I make it no secret that I’m a Star Trek fan, but what you might not know is that, of all of the Trek series, Deep Space Nine was probably my favorite. This darker and somewhat more gritty take on Trek was often known as the middle child of Star Trek. Today, you seldom see merchandise from it, hardly see it referenced, and, unless you bumbled across it on Netflix or Hulu, you would probably be ignorant that it even exists.
It’s a shame too because Deep Space Nine is really something. It took on subject matter that Star Trek was scared to take on, it had some of the most fallible and real characters in the Star Trek universe, it had a massive ancillary cast of characters, and was so incredibly different from anything Star Trek had done before.
Now, with the documentary What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, this often overlooked series is finally getting a small amount of due, even though that due is thanks to its own creators, writers, stars, and fans that got this documentary made in the first place.
The cast is interviewed, the directors are interviewed, the set designers are interviewed, the writers are interviewed, and fans are interviewed. Together, they share their memories, frustrations, and what they took away from being a part of this chapter of Star Trek. The result is nostalgic, funny… and often self-critical and emotional.
Terry Farrell, for example, almost brings herself to tears recalling her treatment that led to her character, Jadzia Dax, getting killed off the show completely. Aaron Eisenberg, who played Nog, actually does bring himself to tears talking about how the show changed his life. It’s not often that a documentary about a television show brings out these kind of raw emotions and it really does feel like you’re getting a genuine behind the scenes scoop.
There is a part of the documentary that I particularly liked where the film is talking about Deep Space Nine tackling such heavy issues as war, PTSD, homelessness, and so on when Ira Steven Behr stops the documentary and says that they don’t deserve recognition for LGBT representation because they only did one episode and they should have done more. He then proceeds to criticize the show for not taking advantage of a different character’s obvious gayness as a story opportunity and it’s just neat to see that position taken… to actually and openly criticize a series in a documentary that is supposed to be celebrating it.
For me, as someone who loved the show and loved the characters — and who hasn’t seen them in much in the last 25 years since Paramount likes to pretend that this show doesn’t exist, the nostalgia levels in What We Left Behind is high and I found myself smiling every now and then just because they would show a clip and I would think, “Aw, there’s Garak. I miss him.” or “Oh, I miss Quark!” What we Left Behind is a warm pair of slippers that just feel so good to put on.
If you’re a fan of Deep Space Nine or, even if you weren’t, I would recommend this documentary simply for the inside looks at the behind the scenes drama, camaraderie, and politics that played out. Plus, it’s always great to check in with the actors who brought these scenes to life.
Finally, I cannot fail to mention the absolutely fascinating hypothetical 8th season of Deep Space Nine that the reunited writers of the show come up with for this documentary. CBS, if you’re listening, once you’re done with the Picard series and finally greenlighting that Captain Pike series, why not do a six episode Deep Space Nine reunion? I’d watch it… and I’d wager a lot of other people would too.