Episode 2.5: Cardassians

It is my impression that DS9 follows two general formats to social commentary. There are episodes where the social commentary is the center literary element; consider Past Tense (Ep. 3.11/3.12) as an archetypal example. And there are episodes where intrigue is the center literary element with the social commentary as an aside; the current episode, Cardassians, I believe falls into the latter category. This episode features one of my favorite relationships, Bashir and Garak’s friendship, seeking to figure out a story that doesn’t add up with a bit of social commentary on the side. This sort of thing is the backbone to why I love this series; it would be on my list of favorite episodes if I didn’t have so many others I loved.

The centers of the intrigue are Dukat’s mysterious intentions and Garak’s inexplicable desire to become involved in the situation. We are suspicious of Dukat already as a recurring villain, so his sudden turn to a noble cause (“For the children!”) is clearly suspect. He’s had this plan in motion for over 8 years, even before the Occupation had ended (which was a little over a year before the events of the episode)! He plays a very long political game with his enemies, setting up pieces before he knows how he’ll use them. Political brilliance. The DS9 crew are pawns here, and they don’t even contribute much to the resolution to the conflict. Garak is the central protagonist who identifies Dukat’s deceit, deduces where to go for information, and overcomes obstacles to access that needed information. And in the end, he gives it all to Bashir to wield to take down Dukat. Operating from the shadows is exactly how Garak wants to work. We know he gets involved because of his history with Dukat (as yet unrevealed), but I think he also gets involved because he’s bored. Being a tailor simply isn’t enough for Garak. We also see here one of Garak’s best qualities; he’s extremely good at deducing the motives of others by their behavior. He thinks very critically of the actions of others. As a final note, Garak utters my all-time favorite line of his in this episode: “Truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.”

The issue of race and adoptive care seem more like secondary elements for this episode. I don’t mean this as to say they are diminished in importance, but rather are given less weight within the literary arc. I see this episode more asking questions than answering them. With regards to race, it’s interesting that racism knows no racial bounds. Whether Human (O’Brien), Cardassian (Rugal), or Bajoran (Proka), the blanket hatred of Cardassians runs deep. Even as the humans are trying to “help” Rugal, he’s evaluated by his race, not his desires (it’s assumed he wants to return to Cardassia as his home, for example). I also saw a small question leveled at the notion of how we evaluate adoptive care. The testimony of a random stranger (who later disappears) is taken over the testimony of the adoptive father. Why believe the stranger over the father? And in the end, Rugal is to return with his biological father, against both Rugal’s wishes and the wishes of the adoptive father of many years. Why give deference to biology over adoption of several years? I’m not saying there are easy answers, but they are valuable insights into the struggle of these tough situations.

Random Thoughts: 1) Garak utterly loves the game he plays with Bashir. 2) Bashir shows a bit of initiative by speaking to Dukat during his conversation with Sisko. He gets burned for it, but it’s character growth toward confidence. 3) The canvas backdrop of Bajor looks great. I know they are simple elements, but I like them. 4) Another of Garak’s great lines: “I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don’t trust coincidences.” 5) We see a bit more the strong family ties Cardassians have. 6) Rugal’s father, Proka, is played by the same actor (Terrance Evans) who played a mute farmhand in Progress (Ep. 1.15).

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~ by Joshua Black on September 24, 2015.

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