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|Official language(s)||Cardassian, (see: universal translator)|
The Cardassians are an extraterrestrial species in the Star Trek science fiction franchise. First introduced in the 1991 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Wounded", the species originated on the fictional Alpha Quadrant planet, Cardassia Prime. Cardassians were the dominant species in an interstellar empire known as the Cardassian Union during the 24th century, although they are not confirmed to have ruled any other species aside from, for fifty years, the Bajorans. The Cardassians later played a key role in the storyline of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series as allies of the Dominion in the Dominion War. Several Cardassian characters, including Elim Garak and Gul Dukat, are prominently featured.
The Cardassians were developed by the writers of the Star Trek TV series The Next Generation to provide an enemy race with whom the protagonists could interact, unlike the Borg, with whom such interpersonal drama was difficult due to their lack of personality and individuality.
Cardassians are a humanoid race, with light grey skin. Their faces have small ridges on their sides, which converge to a characteristic crest shape on their foreheads, with female Cardassians sporting a blue or blue-green coloration to their crest. This crest has led to the derogatory nickname "spoonheads" used by other races.
Cardassians tend to be dominating and aggressive even in social situations. Their public behavior is much like a wolf pack, often seeking out the dominant position in any social gathering. ("Chain of Command") Cardassian culture also places extreme importance on family; advanced age is seen as a sign of power and dignity, and Cardassian families often involve several generations living together. Orphans, on the other hand, have little standing in Cardassian society and are often abandoned ("Cardassians", "Return to Grace").
A prominent ritual in Cardassian society is the shri-tal, carried out when a person is about to die. Their closest family members will gather and the dying Cardassian will reveal to them his or her closest secrets, to be used against the family enemies. ("Ties of Blood and Water")
The Cardassian legal system is centered around the concept of a "show trial". Guilt is determined prior to the trial itself, which is intended to force the accused person to make a public confession of their guilt and demonstrate the power of the state. The verdict is always guilty, the sentence is always death, and defendants have few or no rights. ("Tribunal")
In romantic courtships, Cardassian couples routinely act bitter and snap at each other. This often causes misunderstandings with offworlders, such as Miles O'Brien whose confrontational attitude towards a Cardassian scientist, Gilora Rejal, was misinterpreted by her as romantic attention. ("Destiny")
The Obsidian Order is a Cardassian intelligence organization in the Star Trek universe. Security Chief Odo of Deep Space Nine remarked that it was one of the most brutally efficient organizations in the galaxy, being even more ruthless than the Romulan Tal Shiar. The Order kept close tabs on all Cardassian citizens to ensure loyalty, and was greatly feared. It was said that the average Cardassian could not sit down to dinner without the contents of the meal being noted and logged by the Order. Odo also noted that the Order caused people to disappear for even less than eating something of which the Order did not approve, although this statement may have just been an exaggeration for effect. The Obsidian Order's agent training program is so advanced that they are made immune to most forms of interrogation, including Vulcan mind melds.
The Obsidian Order frequently clashed with Central Command (the Cardassian military), partly because even the highest-ranking Command officers are not immune from Order inquiries. Elim Garak was a member of the Order, before being exiled from Cardassia to Deep Space Nine by his father, Enabran Tain. Tain had retired for a time, the only director to ever live long enough to do so. Garak became an ally of the Federation who used his knowledge to aid them in the war against the Dominion.
In 2371, under the leadership of Tain who believed that the Central Command was being too complacent about the threat of the Dominion, the Obsidian Order and their Romulan equivalent, the Tal Shiar, allied in an attempt to destroy the Dominion. To this end, the Order began stockpiling a fleet of ships, albeit illegally without the approval or knowledge of the Central Command: according to the Cardassian governmental charter, the Order is expressly forbidden from developing or possessing military equipment of any kind, which includes warships and possibly starships in general ("Defiant"). (Their lack of starships was noted when, in one DS9 episode, a high-ranking official from the Order had to "hitch a ride" with a Cardassian warship for transportation.) The plan, originated by Tain, involved a fleet of cloaked Romulan and Cardassian vessels traversing into the heart of Dominion territory in the Gamma Quadrant where they would annihilate the homeworld of the Founders.
The Founders soon learned of the plan, via a Changeling who impersonated Colonel Lovok of the Tal Shiar, and saw it as an opportunity to eliminate the two dangerous organizations. When the Romulan/Cardassian fleet arrived at the Founders' homeworld, they bombarded it, only to realize that the planet was deserted except for a token beacon. Moments later, the Dominion sprang the trap they arranged and a fleet of 150 Jem'Hadar fighters emerged from hiding in a nearby nebula and proceeded to wipe out the fleet. At least a few Romulan and Cardassian officers survived to be taken prisoner. Tain himself survived for two years in a Dominion internment camp before dying of heart failure.
The disastrous results of this attack crippled the Tal Shiar but more importantly (and perhaps through fear that the Order had clearly become too independent) it led to the downfall of the Order. The elimination of the Order is thought to have contributed to a political shakeup that led to the renewed empowerment of the civilian Detapa Council which proceeded to overthrow Central Command. This in turn paved the way for invasion of Cardassia by the Klingon Empire and eventual Dominion membership. After Cardassia joined the Dominion, an organization similar to the Obsidian Order was formed, which was called the Cardassian Intelligence Bureau.
In the short story "The Calling" within the book Prophecy and Change (ISBN 0-7434-7073-7), the agency is still shown to be active as an ally of the Reunion Project, which Elim Garak is a part of. However, the agency operates at a much lesser efficiency than it once did.
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Cardassian military ranks are similar to those used by the United Federation of Planets, but with some key differences. For example a Legate is similar to an Admiral, but with considerably more political sway.
The Cardassian Central Command uses a system of hierarchical ranks, which is the same for all branches of the service. A gorr is the lowest-ranked soldier, the rank where all new recruits start. Garresh, a more senior enlisted rank, make up the vast bulk of the military. They are individually ranked on a five-number scale. The lowest commissioned rank is that of gil (sometimes seen as kel), followed by glinn, dalin, dal and gul. There appears to be no gender discrimination in their military structure, and female Cardassians appear just as capable of promoting up through the ranks as their male counterparts.
Officers must generally hold a rank of at least glinn to be given command of a department on board a starship or within a unit. Larger vessels and units require dalin or dal level officers. Guls are the rough equivalent of Starfleet captains. They are the majority of the commanding officers in Central Command, controlling starships and bases, and serving as prefects and planetary governors throughout the client worlds of the Union. Many guls are quite influential, building up extensive vesala networks. Jaguls and Legates are the equivalent of Starfleet admirals, commanding entire Battalions and Orders.
- Gorr is one of the lowest named ranks in use in the 24th century by the Cardassian Guard agency of the Cardassian Central Command. Equivalent to a 'crewman' in most naval organizations.
- Garresh make up the vast bulk of the military. Garresh is an enlisted title which is approximately equivalent to a non-commissioned officer, such as a petty officer or chief, of comparable military or naval service organizations, such as Starfleet.
- Gil (sometimes seen as Kel) is an officer rank which is approximately equivalent to an ensign of Starfleet. Nor-class space stations, such as Deep Space Nine, typically carry enough lifeboats only for personnel down to, and including, the rank of Gil.
- Glinn is an officer rank which is approximately equivalent to a lieutenant of Starfleet. Glinn is a staff officer rank.
- Dalin is an officer rank title which is approximately equivalent to a lieutenant commander.
- Dal is an officer rank title which is approximately equivalent to a commander.
- Gul is an officer rank title which is approximately equivalent to a ship's captain. Gul is a command officer rank. Guls hold command ranging in size from vessels to Orders (approx. 500,000 personnel).
- Jagul is a flag officer rank which is approximately equivalent to a commodore or rear admiral.
- Legate is a 24th-century Cardassian officer rank title which is approximately equivalent to an admiral. Legate is the highest rank in the Cardassian military, and while it resembles the rank of Admiral in some respects, it is more of a political position than a rank. Since the Cardassian government is a military-controlled stratocracy, Legates serve both military and governmental functions simultaneously.
Known Cardassian starships include the Galor-class warship, a medium-sized cruiser which, throughout The Next Generation, was the most powerful vessel in Cardassian service. Rick Sternbach designed the Galor class to be reminiscent of an ankh, an inspiration chosen because the Cardassians were the pharaohs to the slave Bajorans. The Galor continued to act as the backbone of the Cardassian fleet throughout the events of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Ships of this type are armed with a large phaser cannon (possibly a plasma cannon). They are also armed with numerous secondary phaser cannons mounted at other points across the hull, and they may carry a complement of photon torpedoes.
Although no clear indication of the true strength of a Galor-class vessel has ever been given, they are shown to be weaker than the Galaxy and Nebula-class ships used by the Federation Starfleet ("The Wounded"). Technical descriptions indicate that Cardassian ships were designed to act in packs rather than as single ships, unlike their Federation counterparts.
A more powerful Cardassian ship is the Keldon-class starship (which is similar to the Galor-class with more defined aft wings and a large trapezoidal pod atop the main hull). This ship class is assumed to be comparable to the Galaxy-class in tactical capability; why they have not been seen in greater numbers is uncertain. As seen in later Deep Space Nine episodes, the Galaxy-class vessel was produced far more than its original run, so it does seem odd that the similarly advanced Keldon did not appear as often. The Cardassian Obsidian Order kept a fleet of Keldon class starships which were used in conjunction with the Romulan Tal Shiar during the sneak attack in the Omarion Nebula.
The Cardassians have also been known to operate small attack craft such as the Hideki-class scout. It is a small attack craft composed of a semi-elliptical fore with a short aft extension ending in a pincer-shaped disruptor weapon. Due to the ship's limited offensive power the Hideki-class is confined to border patrol duties during peace time. During the Dominion War, the class was present in several major conflicts; they operate in large groups and swarm enemy ships, this allows them to overpower much heavier vessels.
All Cardassian warships seen so far are painted ochre, and have backwards-swept delta winged hulls (resembling the Cardassian national symbol); the delta wings resemble fins, giving the Cardassian ships the appearance of predatory rays.
Cardassian computers use data encoded on isolinear rods, in contrast to chips used for similar purposes by human-designed computers.
The Cardassians' homeworld, Cardassia Prime (also known simply as "Cardassia"), is the seventh Class-M planet of its system. Even though the planet's orbit is far out from its star—a Cardassian year is over 40 earth years due to the size of the planet's sun—the climate is still warmer than that preferred by several species. Summers tend to be in the 57–68 °C (135–150 °F) range and winters tend to be in the 35–43 °C (95–110 °F) range.
Human and Bajoran characters, among others, make comments throughout Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's run about Cardassians' preference for heat, while characters like Elim Garak complain about the uncomfortably cool temperatures preferred by non-Cardassians. Its landscape is often arid, though animal and plant life are still plentiful on the surface.
In The Next Generation episode "Chain of Command", David Warner's character states that in Cardassia's early history, its inhabitants were a peaceful and spiritual people. In the days of the First Hebitian Civilization, the Cardassians collected works of art from all over the Alpha Quadrant and the planet boasted a vast wealth of art and culture; the people were said to have elaborate burial vaults with unimaginable treasures. However, Cardassia's lack of natural resources caused terrible famine, and the Hebitian civilization fell into decay. Its ruins were plundered by starving Cardassians who sought to sell whatever they could to provide for themselves. A military dictatorship soon came to power, building fleets of warships and invading nearby worlds, although whether or not the Cardassians literally conquered and ruled worlds inhabited by other sentient races is unclear. An exception is Bajor which was occupied for fifty years, and the end of whose occupation destabilized the Cardassian government and formed a key story arc for Deep Space Nine episodes.
The date of first contact between the Cardassians and Starfleet is unknown, but is likely to have occurred mid-to-late 22nd Century, as a Cardassian exile, Iloja of Prim, lived on Vulcan during that time period. Sometime before 2347 the Cardassians attempted to expand into Federation territory and war broke out, lasting around twenty years. Captain Edward Jellico spearheaded successful attempts by Starfleet to negotiate a peace treaty which ended the war.
Shortly after the Cardassians withdrew from Bajor, a Federation presence was established aboard Terok Nor, renamed Deep Space Nine, to assist the Bajoran Provisional Government in rebuilding Bajor. However, the Federation officers discovered a wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant close to the station ("Emissary"). Roughly four months later, the Federation-Cardassian borders were redefined, with the two sides buffered by a demilitarized zone. However, the new border treaty gave Cardassia control of several worlds inhabited by Federation colonists and the Federation colonies inhabited by Cardassians. Disgruntled former Federation colonists in the area, feeling that their opinions and wishes had been ignored by both sides, formed a resistance movement known as the Maquis.
In January 2372 (Stardate 49011) the Klingon Empire attacked the Cardassian Union, believing the Detapa Council of Cardassia (which had just come to power in the wake of the Cardassian Central Command being overthrown, making it the first civilian government of the Cardassian Union with Gul Dukat as military advisor) had been infiltrated by the Dominion ("The Way of the Warrior"). The attack was led by General Martok who, it turned out, had been himself replaced by a Changeling, one of the leaders of the Dominion (first revealed in "Apocalypse Rising"; see also "In Purgatory's Shadow").
Sometime between October 2372 and February 2373, with a Dominion attack on Deep Space Nine imminent, Gul Dukat announced the Cardassian Union's entry into the Dominion, shocking not only the Federation but most Cardassians as well. At the same time, Gul Dukat announced his ascension as leader of the Cardassian Union. Five days later, the Klingons had been expelled from Cardassian space and nearly the entire Maquis movement was slaughtered by the Dominion (except for those on the USS Voyager, which was lost in the Delta Quadrant at the time). Otherwise, nearly all the other Maquis who had not died were in Federation prisons.
The Cardassians (as members of the Dominion) captured DS9 ("Call to Arms"), but the Federation managed to block the Bajoran wormhole with self-replicating mines, preventing the Dominion from sending reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant.
Gul Damar discovered a way to disable the self-replication of the mines and completed the procedure and fired on the minefield seconds before Rom and Kira disabled DS9's weapons in hopes to prevent just that. The USS Defiant attacked DS9 and managed to take it back when a physical entity known as the Bajoran Prophets destroyed an entire Dominion fleet, sent to reinforce Dominion lines, on its way through the wormhole. Gul Dukat was captured after his daughter Tora Ziyal was killed by Gul Damar (who found out that Ziyal was helping the Federation), who was then promoted to Legate ("Sacrifice of Angels").
Under the leadership of Damar, the Cardassian Union, along with the Dominion, continued to gain ground over the Klingon-Federation alliance, and even after Benjamin Sisko and Elim Garak tricked the Romulans into breaking their non aggression treaty with the Dominion and joining the alliance ("In the Pale Moonlight") they still managed to keep the upper hand.
A major figure in Cardassian history is Tret Akleen, revered as the "father" of the Cardassian Union. During the Dominion War, Akleen's family home lay in Dominion-controlled space; Elim Garak suggested that recapturing it would lead to a major propaganda victory for Federation forces. ("Tears of the Prophets")
Opposition to the Dominion
Damar, however, was not happy. While he had hoped that Cardassia's joining the Dominion would strengthen their power, he felt that they were no longer in control of even their own planet, having to report to the Dominion representative Weyoun and the Founders, and Cardassian troops were being sacrificed seemingly meaninglessly without his permission. For a time, Damar sank into heavy drinking. Shortly after the Breen joined the Dominion, almost guaranteeing the Dominion's victory, Damar organized a revolt but was betrayed by a man he attempted to involve in the conspiracy. Subsequently a Cardassian named Broca became Legate and puppet ruler of Cardassia with his information, and after treason within the Revolt, the Dominion crushed it and forced Damar into hiding.
The revolt started out as just a small legion of troops headed by Damar, but during the final assault on the Dominion over Cardassia Prime by the Federation-Klingon-Romulan alliance, Damar managed to get an open revolt started on Cardassia itself. In response to Cardassian citizens engaging in acts of sabotage, the Dominion punished the Cardassians by destroying Lakarian City killing millions of men, women, and children in the process of reducing it to ashes. As a result, the Cardassian fleet switched sides during battle and assisted the alliance, opening a hole in the Dominion lines and forcing the Jem'Hadar and the Breen to establish a new defense perimeter around Cardassia Prime itself. When word of the fleet's defection reached the Dominion command center, the Female Changeling ordered every Cardassian on the planet killed.
With the Cardassian fleet helping the alliance and the rebel's attack on the Dominion headquarters on Cardassia, the Dominion surrendered, ending the Dominion War.
The Cardassian cost due to the Dominion War was the highest of all the major powers. The homeworld was severely damaged by the Dominion, whose Founders ordered a "scorched earth" approach to the Cardassians' homeworld for their betrayal during the final battle of the war. The long-term effect on the ecology of the planet remains to be seen. Over 800 million Cardassians died on Cardassia alone. Several non-canon sources have placed the pre-war population at around seven billion, and with the canonically established Cardassian emphasis on the family unit, the race is safe from extinction.
Mirror Universe Cardassians
In the Mirror Universe, the Cardassians formed an alliance with the Klingons and conquered the Terran Empire, enslaving Terrans and Vulcans in the process. A Terran rebellion was formed shortly thereafter. Alliance scientist Jennifer Sisko built a device that would reveal the rebels' base in the Badlands. However, Benjamin Sisko managed to convince her to join the rebels. Later, the rebels captured the Cardassian space station Terok Nor and Alliance leader Intendant Kira Nerys. Miles O'Brien and the rebels built a warship known as the ISS Defiant to combat the Alliance. The rebels managed to destroy a Cardassian-Klingon fleet trying to retake the station while the Intendant escapes. Two Ferengi and a Trill give the Alliance cloaking technology from the Prime Universe in exchange for Grand Nagus Zek. The Alliance enslaves the four on board a Klingon ship (including the Grand Nagus) despite the deal they made and plans to have Elim Garak execute them. However, one of the Ferengi reprogrammed the cloaking device to sabotage the ship's power grid. The rebels capture the ship while the four escape.
In cosmology, the concept "Cardassian expansion" is a term used for a modification to the Friedmann equations. It is named after the fictional Star Trek race by the original authors, Katherine Freese and Matthew Lewis. In their 2002 paper (which has been cited more than 330 times), a footnote on the "Cardassian term" states: "2 The name Cardassian refers to a humanoid race in Star Trek whose goal is to take over the universe, i.e., accelerated expansion. This race looks foreign to us and yet is made entirely of matter."
- Caretaker, Stardate: 48315.6, Original Airdate: January 16 1995, chakoteya.net
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, Larry Nemecek, 153
- "Interview with Rick Sternbach". July 25, 2007. Archived from the original on November 21, 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- Freese, K.; Lewis, M. (2002). "Cardassian expansion: A model in which the universe is flat, matter dominated, and accelerating". Physics Letters B. 540: 1. doi:10.1016/S0370-2693(02)02122-6.
- "Citations for 2002PhLB..540....1F from the ADS Databases". Harvard University.