Showbiz documentaries often have the feeling that they are bonus features for a DVD boxset. And there’s nothing wrong with that since if the film is successful, your first instinct is to track down the movies or TV episodes referenced in the documentary. But what divides the documentary from an ambitious bonus feature and a true documentary is attitude. Does the film seem like an exploration of the show or a promotional tool. What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine at first seemed like it would be a bonus feature on the franchise. Right off the bat this is not constructed like a normal bonus feature documentary about a TV show with a singer reworking “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.” He sings about the characters from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This is followed by a quick questioning about the nature of documentary and the memories of the people involved. This isn’t going to be a bunch of talking heads recounting how wonderful it all was and episode clips.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is often considered the lesser of the franchises. Why? Because the original series, Next Generation, Voyager and even Enterprise featured crews on spaceships zipping around the galaxy. ST:DS9 has everyone stuck on a space station that’s stuck in a fixed position. Local stations and cable channels fight over syndicating the Original Series and ST:TNG. ST:DS9 seems like a show they throw into the package if you also license the other two shows so you can offer the complete package. The show had a successful run of 7 seasons with 176 episodes, but Paramount didn’t make any theatrical films afterwards. Promotionally the show found itself in a tricky spot when it debuted in 1993 since fans were focused on the final seasons of ST:TNG and in 1995, Star Trek Voyager would arrive as the prime jewel of the newly launched UPN network. The movie explores how being the middle child not under the spotlight allowed the series to flourish.
The ringleader of the documentary is Ira Steven Behr. He took over the showrunner position from co-creator Michael Piller when he left to launch Star Trek Voyager. Behr went on to write on 53 scripts so he was deeply involved in DS9. He wants to do more than a “wasn’t it great” documentary with the cast and crew. He decides to give the show an extra episode as he reunites the writers and the cast to deal with what would happen if a cast member returned from the wormhole that opened up near the space station in the series finale. It’s interesting to see how the writers would work together and map out the episode with act structures.
The documentary gets deep into quite a few issues that happened during the show including why Terry Farrell departed before the final season. There’s talk with Michael Dorn about his joining the show halfway through the run as Worf from ST:TNG. Perhaps the finest element is letting us get to know more about Avery Brooks who played Commanding Officer Benjamin Sisko. He saw so much in the character. He made sure that his character was a strong role model in his relationship with his tv family. There’s a deep dive on the episode “Far Beyond the Stars.” Sisko imagines himself as a science fiction writer in the 1950s. As he pitches a story of the future, he has to deal with harsh racism in the publishing world. Brooks directed the episode.
What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine succeeds on two levels. For the devoted fans, the documentary digs deep into the stories about the show. You get to spend time with so many of the cast and crew that made the series. Behr reconnects with his creative partners. There’s footage of fan festivals to know that Star Trek isn’t merely a Kirk vs. Picard debate. The documentary also connects with those fans of Star Trek who haven’t sat down and watch the show because their local channel sneaks it into the line up next to the other entries. You get a sense of why Deep Space Nine matters as much as the other entries in the Star Trek universe even if the space ship didn’t zip around the galaxy.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer has HD upgrades of clips from the show so things look sharp on the screen. The audio is DTS 5.1 DTS-H Master Audio Surround and 2.0 DTS-HD MA Stereo. The levels are fine since most of the film is interviews with cast and crew. The movie is subtitled in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German and Dutch.
Intro from Ira & The Gang (1:43) is Behr explaining that most of the bonus segments were sliced from the documentary.
A Brief History of DS9 (3:19) gives a quick overview of how it all started. Charles Rocket was under consideration for Sisko. This is interesting, but it would have slowed down the first part of the film. There’s a great cameo and we see Iggy Pop’s character.
What We Left Out (47:43) is a whole batch of deleted scenes.
Filmmaker HD Discussion (15:21) brings together the team that made the documentary with Behr. They talk about how the project came about. They spent quite a few years making it. They talk about getting DS9 episodes brought to HD. Be nice if Paramount upgrades the whole series to HD like they did with ST:TOS and ST:TNG.
More From the Fans (12:40) are more testimonials from viewers like you.
Behind the Scenes on the Variety Photoshoot (1:44) is the cast reunion in 2017.
Trailer (2:25) promotes how the show differed from the first two entries in Star Trek.
Shout! Factory presents What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Directed by: Ira Steven Behr & David Zappone Starring: Avery Brooks, Rene Auberjonois, Cirroc Lofton, Alexander Siddig, Colm Meaney and Nana Visitor. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 116 minutes. Released: August 6, 2019.
Tags: Shout! Factory, Star Trek, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine