Star Trek Terok Nor: Day of the Vipers
© 2008 James Swallow
When a Cardassian warship arrived at Bajor carrying the dead bodies of Bajoran traders, that should have counted as ominous. Bajor and Cardassia were distant neighbors without formal contact until the Cardassian military found a Bajoran merchant ship adrift and decided to return the dead home to be laid to rest. Despite their seeming benevolence, however, within a decade’s time the Cardassians had proven to be very strange friends, the kind who don’t leave people alone and level guns at their head — for their own good, of course. Terok Nor: Day of the Vipers begins a trilogy covering the fifty-year military occupation of Bajor, being the story of a peaceful planet’s woe, its seizure and plunder.
The Occupation formed the background of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In its very first episode, the Federation was invited to Bajor to help pick up the pieces. A ferocious military resistance had sapped Cardassian resources and prompted them to leave, but creating peace between now bitter-enemies would not easy, not when the villains who perpetuated the occupation were for the most part still up and kicking. Chief among them in the series, and here in Day of t he Vipers, is Gul Dukat. He begins not as a gul, but as a younger subordinate. Although Dukat is not the only Cardassian viewpoint character, he is the one through whom we see most of Cardasia’s foreign policy effected. Swallow creates an occupation arrived at through subtle measures, mixing in a few familiar faces with a host of new ones. Dukat and his grey brothers do not arrive with a fleet of warships, roaring demands for surrender; they arrive as friends bearing gifts and ask for nothing but trade in return. Swallow further develops traces established by Andy Robinson in his A Stitch in Time of Cardassia’s culture before civilization collapse and military takeover created the Cardassia familiar to viewers through ST TNG and ST DS9. Of particular interest is the use of religious Cardassians: though the Union is a predominately secular state, ruled exclusively by the military and its ethos, a small minority still hold on to Cardassia’s pre-junta traditions. They come in handy; since the Bajorans are devout, the ‘Oralians’ serve as goodwill ambassadors of sort, even though Dukat and the other officers despise their traditional fellow nationals and work for their forceful extinction back home. When the Oralians and Bajorans hit it off, establishing an Oralian embassy of sorts on the planet. Cardassian culture gains a toehold on the planet, one used to great effect despite the acrimony between faith and state. Bit by bit, the Cardassians expand their influence on the planet, using the spectre of shared mutual enemies to accustom the Bajorans to relying on the Cardassian military for protection and ‘guidance’. The full arrival of the Occupation proper doesn’t arrive until the very end, and the last word — “RESIST!” sets the stage for the birth of the Bajoran rebellion in Night of the Wolves.
I’ve long looked forward to reading this series, Deep Space Nine being my favorite of the Trek shows, and so far it does not disappoint, though the early inclusion of Dukat is strange given how long the Occupation lasted. (He’s also the Dukat whom we’re familiar with, as opposed to a younger man whose personality is still being formed.) I thought the slow but subtle creep of Cardassia into Bajor was handled well, especially because it was executed not by one man with an evil plan but by several officers who had competing ideas on how best to expand their influence. As bonus, we get a young Admiral Nechayev and a Welsh ridealong!