Distinguish from Kardashian (real-world surname of Armenian origin).


Official language(s) Cardassian, (see: universal translator)
Currency the lek
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[[Cardassian logo plain|250px]]

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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 originating on the fictional Alpha Quadrant planet Cardassia Prime. Cardassians were the dominant species in an interplanetary empire known as the Cardassian Union, ruling over other species, including the Bajorans, during the 24th century. The Cardassians later played a key role in the storyline of the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 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 Next Generation to provide an enemy race with whom the protagonists could interact, unlike the Borg, where such interpersonal drama is difficult due to their lack of personality and individualism.


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. Moreover, 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 their chest. The non-canon "Star Trek: DS9-Millennium" novel trilogy revealed the spoon feature served as a type of umbilical membrane before birth. Star Trek canon 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.) (cf. The Chase). According to the Activision game Star Trek:Bridge Commander, the Cardassian race evolved from a species known as Mek'hammut, loosely translated as "sand crawlers".


Gul Dukat

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 from appearance to appearance (Garak, for example), makeup artist Michael Westmore has theorized in a 2005 issue of Star Trek Insider that Cardassians continually shed and regrow scales. In the episode Profit and Loss, an intimate encounter between Quark and his starcrossed lover Natima Lang displayed that stroking the neck ridges of a Cardassian female produces an erogenous reaction. Whether this is true for males has not been explored. Female Cardassians have blue-tinted spots on their neck ridges and forehead.

Compared to many other humanoid Star Trek races, Cardassians prefer warmer and darker climates. The character Elim Garak once noted that Deep Space Nine's environment was very cold and very bright by Cardassian standards.

Cardassians enjoy a wide variety of food and drink:

  • 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. (DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations")
  • 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. (TNG: "The Wounded")
  • Larish pie is often eaten as a dessert. Other races (coincidentally, Bajorans are included) also enjoy it. (DS9: "The Storyteller")
  • 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, as seen when Captain Picard forces himself to eat one after torture and starvation by a Cardassian agent), tojal, zabo meat, and sem'hal stew (often eaten with yamok sauce). (TNG: "Chain of Command")

The exact average lifespan of Cardassians has never been established. However it is believed in the Star Trek community that Cardassians are a longer-lived species. The character Gul Dukat was old enough to be prefect of Bajor in 2346 (DS9 Episode: Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night) and yet was still active as a Gul and not old in appearance during the events of Deep Space Nine some 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).


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. (It was implied in the episode "Destiny" that males are inept at engineering endeavors, but this could just be bias: probably most males take up military careers, leaving the scientific field open to women.) When representatives of the science ministry visited DS9 in "Destiny", 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 "Soldiers of the Empire" 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 in the episode "Empok Nor".

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 being to work out 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 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. (See "The Never-ending Sacrifice", one such epic in Elim Garak's collection. The fictional plot focuses on the protagonist's lifelong duty and commitment to the state for several generations.)

Conversely, most Cardassians figure 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 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.

Obsidian Order

The Obsidian Order is a Cardassian intelligence organization in the fictional 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 very 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 Changling 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 of the Tal Shiar but more importantly (and perhaps 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.

Military ranks

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 garresh is the lowest-ranked soldier, the rank where all new recruits start. Garresh 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.

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.[1][2]

Cardassian Ranks
Gorr is one of the lowest named ranks in use in the 24th century by the Cardassian Guard agency of the Cardassian Central Command.
Garresh make up the vast bulk of the military. Garresh is an enlisted title which is approximately equivalent to a non-commissioned officer 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. Gil is either a non-commissioned officer or junior officer rank. Space stations 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. The title of dalin was in use in the 24th century by the Cardassian Guard agency of the Cardassian Central Command.
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.


Main article: Cardassian starships

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. 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 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 the Federation's 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 in excess of 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 utilize data encoded on isolinear rods, in contrast to discs used for similar purposes by human-designed computers.

Cardassia Prime

The Cardassians' homeworld, Cardassia Prime (also known simply as "Cardassia"), is the seventh Class-M planet of its system. The planet's climate is warmer than that preferred by several species—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.


Pre-Dominion membership

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. Of particular note 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 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 of 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 shapeshifter, one of the leaders of the Dominion (first revealed in "Apocalypse Rising"; see also "In Purgatory's Shadow").

Dominion membership

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, nearly the entire Maquis movement was slaughtered by the Dominion (except for those on the USS Voyager, that 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 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 Ziyal was killed by Gul Damar, 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 nonaggression 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.

Alternate versions

Mirror universe Cardassians

In the Mirror Universe, the Cardassians formed an alliance with the Klingon Empire in order to conquer the Terran Empire. Beyond that, the Cardassians of the Mirror universe appear to be more or less identical to their more familiar counterparts.

Future Cardassians

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Future's End", Captain Braxton, after having been thrown into the 20th century, describes a police officer as being a "quasi-Cardassian totalitarian".

Creation and origin

In cosmology, the Cardassian expansion is a modification to the Friedmann equations. It is named after the fictional Star Trek race by the original authors, Katherine Freese and Matthew Lewis (2002). In their paper (which has been cited more than 280 times, see e.g. [3]), 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.


External links

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