One of the most well developed alien species in Star Trek has to be the Cardassians, the reptilian-humanoid race that first appeared in the TNG episode “The Wounded” and later became the central villians in DS9.
Keeping Up With The Cardassians will look at all the individual Cardassians seen on screen, from Gul Macet, the first Cardassian seen (below) to Gul Dukat, the most well known Cardassian character, perhaps the most developed villain, ever seen in Star Trek, but first, a little info on our scaly foes.
Cardassians are humanoid in form, but have distinctive ridged arches connecting their shoulders to the tops of their necks. They also have ridges on either side of their foreheads, ridges surrounding their eyes, and protrusions on their chins and below their noses. They display spoon-shaped features starting in the centers of their foreheads and running down the lengths of their noses. This has earned them the derogatory name of “spoonheads.” The spoon shape also appears on the chest of some – but not all – Cardassians. It has revealed that ancient humanoids genetically influenced the evolution of the Cardassians, Klingons, Romulans, and Humans, but each race still evolved from earlier life forms (apes for humans, crustaceans for Klingons, etc.)
Their skin is tan or gray in color and hair is dark brown or black. Their eye color is usually dark-brown. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as Gul Dukat and Elim Garak, who have blue eyes. Since scale patterns on Cardassian necks have been shown to change, it is known that Cardassians continually shed and re-grow scales. Stroking the neck ridges of a Cardassian female produces an erogenous reaction. Whether this is true for males is not known. Female Cardassians have blue-tinted spots on their neck ridges and forehead.
Compared to many other humanoid races, Cardassians prefer warmer and darker climates. Elim Garak once noted that Deep Space Nine’s environment was very cold and very bright by Cardassian standards.
In the mornings, Cardassians like to drink hot fish juice, served in a mug and drunk rather than eaten with a spoon. Most other races find it a vile concoction. Kanar is a popular alcoholic beverage on Cardassia. It comes in a variety of colors and textures. Among aliens the drink takes some getting used to. Larish pie is often eaten as a dessert. Other races (coincidentally, Bajorans are included) also enjoy it.
Popular food dishes include taspar eggs (always served boiled, as most races find it revolting when raw and even more so while still alive writhing inside its shell, also tojal, zabo meat, and sem’hal stew (often eaten with yamok sauce) are very popular.
The exact average lifespan of Cardassians is unknown. However, Gul Dukat was old enough to be prefect of Bajor in 2346 and yet was still active as a Gul and not old in appearance 30 years later. This indicates that a Cardassian is in the prime of life for at least 60+ years (assuming it takes some time to become a Gul, as it is a military and not hereditary title).
Cardassian society is often depicted as being Orwellian, with strict government control over information and violent force. Denizens are shown as having unquestioning obedience to authority due to the general lack of human rights, which provides a contrast to the personal protections of the Federation. For example, in Cardassian criminal trials the defendant is presumed guilty and in fact the punishment is already decided before the trial begins; the purpose of the trial (effectively a show trial) is merely to help the defendant acknowledge his wrongdoing. In Cardassian mystery novels, everyone is always guilty, the puzzle to work out being who is guilty of what. In Cardassian mythology the Galor deity was a helmeted, warrior demigod of antiquity. Tribute is paid to the vessel class of the same name as well as the likeness seen in the national symbol.
Cardassians tend to be predatory in nature, like wolves always seeking a dominant position in social gatherings. In normal courting behavior, Cardassian couples routinely act bitter and snap at each other. Cardassian society generally exhibits little or no sexual bias; for example, both men and women can rise to high ranks in the military. However, some fields are not so diverse, as the scientific community is mostly female. When representatives of the science ministry visited DS9 they were noticeably less nationalistic than most Cardassians seen previously.
Cardassia’s educational system is legendary throughout the quadrant. From a very young age, Cardassian children are trained in techniques such as photographic memory which allow them to retain vast amounts of information. Cardassian mental disciplines are rumored to be so complete that a Cardassian will prove almost totally resistant to torture; a Vulcan mind meld is also usually ineffective against a properly trained Cardassian.
Cardassians are generally cunning and suspicious. This is evident in battle, as evidenced in which a Klingon speaks admiringly of Cardassian adversaries who always had “a plan within a plan within a plan leading to a trap”. A popular Cardassian board game is Kotra, which, as Garak describes it, favors bold tactical maneuvers over defensive play; hence Garak’s criticism of Nog’s attempts to regroup his pieces during a game they played.
Cardassians are also very concerned about their families. For example, Garak enters a Dominion prison camp to speak with his father, Enabran Tain, one last time before Tain died. In another incident Gul Dukat is driven insane when his daughter Tora Ziyal dies. In Cardassian society, advanced age is seen as a symbol of power and dignity; it is common for many generations of Cardassian families to live together under one roof. And most Cardassians look after both their children and parents with equal devotion. The Cardassian ancient ritual of shri-tal allows a dying person to reveal his or her secrets to the rest of the family, for use against their enemies.
Cardassian literature often confounds humans, and vice versa. For example, humans see all Cardassian mystery stories as having an identical plot: the inevitable result is that all the suspects are eventually proved guilty of the crime and proving the supremacy of the state. One of their most revered forms of literature is the repetitive epic, which traces a family throughout history, focusing on each generation’s virtually identical allegiance to the state. Conversely, Garak seemed to suggest that most Cardassians would have figured out during the first act of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that all the conspirators are going to kill him, but cannot understand why Caesar cannot figure this out (or is willfully blind to an impending coup d’état) until the knives are literally coming at him from all directions. Likewise, most of Agatha Christie books (Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None being the exceptions) cause Cardassians great difficulty, as, whilst the idea that a high-ranking person is killed in mysterious circumstances appeals, they cannot understand why only one person is guilty.
Macet was a Cardassian Gul in the Central Command, and commanding officer of the Galor-class warship Trager. In response to the destruction of a Cardassian outpost by theFederation starship USS Phoenix in 2367, Macet ordered his ship to attack the USS Enterprise-D. However, his ship proved no match for the Galaxy-class Enterprise-D, and he agreed to a truce after his ship was disabled.
Macet cooperated with Enterprise-D Captain Jean-Luc Picard in tracking down the Phoenix, which was believed to have gone rogue under orders from Captain Benjamin Maxwell. Macet brought two officers with him, Glinns Daroand and Telle. In the interests of peaceful cooperation following the recently signed treaty ending the Federation-Cardassian War, Macet punished Telle when the latter was caught attempting to access secured systems aboard theEnterprise-D.
Ultimately, the Phoenix was located and returned to Federation space. However, Picard relayed Maxwell’s allegations of a renewed Cardassian build-up to Macet, warning him, “we’ll be watching”.
Macet was played by Star Trek veteran Marc Alaimo, who would later play a much more famous Cardassian, GulDukat.
Macet was the first Cardassian seen in the Star Trek saga and the only Cardassian to ever appear with facial hair.
Macet wears a different style of Cardassian uniform than most Cardassians seen later in Star Trek. The regular uniform has been established in time travel episodes and flashback sequences in as being used in the 2340s (DS9: “Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night”) and the 2350s (DS9: “Things Past”). This would seem to suggest that Macet’s uniform indicates a separate branch of service rather than an older design, but there is no confirmation in episode dialogue to support or refute this. The only other Cardassians seen wearing this type of uniform were from the Cardassian Militia 41. (TNG: “Ensign Ro”)