I don't really get the title of this episode. This isn't the introduction of the Cardassians, they make semi-frequent appearances on the show (and TNG) so titling an episode Cardassians
wouldn't excite me if I saw it in a TV guide. It would be like having a TNG episode called Klingons
, or a Voyager episode called Tom Paris
, or an Enterprise episode called Jolene Blalock's Nipples
. You half-expect to see these things whenever you tune into their respective shows.
I suppose what this episode does in a way that no episode before it did was focus on Cardassian society and politics. We're used to seeing them as aggressors that are out to get the Federation or the Bajorans, we're not used to focusing on the divisions in their internal politics and their family relationships. We get the first mention of the Detapa Council (even though it's not named in this episode) and how the Cardassian military attempts to exert their dominance over them. We get to see how important families are in Cardassian society, they're given such weight that being seen to fail your family, even when it's not your fault, is a scandal worthy of resignation from government. They're a complex people, these Cardassians, it's about time that we got to explore them.
This episode starts with an assault, which becomes a wider social issue, which then focuses on a custody battle, and which ends with a conspiracy involving Dukat and Garak. It's like somebody made a pizza with most of my favourite toppings, all that's missing is Jolene Blalock's nipples. And even though the episode contains all these disparate elements, it still remains coherent. What's more, it ties in a little bit with the events of the Circle trilogy as Dukat was using Rugal to undermine an investigation into Cardassian involvement in those events. But what really makes this episode a classic is Garak. While Garak had a minor role in Past Prologue
, in this episode he is a driving force of the plot and this allows his humour and his audaciousness to come to the fore. This is the Garak I know and love, and you can see why he started to recur more and more after this episode.