Star Trek Documentary Goes Behind the Scenes of Deep Space Nine
If you’re a hardcore Trekkie, you probably already know about What We Left Behind; the crowd-funded documentary that looks back on the legacy of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And if, you don’t, the best way to describe the doc is that it’s a snapshot of a particular fandom, curated by someone who helped create that fandom in the first place.
Producer and showrunner Ira Steven Behr wasn’t the creator of Deep Space Nine (that would be Rick Berman and the late Michael Piller), but, he certainly is the biggest advocate of the series these days. In What We Left Behind (a riff on the show’s series finale titled “What You Leave Behind"), Behr interviews the expansive cast, crew, various writers, and fans of Deep Space Nine. The result is a sentimental — if a little uneven — retrospective of the beloved, and perhaps most misunderstood, Star Trek series of all time.
This week, after several private and convention screenings, What We Left Behind is out now for digital download for the general public.If you’re a fan of Trek, you should totally watch it. But in the meantime, to whet your appetite, here are nine takeaways from the documentary. So yes, this is a double spoiler red alert: Spoilers aheadfor What We Left Behind and for all seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
The documentary is not for newbies.
Perhaps most importantly, a casual Trek fan probably shouldn’t watch this documentary unless they are already familiar with the big plot points — and the basic premise — of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. If you don’t know why the United Federation of Planets put a Starfleet commander on a Cardassian space station partially run by Bajorians, this documentary is not going to hold your hand. The doc also doesn’t shy away from massive spoilers about character deaths or huge plot twists. If you’re planning a DS9rewatch, and you’re a little hazy about some of the bigger reveals in the show, maybe hold off watching this for a while.
The physical design of the space station changed to be more kid-friendly.
Prior to settling on the beautiful curved arches of the titular space station’s docking pylons, longtime Trek designers Denise and Michael Okuda had submitted a design for the station that made it look something like an oil rig in space. (Picture the spaceship Nostromo from 1979’s Alien, but with less symmetry.) Although the Okudas were happy with the rugged early design for DS9, Rick Burmon told them it had to be simple, “something a child could draw.” And the rest was history.
A hypothetical Season 8 would have killed a beloved character, introduced Sisko’s other son, and brought back Section 31.
One of the most compelling aspects of the documentary is the writers’ room reunion consisting of Ronald D. Moore, René Echevarria, Hans Beimler, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, and Ira Behr all breaking a “new” episode of Deep Space Nine. Its a hypothetical scenario, but the writers take it seriously, and as the documentary explores various other facets of DS9’s legacy, we occasionally check back in with the progress of this mythical season 8 debut episode.
The biggest things to know? In this hypothetical episode, Nog is killed and Ben Sisko’s secret other son, Joseph Yates-Sisko is serving on a future version of Deep Space Nine. Behr also would have brought back Section 31, which, was after all, first created on Deep Space Nine. There’s more twists and turns than all that, but the faux- season 8 episode is worth the entire documentary.
Avery Brooks introduced Cirroc Lofton as “his son” IRL.
Though Avery Brooks did not record new interviews for What We Left Behind, but in on archival convention interview, he tells a young child that his favorite mission as Captain Sisko was “raising Jake.” Actor Cirroc Lofton, who played Jake, then reveals that during the entire run of the series, Avery Brooks behaved as though Lofton was actually his son. It wasn’t weird method acting, just deep love. Though Lofton does recall going to his “first Lakers game” with Brooks and being introduced to strangers as his son, along side Brooks’s real son.
Cast and showrunners both think the show would have had a hard time after 9/11.
Actor Nana Visitor and former showrunner Behr reflect somewhat uncomfortably about the idea that the heroic Major Kira Nerys was also a former terrorist. Neither Visitor or Behr knows how the character would have been written or played differently in a post-9/11 world, but they do know it would have been very different.
Garak was gay.
Early in the documentary, Behr says that while the show was on the air the most popular Cardassian character was easily Marc Alaimo’s Gul Dukat. But, that today, the most popular Cardassian character is easily Andrew Robinson’s Garak. At numerous points, Robinson and others all confirm that Garak was gay and that Robinson played the character that way on purpose.
Speaking about Garak’s relationship with Dr. Bashir in early seasons, Robinson says “At first, all Garak wanted to do was have sex with him.” Later in the documentary, Behr says he regrets not having Garak come out more explicitly as gay in the series.
Avery Brooks spoke in jazz metaphors on the set to help fellow cast members.
In one scene, some guest actors explain how series lead Avery Brooks would help to calm their nerves during difficult dialogue sequences. Actor Casey Biggs — who played Damar — said that at one point, when he was having a hard time with his lines, Brooks would just come up to him and say “glide...you dig?” After that, several cast members all describe Brooks as someone with the mind of a jazz musician.
Countless military veterans say Deep Space Nine represents them.
In a moving segment toward the end of the documentary Behr and Aron Eisenberg (Nog) talk about their experiences with active service members or veterans who all cite DS9 as a touchstone. Nearly breaking down in tears, Eisenberg says that after Nog had his leg blown off on the show that veterans would often tell him at conventions that his portrayal of a wounded vetran helped them get through various traumas.
The HD-Remastered scenes are amazing.
For dedicated fans, the highlight of the documentary may very well be the gorgeous high-definition remastered scenes taken from the series itself. Unlike The Original Series and The Next Generation, both Deep Space Nine and Voyager have not been released on home video with HD remasterings. This means, even if you stream DS9 on Netflix (or Amazon or CBS All-Access) the picture quality will simply not be as good as TNG or TOS.
But, because What We Left Behind remastered key scenes for use in the doc, it gives a small taste of how amazing a new, and crisply spruced-up DS9 could look. Here’s hoping fans and pundits are right; and that What We Left Behind opens the wormhole up to a new release of DS9 in HD.
What We Left Behind — Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is available for purchase on iTunes and various other digital media outlets.
Read and download the Den of Geek SDCC 2019 Special Edition Magazine right here!