Jul 23 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Cardassians”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Cardassians“Cardassians”
Written by Gene Wolande & John Wright and James Crocker
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 2, Episode 5
Production episode 40512-425
Original air date: October 24, 1993
Stardate: 47177.2

Station log: Bashir and Garak share a drink in the replimat where they see a trader bringing a Bajoran man and a Cardassian child on board. The child is wearing a Bajoran earring, and Garak, intrigued, walks over to say hello. The boy responds by biting Garak’s hand. When Bashir tells the senior staff about it in ops, Kira explains that the boy’s probably one of the many orphans left behind when the Cardassians pulled out.

Dukat calls Sisko to ask about the incident. Sisko is surprised Dukat knows about it so soon, given that Sisko himself only just found out. However, Dukat goes on at (great) length to Sisko on the subject of war orphans and the need to bring them home, and he asks Sisko to investigate the incident and report back to him so he can use it in his fight to get the orphans returned to Cardassia where they belong, not being raised by Bajorans to hate their own kind.

Sisko and Bashir talk to Proka Migdal, the father of the boy, whose name is Rugal. As far as he and his wife are concerned, Rugal is their son. They took him in because they didn’t hold a boy responsible for the crimes of his people.

Bashir then talks to the trader who brought Proka and Rugal on board, who reluctantly tells Bashir that he offered to help Proka find a job, but he also describes an abusive situation where Proka and his wife torment Rugal, and allow other Bajorans to taunt and beat him just for being Cardassian. “He’s their revenge.”

Proka denies it vehemently, but Sisko has to investigate and until that’s done, Sisko asks that Rugal stay with the O’Briens until it’s all cleared up. Proka reluctantly agrees, telling Rugal that they won’t hurt him—“They’re humans, not Cardassians.”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Cardassians

Garak visits Bashir for a followup on his hand, and the doctor mentions Dukat’s interest in passing. Garak laughs derisively at the notion of Dukat being concerned for Garak’s well being, and points out that the person in charge of the withdrawal from Bajor was, in fact, Dukat. So making sure all Cardassians, including orphans, came home would’ve been his responsibility.

Bashir comes to ops and interrupts a conversation between Dukat and Sisko, asking him why Dukat left the orphans behind. Dukat claims he was ordered to by the civilian authorities. Bashir, though, was under the impression that the civilian government had no authority over military operations. However, Dukat insists that the decision to pull out of Bajor was the civilian authority’s, as was the decision to leave the orphans behind. After Dukat signs off, Bashir insists he’s lying, but Sisko points out that there’s no evidence to support that notion, just half-assed notions from Garak.

O’Brien comes home to discover that Rugal and Molly were playing together, which appalls him. Keiko prepares a Cardassian dish, and neither O’Brien nor Rugal are willing to eat it. Later that night, Rugal tells O’Brien that he wants to go home to Bajor. He hates Cardassians, he hates being a Cardassian, and he forces O’Brien to admit to his own prejudices (to himself, at least, not out loud to Rugal).

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Cardassians

Garak wakes Bashir in the middle of the night saying that they need to go to Bajor. Bashir wakes Sisko up to request a runabout, to which Sisko responds with a symphony in snark, especially since Garak didn’t tell Bashir why. (“Well, by all means. Will one runabout be enough?”) But then Dukat calls, apologizing for the late hour, saying that they’ve identified Rugal as being the son of Kotan Pa’Dar, a prominent member of the civilian government, and the former exarch of a settlement on Bajor. Rugal was believed killed during a terrorist attack eight years earlier. Pa’Dar’s on his way to the station to reclaim his son, but Sisko doesn’t think it’s that simple. The trader who made the accusation about Rugal being abused has disappeared, and there’s no other evidence to support it.

Bashir figures that Garak also heard that Rugal was Pa’Dar’s son, so Sisko grants permission for them to go to Bajor. They go to an orphanage in the Tozhat province to find records of Rugal’s adoption, but the computers are down, and have been for some time. An orphanage filled with Cardassian children isn’t a priority for repair crews, but Garak offers to fix it (thus adding fuel to Bashir’s mental fire that says Garak’s a spy). Garak downloads all the orphanage data to a clip and then they leave—before sadly informing the Cardassian children in the orphanage that he’s not there to take them home.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Cardassians

Garak finally admits to Bashir what’s going on—mostly because Bashir stops the runabout and shuts down his computer search and won’t start either one up until Garak stops being opaque—explaining that Pa’Dar was one of the ones who made the decision to withdraw from Bajor, which cost Dukat his job as prefect. And now this political enemy of Dukat’s suddenly has a long-lost son, whose existence was revealed partly due to Dukat’s machinations.

Pa’Dar arrives on Deep Space 9 and goes to the O’Brien quarters. O’Brien talks to him for a bit, to prepare him for what Rugal has grown into. Pa’Dar explains how he has disgraced himself by allowing his son to be lost to him—family is paramount on Cardassia. Finally, Keiko brings Rugal in, and Pa’Dar is devastated to learn that Rugal doesn’t remember him at all, nor does he want to see pictures of himself as a child. He hates Pa’Dar and refuses to go back to Cardassia—as far as he’s concerned, Pa’Dar’s son did die eight years ago.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Cardassians

While Bashir and Garak don’t find a file on Rugal—Dukat isn’t sloppy enough to leave evidence—they do find the person who was in charge of paperwork at the time, and she remembers Rugal because he was such an odd case: their only boy at the time, he had a name (most didn’t), and he was brought in, not by a Bajoran, but by a Cardassian military officer assigned to the command post at Terok Nor—which is what DS9 was called when it was a Cardassian station, the commanding officer of which was the prefect of Bajor, Gul Dukat.

Sisko agrees to be the arbiter for a custody hearing between Pa’Dar and Proka. Dukat arrives on the station, which raises everyone’s hackles. Sisko questions Pa’Dar, then Rugal, then O’Brien. Bashir and Garak then enter and Bashir asks if he may pose a few questions. There’s an inquiry back on Cardassia about an attempted military coup, which Pa’Dar is leading and which Dukat is a target of. However, when the revelation that Pa’Dar let his son be raised by Bajorans goes public, it will kill his career—and the inquiry. Dukat doesn’t admit to this, of course, but he also leaves the hearing in a huff.

In the end, Sisko finds in favor of Pa’Dar. Rugal was a political pawn in a long game by Dukat and Sisko feels it’s important to undo that damage. Thanks to Bashir’s revelations, Dukat will never let this go public, so Pa’Dar’s career is saved.

For Cardassia!: The decision to pull out of Bajor was made by the Cardassian civilian government (which will later be identified as the Detapa Council), and Dukat (for obvious reasons) objected to it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Cardassians

Plain, simple: Garak’s back, and his decision to say hi to a kid winds up unraveling a rather nasty conspiracy. This is the first hint that he and Dukat have a past. He and Bashir have been meeting regularly at the replimat sinced “Past Prologue.”

Keep your ears open: “So you deduced that Garak thinks Dukat is lying about something you’re not sure of. Then you proceeded to interrupt my conversation to confront him about whatever that might be.”

“I’m sorry, Commander, it just seemed like an opportune—”

“Don’t apologize. It’s been the high point of my day. Don’t do it again.”

Sisko giving Bashir the velvet glove over the iron fist.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Cardassians

Welcome aboard: Andrew J. Robinson returns as Garak, firmly establishing his role as recurring, while other recurring guests Rosalind Chao (Keiko) and Marc Alaimo (Dukat) are also present. Vidal Peterson, having played D’Tan in “Unification II” on TNG, plays Rugal here, and longtime character actor Terrence Evans returns as Proka, having played one of Mullibok’s mute friends in “Progress”; he’ll also be in Voyager’s “Nemesis.”

And then we have this episode’s Robert Knepper moment as Robert Mandan, probably best known for his role as the womanizing Chester Tate on Soap, plays Pa’Dar. (Confused? Don’t be!)

Trivial matters: This episode establishes that the station’s designation while under Cardassian command was Terok Nor.

The importance Cardassian culture places on family was established back in “Chain of Command, Part II” on TNG, and it comes heavily into play here.

The background for this episode can be found in the Terok Nor novels, Day of the Vipers by James Swallow and Night of the Wolves and Dawn of the Eagles by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison. Pa’Dar appears in all three, and the explosion in which Pa’Dar believed Rugal to be killed dramatized in the last book.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Cardassians

Una McCormack followed Rugal’s life after this episode in her novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice, which starts right after Rugal goes to Cardassia and continues to show the events of the subsequent eight years through his eyes.

Walk with the Prophets: “I don’t trust coincidences.” There are aspects of this episode that are brilliant. First and foremost is the triumphant return of Garak, rescued from the potential obscurity of being that one-off guest everyone thought was cool and instead being established as one of DS9’s many wonderful recurring characters. Garak continues to deny that he’s a spy, continues to drop hints and obfuscate and lie rather than be straightforward, and continues to ultimately get what he wants in the end. And Andrew Robinson and Siddig el-Fadil continue to sparkle in every scene they have together.

Related to that is the welcome maturation of Bashir from the eager naïf of season one into the more confident young man of season two, who holds his own with Garak (less so with Sisko, whose taking down of the still-a-bit-too-overeager doctor in ops and in his quarters are both magnificent).

Keiko also gets one of her best scenes when she calls O’Brien on his racism. It’s not a particularly pleasant aspect of O’Brien’s character, and it’s given us some ugly moments, notably in “The Wounded,” and we get it again here. The moment when she smacks him down is a triumph, and it forces O’Brien to see Rugal as a person rather than a Cardassian.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Cardassians

And we got lots of cool political stuff involving Cardassians and Bajorans, which is always welcome. The scheming, the political jockeying, the decisions made by powerful people that have unintended consequences to the people on the ground, and so much more. The issue of Cardassian war orphans is a really good one, and the show missed a bet by not coming back to it. There’s some compelling stuff here.

Yet I come away from this episode annoyed and frustrated. For starters, where’s Kira in all this? Aside from a brief bit of exposition and an approving nod to Bashir after he interrupts Sisko and Dukat’s conversation, she’s utterly absent from an episode that she should be front and center of, especially given that she was actually there.

But the biggest issue is that they totally blew the ending. I keep going over the episode and wonder on what Sisko based his decision to separate Rugal from his family and send him to Cardassia to live with his biological father. Pa’Dar wants his son back because that’s what his society tells him to do. Proka wants his son back because he loves him. For that matter, Rugal himself has made it abundantly clear, not once, but many times that he hates Cardassians, loves his parents, and wants to go back to Bajor. O’Brien tells Rugal that his wishes are important, but Sisko shows no evidence of caring about the boy’s desires in his role as arbiter. Is whatever political gain Sisko might get from doing Pa’Dar a favor worth breaking up a loving family? It’s “Suddenly Human” all over again, except without the stabbing-incident-induced realization that nurture is at least as important as nature (and without anybody getting splurted in the face with ice cream).

Worse, this rather important resolution to the plotline that’s been going on all episode is made in a log entry voiceover, as if it’s an afterthought, the episode spending far too much time on the Bashir-Garak bromance and the labyrinthine plotting of Dukat to have leverage on his political enemies, and not enough on Sisko’s decision, and the impact it has on Rugal and on Proka (and in general on Bajor). And in the end, there are still Cardassian orphans stuck on Bajor who want to go home (the scene where they ask Garak if he’s there to take them is heartbreaking).

In the end, Sisko becomes just another powerful person whose decisions have unintended consequences to the people on the ground. We expect that of Pa’Dar and Dukat; our hero is supposed to be better than that, and we’re given absolutely no good reason why he isn’t.


Warp factor rating: 5


Rewatcher’s note: I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign for a graphic novel based on the universe of my novel Dragon Precinct and its sequels. Art will be by JK Woodward (the artist on the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover comic book). Please check it out and spread the word!

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at OSFest 6 in Omaha, Nebraska as one of the Author Guests of Honor this weekend. Come by and see him! His schedule is here.

Uncle Mikey
1. Uncle Mikey
I agree about the ending. It came across entirely as, "Oh, hell, this episode is already running long and we still don't actually have an ending. Um...um...someone roll Rugal's saving throw against Cardassians!" And he failed it, and that was that.
Rich Bennett
2. Neuralnet
havent seen this episode in a long while, but my first thought after reading the rewatch is.. poor kid. Not sure what the right solution here was but sending Rugal back to cardasia doesnt seem like it was right... (an aside, did deep space nine just predict the Elian Gonzolas outcome?)

my second thought after reading the rewatch... Hooray Garak. Glad his character gained some traction because he ended up being one of my favorite story lines over the years.
Joe Vondracek
3. joev
probably best known for his role as the womanizing Chester Tate on Soap, plays Pa’Dar. (Confused? Don’t be!)
I see what you did there.
Uncle Mikey
4. Rancho Unicorno
I am curious - I don't remember ever seeing or reading anything that revisits the orphans. Did anybody ever go back to the orphanage (or any of the orphanages)? Something on the impact of the Dominion War on the lives of Cardassians with no real connection to Cardassia?
Christopher Bennett
5. ChristopherLBennett
Paragraph 6 says "Garak laughs derisively at the notion of Dukat being concerned for Garak’s well being" -- this should be "Rugal's well-being."

I believe the script for the episode established the station's Cardassian name as Terek Nor; it was spelled that way in a number of early references. But Marc Alaimo repeatedly mispronounced it as "Terok Nor," and eventually they adjusted the official spelling to match. Not the first time that's happened; the Klingon curved sword was supposed to be the batlh'etlh, literally "honor sword," but that got elided to "bat'leth" and the spelling changed to fit (after the first few years in which it was officially spelled "bat'telh" despite being pronounced the way we know). Also, I once read something from Usenet, I think, where someone involved in DS9's production said that Ferengi currency was supposed to be Gold Press latinum, a trademark for some specific process that was done to the latinum or something, but everyone said "gold-pressed" and so that quickly became standard. Although I've never come across verification for the claim.

As for the story, I agree about the fumbled ending. This and "Suddenly Human" are among the vanishingly few Trek episodes that acknowledge the difference between species and culture, that admit that the culture you belong to isn't dictated by your race. There was that TNG episode with the human who'd defected to become part of Romulan culture, but he was treated as an aberration. And Voyager's B'Elanna started out as a half-Klingon who identified more with her human half, but the series kept pushing her into becoming more and more Klingon just because that was what she looked like. "Suddenly Human" had the courage to say "Just because this boy is human by species, that doesn't mean he's not Talarian by choice." It acknowledged that a choice of identity not based on racial essentialism was valid. But this episode presents an equivalent situation, a boy who's Cardassian by birth but Bajoran by culture, and defaults to defining him by his race. It's a lazy outcome. And I agree, the issue of the boy's own agency and perspective does get lost under the political maneuvering in the last act.

That said, I never really liked Rugal. The actor didn't work for me. Plus, why did he have long Cardassian-style hair, when most Bajoran males wore their hair short? He wore Bajoran clothing and a Bajoran earring, so why not a Bajoran haircut?
Uncle Mikey
6. bookworm1398
I don't think the custody issue was that clear cut, I was disturbed by Rugal's extreme hatred. He didn't just say the Cardassians did some horrible things, but more like "All Cardassians are inherently evil and I can't imagine even saying hello to one." I just don't know what would have been right, but I agree that the episode did not spend enough time on the decision.
Uncle Mikey
7. JeanTheSquare
The ending isn't quite as clear-cut as all that--it is a situation with no clear right solution. I was surprised by how it resolved, but the more I thought about it the more this ending seemed the lesser of two evils.

It is never confirmed whether or not the trader's testimony was a part of Dukat's scheme, but the viewer sees firsthand that Rugal's Bajoran parents are indeed teaching him to hate his own race. Not maliciously perhaps, they just don't know any other way to be. This is a pretty big no-no in international adoptions.

Rugal's wishes are indeed important, but ultimately don't forget that he was STOLEN. His Bajoran parents may have adopted him in good faith, but Dukat kidnapped him as part of a political long-con. It's a muddy, morally ambiguous situation, the kind that, among Treks, only DS9 was really willing to tackle.
Uncle Mikey
8. Emilee
I agree with #6. I think it IS, in fact, abuse to proclaim over and over to a child that the species/race he belongs to is inherently evil. How on earth could a child have any self-worth amid all that self-loathing? His Bajoran parents may "love him", but they aren't setting him up for success.
Raymond Seavey
9. RaySea
I'm not so sure the resolution was wrong. Let's call it like it is: Rugal was kidnapped. Yes, Proka and his wife were innocent of that, but it doesn’t change the fact of it. Plus, we've got the allegations of abuse. I'd have liked it if the episode would have addressed the veracity of that. Regardless, though, we do know that his parents have taught him to hate Cardassians.

Let's put this in another perspective: imagine a white couple adopted a black child and taught him to hate black people. Would you want those parents to keep him? Because honestly, I don't see a real difference.
Matt Stoumbaugh
10. LazerWulf
@5: No, I'm pretty sure that paragraph was right, because Garak was laughing at the notion that he and Dukat were friends.

Anyway, I'm a bit confused as to the timing of this. Dukat hates Pa'Dar and the Civilian Government because they made the decision to withdraw from Bajor that cost him his prefecture (is that the word?). But that only happened a year (or so) ago. Yet Rugal was kidnapped (and let's face it, that's what happened) 8 YEARS ago. Was Dukat just that crazy-paranoid/crazy-prepared that he thought he would need leverage against ONE SPECIFIC GUY in the CivGov? (Tangent: Does he have similar leverage against other members of the CivGov?)

And how was this leverage supposed to work, anyway? It's pretty obvious that the pilot was hired to bring Rugal and his Bajoran father to DS9 (since it was obvious that Dukat and Garak are not "in cahoots", the pilot is the only one who could have informed Dukat of the incident so quickly, plus the obviously false allegations against the Bajoran Dad), but what would have happened if Garak hadn't shown up at the replimat? Or if Rugal hadn't been raised as a Cardassian-hater and hadn't bitten him? How did the pilot even convince them to come to DS9? It all seems like a Batman Gambit, to me. (A Batman Gambit is a plan in which there are any number of possible scenarios, yet the planner knows the participants well enough to know PRECISELY WHICH scenario will happen, and plans accordingly. As opposed to a Xanatoss Gambit, in which the plan is set up in such a way that even if it goes awry, it still works to the planner's favor.)

Also, why would having a son who was presumed dead and raised by Bajorans but eventually found and returned be harmful to Pa'Dar's political career, anyway? And what good would Dukat keeping silent about this do, since Rugal is still going home with Pa'Dar? What's to stop Rugal from revealing whatever it is Dukat wants revealed (which I'm still not sure how that would do any harm to Pa'Dar's career)?

As to the ending, I actually see it as the logical conclusion to the story. Rugal is a minor, and (unfortuantely) has no legal say in what happens to him. His adoption was made under the (false) assumption that he was an orphan, and even though the allegations that his Bajoran parents were abusing him were false, Sisko still has no legal reason to keep him from his birth father.

So, yeah, this was an okay episode. Yes, it suffered from an under-use of Kira, and a complete lack of Odo and Quark, but Garak and Bashir more than make up for that, as well as Sisko's delightfully-snarky responses to Bashir (which reminds me a bit of their interactions in "The Forsaken"). However, the progression of the plot itelf stretches the fabric of plausibility. I simply don't buy Dukat as a Batman-level master planner. Maybe future episodes will reveal that he is, but to set something in motion 8 years ago that is so dependent on players that he wouldn't even know would be in the picture until 1 year ago just doesn't make sense at all.
Uncle Mikey
The end of the custody issue always bothered me . I sort of wanted Rugal to stay on Bajor because of his feelings on the matter and his cardassian family seems to have no response to his return except as a political tool.
Matt Stoumbaugh
12. LazerWulf
@11: The impression I got is that Dukat was the only one wanting to use Rugal as a political took, not Pa'Dar. Pa'Dar seemed to genuinely care about Rugal, and it was said that on Cardassia, family is everything. (At least, everything that's not the subjugation of another species).
Christopher Bennett
13. ChristopherLBennett
@9: No, we don't actually know that his parents have taught him to hate Cardassians. What we know is that he's been raised as a Bajoran for eight years, and a brutal occupation of Bajor by the Cardassians ended less than one year ago. It's reasonable to assume that the Cardassians themselves would've given him plenty of reason to hate Cardassians without his parents having to indoctrinate him at all. The problem with your analogy of white parents teaching a black child to hate black people is that they'd have to do so by deliberately lying and shielding him from reality. That's not the case here. Anyone who lived through his formative years under the Cardassian occupation would need no special indoctrination to have a low opinion of Cardassians.
Keith DeCandido
14. krad
Quoth Christopher: "Paragraph 6 says 'Garak laughs derisively at the notion of Dukat being concerned for Garak’s well being' -- this should be 'Rugal's well-being.'"

You, sir, are incorrect. Sorry, but it was in fact Bashir mentioning that Dukat seemed concerned about Garak's well being and Bashir asking if Dukat and Garak were friends that caused Garak to laugh nastily. So no, it shouldn't be that.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Chris Nash
15. CNash
I too was concerned about the ending. My reaction to Sisko's log entry was "Bwuh?! But he doesn't want to go to Cardassia!" Now, if the episode had stuck with its initial premise of discovering whether or not Rugal's Bajoran foster parents had been abusing him, as the merchant captain claimed, or even just indoctrinating him against Cardassians, we might have seen a different resolution to this episode. Instead, too much time is devoted to Bashir and Garak uncovering Dukat's political machinations, leaving no room to return to Rugal's personal situaton. As much as I enjoy both the Bashir-Garak interplay and the black-and-grey Cardassian political system, I wouldn't have minded so much had it taken a back seat for a little while so that we could have had more scenes like the excellent discussion between O'Brien and Rugal in their quarters.

Comparisons to TNG's "Suddenly Human" are inevitable, but the use of the Bajoran-Cardassian conflict means that it's stronger than that episode; there, the Talarians were nothing more than "random alien species of the week", whereas here, it feeds into the series' ongoing backstory.
Mike Kelmachter
16. MikeKelm
This was interesting to me since Suddenly Human had the orphan (Jono) go back to the family that raised him, while this episode had him return back to the race he originated with. Guess there isn't a standard "Orphan Policy" in Starfleet Regulations. Regardless, it's a very un-Trek ending, since it seems like no one is really happy at the end of the Episode, and TOS and TNG episodes almost always had some sort of either happy ending or moral of the story.

The last opportunity for me is that this wasn't brought up again when Dukat went looking or his long lost half Bajoram daughter. After all how can it be thatnPaDar abandoning his child is a career ender, but for Dukat claiming his child is a career ender???
Keith DeCandido
17. krad
MikeKelm: You're misremembering. Admitting to Ziyal's existence was a blow to Dukat's career. The episode "Return to Grace" had him assigned to a freighter, with him and Ziyal outcasts from Cardassian society. That episode ended with Dukat doing his Roj Blake act on a Klingon bird-of-prey, and he stayed an outcast until he brokered the deal with the Dominion.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher Bennett
18. ChristopherLBennett
@17: But that's what Mike said: That Dukat's career was hurt by acknowledging Ziyal.

@16: I'd say the answer is that they were different kinds of scandal. For a Cardassian to abandon his son amidst the Bajorans would be scandalous to a people who value family. But for a Cardassian to have a half-breed child with a Bajoran is scandalous to a people who value racial purity.
Charles Olney
19. CharlesO
The decision about where he should go IS a complicated one. And there certainly are no easy answers. That doesn't, however, mean that the show's portrayal of Sisko's eventual decision is acceptable.

Precisely because it's a difficult issue, they have an obligation to do SOME kind of work to illustrate the complexities.

This reminds me quite a lot of what was so troublesome about the previous episode. Sure, I can imagine how the symbiotic process works such that Dax would be perfectly happy to join with a new host at gunpoint and apparently feel no regret - but if that's how the process works then the episode owes it to us to SHOW that. We're made to feel that the actual individual case matters - but don't get any followthrough on that premise. It's pushed aside for the sake of a (semi-incoherent) political plot.

It's a shame. I do think Sisko's decision is pretty firmly wrong. But not indefensible. And a story which helped us to understand why there were legitimate reasons to make that decision could have been a very strong one.
Christopher Hatton
20. Xopher
I think the ending was just a kneejerk "you should be with your biological parents" reaction, without much thought put into the complexity of it by the writers.

I agree that that was more interesting than Dukat's machinations...and they could have made more of it. At the very least we should have been treated to the kid's screams of horror as he was carried kicking from the room, and Sisko's feelings of guilt.

Because that's what happens in the real world when you take a kid from the only parents he's ever known and send him to live with strangers, even if the strangers are related to him.
Pirmin Schanne
21. Torvald_Nom
@18: I'm not sure whether the fallout for Dukat was due to Ziyal being a halfbreed - it might as well have been because he was married and father of legitimate children.
Uncle Mikey
22. Eoin8472
Can I recommend Una McCormack's The Never Ending Sacrifice everyone as one of the greatest Trek books ever written with some awesome angles on tolerence and racism. Its fantastic

Also to go back to Keiths point on Sisko's decision, that book explicitly mentions and judges Sisko as being wrong in his decision in this epsiode. Though to be fair, unlike Suddenly Human, the Cardassians may simply have more political power than the Talarian's have and Sisko may have been put under more pressure than Picard was.
Christopher Bennett
23. ChristopherLBennett
A better outcome would've been for Rugal to stay with his Bajoran family and for Pa'Dar to be granted visitation rights, so that Rugal would have a chance to get to know him and maybe eventually agree to return with him, or at least include both families in his life. Leave the outcome open-ended but hopeful, have it be something where Rugal has a say in it rather than being treated as a prize to be claimed.
Rob Rater
24. Quasarmodo
@10 Pretty much agreed with every word you said.
Mike Kelmachter
25. MikeKelm
@23 CLB... First, let me thank you for answering my post @16...

The better outcome you list is pretty much the standard Star Trek ending- optomistic and open ended. I can practically hear Captain Picard explaining to Data or Troi or someone that this may be for the best.. the boy stays with the family that loves him and later, when he's ready, can learn about his native culture. AND... cue the closing credits and theme music...

That almost makes me wonder if the DS9 writers chose to go the other way (possibly not consciously) in that it's a DS9 ending, not the happy TNG ending. I know we hadn't gotten into full-out anti-Rodenberry revolution yet in the series, but even by this point DS9 had started seperating itself out from the rest of the Trek-genre.
alastair chadwin
26. a-j
The curious incident of Kira in this episode:

I suppose the problem is that had she been involved it would have been a rehash of themes raised and addressed in 'Duet' and this story is first and foremost a political one. Still, they could have had her off-station or something similar. Mildly clumsy but forgivable in the face of Dukat's plan which LazerWulf@10 perfectly sums up all the problems it creates.

The ending? Rushed. The problem is that the treatment of the child is, basically, the B-plot.

Fwiw, in English law, the interests of the child are paramount and if it was shown that his adoptive parents were bringing him up to despise his own culture, even if in every other way they were loving and caring, that would be, I believe, enough to have the court return him to his biological parents. Note that it is the interests of the child, not the wishes, that are emphasised and over-rule all else. Does anything happen to know what US, or Californian I suppose, law is about this?

So, a mixed bag, redeemed by the presence of Garak who invariably ups the standard of any episode and Sisko's heavily sarcastic treatment of Bashir. Watching Avery Brooks being irritated is always a great way to relax of an evening.
Matt Hamilton
27. MattHamilton
While I agree that the ending was rushed and there wasn't a clear cut reason why Sisko made the decision that he made, it was still the right decision under legal precident. What is right and what is law usually don't go hand in hand. The fact of the matter is, despite the fact that his Bajoran adoptive parents were kind to him and loved him and claimed to not blame him for what his people did, despite the fact that Dukat (allegedly) had him kidnapped and brought to that orphanage and despite the fact that he was believed dead for so long-he is still the biological son of a Cardassian. A Cardassian, I might add, who was not guilty of anything that caused his son to be missing on Bajor during the pull out of all Cardassian forces. There have been a few cases in the States where this has happened, after a faqshion. A woman dosn't tell her boyfriend/one night stand/whatever, that she is pregnant...gives the child up for adoption and then the man finds out, only to fight for him/her in court and win. There is no good choice in such a case. The adoptive parents love him/her and have cared for him/her but the bilogical father, who did not give him/her up and who has no criminal record or anything seemingly wrong with him has a legal right to his son/daughter. That is the decision Sisko made, though we really don't know why he made it and it was the lawful one, though mayhap not the right one.
Christopher Bennett
28. ChristopherLBennett
@25: I could more readily believe that the writers had made a conscious choice to go for a more pessimistic ending if it hadn't been such an afterthought, if we'd seen the effect on Rugal to hear the decision rather than have it alluded to in a log entry after Rugal had effectively disappeared from the story.
Charles Olney
29. CharlesO
Right. I don't have a problem with the show including the decision. It could potentially even be useful as a character-study of Sisko: does he make this decision because he defers to the law? Does he do it with an eye on the political implications? Is he anguished about it?

The problem is that none of these issues are really even raised, much less engaged.
Christopher Hatton
30. Xopher
26: Fwiw, in English law, the interests of the child are paramount and if it was shown that his adoptive parents were bringing him up to despise his own culture

See, that's where we part company. Cardassian culture is NOT "his own culture." He was raised on Bajor. Culture != race. The opposite assumption is one of the things we list under "racism."

Now, if they were teaching him to despise his own race, that would be another story. But IIRC that was never really even investigated. (I haven't seen this episode in a long time, so I'm not sure.)

27: You're assuming that Bajoran law and Federation law are the same as US/British law. There's evidence in the series that the law is considerably more progressive (at least on the Federation side). I'd hope part of that progress would be to get rid of the dumbass assumption that a biological parent's rights trump the best interest of the child, or even ARE the best interest of the child.

28: Hear, hear.
Uncle Mikey
31. Tunod D. Denrub
As seems to be becoming my practice, I'm poking my head in to comment on something neat about the episode that struck me as I was watching. Specifically, Garak. His performance in the first episode he appeared in was... a bit stilted, for lack of a better word. It felt slightly unnatural. But here, like so many other recurring characters, he kind of feels like he's come into his own. Natural, but very much a smooth-talker and a 'don't trust a word he says' sort of guy, which is exactly what's best about him. I feel like he really shines in this episode in a way he didn't the first go-round.

Also, "a symphony in snark" is a beautiful phrase, just throwing that out there.
Uncle Mikey
32. bigray1999
This episode (and a few others before it) makes me wonder:

With all of the fear of Cardassian deception and spying that seems so prevalent on the station, why doesn't Sisko request Betazoid Starfleet officers, as in someone like Deanna Troi? Someone like her would have been perfect on this episode because she would have been able to have felt the true feelings of all the characters involved in the custody dispute and known whose intentions were the best for the child.

They clearly were also not very trusting in Dukat so Betazoids would have been very useful at uncovering his schemes.
alastair chadwin
33. a-j
See, that's where we part company. Cardassian culture is NOT "his own culture." He was raised on Bajor.
Well, as English law does not recognise mixed species adoption, I was talking about how it addresses issues arising from mixed race adoption, which is the obvious metaphor this episode fails to deal with.
Culture != race. The opposite assumption is one of the things we list under "racism."
Not quite getting you there. The opposite of 'culture = race' is 'culture does not equal race' which you say is racist and yet that is exactly what you state in the previous sentence.

Personally, I think Sisko is wrong in his decision. I prefer the suggestion above that the child stay on Bajor with his father having full rights of access. Then a further hearing could be convened if and when the child asks to go to Cardassia.
Christopher Bennett
34. ChristopherLBennett
@33: The "!=" symbol is an ASCII approximation of the mathematical symbol for "is not equal to," an equals sign with a slash through it. So what Xopher's actually saying is, "Culture does not equal race. The opposite assumption [i.e. that it does equal race] is one of the things we list under 'racism.'"
Keith DeCandido
36. krad
Due to the need to recover from the Tor.com fifth anniversary bash and my guest of honor duties at OSFest VI this weekend, there will be no rewatch on Friday. We'll be back Tuesday with "Melora."

(Sorry for the blank message. The mobile version of Tor.com is sometimes problematic......)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Matt Hamilton
37. MattHamilton
As progressive as it may have gotten (at least on the Federation side) law still has to come up with a compelling reason to keep a child from his/her father if they did nothing wrong. Just because he was adopted (without the father's permission/knowledge) is not reason enough. I am a progressive, and I hope that my views never get to the point where we just take a child away from their parents because, hey, this guy over here is nice too! Cardassian and Bajoran law may, in fact, be completely different, but it was a human who was making the overall decision.
Keith DeCandido
38. krad
Matt: but again, the point is that we didn't see the basis on which Sisko made the decision. It was an off-camera afterthought, and it needed more than that.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Rob Rater
39. Quasarmodo
Bald & beared Sisko would never have made that decision off-camera.
Matt Hamilton
40. MattHamilton
@Krad, yes, I agree with that. I said as much in my first comment. The ending was rushed and there was no explanation as to why Sisko made that deciesion, even if, by law, he had made the right decision, we weren't given a clear reason as to why or the curtesy of telling/showing us within the show as opposed to a voice over. I was just reiterating my point in the debate about whether it was right or not
alastair chadwin
41. a-j
Thanks. I was puzzled. I'd not come across that usuage before. Now all I need to know is what ASCII means:).

For the record, I was commenting on what the legal position in England is on such issues and wondering what other legislatures do. It was not a personal endorsement.
Matt Stoumbaugh
42. LazerWulf
@41: ASCII is a way of converting binary 1s and 0s into readable text. One BYTE has eight BITS, which, when read as a binary number, can have a value of 0-255. ASCII is an encoding scheme which standardizes the translation between that number and a particular character.

I think what @34 was trying to get at was that "!=" is programmer shorthand for "is not equal to", because that is the notation used in mathematical/logical equations in several programming languages, like C++.

For web-shorthand, I have seen "/=" and "=/=" used to mean the same thing.
Christopher Bennett
43. ChristopherLBennett
@42: I didn't know it was programmer shorthand. I just figured it was attempt to use the ASCII character set to approximate a special character that can't be typed on a standard keyboard.
Christopher Hatton
44. Xopher
a-j@33: What CLB@34 said. Sorry for using confusing notation.

The closest Earthly analogy to this situation would be the Lebensborn children after WWII. Suppose one were adopted by a Jewish family and taken to Israel, that would be a good analogy.

@41: Oh, OK. Sorry, I misread your intention.

Matt@37: As progressive as it may have gotten (at least on the Federation side) law still has to come up with a compelling reason to keep a child from his/her father if they did nothing wrong.

I entirely disagree; or rather I agree, but disagree on which of the men is the "father" in this case. I think under progressive law you'd need a compelling reason to take a child from the only parents s/he's ever known. This emphasis on the genetic parents is stupid nonsense IMO. Why should a genetic relationship privilege someone at all? Especially against the interest of someone who's made a real investment of time, money, and love -- and as far as I can tell in this case, against the best interest of the child as well.
Rob Rater
45. Quasarmodo
I was going to say that I'm used to the Lesser Than Symbol Greater Than Symber to mean "not equal to", but those symbols don't want to show up in my post. Anyway, I get that from using Excel spreadsheets.
Christopher Hatton
46. Xopher
Yeah, that's a bug in Tor.com's comment software. Even if you put in & l t ; & g t ; (without spaces) it converts them to the symbols IN YOUR EDITOR and then drops them as HTML in the Preview/post.
Christopher Hatton
47. Xopher
Oddly enough you can put in & n e ; without spaces and get ?. But the editor converts HTML recursively until it's all gone, which would be the bug I spoke of earlier. Or maybe that's not a bug by itself, but it then throws away tag brokets ("less than" and "greater than" signs).
Christopher Hatton
48. Xopher
Annnnnd another bug means that the preview shows the slashed equals sign but the post shows a question mark. This needs some tweaking.
Matt Hamilton
49. MattHamilton
@44...while I agree with everything you said, I still kind of disagree. There is no compelling reason to take a child away from a parent who has shown love and care for a child that, biological or not, is the better for it. That being said, the same holds true for the actual, biological father of the child. I can't see a compelling reason to keep him from his son/daughter, either. So far, all I have read are reasons to keep the child with the parents who have been raising him but are not biological, and they are all good reasons, don't get me wrong. But I am yet to hear a good, compelling reason to keep a father from his son when he didn't do a single thing wrong in the parenting of the child previous to his being placed with the adoptive parents nor was he responsible for having lost the child in the first place
Christopher Bennett
50. ChristopherLBennett
@49: I never said Pa'Dar shouldn't be allowed to be part of his son's life; I said the adoptive parents' rights shouldn't have been so cavalierly ignored just because they weren't of the same species as their son.
Christopher Hatton
51. Xopher
49: I can't see a compelling reason to keep him from his son/daughter, either.

How about because giving him his son/daughter means taking hir away from the parents he loves? Sorry, but the win goes to the people who've already done the raising (unless THEY'VE done something wrong).
Matt Hamilton
52. MattHamilton
Either way...Sisko made the right and lawful decision in a difficult case...it's just that the script gave no reason as to why and rushed it in the end.
Bastiaan Stapel
53. Stapel
Ah, I've caught up with you lot again :) . I got behind near the ending of TNG season 6 or so. Good to read some comments by familiar names.

Anyway, about this episode. Indeed rather annoying we are bereft of Sisko's reasoning. As for the moral discussion on the rights of parenthood, I've got another thing to think about. I guess we've all heard of (I sincerely hope just remotely heard of...) stories where hospitals accidentaly have changed babies. If anyone would find out within days, changing the babies back seems the rather obvious thing to do. Would reality reveil itself in a dozen years, I doubt one would change kids (or parents for that mater). If I were asked to set a point in time where the 'wrong' parents would actually become the 'rightful' parents........, I really couldn't do so.
Keith DeCandido
54. krad
Matt: I don't agree that he made the right choice, because there was no right choice to be made, as both choices were wrong for different reasons. He simply picked the wrong one that he thought was best for all parties. And we don't know if it was lawful because the episode never provided the specifics of Federation, Bajoran, or Cardassian law on the subject.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Bastiaan Stapel
55. Stapel
Though no specifics of Cardassian law are provided, it is made clear that following Cardassian customs, ethics, logic, or what not, the kid should be reunited with his biological parents.
Dante Hopkins
56. DanteHopkins
I thought Sisko sending Rugal back to Cardassia was appropriate. Its not pretty or clean-cut, but custody hearings rarely, if ever, are. Yes Rugal had been raised by loving Bajoran parents, but that would not have been necessary if Gul Dukat had not kidnapped Rugal from his biological family and used Rugal as a tool to embarass his Cardassian father Pa'Dar. The poor kid was a pawn in a long game, and there was no real reason to further keep the boy from his Cardassian family. So though it hurt to do it I'm sure, the most appropriate thing was to return Rugal to Pa'Dar.

Man, Dukat is a real bastard.
Christopher Bennett
57. ChristopherLBennett
@54: I don't agree. If the only thing that mattered were redressing the wrong committed against Pa'Dar, then sure, the right thing to do would be to return what was taken from him. But Rugal is not a piece of property. He's a sentient being with feelings, and the only family he's ever known is the Bajoran one, and just picking him up and forcing him to leave that family is cruel, no matter how justified it may be from the standpoint of the law or of other people's rights. At the very least there should've been a more gradual transition, something that let both sets of parents have a place in his life.
Matt Stoumbaugh
58. LazerWulf
@57: Didn't they say that they would arrange visits with his Bajoran parents?
Uncle Mikey
59. Greenygal
@59: Not really. O'Brien says that if Rugal ever wants to come back for a visit, he should let O'Brien know and he'll arrange it. But the show gives us no reason to think O'Brien has any authority to make that promise, and it's still nothing like agreed-upon visitations.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
60. Lisamarie
Totally late to the party (the DVD was out from the library for awhile, and then we were traveling) but excited to catch back up.

For this one I don't have much to add that isn't already said - I found the episode pretty interesting, but agreed that the ending was quite unsatisfying and offputting. It seems like a better compromise that actually acknowledges that the child is a PERSON with certain rights and needs could have been reached - one that respects his need to stay with the family he knows, but also allows his father to have contact with him and perhaps help him (and his parents) learn to have a more balanced view of Cardassians as time goes on. I can't see how ripping a child from his family and then throwing him into an environment full of people and a culture he is terrified of is going to be a way for him to have 'healing', as Sisko says in the voiceover.

I do empathize with the father, as the idea of my child being kidnapped or thought dead is horrifying to me, and of course I would want my child back if I found out he was still alive, even after 8 years. But I hope I could at least understand that it would do him more harm than good to be taken from a stable family - It's also horrifying to me to think of somebody coming to us in a few years and telling me that my son is actually theirs and taking him.
Joseph Newton
61. crzydroid
@23: This was pretty much my idea. My problem with the ending, aside from it being tacked on, was that it just seemed like a huge disastor. We can talk all we want about how they may have discussed every moral and legal point off camera and arrived at the decision logically. I don't think that means it's a good idea for him to be just thrust back into life on Cardassia, and never see his Bajoran parents again (and where is the mother during this, anyway?). I think at the least, they should have some social worker living and working with them for a while, and there should definitely be visitation rights and such.
Edward Chinevere
62. Drawde
I strongly dislike this episode for how wrong it feels, how poorly it's explained, and for the points raised in #10 about the near-mystical foresight required from Dukat in order for it to all make sense.

As for the law- one question: where the hell are the Bajoran officials in all this? You fly an arbiter out to extradite the federation trill but you don't fly an official out for a potentially groundbreaking and far-reaching custody hearing of a Bajoran family on a Bajoran station? Cardassian and Federation law should have no bearing here.

The plot is just flat-out disastrous, and isn't worthy of the character work done in the episode.

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