What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine
At conventions and events, the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine cast (particularly Rene Auberjonois) would not infrequently rue the lack of oportunity to make a motion picture as did their two predecessor series. And now that 20+ years have passed since good ol’ DS9 was on the air, we’ll have to settle for the documentary What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine.
What We Left Behind: The premise, goods and bads
Good thing the premise of What We Left Behind, i.e. the writers and producers of DS9 and other ST shows, was well-publicized before the actual movie screening: This rather ingenious MO is “introduced” by co-producer/star Ira Steven Behr as part of a one-on-one with a fellow writer about 15 minutes in. Unfortunate, too, that the freshest material in the doc is relegated to brief bits interspersed throughout what Behr originally intended to be all about homage to DS9’s actors.
What’s good in WWLB? Seeing everyone together, for one. Well, almost everyone. We get lots of the blue-bearded Behr, of course, along with decent portions of screen time for Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys), Armin Shimmerman (Quark), Casey Biggs (Damar) and Andrew Robinson (Garak). Robinson got the biggest laugh at my local screening for what came off as a joke about his character’s motivation with regard to Dr. Bashir – ultimately only true revelation in WWLB.
Also aboard to reminisce are Terry Farrell *and* Nicole de Boer (the Daxes), Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun, Brunt) Alexander Siddig (Bashir), Rene Auberjonois (Odo), Michael Dorn (Worf), Colm Meaney (Chief O’Brien), Penny Johnson Jerald (Kasidy Yates), Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko), James Darren (Vic Fontaine), Aron Eisenberg (Nog) and Max Grodenchik (Rom), among others. (Even Wallace Shawn, the Grand Nagus himself, puts in his two cents – so to speak.) Farrell gets a chance to vent about the ill-ass treatment given her around contract-signing time; Meaney takes more ribbing about his hatred of wearing makeup; and Generation X-aged fans certainly dug on Auberjonois’s namedrop of Clayton Endicott III.
And then there’s Marc Alaimo (Gul Dukat). What can be said about Alaimo, except that maybe he should get a documentary all to himself – what a bizarre and wacky dude DS9’s chief heavy turned out to be!
Unfortunately, WWLB suffers from a distinct lack of Avery Brooks – rather how a Deep Space Nine season 8 set 20 years after the events of “What You Leave Behind” might turn out. (STG supposes that if you want Brooks commentary on DS9, you’ll have to rewatch his bits in The Captains.) WWLB naturally devotes a healthy amount of screen time to Brooks’s greater purpose in playing Captain Sisko, but rather kills the earnest ST-like motivation expounded upon by Lotton and Jerald with seriously heavy-handed stuff about The World We Live In Today, replete with obligatory footage from Charlottesville 2017 and Fucking Trump’s ridiculous “good people on both sides” bullshit. Come on now…
STG will take the controversial viewpoint that late-2010s current events have nada to do with a ST series produced two decades ago. If Behr et al want to wax philosophic about DS9 and its relation to then-contemporary events, i.e. the L.A. Riots that are in fact touched upon in WWLB so kudos there, great. But save the commentary on the current POTUS for the bit in the 10th-anniversary Star Trek Discovery documentary about how season 1 part 2 was an allegory for the 2016 presidential election.
We’re also gonna dock a few points for the nasty email readings peppering the proceedings. This is a gag that’s cute once or twice, maybe, but why intersperse these rather coarse, crude comments that no one in a movie audience on one-night only is agreeing with.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 8, Episode 1
So let’s get to the heart of the matter and what really compelled audiences to attend: The creation of Deep Space Nine, season 8, episode 1. As stated above, there’s little original material coming out in the real-life interviews or the personal stories from the fans, but these bits of WWLB are the very definition of original material.
As a writer, yours truly would probably watch the footage of the full eight-hour session that Behr put together, a group including himself, Hans Beimler, Rene Echevarria, Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Ronald D. Moore. These five have a total of 170 writing credits on the 173 episodes of DS9, so this *is* essentially the series’ writing staff.
Through the progress of the film, the group’s progress is tracked through the classic five-act structure from enticing opening action sequence to somewhat predictable-yet-perfect ending. New characters, aged old favorites and a reason to bring them all together make good sense. Most of the material gets storyboarded – and these look fantastic. It’s enough to make us crave more Deep Space Nine than at any point since we were stranded in the 1990s with only Voyager.
About those space battle sequences
At two points in What We Left Behind, the film is interrupted with awesome-looking huge budget effects that many Trek fans will certainly recognize as clipped from the final episode (and final battle against the Dominion) of Deep Space Nine – digitally enhanced, no less.
While these visual non-sequiturs are impressive indeed, their sole purpose has to do with pushing the latest version of the DVDs and Blu-Rays.. The date on these releases is August 8, as we know from promotional material – but not the film, which is quite the odd choice indeed. On the other hand: Hey, who’s gonna knock a couple of minutes of slick effects, particularly enhanced versions of literally the best hardware ever seen on DS9.
Finally, an unfair contention about DS9 pet to rest
Even in the post-Enterprise, post-Lost, post-Battlestar Galactica world, some folks – hardcore ST fans, even – contend that Deep Space Nine isn’t Star Trek. After all, runs the argument touched upon in What We Left Behind, it’s called Star *Trek* – this implies that the given series will have some actual, you know, trekking going on; how in Feklar’s name can a series set on s stationary post be called Star Trek?
This argument is a product of another time. While the name of the umbrella franchise is called “Star Trek,” well, what’s in a name? After DS9, “Star Trek” refers to the universe Kirk, Picard, Sisko and the rest inhabit rather than the central conceit of the science-fiction franchise. The truth is that Deep Space Nine expanded and deepened the ST universe far more than any series had or has done before or since (or at least until the Discovery starts tooling around the remnants of the Federation I the 33rd century). If Behr wants one point hammered home in What We Left Behind, it is this: DS9 was a series far ahead of its time.
And for Star Trek fans, it was wonderful to revisit – even if took 20 years after that gut-wrenching final minute of the series...
– Os Davis
Star Trek Guide rating *** of 5
IMDb rating: 8.8/10*
Rotten Tomatoes critic rating: n/a*
Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: n/a*
*ratings after May 2019 screenings only.