Rick Sternbach established the Cardassian design lineage with his design of the Galor-class cruiser, which made its debut in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Wounded.”
The reptilian appearance of the Cardassian species had already been established. Sternbach built on that.
“We knew the Cardassian makeup involved that sort of little elongated oval on the forehead,” he told Star Trek: The Magazine in 2001, “so I thought maybe that was an interesting shape to play with.”
Sternbach recalled that the Galor looked like a scorpion in its first iterations, “with a few dorsal tail pods and some forward cannons looking like pincers,” but it felt too contrived. “The pods disappeared along with the cannons, but a flat disruptor forked tail thing remained.” The green pyramids on the “wings” were designed as small disruptors comparable to phaser strips on Starfleet vessels.
The ship ended up looking more like an Egyptian ankh, which Sternbach told Forgotten Trek in 2007 he found appropriate, given how the Cardassians “were like the pharaohs to the Bajoran slaves.”
I’m a big fan of iconic shapes or more correctly shapes that somehow remind you of something without beating you over the head with it.
In the Star Trek: The Magazine interview, he added:
We even spec’d the ship out as being a desert yellow color with some cobalt blue accents and dark Chinese red, very much like the Tutankhamen sarcophagus.
The model was built by Ed Miarecki and Tom Hudson. The latter writes on his website that it was “one of the most complex things” either of them had worked on until then.
Lighting was set up in several circuits: impulse engines, collectors, windows, navigational deflector, navigational beacons. Windows and the navigational deflector were lit with custom neon tubes; other lights were incandescent bulbs.
The same model was used for the Keldon class on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Tony Meininger added fins to the aft section of the hull and a superstructure to the upper middle part of the ship. The additions weren’t permanently affixed, so the model could be reverted back to its original configuration and used for both starship classes.
The Keldon only appeared in two episodes. The Galor in 29, including Star Trek: Voyager’s pilot, “Caretaker”.
The Galor was digitized during the final season of Deep Space Nine by Brandon MacDougall at Foundation Imaging.