While the Klingons are one of the Federation's oldest enemies and the Romulans are one of the most insidious, there's one that's proved a far deeper thorn to dig out. Not the Borg, not the Ferengi, or the Xindi. A single race has been at the throat of Starfleet more than any other and it's none other than the Cardassians.
The war between the Federation and the Cardassian Union happened off-screen, but we got to see the devastating consequences for the Bajorans and those officers rattled by it. During the latter seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation and all throughout Deep Space Nine, the Cardassians have proved time and again that they're an implacable foe.
They're driven, they're unified (except for certain tailors, of course) and they want to maintain their rule over the space they own. Their threatening presence was even felt in the Delta Quadrant as the starship Voyager had a share of dealings with their influence. Like all true villains, they love an eloquent monologue and a firm hand.
So here are the 10 best outings for the sinister Cardassians.
10. The Wounded
The very first episode that the Cardassians appear in is still gripping, with these brutal, warlike aliens acting as the wronged party. Unfortunately, they have good reason. The captain of the Nebula-class starship Phoenix, Robert Maxwell, has crossed into Cardassian space and has begun targeting and destroying their ships.
Maxwell lost his family to the Cardassians during the recent wars and Picard believes that he's out for vengeance, as does Gul Macet, a Cardassian officer who is sent to deal with the situation. Picard then discovers that Chief Miles O'Brien served with Captain Maxwell during the wars, serving on Setlik III and on the Rutledge.
When the Enterprise manages to track down the Phoenix, Maxwell insists that his actions are justified because the Cardassians are transporting weapons to their outer stations. O'Brien finally manages to convince Maxwell to stand down in order to avoid further bloodshed and the Enterprise escorts the Phoenix back out of Cardassian space. As Gul Macet and his crew are ready to leave, Picard warns him that Maxwell's concerns were justified and that tensions between the Union and the Federation are far from over.
How right he would proved to be.
Interestingly, Gul Macet was played by Marc Alaimo, who had previously played the Romulan Commander Tebok in The Neutral Zone and a French poker player in Time's Arrow. He would then go on to star as Gul Dukat (one of the most prominent Cardassian characters of all) in Deep Space Nine. He had facial hair in this episode, which was never used again for any Cardassian and their uniforms were redesigned after this first appearance.