Garak, from Deep Space Nine, Tells it His Way
Star Trek – Deep Space Nine: A Stitch in Time – Andrew J. Robinson (2000)
When I was a young child in Puerto Rico, I would watch the Star Trek cartoon, dubbed in Spanish. I thought it was so cool. Soon after moving to Houston, Texas, I found the original Star Trek on cable TV and loved it too. Spock was my MAN! I think a lot of people who find emotions and feelings complicated see an ideal to strive for in Spock and his intellectual rigor. I devoured Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) when it came out. It was an entire program devoted to showing us an ideal of human interaction. When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) came out, I watched it from the start. It soon became my very favorite Star Trek show ever, and it has remained so decades later.
One of the greatest aspects of DS9 is the effort taken by the writers to flesh out a truly massive list of recurring and guest characters. The show takes place on a very remote space station, located next to the mouth of a wormhole which allows travel from our sector of the Galaxy to an unexplored sector, over 90,000 light years away. Because of this, the focus is not aimed solely at Starfleet personnel, like all previous Trek shows. It deals more with everyone’s interactions as they all try to live together, and the conflicts that inevitably arise. These conflicts and morally “grey” characters were anathema on TNG. On DS9, they drove the plots. One of the favorite recurring characters on DS9, and maybe the single most loved character on the show, is Elim Garak, a Cardassian tailor exiled from his home world, who may or may not have, at one time, been an assassin, a spy, an undercover operative, a saboteur, etc. He never tells the truth, yet he never tells the same lie twice. Sometimes it feels like all his lies are actually truths!
The part of Garak was played by Andrew Robinson, famous for playing the killer Scorpio in the Dirty Harry movie. In order to prepare his character, once he realized it would be a recurring one, he began to create a back-story for Garak, and a personal character “bible.” During the 7 seasons of the show, it became much more than this, and Mr. Robinson ended up with a full length novel on his hands. This was published as a paperback in 2000, and quickly went out of print. Once I found out this book existed, I had to read it! The only problem was that copies were going for quite a high price on the internet, due to the rabid nature of Niners like myself. Last Christmas, my wife surprised me by tracking down a surprisingly affordable copy and gifting it to me. Double awesomeness!
This book is not a straightforward novel, but instead consist of three separate texts, all written by Garak at various points in his life. One text is a personal diary Garak maintained since his youth and describes the schooling and training he received which started him on the path to the charismatic enigma we meet on DS9. A second part consists of a personal log kept while Garak was exiled on DS9 which expands on many of the events and scenes that occur during the run of the show. The third document is a series of letters written to Dr. Julian Bashir, in the years after the Dominion War. During this time Garak is back on Cardassia, helping rebuild after the loss of ten Billion lives. These three threads are interwoven throughout the book and make for engrossing reading.
Possibly the greatest aspect of this is that I have watched DS9 so much, and am such a geek about it, that the entire novel in my head is read with Garak’s voice and inflection! I love it. It is like getting to have a daily lunch with him, much like Dr. Bashir did on the station. Andrew Robinson did a superb job of crafting this novel into something that deepens the character he helped create, answering many questions fans have had about Garak’s background and experiences. I would hope that it is re-printed soon, so that the old fans can be re-acquainted with Garak. As DS9 has had a huge increase in viewings, due to the various streaming methods and the ability to binge the episodes in the order intended, this book would also be appreciated by new fans. I suggest someone pays Mr. Robinson some good cheddar to do an audiobook version in character as Garak. Imagine that! Niners throughout the Galaxy would be thrilled. I highly recommend this book for all Trek fans, and especially all Deep Space Nine fans.