For the purposes of this review I’m going to pretend I haven’t seen any other episodes with Shakaar, so I don’t get cranky (not a big Shakaar fan here).
“Shakaar” is the episode where Kira decides to move on from Bareil’s death and open her heart to Shakaar, but it’s not an episode about either man.
It’s actually about Kira, about her experience facing a common but really important political dilemma: is the “greater good” worth working with someone I personally dislike, and how much do I have to compromise my principles before it is no longer worth it?
In this case, the person she dislikes is Kai Winn. The bad news comes right at the beginning, when Sisko lets her know the Kai has just been appointed First Minister to replace Bareil (bonus points to Sisko for being sensitive enough to where she’s coming from to tell her in private so she’s not blindsided by the bad news).
This leads into a really well-written scene with her and Odo. She’s distracted meeting with him about station personnel and talks about how she’s feeling about the situation:
Kira: This is about the future of Bajor. I can’t shake the feeling that giving Winn control of the government is a mistake and she should be stopped.
Odo: Stopped from doing what?
Kira: I don’t know. Maybe, maybe I’m afraid that if she’s given power, she’s never going to let go.
Odo: Unfortunately that suspicion is not shared by the people of Bajor. They still admire her as the woman who made peace with Cardassia.
Kira: Bareil made peace with Cardassia.
Odo: I know that, Major. But to the rest of Bajor, Winn is the real hero. In their eyes it took courage for her to conclude a treaty with a race that she herself had so bitterly condemned and fought against.
Kira: I don’t care what her popular image is. She is no hero. The only thing that she cares about is her own power. Why can’t people see that? We spent so many years fighting the Cardassians. We spent so much time hoping and praying for a Bajor that was free. Now that we won, how can people just hand their freedom over to someone like Winn?
Odo: It has been my observation that one of the prices of giving people freedom of choice is that sometimes they make the wrong choice.
I had to quote almost this whole scene because as someone involved in politics I have all the feels about it. In politics it’s not uncommon to feel like you have to publicly support someone who you don’t think deserves it. It’s not uncommon to feel terrible that the public doesn’t know what you know, or to think that even if they did, they might still make a different choice.
Then Kira gets pulled in further when the Kai comes to visit her to ask a favour. She notes Kira is still mourning for Bareil (over her duranja, or lamp for the dead), three months after his death and Kira gets a little testy.
Then the Kai says she needs Kira’s help. Kira’s old resistance cell leader, Shakaar, is apparently holding on to some agricultural equipment that is desperately needed to remove poison from the soil in another province. That province is of strategic importance to begin exporting agricultural products, which could improve Bajor’s reputation in the Federation. Winn wants Kira to talk to Shakaar.
Kira agrees, and beams down to an old farmhouse surrounded by dry, barren soil. There she meets…OH MY GOD, Kira! Run! It’s the Scottish sex ghost from “Sub Rosa”!
Oh wait, nope. Just the same actor. It’s actually Shakaar. The first words he utters gruffly are, “You cut your hair.” I dunno, Kira, I don’t get it.
“You let yours grow,” she retorts. And they hug. I still don’t get it.
But anyhow, a bit later, having dinner with old buddies from the resistance, she learns Kai Winn’s story was a bit one-sided. The farmers in Shakaar’s province need the equipment to get their soil going too, just to sustain themselves.
As much as she wants to help her old friends, she knows the Kai isn’t just going to give up, so she convinces Shakaar to meet with Winn and talk about sharing the equipment.
The Kai grudgingly agrees to the meeting but is clearly unhappy and tells Kira her assignment on Bajor is over.
Kira goes back to Shakaar’s place to say goodbye when they’re ambushed by Bajoran militia officers coming to arrest Shakaar, on the Kai’s authority.
And that’s how Kira ends up on the lam with her old resistance cell.
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode feels like it happens too quickly and too easily. As Shakaar’s group evades the Kai’s men, he amasses an incredible amount of public support, so the Kai suspends local governments and institutes martial law. She’s so bent on winning this situation that she single-handedly and knowingly throws away Bajor’s application to enter the Federation.
In the end, Shakaar and Kira – who are actually acting like co-leaders of the group (I approve) – have to decide whether they will keep running or stand and fight their own people.
They decide no, and surrender to the militia men. But the military commander, Lenaris, owes a resistance debt to Shakaar and his cell, and both agree they don’t want to fight each other.
Lenaris escorts Kira and Shakaar back to Winn’s office, where Shakaar enters the election for First Minister. The Kai is…less than pleased.
Back on the station, Sisko welcomes Kira back, and when he’s gone, she blows out the flame she had been burning for Bareil. It’s kind of a cheesy gesture but it’s a simple and effective way to signal she will move on romantically, as well as signifying that Kira honoured Bareil’s memory by refusing to let Winn take over the spiritual and political leadership of Bajor.
So in spite of the serious events of this episode (e.g. the Kai instituting martial law and Kira and Lenaris disobeying direct orders) not being given the weight and attention I think they deserved, I really like this episode.
“Shakaar” is an important episode for illuminating Kai Winn’s character. Though she’s clearly formidable, it shows us some of her key weaknesses. We learn Kai Winn is not a skilled politician; she only knows how to hold power through repression and deception and is unable to make strategic compromises or really wield any positive influence.
And just as importantly, despite its title, “Shakaar” keeps Kira at the centre, focusing on her personal and political journey rather than letting her become secondary to Shakaar’s ascent to power.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass – conversations between Kira and Winn about Rekantha Province.