Sunday, January 23, 2011

2-5. Cardassians

Garak (Andrew Robinson) enjoys
Gul Dukat's discomfort.


Dr. Bashir is relaxing and trading barbs with Garak (Andrew Robinson), the station's Cardassian tailor and sometime spy.  That's when a Bajoran family sits down with their child - Rugal (Vidal Peterson), a Cardassian. Rugal is an orphan, one of many Cardassian orphans left behind when the Cardassians abandoned Bajor. When Garak goes to talk to the boy, he has his hand bitten.

A minor incident, until it captures the attention of Gul Dukat, who wants an investigation into how Rugal has been treated. It takes no time at all for Sisko to find a businessman willing to testify that the boy's Bajoran parents have been harsh and hateful, punishing him for being Cardassian. But when Garak approaches Bashir with conflicting evidence, it becomes apparent that Dukat has his own agenda.


Commander Sisko: Avery Brooks gets some very funny moments as Sisko reacts to Dr. Bashir's continuing interruptions. "Don't do it again," he tells Bashir in a low-key tone, but with intimidating authority, after Bashir cuts him off in the midst of a talk with Gul Dukat.  The doctor apparently lacks a strong self-preservation instinct, because he does it twice more: waking Sisko up in the middle of the night to borrow a runabout and interrupting the commander during the custody hearing. Brooks mixes exasperation with a certain stern amusement to good effect. Sisko's sleepwear, incidentally, is more flamboyant than anything I'd expect Garak to come up with on his worst day, and all but deserves separate billing.

O'Brien: When Keiko takes Rugal in for the duration of the inquiry, O'Brien is left to deal with his own resentment against Cardassians. Keiko takes him to task for his bigotry when he grumbles about how anything soft was "bred out of them" generations ago. He develops a bond with the boy, and is the first of the crew to really talk with his biological father when he arrives on station.

Dr. Bashir: He begins the episode as entranced with Garak as he was in Past Prologue. But as Garak continues to dole out only hints about what is going on, Bashir finally has enough. He literally stops the car (well, shuttle) and tells Garak that they aren't moving until he's given some direct information. He eventually uses that information to expose Dukat's manipulations.

Garak: "You don't need me to tell you (the truth). Just notice the details. They're scattered like crumbs, all over this table we regularly share." In only his second appearance, Andrew Robinson's Garak is already well on his way to becoming a strong part of the fabric of this show. The character's starting point is pretty much the same as his role in Past Prologue, but this episode advances him further. We learn that he and Dukat have some kind of relationship, and that it's not a good one. Dukat gives him a venemous glare the instant he appears, and it's doubtful that he will forget what Garak did to him here. Garak's cheerfully blase demeanor makes for a number of entertaining scenes and lines, but he also gets one scene that chinks that armor, when he is confronted with multiple Cardassian orphans.


Another very good episode. Season One was a strong first season, but Season Two has taken the series to a new level. There is increasing depth and texture to the series, the setting, and the characters, and it's very much to the show's benefit.

Cardassians is highly successful in that it blends two entirely different types of episode and pulls it off seamlessly. There's the social commentary episode, with Rugal's situation a clear stand-in for custody disputes between biological and adoptive parents, particularly of different races. Then there's the espionage episode, with Bashir and Garak uncovering a tangle of manipulations that lead back to Gul Dukat.

James Crocker's teleplay manages to bind these two strands together so organically that you wouldn't even think it was a challenge to do so. Part of that comes from the expert interweaving of these elements. The most emotional nonverbal beat doesn't come from any of the scenes involving Rugal. It comes from Garak, confronted by Cardassian orphans while downloading information from the orphanage computer. Garak stares at one orphan girl who approaches him, clearly very bothered by these children's situation.

The situation with the Cardassian orphans adds another layer onto the Bajoran/Cardassian situation. The children are as much victims of the Occupation as the Bajorans themselves. They would almost have to be targets, at least of some of the Bajoran factions we've glimpsed, and I'm sure not every Cardassian child adopted would be as fortunate in their new parents as Rugal. It would be a pity if this situation was not revisited.  It seems like too great a sore spot to be touched on here, only to be ignored thereafter.

Overall Rating: 9/10

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1 comment:

  1. This was another very good episode that explored some more consequences of the Cardassian/Bajoran conflict. The idea of "war orphans" left on Bajor is a sensitive subject and one that Star Trek was pretty brave to delve into. You can't help but think about how these children were treated, in school, on the street, and probably, in some foster homes.

    What I would like to know is how Gul Dukat knew so quickly of the incident on the promenade. Despite what the alien businessman said (and now that I think of it, it may have been him who messaged Dukat), it becomes apparent that Proka loves his son as his own.

    It's pretty obvious that O'Brien is more than a little prejudiced against Cardassians, but I liked when he made a connection (literally, actually) with Rugal when they pushed their Cardassian meals away from them and their plates met in the middle. Whatinell was Keiko thinking, anyway?

    The real star of this episode is Garak who is more than "just plain, simple Garak". He seems to know a lot about the circumstances on which the orphans were left on Bajor. That he has an rather contentious relationship with Dukat simply increases my respect for him by a factor of ten. I'd also like to know where he gets his information. When he wakes Bashir in the middle of the night, it's apparent that he knows about Rugal's parentage before Dukat's message to Sisko. And he's got some talents beyond hemming pants, such as "dabbling with isolinear data subprocessors - a hobby of mine. It's no more difficult than sewing on a button, really."

    The reunion between Rugal and his father is both touching and heartbreaking as Pa'Dar explains the agony and despair when he lost his wife and believed his son dead in a Bajoran attack, and then Rugal saying it was his own fault, then calling his father a Cardassian butcher whom he will never forgive.

    They mystery in this episode was finding out the real story of Rugal's abandonment and adoption, and why Dukat was apparently so concerned about rejoining him with his father. That he would use a 4-year old child as a possible pawn in a political game reveals what a jackass he really is.

    I was disappointed that Sisko decided to send Rugal back to Cardassia with his father, and away from the only family he's really known. I was also disappointed (but not surprised, given that he is a politician) that Pa'Dar seemed more interested in protecting his political career than using his influence to repatriate the Bajoran orphans that hadn't yet been adopted.

    This episode had so many parallels with problems faced on 21st century Earth - orphans of a tragic war, the conflict between birth parents and adoptive parents, politicians who care more about their careers than any emotional chaos they'd create in the pursuit of their own goals. It was an excellent episode in my opinion and worth 9/10 stars.