Friday, July 5, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 3: Shakaar

Deep Space Nine, Season 3
Airdate: May 22, 1995
69 of 173 produced
69 of 173 aired


The First Minister of Bajor dies suddenly, and the person appointed to take his place is Kai Winn. Kira is not happy about this, but she is even more displeased when the Kai comes to the station asking her to intervene in a dispute with a group of Bajoran farmers headed by Shakaar, Kira's friend and the man who lead her resistance cell. And there's some darts, too.

Beverlyyy... I love you Beverly.... don't make me come after you with this rifle, Beverlyyyy...


Kevin: This is an interesting episode. Bajoran political episde can be very hit or miss. I think this one largely succeeds. Why? First, the episode just has some vitality and interest. The character story for Kira was good. I liked that she is still actively grieving Bareil and even more actively blames Winn for his death. I liked seeing Kira interact with her friends. They all came off as real people who shared a real experience together. I like Winn here too. Between Life Support where she felt unsure working without a scapegoat, and here where she seriously and repeatedly overreacts, I kind of like the idea that Winn is the classic example of someone who schemes for power really well, but then doesn't actually handle having it well. It's a fun wrinkle for a recurring antagonist.

Matthew: Kelly walked in to the room as I was watching this, and she said (I paraphrase): "Is this that boring episode where Kira tries to help some old farmer?" And, you know what? She's right to think so. This episode is fundamentally extremely similar to Season One's "Progress." Kira is inserted into a local political situation in which she is asked to represent the government's position against extremely sympathetic citizens. An unrelated B-story chugs along in the background. Heck, there are even dinners around a wooden table in a log cabin with an additional Bajoran man and a woman, and security guards stepping in to arrest them. It's pretty astonishing, really, that Peter Allan Fields wasn't given a partial story credit. But then, why is this episode so much better? There are three reasons. The first is that, here, we are given a view into the government's side of things, namely the scheming of Kai Winn. The second is that we have had 3 seasons to get to know Kira, and we are now more invested in her past and her relationships with old friends from the resistance. "Progress" gave us a more one-sided conflict and did not have the benefit of a better developed Kira to anchor the tale. Third, this episode culminates in a tense standoff that threatens to plunge Bajor into civil war. That's just inherently more dramatic than shooting a fireplace in order to make a guy leave. So, if this episode's sin is plagiarism, at least we can take solace in the fact that it's a story with better overall guts.

Kevin: I find myself caring about a lot about Kira and her friends, and about the larger consequences for the Bajoran people. I liked the war stories, which were interesting and not leaden at all. All four friends seemed like real people and real friends. I thought the tension, though arrived at through a really contrived setup, builds well, and I liked seeing all the characters slip back into "Resistance" mode, almost against their will. The conversation about how they did not want to fight other Bajorans was good, and the scene in the valley was great. It had all the hallmarks of a great standoff. The dialogue about traversing the terrain felt real and thought out. The respect they had for each other was well displayed, as was the indication that neither side would back down easily. It had the complex, overlapping mushiness of real politics, and that's good.

Matthew: I agree the setup was contrived. Why not just ask the Federation for half a dozen more farming machines? That seems like something they'd love to do. Anyway, I recently watched Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." I really liked the aspect of that tale in which former friends had become enemies, but really weren't that far apart in terms of their lifestyles, hopes, dreams, and goals. The line in an unstable political situation is very muddy, and small shifts can change things. That is well represented here. The standoff was really nice, in that it showed that the characters involved hadn't been pushed over that line by the political machination of higher authorities. There's a really nice feeling that politics are made possible by the wills of individuals, and that when an order or a situation extends beyond that will, those individuals can simply step back and de-legitimize that authority. Kai Winn was not overthrown by weapons or even mass protests. She was undone by the collective shrug of people who simply no longer agreed with her basic platform of ideas. Both sides being unable to shoot in the standoff really worked.

Kevin: The solution is a bit quick. They basically choose to just stop fighting, which they seemed unwilling to do a moment ago. And the idea that the head of state is so easily a changeable position is a little odd. Also, the B-plot was filler. It wasn't bad filler, per se. I like O'Brien and seeing Quark scheme was fun enough, but really? But given that the ending to the A-plot felt rushed, they could used those precious minutes elsewhere. One thing I really did like was the scene with Sisko in Winn's office where he telegraphs that he is not looking for Kira and she has his support to the extent he can give it. It fronts the obvious question of how going AWOL has consequences, when we find out Sisko is fine with Kira taking out what would have been a huge headache for him.

Matthew: I agree on the filler. Five more minutes of chase or standoff could have been really valuable to the A story. They could have filled in some of the two weeks (!) that we are told have passed in dialogue. Also, was O'Brien "in the zone" for the entirety of those two weeks? I found the dislocated shoulder thing annoying. I thought they were trying to hint that O'Brien wanted out of the constant grind of matches, but then it was clear that it was being played straight. I guess we're really supposed to believe that reaching for a mug dislocated his shoulder and tore his rotator cuff. Wouldn't a shoulder in such a state of fragility have been either caught by a medical scan, or have shown some other side effects of impending trouble?


Kevin: Even in her fighting scenes, Visitor showed a restraint that has paid dividends for her character. I love watching her spit venom at Winn as politely as possible. I thought she had good chemistry with the guest cast. I also think this was a more interesting iteration of testing Kira's loyalties than previous attempts. The guest themselves were great. It turns out with a non-creepy script, you can get a really good performance out of Duncan Regehr. I really liked Fureell and Lupaza, too. They both were fun to watch and inhabited the world well.

Matthew: Regehr was great, and I wished he had been featured in more stories than he was. He had great chemistry with Nana Visitor, and this was a relationship I would have had so much more fun watching on screen than Kira's relationship with (Yawn) Bareil.

Kevin: Both Fletcher and Brooks were good in this episode. Neither went over the line in scenery chewing for me, and I like watching them spar. I think Fletcher infused the performance of the right notes of being in over her head, whether or not she realized it. No one turned in an Emmy performance, but the script didn't really call for one. Still, we get solid, interesting performances all around.

Matthew: I think John Doman is the unsung hero of this episode as Colonel Lenaris. He used his eyes really well during the stare-down, showing that he had second thoughts without a bunch of overacting. He really seemed like a complex character, with only about 4 minutes of screen time. I liked Louise Fletcher a lot, too. She has a great way of hinting at the subtext of her lines.  

Production Values

Kevin: The outdoor scenes really make this episode. Planet hell would have been too obvious and constricting. The outdoor, rocky terrain really gave a sense of scale to Bajor, and the dialogue really went hand in hand to make the maneuvering seem real. Even the sunlight made the scenes feel more genuine. I also liked Winn's office. It had lots of nice detail and it is of a piece with Winn's Kai offices later in the series, lots of bright earthy colors and open windows.

Matthew: Yeah, this was an excellent use of locations, and the way they had the extras populate the scenes was really good and added tension to the standoff. The farmhouse was a little too derivative for me. Derivative of the farmhouse in "Progress," that is.

Kevin: Bajoran fashions were out in force, and as always, I like them. Other little touches were good, like Shakaar's rustic farmhouse, with nice little details like the stove, and Kira's prayer lamp. This is definitely a job well done for the props department. On a down note, the wig for John Shull (Endar from Suddenly Human) as a Vulcan was awful. Awful.

Matthew: I don't know if a Vulcan character has ever been more miscast. I like the actor, but he was simply wrong for the part. I was wondering if he was supposed to be some sort of imposter or something, in some sort of wackadoodle C-plot.


Kevin: This is a solid 3. It's an interesting story, and well acted, and the choice of the outdoor scenes really heighten the action, and make Bajor feel more real. The too contrived set up and solution and the filler dart material hold this back. Still, this is another solid outing, and it's nice to see DS9 rack up a string of these in the back half of season 3.

Matthew: I'm going with a 4. The tension really crackled, there was great chemistry between Kira and Shakaar, and the scheming of Kai Winn was pretty classic. It was fun to see her get her comeuppance, but know full well that she was bottling up her feelings of anger and desires for revenge. It feels weird to say, but I really enjoyed this Bajoran political story with unrelated B-plot. That makes for a 7 total.


  1. Oh, God. I never noticed that was the same actor as Ronin. That really colors my ability to take Shakar seriously.

    1. The fact that you didn't realize it until now says a lot about how much better this role is, and that he's actually quite good. So take him as seriously as you like!