Cardassians, a spacefaring race in the fictional Star Trek universe, and the Cardassian Union were introduced in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Wounded". Cardassians were one of the main parts of the storyline in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. more...
The Cardassian homeworld is Cardassia Prime in the Alpha Quadrant.
Cardassians are roughly humanoid in appearance, but have distinctive ridged arches connecting their shoulders to the top of their necks. This characteristic might be compared to the Vaadwaur. They also have ridges on either side of their forehead, ridges surrounding their eyes, and protrusions on their chin and below their nose. They also have a spoon-shaped feature starting in the center of their forehead and running down the length of their nose. This has earned them the derogatory name of "spoonheads." The spoon shape is also on their chest. This odd feature has also been described in gynecological terms and inspired a Saturday Night Live skit making the satirical point that the facial features of some Star Trek aliens resemble non-facial human body parts.
Their skin is tan or gray in color and hair is dark brown or black. 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. Female Cardassians' neck ridges and forehead "spoon" are tinted blue.
Compared to humans, Cardassians prefer warmer and darker climates.
Cardassians tend to be predatory in nature, like wolf packs, always seeking out the dominant position in any social gathering. In normal courting behavior, Cardassian couples routinely act bitter and snap at each other. Cardassian society is generally non-sexist - both men and women can rise to high ranks in the military, for instance. However, other fields are not so diverse, such as the scientific community which is mostly female.
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. It is rumored that deep hypnosis also plays a role in Cardassian schooling. 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 Cardassian who is properly trained.
Cardassians generally believe the state is more important than the individual and thus have been described as fascist. Certainly their government is powerful and the intelligence service, the Obsidian Order, excels in ruthless efficiency. Cardassians seen on Deep Space Nine are generally proud and patriotic, and reference is occasionally made to their xenophobic tendencies, although they are often seen co-operating with other races with no apparent friction. When representatives of the science ministry visited DS9 in "Destiny", they were noticeably less patriotic and more liberal than most Cardassians seen previously.
They 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, favours bold tactical manoeuvres 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 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.
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; in Cardassian families, it is common for many generations to live together under one roof.
Cardassian literature often confounds humans. 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 (parallelling the plot of one of Agatha Christie's best known novels) and proving the supremacy of the state. However, human entertainment often confounds Cardassians. For example, 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.
See also: Gul (Star Trek)
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 is armed with two large phaser cannons (or it may be a plasma cannon), one forward and one aft. 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. Estimates vary, but it is thought a Galor class vessel would be roughly comparable to a Federation Excelsior-class starship in a conflict. According to some Trekkies with an eye for detail, it is unclear how a fleet of such ships would be powerful enough to seriously threaten the Federation; however, it can also be intuited that Cardassian technological deficits could be balanced by superior numbers and/or exceptional tactical cunning. Given that the Cardassian fleet is almost entirely optimized for military operations (unlike Starfleet) it could be surmised that they have larger numbers of these pure warships than the Federation. It is believed that Galor-class ships are weaker than later Federation vessels, so that it takes at least two Galors to seriously challenge a large starship like a Galaxy-class vessel.
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