Gimme That Star Trek Ep.26: Cardassian Spotlight

From plain, simple tailors to scuzzy Guls, the Cardassians are one of Star Trek's most intriguing and well-developed races. Now Siskoid welcomes Radio vs. the Martians' Mike Gillis into the fold to draw a full portrait of this complex culture. Who are they? What do they mean in the broader Star Trek context? And how did they evolve over time?

Listen to Episode 26 below!

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"Star Trek Theme" by Alexander Courage, with the Irredeemable Shagg on vocals. End theme: "Deep Space Nine Theme" by Dennis McCarthy.

Bonus clips from: Star Trek's Deep Space Nine ("What You Leave Behind", "Tacking Into the Wind", "The Way of the Warrior", and "Sacrifice of Angels"), starring Andrew Robinson, Siddig el Fadil, Nina Visitor, Armin Shimerman, and Marc Alaimo.

And thanks for leaving a comment!

24 responses to “Gimme That Star Trek Ep.26: Cardassian Spotlight

  1. Great , thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion, gentlemen. I’m not up on my DS9 as I should be. It’s on my list of things to binge, as it aired while I was in college, and my watching was sporadic. Andrew Robinson is a hugely underrated actor, so I’m glad he gets some love from Trek fans. He was also in the first Hellraiser, which is what his IMDB profile immediately points to.

    Speaking of great actors who are famous for Trek roles, I was watching Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy last week, and I had forgotten Michael Ansara was in the film as a thug who ends up disguised as the REAL Mummy, as does Bud Abbott. Of course Ansara would go on to play my favorite TOS Klingon Kang in “Day of the Dove” and also showed up on DS9 in the role. Oh, and he was the voice of Mr. Freeze on BTAS of course! But yeah, another great actor, wasted on “jobbing” roles for much of his career, unfortunately.


  2. Another great episode, Siskoid. DS9 guaranteed that everyone was layered. It was thought-provoking and remains one of the best series of all time!

    I’m reminded of the “Defiant” episode of DS9. It featured a scene where Sisko and Gukat discussed the burdens of leadership and fatherhood. Really served to – forgive the racism – ‘humanize’ Gukat. All his son wanted to do was go to an amusement park, as Dukat promised, but then this damned Maquis stole a Federation ship…

  3. Two more early great Cardassian episodes that didn’t get specifically called out: The Implant, which starts Garak’s arc, and Civil Defense, where the metaphor of Cardassian presence-even-when-absent on DS9 turns concrete…

  4. Interesting discussion, gentlemen (and it’s always nice to hear Mike Gillis outside of his usual RvtM and Podcasta stomping grounds).
    Anyway, while DS9 isn’t my favorite of the Trek follow-up series, I still enjoyed it. And the exploration of the Cardassians, and also the Bajorans, was a very interesting part of it.
    The Cardassians in particular became a really well-fleshed out ‘adversarial’ species, thanks to esp. to actors like Alaimo, David Warner and, yes, the oft-underappreciated Andrew Robinson. I have to add, though, that personally, Damar became one of my favorite Cardassians, precisely for some of the reasons you touched on in the show: he was less duplicitous than the other Cardassian heavies, a more intellectually limited, by-the-book soldier and official, but then he ultimately overcame his own limitations and redeemed himself to a certain degree.

    1. Oh, yeah. I just have to add: I remember reading somewhere years ago about the Romulans initially being proposed as the subjugators of the Bajorans, consequently making them the big-bads in DS9. I have to say, that gave me a little pang of regret, as I would have loved that kind of deep-dive into Romulan politics and culture.

      1. The Romulans are the “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” of Star Trek.

        They were *almost* the villains of “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”, which is why the villains have a cloaked Bird of Prey, but Nimoy figured the Klingons were more iconic.

        They were *almost* the villains of the Bajoran occupation.

        They were *almost* a big deal on TNG, but it never felt like the writers wanted to pull the trigger on them. They seemed content to build up some tension with them once in a while. A Romulan Warbird would uncloak near the Enterprise, and there would be a tense scene where Picard had to avoid outright combat with them. And very little of a machinations of the Tal Shiar ever seemed to lead to much, in the way of an ongoing story.

        Even on Deep Space Nine, there was the brief introduction of a Romulan officer onboard the Defiant to operate the cloaking device and maintain their treaty with the Federation, but this, too, is dropped.

        And even when they *are* the villains, there’s a caveat. Tom Hardy’s Shinzon and the Remans pretty much steal the movie away from the Romulans in “Nemesis” and they’re an afterthought even when their Star Empire gets some attention.

        It seems the closest that we have gotten to making the Romulans a big deal was Nero’s crew in the 2009 reboot movie, but even they’re a rogue crew of miners with future tech who are acting independently of their government.

        So who knows?

          1. I asked Robert H Wolfe on Twitter if there had been plans to add a Romulan cast member to the Defiant crew. He said they had discussed it but they’d already had a full compliment of characters. It would have been interesting though.

  5. Another example why I love this show. A thorough and insightful exploration of the most interesting alien race introduced in the TNG era. Calling the entire series of DS9 a story arc for the Cardassians was excellent. Well done.

    Only tangentially related is the questions I’ve had about how the Federation technology could interact with the Cardassians’ in DS9. It’s not just an electrical engineering question, but a programming one as well. Do their computers even use binary? How can their machine languages possibly match? The kind of interoperability and hacking we have today is due to consistent hardware and software standards. Why would any alien culture have the same standards as the Federations’? Just a fun mental exercise.

    1. Well they do have tech issues interfacing with Cardasian technology all through the show to varying lengths. However Cardassian tech would have been known by the federation for at least 22 years by the time of DS9.

      The show stars in 2369 and the beginning of the Cardasian wars was 2347

    2. I also remember an episode where to fix the station, they had to send a salvage crew to Terok Nor’s abandoned sister station to get replacement parts since the Federation equivalents wouldn’t work.

  6. This was a really great episode as usual! This podcast has really rekindled my love of DS9, which I agree is the best of the Star Trek shows. Out of nostalgia I would still call TOS my favorite because I could always watch any episode of it (even Spock’s Brain) and be happy because I grew up on it but in my heart I believe DS9 was the high point of Trek. And while I still consider the Klingons my favorite aliens due to TOS and TNG, the Cardassians come in a close second. And again, putting aside nostalgia, I do think they were far and away the most developed alien “enemy” race thanks to DS9. So I really loved seeing them get a focus on this show, and it inspired me to go back and rewatch the later seasons of DS9.

  7. There are two ways that the Cardassians always made me think of the Spanish conquistadors.
    First and most basic look wise for me the Cardassians seem to have a conquistador feel. The cardassian armour reminds me of the conquistadors breastplate and the neck even has that somewhat frill look of the ruff.
    But after that some of the History. The independent Spanish kingdoms through military and political means were establishing themselves on the Iberian peninsula. As a way of expanding there influence and power they set out to concur, or trade with, and convert others. Like the Cardasians in there Empire. In South America they were readily able to do this because of their superior weapons in comparison to the Natives already there (Cardasians vs Bajorians) . And, while, their main reason for being in the Americas was resource extraction they did try and claim it was for the betterment of the people there ( by bringing Christianity to them) and in Spain its self this is the time of the Inquisition (Obsidian order parallels .

    Dukat has some major tangential story arcs that seem to mirror Hernán Cortés. Cortés came from minor nobility and worked his way up. He had an illegitimate child with the people he was governing, he would fought his own people but because he used this for further power for Spain he somewhat rewarded for his actions,

    And, The major international coin used by Spain the Ducat does sound very similar and is only different by one letter. And while when people think of Spanish money they tend to think of the doubloon but this just basically means two ducat so…

    Now this is just me and I have no idea what the writers were thinking.

    1. You make excellent points, I just don’t remember reading any interview where the writers, designers, etc. mention the Conquistadors as an influence. But it’s definitely THERE.

  8. The Klingons are more iconic, but also more one-note. Give me the spoonheads. DS9 is still my favorite Trek, although what I’ve seen of Discovery really blew me away.

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