If you’re a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, you probably have opinions about the Cardassians, and about one Cardassian in particular. Elim Garak, the station’s tailor/disgraced spy, was often assumed to be a closeted homosexual by many fans, particularly among those fans who identify as “Garashir” shippers. Whether you always wanted Garak and Bashir to get together, or just wanted some clarity about what was going on in Garak’s head during all seven seasons of the iconic sci-fi series, there’s good news: A 2018 documentary film on the show’s history provided an outlet for show insiders to sound off on Garak’s sexuality.
We have a definitive answer from both the actor and the show’s executive producer.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Actor Who Played Garak Confirmed His Character’s Attraction to Bashir
A 2018 documentary called What We Left Behind – Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine features a number of actors and writers from the series, including Andrew J. Robinson, who played Garak.
In an interview segment, Robinson is asked by one of the show’s producers: “What did Garak think of Bashir?”
“At first, he just wanted to have sex with him,” the actor responded. “That’s absolutely clear. That’s all he wanted from him. … But then it really got complicated, especially when Garak’s addiction and despair began to surface.”
The full documentary can be viewed on YouTube.
DS9 Showrunner Regrets Not Making Garak Gay in Season 2
Later in the documentary, former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine executive producer Ira Steven Behr, who also produced the documentary, doubles down on Robinson’s assertions about Garak’s sexuality.
Behr acted as both executive producer and showrunner on DS9. In addition, he is credited with writing over 30 episodes of the series, as well as contributing to story ideas and teleplays. He also was a producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Later in the documentary, in a section about LGTBQIA+ representation on the series, Behr states: “Garak was clearly gay. I mean, everyone knew it. And we never played it. What we should have done, after … the episode where Bashir helps [Garak] get over his addiction, we should have had Garak come out to Bashir as a gay Cardassian.”
When asked whether the studio would have gone for that pitch at the time, given the different social climate of the era, Behr admits, “Probably not,” but couches that assertion with the admission: “We never asked.”
Mulling the possibilities further, Behr seems genuinely enthused by what might have been.
“Garak comes out as gay in Season 2, we have five seasons to play that Bashir-Garak relationship?” he continued. “Where that would have gone, who the hell knows, but it could have been so cool.”
Ultimately, however, Garak’s sexuality was never discussed on the show. By the end of the series, the character of Julian Bashir was paired up with Ezri Dax.
What About Tora Ziyal?
Some fans might be scratching their heads at this point. With the confirmation about Garak’s sexuality, where does that leave the character of Tora Ziyal?
To recap, Ziyal was a Cardassian-Bajoran woman who seemed to flirt quite a bit with Garak during her time on the show, though reactions to their dynamic weren’t always favorable, as one 2017 Reddit thread shows. While Ziyal and Garak never got together on the show, it did seem as if there was some affection there.
Ronald D. Moore, a writer on the series, explained a bit of the Ziyal-Garak dynamic back in the 1990s. Memory Alpha hosts an archive of AOL messages from the ’90s, when it was fairly common for both DS9 and Star Trek: Voyager writers to use AOL to communicate with fans.
In one posting from Moore, dated August 8, 1997, Moore notes that Ziyal was likely struggling to connect with Garak because of their different cultural backgrounds. It was a point the writers hoped to address, but according to Moore, “We ran out of time before the end of season 5.”
For Robinson’s part, he played Garak as someone who was attracted to men from the very beginning. In an interview with Bleeding Cool, he told reporters:
When I was first introduced in that first episode, to get involved in a relationship with Dr. Bashir, what is that initial attraction? Is it just me being calculating to exploit this young man, to get information from him? I thought ‘yeah I could do that,’ but as an actor, I wanted to make the more interesting choice. So for me, as an actor, I chose to be sexually attracted to Dr. Bashir. And then that leads into a deeper and longer lasting relationship.