the story: Kira is reunited with a friend from the Resistance, who will become a significant part of Bajor's future thanks to a power play from Kai Winn (just not in the way she thinks).
what it's all about: Bajoran stories at their heart were always a mix of church and state, and so in that regard they may actually be the most fundamentally American stories of the whole franchise. The trick was always to find a balance between these impulses, which had already created compelling figures and arcs earlier in the series, but had failed to find a truly likable figure, outside of Kira, with which to rally stories around. Well, "Shakaar" finally finds that figure.
Dipping into Kira's past (and present), which some might consider a cheat since until this episode the title character somehow didn't exist at all, despite a lot of heavy drama surrounding Bajor in the early seasons (the Bajorans will always be the Kazon of Deep Space Nine; Voyager fans will know what I'm talking about). Putting that aside, he comes at an opportune moment. Kai Winn had just vanquished the other likeliest contender to her personal little Game of Thrones in "Life Support," where the perennially bloodless Vedek Bareil finally ran out of luck with the writers. She used a lot of political reasoning then, too, just as she attempts to use here, but Kira won't let her get away with it this time, which is actually kind of ironic, since Winn actually enlists her into the cause, given Kira's past association with the man hogging all the valuable farm equipment Winn wants to use to bolster her public image, I mean support Bajor's future (of course!).
Duncan Regehr is instantly a more charming actor than just about everyone else (besides Michelle Forbes and Nana Visitor) who's ever played a Bajoran in Star Trek. It's good, too, because he was last seen in the franchise playing a thankless role in one of the worst episodes ever, Next Generation's "Sub Rosa. But a lot of the story falls, as usual, on Kira, who is once again asked to mediate a difficult situation (it turned out horribly in the first season, but apparently Winn never heard about that). Eventually it becomes a full-blown Bajoran Western.
It's good stuff. It works on every level that usually falls apart in Bajoran episodes, and even manages to give the poor world a break, a happy ending for a change, when Shakaar is elected to the role of first minister, which Winn had attempted to usurp and thereby control everything for her people. It's the easiest Bajoran episode to recommend, so of course it comes from the third season.
franchise- This belongs more to the fantasy TV genre of perfect political figures than to Star Trek.
- series - It works wonders for the Bajorans.
- character - Once again Kira proves to know what's best for her people.
- essential - It's the episode any fan should watch who would otherwise groan at the prospect of a Bajoran adventure.
Duncan Regehr (Shakaar)
Louise Fletcher (Winn)