"Oh, it's just Garak. Plain, simple Garak."
- - Garak to Julian Bashir, 2369
Elim Garak was a Cardassian tailor and Promenade shopkeeper of Garak's Clothiers who lived on station Deep Space 9. He had been an operative of the Cardassian Obsidian Order but was exiled to Terok Nor. He worked with Starfleet during the Dominion War, returning to Cardassia Prime just prior to the Battle of Cardassia. He was known to be a witty conversationalist and a skilled tailor.
Garak had a strong case of claustrophobia. He told Ezri Dax that, in his youth, his father would discipline him by locking him in a closet. (DS9: "Afterimage") Garak also spent time on Tzenketh, where he was trapped in a small room with moving walls. (DS9: "By Inferno's Light")
Life in the Obsidian Order
At one time, Garak was a high-ranking member of the Cardassian intelligence agency, the Obsidian Order. He was the protégé of his father, Enabran Tain, then the head of the Order, though their familial relationship was kept secret throughout Garak's life (and only openly addressed by Tain on his deathbed). During his time as an operative, Garak was instrumental in the arrest and execution of Gul Dukat's father. (DS9: "The Wire", "For the Cause", "In Purgatory's Shadow") That fact contributed to Dukat later regretting not having had Garak executed (though not for lack of trying, according to Garak). (DS9: "Civil Defense") He also spent time on Romulus, posing as a gardener at the Cardassian embassy. During his time there he may have been involved in the deaths of several important Romulan officials, including Proconsul Merrok and Subcommander Ustard. (DS9: "Broken Link")
As an Obsidian Order operative, Garak volunteered to have a cranial implant installed in his skull which would help him resist torture. The implant caused his brain to release endorphins when activated, thus making the experience of torture tolerable. In one rare moment when Garak was undergoing pain from his implant, he confessed that he found his life on DS9 almost insane and painfully miserable for himself. Enabran Tain would later state that his hope was that Garak would live a long life which was why he exiled Garak to DS9. Garak's masterful skills for subterfuge were such that even in the most dire of scenarios he would lie and misdirect any attempt to ascertain the truth or his intentions. Which Enabran Tain commented Garak would "Never tell the truth when a lie will do."(DS9: "The Wire")
- He first claimed he was a Gul in the Cardassian Mechanized Infantry and was exiled for killing several Cardassians, including his first officer, a man named Elim, as well as the daughter of a prominent military official, who were on board a transport going from Bajor to space station Terok Nor, when he destroyed it. Garak thought he was in fact killing members of the Bajoran Resistance who were planning to sabotage Terok Nor.
- He then changed his story to say that as he and his assistant Elim were interrogating a group of Bajoran children he felt pity for them and let them go instead of turning them over to be executed. He was exiled when Elim turned him in to the authorities.
- Garak also said that he was exiled after being framed by his best friend Elim with evidence that a member of the Obsidian Order was allowing Bajoran prisoners to escape.
Dr. Bashir later discovered from Enabran Tain that "Elim" was actually Garak's first name, indicating that none of these explanations were entirely true. (DS9: "The Wire") Another time, he claimed he was exiled for tax evasion. (DS9: "Improbable Cause") Even this account (and any others), however, are almost certainly fabricated or distorted, as Garak was fond of saying, "The truth is usually just an excuse for lack of imagination." To Garak truth is the lines in between lies; he once claimed that all he says is true - "especially the lies". (DS9: "The Wire")
When Sisko asked Garak if the attempted assassination plot against him in 2371 was somehow related to his exile, he stated that he seriously doubted that the finance ministry would try to kill him for not paying his taxes. (DS9: "Improbable Cause")
After his exile, Garak took up residence aboard Terok Nor, under the command of Gul Dukat. Bitter over Garak's involvement in his father's death, Dukat attempted to have Garak executed. (DS9: "Civil Defense") Garak again escaped death's grip, surviving to see the Cardassian government withdraw from the station in 2369. He set up a tailor's shop, and went into business soon after his fellow Cardassians left the station. (DS9: "Past Prologue")
Life on Deep Space 9
Garak kept contacts in the Cardassian Union after his exile, and when Starfleet took control of Terok Nor, renaming it Deep Space 9, he attempted on occasion to use his position as the only Cardassian still aboard to regain his usefulness. Many on the station believed Garak was still a spy. He befriended Dr. Julian Bashir, and began to reveal small bits of information to the doctor about his past and current events. When once asked by Bashir whether he was an outcast or a spy, Garak suggested that maybe "he was an outcast spy." The Doctor asked how he could be both, and Garak simply replied "I never said I was either." (DS9: "Profit and Loss") Bashir and Garak began to have weekly lunches, where they grew to be friends. (DS9: "Cardassians") His assigned quarters were Chamber 901, Habitat Level H-3. (DS9: "The Wire")
Garak helped uncover Tahna Los' real intentions after he was granted asylum by Sisko. He invited Bashir to hide in his shop and overhear the Duras sisters selling a substance that is used for explosives. (DS9: "Past Prologue")
Along with Bashir, he foiled a plot by Dukat to embarrass a Cardassian diplomat who opposed Dukat's dictatorial ways. Dukat had accused Kotan Pa'Dar of abandoning his child after the occupation of Bajor ended. (DS9: "Cardassians")
In 2370, Garak was offered a chance to regain his position on Cardassia by killing members of the Cardassian Underground. When the deal was revealed to be a lie, he instead killed the Gul who had made the offer and helped the rebels escape. (DS9: "Profit and Loss")
Later that year, Garak began having life-threatening headaches. He had been using his cranial implant continuously for two years to alleviate the pain of being exiled to a Bajoran space station. The implant began to malfunction, and Doctor Bashir was forced to deactivate the device. Garak had to learn to live without the device. (DS9: "The Wire")
Garak was not part of the crew that entered the Gamma Quadrant in search of the Dominion, however, he was included in a simulation conducted by the Founders after capturing that crew. In the simulation, the Garak character was killed trying to stop the Dominion from taking over Deep Space 9. (DS9: "The Search, Part II")
He helped rescue Kira from the Cardassians who had surgically altered her and tried to convince her that she was actually a Cardassian agent who had been reprogrammed into thinking she was Kira Nerys, which was in reality an attempt to reveal the ties a former Legate had to the Cardassian Underground. When the station was set to self-destruct because of an automated Cardassian anti-terrorist program, he tried to use his Cardassian security codes to disable it. He became part of Bashir's nightmare caused by an alien who was using mind control on Bashir. (DS9: "Second Skin", "Civil Defense", "Distant Voices")
In 2371, an explosion destroyed Garak's shop. Garak was later revealed to have caused the explosion himself, to preempt an upcoming assassination attempt by the Flaxian Retaya by drawing Odo into investigation. The two later learned that the assassination was ordered by his former mentor, Enabran Tain. Tain offered Garak his old position in the Order back, and despite their past history, Garak accepted (DS9: "Improbable Cause"). Garak joined Tain on a joint Obsidian Order–Tal Shiar mission to destroy the Founders' homeworld in the Gamma Quadrant. During this time, he was briefly assigned to interrogate Odo using an experimental device that prevented him from shape-shifting when approaching the point when Odo would have to return to his natural form, but Garak eventually ended it after Odo revealed nothing more interesting than that he still wanted to return to his people, realising that he didn't have it in him to torture those he was close to any more. The mission failed and the Dominion destroyed Tain's fleet at the Battle of the Omarion Nebula, though Garak escaped aboard the USS Defiant. He returned to Deep Space 9 and rebuilt his shop. (DS9: "The Die is Cast")
When, in 2372, Starfleet learned of the Invasion of Cardassia, rather than betray the Klingons Captain Benjamin Sisko asked Garak to measure him for a suit while Worf made an intelligence report to the captain. When it was clear that the Captain wasn't in need of a suit, and the entire meeting was a method of back channel communication to the Detapa Council Garak thanked the Captain and said that he had, "Everything he needs." Garak contacted Gul Dukat to warn him of the impending Klingon invasion of Cardassia. The two enemies fought side-by-side to defend the Detapa Council members during the First Battle of Deep Space 9. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior") Garak would later admit, however, that he was tempted to shoot Dukat in the back during the conflict but decided against it, if for no other reason than that he couldn't possibly defeat all of the Klingons alone. (DS9: "Call to Arms")
When Dukat's half-Bajoran daughter, Tora Ziyal, came to the station in 2373, Ziyal became attracted to Garak. The two formed a bond as the only Cardassians on the station, and Ziyal fell in love with him. (DS9: "For the Cause")
In hopes of finding any survivors of the Cardassian fleet, Garak returned to the Gamma Quadrant on the Defiant in 2372. During the trip he was informed by the Female Changeling that there were no survivors, and that in fact, one day all Cardassians would die by the Dominion's hand. While in orbit of the Founders' new homeworld, Garak attempted to obliterate the Great Link using the ship's quantum torpedoes. His attempt failed when he was discovered by Worf, and he was imprisoned on Deep Space 9 for six months. (DS9: "Broken Link")
Garak received a message from the Gamma Quadrant the following year from Enabran Tain. Traveling to Dominion space, Garak and Lieutenant Commander Worf were captured and imprisoned on Internment Camp 371. There he found Tain, dying. (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow"). On his deathbed, Tain finally admitted that Garak was his son, and told Garak that he was proud of him. While Garak was at the camp, Gul Dukat, as the new leader of Cardassia, arranged for the imprisoned Cardassians to be freed–with the single exception of Garak. Despite his claustraphobia temporarily immobilising him when he was forced to work in a confined space, Garak eventually modified Tain's subspace transmitter to allow the prisoners to escape from the camp, with Worf and the recovered General Martok both complimenting his courage, Garak in return complimenting Worf's strength at providing him time by fighting with various Jem'Hadar. He returned to his shop on the station, and Ziyal (DS9: "By Inferno's Light"). For some reason, the inhabitants of the station eventually began to trust Garak, something he found disconcerting. He joined a mission to station Empok Nor to find parts to repair Deep Space 9. While there, he was exposed to a psychotropic drug. Garak became deranged and killed a Starfleet officer, Amaro, before being subdued by Chief Miles O'Brien. (DS9: "Empok Nor")
The Dominion War
When Starfleet withdrew from the Bajoran sector at the start of the Dominion War, Garak joined the crew of the USS Defiant. He explained that he would rather stay with his Federation associates than live on the station, which would soon be under the command of Gul Dukat once more. (DS9: "Call to Arms")
He was part of Sisko's crew that destroyed a Ketracel-white facility. Though the attack was successful, the ship was disabled, and crash-landed on an uncharted planet. Garak would help fight Jem'Hadar soldiers also stranded on the planet. (DS9: "A Time to Stand", "Rocks and Shoals")
His knowledge of the Cardassians proved a valuable asset to Starfleet Intelligence, though he cooperated rather reluctantly (DS9: "Favor the Bold"). When Starfleet retook Deep Space 9 during Operation Return, Garak found that Ziyal had been killed by Damar. (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels")
Later in 2374, Captain Benjamin Sisko asked for Garak's help in finding evidence that the Dominion was planning an invasion of Romulus. Garak contacted his remaining contacts on Cardassia Prime and found them willing to assist, but then they were all killed within one day of speaking with him. Garak then proposed that they fabricate the evidence in order to give the Romulan Star Empire reason to join the war. However, he doubted that the faked recordings would fool the Romulans, so without Sisko's knowledge, he had Romulan Senator Vreenak assassinated and implicated the Dominion so that the Romulans would enter the war. (DS9: "In the Pale Moonlight")
Garak spent the rest of the war decoding Cardassian transmissions for Starfleet Intelligence. Although he excelled at this duty, the thought that he was betraying and enabling the deaths of numerous Cardassians was so deeply troubling that it subconsciously aggravated his claustrophobia to a debilitating severity. However, Ezri Dax, in her first major case as the station's counselor, was able to treat his psychological difficulty to a manageable degree. (DS9: "Afterimage")
During the final months of the war, Garak used his contacts in the Cardassian Union to find the leader of the Cardassian Liberation Front, Damar. Finally returning to his people with Commander Kira and Constable Odo, Garak aided Damar's resistance against the Dominion (DS9: "When It Rains..."). When the fledgling resistance was crushed by the Jem'Hadar, Garak, Kira, and Damar retreated to Tain's house, his boyhood home, where he was reunited with Tain's housekeeper and confidante, Mila. From there they led a civilian uprising on Cardassia. (DS9: "The Dogs of War")
After Mila was killed in the final days of the Dominion War, Garak led the uprising with Damar and Colonel Kira and participated in the storming of Dominion Headquarters, killing Weyoun 8, who was the last of Weyoun's clones. With the war over, Garak's exile had ended. However, the Cardassia he knew was gone forever, destroyed by the Dominion. (DS9: "What You Leave Behind")
- "Past Prologue" (DS9 Season 1)
- "Cardassians" (DS9 Season 2)
- "Profit and Loss"
- "The Wire"
- "The Search, Part II" (simulation only) (DS9 Season 3)
- "Second Skin"
- "Civil Defense"
- "Distant Voices"
- "Improbable Cause"
- "The Die is Cast"
- "The Way of the Warrior" (DS9 Season 4)
- "Our Man Bashir"
- "For the Cause"
- "Body Parts"
- "Broken Link"
- "Things Past" (DS9 Season 5)
- "In Purgatory's Shadow"
- "By Inferno's Light"
- "Empok Nor"
- "Call to Arms"
- "A Time to Stand" (DS9 Season 6)
- "Rocks and Shoals"
- "Favor the Bold"
- "Sacrifice of Angels"
- "In the Pale Moonlight"
- "Tears of the Prophets"
- "Afterimage" (DS9 Season 7)
- "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"
- "When It Rains..."
- "Tacking Into the Wind"
- "Extreme Measures"
- "The Dogs of War"
- "What You Leave Behind"
"Truth is in the eye of the beholder, Doctor. I never tell the truth because I don't believe there is such a thing. That is why I prefer the straight line simplicity of cutting cloth."
"Of all the stories you told me, which ones were true and which ones weren't?"
"My dear Doctor, they're all true."
"Even the lies?"
"Especially the lies."
"Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder."
"Are you sure that's the point, Doctor?"
"Of course. What else could it be?"
"That you should never tell the same lie twice."
"Do you know what the sad part is, Odo? I'm a very good tailor."
"The truth is usually just an excuse for lack of imagination."
"Paranoid is what they call people who imagine threats against their life. I have threats against my life."
"Lying is a skill like any other. And if you want to maintain a level of excellence, you have to practice constantly."
"A pity. I rather liked him."
"You'd shoot a man in the back?"
"Well, it's the safest way, isn't it?"
Andrew Robinson was involved in the development of Elim Garak as a character, particularly in the later stages of the series where he became a key part of DS9. Robinson kept notes and memoirs about his experiences from Garak's point of view, later publishing them in the form of the novel A Stitch in Time. The novel also portrayed Garak's life on Cardassia following the Dominion War, and the role he played in rebuilding Cardassian society.
Andrew Robinson provided non-canon insight into his role when interviewed by Amazon.com, stating "I started out playing Garak as someone who doesn't have a defined sexuality. He's not gay, he's not straight, it's a non-issue for him. Basically his sexuality is inclusive. But – it's Star Trek and there were a couple of things working against that. One is that Americans really are very nervous about sexual ambiguity. Also, this is a family show, they have to keep it on the 'straight and narrow', so then I backed off from it. Originally, in that very first episode, I loved the man's absolute fearlessness about presenting himself to an attractive human being. The fact that the attractive human being is a man (Bashir) doesn't make any difference to him, but that was a little too sophisticated I think. For the most part, the writers supported the character beautifully, but in that area they just made a choice they didn't want to go there, and if they don't want to go there I can't, because the writing doesn't support it." (see: LGBT Characters in The Star Trek Universe)
Contributing to this speculation is his occupational status as an operative in the Obsidian Order, where romance and sexuality would have been an intolerable distraction and liability to one involved in such treacherous business (as they proved to be in Enabran Tain's case, who was obligated to conceal his amorous relationship and subsequent fatherhood of Garak, these familial connections perpetually posing "a weakness [he couldn't] afford".) (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow")
Garak's profession as a tailor was an homage by producer Peter Allan Fields to the 1960s television show The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in which Del Floria's tailor shop served as the secret entrance to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Fields was a writer on that show. (Star Trek Encyclopedia 2nd ed., p. 492)
In the anniversary trilogy Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Millennium, Garak travels twenty-five years into the future with the crew of the Defiant, and is briefly trapped in a Pah-wraith Hell- where he is condemned to work as a Bajoran slave, given orders by Tain that he is incapable of carrying out- until he is 'rescued' by Dukat (Although Garak is able to use techniques he learned in the Obsidian Order to escape by himself and leave Dukat trapped in his Hell). While attempting to undo the events that created the future timeline they experienced, Garak travels back to before the Day of Withdrawal and meets with his own younger self, providing his past self with the necessary codes to deactivate Terok Nor's self-destruct sequence after the Cardassians leave, the younger Garak later erasing his memory of his future self's visit.
In the Deep Space Nine book relaunch novel A Stitch in Time, it was revealed that Mila was in fact Garak's mother. This would explain why she was so dear to Garak, and why Garak lived with her and Tain when Tain never acknowledged him as his son. The novel also provided a large amount of background information on Garak developed by Andrew Robinson, as well as detailing his role in Cardassia's reconstruction.
The story for Star Trek Online has Garak becoming a leader of the new Detapa Council on Cardassia.
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