Nearly 20 years to the day after “What We Leave Behind,” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s gripping series finale aired, the show is more popular than ever. It’s a strange position for the series to be in; during DS9‘s airing, the spinoff was constantly overshadowed by the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation and TNG‘s feature film outings, as well as the 1995 launch of Star Trek: Voyager as the flagship show for UPN.
DS9 always was something of a troublemaker. Eschewing a starship setting and the infallibility of Starfleet that came to be the calling cards of the Star Trek franchise, the program instead focused on a group of characters who were often in conflict with themselves and each other… much to the consternation of so-called fans who never gave the program a chance because they felt it disrepected Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a perfect future.
What started off as a pleasant but unremarkable series about life aboard an outpost at the edge of a wormhole leading to the unexplored Gamma Quadrant became a mind-blowing, heavily-serialized drama that touched upon everything from religion to the horrors of war once longtime Trek vet Ira Steven Behr took the reins of the show. In the second season, Behr introduced the Dominion, a three-pronged foe consisting of the Vorta, the Jem’Hadar, and the Founders that was unlike anything previously attempted in Star Trek.
With continuing storylines that seemed esoteric to outsiders who jumped aboard the series late (no doubt questioning why Worf was there and what this holographic Vegas lounge singer was all about), DS9 never got either the love or the cultural cachet that other Trek entries did. But, while it didn’t succeed on a mainstream level, the series was a triumph in every other aspect.
From the complex characterization of Captain Benjamin Sisko (played by the remarkable Avery Brooks) to stories that candidly tackled 20th century issues like racism and homelessness, Deep Space Ninenever met a risk it couldn’t take. The later seasons were dominated by the Dominion War storycycle, one that set the table for the complex plots that DS9 vet Ron Moore would tell later with his own Battlestar Galactica reboot.
Much has been made about how Star Trek: Deep Space Nine seems tailor made for the binge-viewing era. Whether you want to chalk this up to happy coincidence or visionary foresight on the part of Behr and company, the decision is entirely in your corner. What is certain, though, is that the times have finally caught up to the show, which is being celebrated in the new documentary What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek Deep Space Nine.
The long-in-the-works doc interviews nearly all of the key players involved in the series, but it is so much more than just a loving retrospective. As offbeat and unpredictable as the show itself was, the film also tries to explore its own failings and, captivatingly, even imagines its own relaunch by bringing back the writer’s room to break the premiere from an imaginary eighth season. (One that fans will desperately want to be real after hearing what Behr and his staff comes up with).
The documentary will be screened by Fathom Events as a one-night-only event on May 13th, and in anticipation of that stellar happening we’ve got an exclusive clip for you that explores how underappreciated the series was when it was on the air.
Fortunately for lovers of prestige television, Deep Space Nine is now recognized for what it truly is, the most groundbreaking (and arguably the best overall) Star Trek of them all. What We Left Behind celebrates this.