“It’s Not You I Hate, Cardassian…”: “The Wounded” (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 4, Episode 12)
“The Wounded” is the episode that introduced the Cardassians into the Star Trek mythos. We’d never heard of this aggressive galactic power before we discovered the Federation had been at war with them, and was now struggling to hammer out peace treaties. In many ways, the situation between the Federation and the Cardassian Empire in “The Wounded,” then, is like the situation between the Federation and the Klingon Empire in “Under the Cloak of War.” Both sides are trying to forge a way forward after a brutal and bloody war.
And some who fought the war are having more success moving on than others. The presence of Cardassians aboard the Enterprise-D upsets and unsettles Miles O’Brien as much as Ambassador Dak’Rah’s presence aboard Captain Pike’s Enterprise upsets and unsettles Lieutenant Ortegas, though arguably not as much as it upsets either Nurse Chapel or Dr. M’Benga. O’Brien, after all, does not kill any of the Cardassian visitors.
But he certainly has strong feelings about and strong words for them. In one of the episode’s most memorable scenes (which you can watch in the video above), O’Brien remembers killing a Cardassian during the war. “When I was a kid,” he says, “I’d worry about swatting a mosquito. It’s not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became because of you.”
The scene resonates with M’Benga and Rah’s exchange over an awkward dinner in Pike’s quarters. When Rah asserts the atrocities on J’Gal changed him for the better, M’Benga cooly responds, “J’Gal changed a lot of us.”
Because it usually tells tales set in peacetime, it’s rare for Star Trek to foreground the ways in which war can change people for the worse. “The Wounded” was one of the first times The Next Generation did so, and remains one of the best in the franchise.