rival the Klingon obsession with war. It is likely that in the "big picture," 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.

During the Klingon-Cardassian War, the Klingons had 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")

Considering that the Cardassians are a militaristic society, it can be assumed that, despite their vessels' technological shortcomings, they are able to be formidable opponents in most engagements. This is probably why the Federation-Cardassian War proved to be a stalemate as opposed to an easy victory for the Federation, as well as why the Cardassians were able to cause a stalemate in the later conflict with the Klingons. This concept is reinforced in "Soldiers of the Empire", when a Klingon describes the tactics used by the Cardassians before striking. See above for more information.

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")

History

Main article: See Cardassian history

In its ancient history, before Cardassia became a military dictatorship, the Cardassian society was known as the Hebitians. 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 Cardassian 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
Cardassia in ruins

Cardassia Prime lies in ruins

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 collapse of the Obsidian Order 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")

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 the Dominion and Breen forces in orbit of the planet, which attempted to wipe out the Cardassian species entirely for their betrayal. Nearly 1 billion Cardassians were killed in a few short hours.(DS9: "A Time to Stand", "What You Leave Behind")

Appendices

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Background Information

Name

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

Macet, wearing a beard and early Cardassian uniform

Ocett

Gul Ocett, a female Cardassian

Cardassian make up

A Cardassian prosthetic gets created.

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 DS9 is smoother, and their uniforms changed entirely from a bulky, brown design to the familiar sleek, black one. The addition of the blue pigment to the females' "spoon" area was an attempt to differentiate them from their male counterparts, as there is little to distinguish one from the other when in uniform. An early attempt to remedy this can be seen in "The Chase", where a female Cardassian, Gul Ocett, appears with pigtails. Although only female Cardassians should have this blue coloration in the ridge of the center of the forehead, Andrew Robinson's Elim Garak had also a blue coloration in a few scenes of "The Way of the Warrior".

According to the Millennium series, this tear-shaped ridge is actually the Cardassian 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. It is unknown if this coloration is a natural gender difference or if it is some kind of makeup.

It is also worth noting that Macet (the first Cardassian seen on-screen) is the only Cardassian known to wear a beard. However, his facial hair appears to have been shaved, or simply does not grow, in portions of his face outside his lower cheek area. The potential for confusion may have influenced the decision not to give further Cardassians facial hair. (Unlike male Vulcans, who also generally shave facial hair, the Cardassians' mirror universe counterparts do not wear beards.)

In the Pocket DS9 novel Fearful Symmetry, Macet grew a beard so that he would not resemble an infamous relative quite so closely.
  • In terms of the "spoon" design on the forehead of Cardassians, Westmore says he was influenced by an abstract painting of a woman with a spoon in her forehead which he saw one night while out for dinner with his wife. (Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season One, DS9 Season 1 DVD special features)

Sociology

  • Andrew Robinson (Elim Garak) has likened the Cardassian brain to the 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." [X]wbm 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.
  • There were also 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 Bajor and Cardassia and real-world cultures, Ronald D. Moore commented: "Depending on the episode, you could also call Bajor Israel, or Iran, or even America and the Cardassians could be Germans, or Russians or several other examples. While these parallels do enter our discussions and sometimes are more overt than others, we don't really try to make Bajor a direct analogy to any specific contemporary country or people. 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)
  • Episodes such as DS9: "Duet" used the Cardassian occupation of Bajor as an allegory for Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages)
  • Andrew Robinson has also used Garak's relationship with Bashir as a platform from which to analyze Cardassian society; "Bashir is the best that humanity offers. Garak's curiosity is 'What is this compassion about? Why do you care about people like that?' The Cardassians have a whole different ethos, there's a whole different attitude about life, and the value of life. They have a very organized society. I always liken it to 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)

Apocrypha

In the alternate timeline of the Deep Space Nine Millennium book trilogy, 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 that to 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.

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