I say this because this is darn near the same plot. The major differences come from the types of stories the show is comfortable telling. In the early days, there was a whole lot of talking. Not a lot of running through the hills outside of Los Angeles with phaser rifles. “Progress” is a good hour, but it is very slow and fits poorly into a first season that could have used a little action. This week’s episode, “Shakaar,” benefits not just from a more active plot, but from the higher stakes involved when all the players are known to us.
In a move that really should distress anyone with half a working brain, Kai Winn has been made provisional First Minister of the Bajoran Provisional Government. It’s a lot of “provisionals” but not enough to prevent a theocracy. The former First Minister died of a heart attack, and Winn took the office because she’s power hungry, no one stopped her, and is running unopposed in the upcoming special elections. While Odo and Kira have a whole litter of kittens over the news, it’s even worse that no one seems to have a problem with handing the government to someone who already owns ultimate spiritual authority. Odo councils Kira with some of the best advice I’ve ever heard: “The problem with giving people the freedom of choice is that sometimes they make the wrong choice.”
Winn, of course, needs a favor from Kira. She asks for it in the most Winn-like way possible, full of passive aggressive judgment and motherly disapproval. It’s hard for me to properly convey how much I hate Kai Winn. So much of that is because she is bulletproof. You can’t do anything to her, because as soon as she provokes you, she’s got the high ground. It’s maddening.
So, anyway, this all comes down to farming equipment. Because the Cardassians are d---s, they poisoned the earth before they left. Now, the Bajorans have industrial soil reclamators which will get all the bad stuff out and make the planet fertile again. Winn wants to use it in Rakantha Province before the planting season -- just around the corner -- so Bajor can start exporting produce. The problem is, a group of farmers won’t return the reclamators. These farmers are in Dakhur Province, where Kira’s from, and their leader is Shakaar Edon (Duncan Regehr, most recognizable as Dracula from Monster Squad), the leader of Kira’s old Resistance cell. Kira agrees to talk to him and see if she can get the reclamators back.
As it turns out, the truth is a wee bit more nuanced. The Dakhur farmers only got the reclamators two months ago, and they were promised a full year with them. Now, Winn has altered the deal. (Pray she does not alter it further.) Once Kira sees that her old Resistance pals (played by Diane Salinger of Carnivale and William Lucking of Sons of Anarchy) are getting screwed, she tries to work out a compromise with Winn. Let’s remember, though, that Winn is a crazy person. Instead of meeting with Shakaar, she dispatches the Civil Police to arrest him.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned in my DS9 fandom: don’t arrest a Bajoran. Sure, they seem pretty passive. Farmers, artists, poets, priests, what have you. But, you send cops to a Bajoran’s house? You, my friend, have poked the bear. These are people who spent nearly a century fighting a regime that made Stalin look like Santa Claus. Shakaar does what any sensible Bajoran does: he beats the cops without mercy and heads into the hills with Kira in tow. Just because she’s gone respectable doesn’t mean she’s going to miss out on a perfectly good rebellion.
Along the way, Shakaar turns himself into a bit of a folk hero. It helps that he’s not actually hurting anyone. He’s running from the cops, basically. He comes across as one of those outlaws from the Depression like Pretty Boy Floyd, who were seen as sticking up for the little guy against the soulless banks. You might also have noticed that Kai Winn has caused the beginnings of a civil war over farming equipment, which is not something a good leader does.
She’s not done being terrible, either. Winn tries to lean on Sisko to get the Federation involved. She wants Starfleet marines chasing Shakaar through the hills, so she no longer has to deal with the bad press. Sisko refuses, citing Federation Law (can’t get involved in internal beefs), and Winn vindictively yanks Bajor’s application to join. So, yeah. She’s just awful. Awful.
It all comes to a head when Shakaar leads his pursuer into a trap. What follows is an excellent scene as Shakaar heads down to talk to the other man, Colonel Lenaris. Like Shakaar, Lenaris was a Resistance fighter. Both men know the other by reputation, and Lenaris heroically led the first offworld raid against Cardassia. He’s also William Doman of The Wire, so there’s extra awesome there right off the top. Neither guy wants to throw down. Killing Bajorans, especially Bajoran heroes, isn’t what they do. It’s where circumstances have forced them, if they can’t find another way forward.
Lenaris proves to be just as awesome as his reputation implies. He, Shakaar, and Kira head into Winn’s office and lay it out: Shakaar will be running for First Minister now, and Winn will not. If she chooses to stay in the race, the whole planet gets to hear about this fiasco. Winn sees the way the wind is blowing and capitulates, and because she has no shame, even endorses Shakaar. So, Bajor gets to remain a non-theocracy for the time being.
Oh yeah, Chief played a lot of darts in this episode. It was funny. Not much happened.
Next up: Dax talks to dead people.