What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is just as off-beat, and as good, as the show itself was for the entire run. Newly released to home video on VOD after getting a Fathom Events springtime release in theaters the fan-funded project celebrates the show DS9, by doing exactly what that show did during it’s 7-year run: creating its own offbeat and unusual style.
As a documentary, What We Left Behind it has no structure, certainly not the “from the beginning to end” structure one might expect, choosing instead to jump around from anecdote to anecdote, but it’s not merely random (despite the fact that the filmmakers often want you to perhaps believe it is) because with a show like this – a 90s show, you want to your documentary to mirror just how creative and off -beat the show itself was, and for the filmmakers it was less about telling a story of how Deep Space Nine came to be and more about what Deep Space Nine was, and how it seemed to go against the grain (even the well-trotted grain of all of the other Star Trek incarnations on television)
On that note, the documentary begins with.. a shot of a piano? And… a strange looking fellow singing about the individual characters? Oh, and the documentary ends in a similar fashion. First, the strange man is Max Grodenchik, who plays the Ferengi named Rom. The documentary then wants to kick into high gear with one of those shows great space battles featuring hundreds of ships, this time in high definition, before the footage comes to a halt, with guest actor Andrew Robinson (fantastic as Garak during the show’s run) protests, saying that it’s too early in the documentary for this. At some random time later, he interrupts the doc to insist that the battle should now be shown. Ira Steven Behr, who ran the show, and spearheads the documentary, agrees.
Also, placed seemingly at random, are scenes where Behr and the former writers of the show break a hypothetical season 8, episode one story, and the audience gets to see the hook that would, at least in the imagination, be the hook that would kick off a season that never actually existed.
Oh, and about starting the documentary with a man in a tuxedo singing to introduce a science fiction show, remember this is the same show that, late in its run, introduced as a holographic character who was a lounge singer from the 50s whom the crew can confide in. Love or hate the Sinatra–type tunes he likes to sing, somehow, the off-beat notion to include him in the show somehow worked, in the same way that many things about DS9 were off-beat, and off center. In fact, he was in a fantastic episode called “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” which focused on some pretty heavy themes of the reality of war, and the need to escape into a fantasy. Like the inclusion of this character in an otherwise futuristic show, the documentary isn’t afraid to be just as odd.
What We Left Behind covers a broad variety of facets of the show that make Deep Space Nine unique. It showed the challenge of attempting to have the broadest cast of recurring characters ever assembled for TV (over twenty of them, and many of them get a full arc and satisfying development), which in turn goes hand in hand with creating a show that was far more serialized than anything Trek – well actually, more serialized than most shows in general at the time (the 90s) – had ever attempted. With a show running in syndication, would people be able to tune in and have any idea what was going on?
The movie gives us a look at some of the more significant ways the show pushed it’s little envelope, how Avery Brooks had placed himself behind the camera to direct “Far Beyond the Stars” a charged, issue-oriented episode in which he was featured in every scene. Watching the documentary, you realized why only he could direct that episode. The documentary also asks if it could approach its issues the same way (a main character was a terrorist) if the show had been created in a post 9/11 world.
This documentary is clearly a must-have if you enjoyed the show, but it stands apart as a documentary for it’s whimsical feel, and it’s odd, fluid-like structure. Check it out!