Monday, May 13, 2019

Movie Review: "What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"

I remember back in May of 1994, it was the finale to Star Trek: The Next Generation and the build up to this finale was massive. A show that had a bumpy beginning had now become the most popular show on television and they were bowing out and it seemed like everyone was treating this as the big deal I, as a seven year old, knew it to be.
The finale lived up to the hype, was a perfect way to wrap up the series and cap off a season where the show was starting to run out of ideas.

When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ended in June of 1999...it barely made a blip on the entertainment radar.
"Sensors confirm no coverage from Entertainment Tonight or Entertainment Weekly, Captain."
But in the years since the finale to DS9 (Titled, What You Leave Behind), the reputation for the show has grown and some fans view it as the best series in the whole franchise. This is thanks, in large part, to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu & others which feature the show and allow fans old and new to discover the show for the first time or all over again.

A few years ago, there was a IndieGoGo campaign to do a documentary about Deep Space Nine and after several years, after hundreds of thousands of dollars donated from thousands of fans, the documentary What We Left Behind was released recently.
It's hard to properly cover 176 episodes across seven seasons in just two hours of a documentary but What We Left Behind does a very good job of not just detailing the history of the series but also how different it was from other the preceding series in the franchise.

So different in fact that the documentary has moments where the cast reads hate-mail that show-runner (and documentary co-director) Ira Steven Behr received from die-hard Trek fans who were outraged at the direction the show was taking. There was no exploring, the characters talked about their feelings too much, the Dominion War goes totally against Gene Roddenberry's vision.

This was also part of Roddenberry's vision. Still think the guy was a saint?

Behr had originally worked on TNG but left after finding it too stifling. He felt there wasn't enough conflict with the characters, not enough humor, but he was brought back in to develop DS9 by the late Michael Piller, who wrote The Best of Both Worlds.

Here, Behr was able to give viewers conflict between our heroes that wouldn't be resolved by the end of the episode or even the end of a season. We had a Captain who was a father and at times a reluctant religious figure; we had a freedom-fighter/terrorist turned first officer who wanted the Federation gone no matter the consequences; a Chief of Operations who just wanted things to work; an idealistic doctor who sometimes didn't know when to shut up...and the list goes on.

Behr does interviews with the whole cast (With the exception of Avery Brooks), covering the topics of their casting, themes they covered in certain episodes and one of the most exciting aspects of the documentary, a sit down with him and others who were writers on DS9 to discuss a never to be season 8 of the show, picking up 20 years later.

This is a documentary this is sure to please fans of the series and at times can be really funny. There were probably 200 people in the theater and plenty of laughs throughout, there were moments you wish could go on longer and even during the credits, Behr tells Nana Visitor (Kira Neyrs) that if they covered everything on the show, the documentary would probably be 8 hours.

Like Nana Visitor I was thinking, "He says that like it's a bad thing!"

They go into detail about how the network didn't want serialization in the storytelling, how people thought it was too dark

The writing room process is by far one of the more exciting parts of the film. It's very interesting to hear the idea and see them partially animated to understand how they would play out. The ideas they came up with I found to be pretty inspired and if anything, I would love to see this (never-to-be) season 8 made as a comic book.

Think about it, they continue to make TNG comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues to this day as a comic, so why not do something special for Deep Space Nine? It's a long shot but, then again, years ago someone might have said the same thing about this documentary.

If a comic can't happen then one thing that should is that his series be given a Blu-Ray release. They showed some footage in high definition and by The Prophets, does it look more gorgeous than you remember. If there was ever a series that deserved a HD re-release, it's DS9. 

It's very hard for me to properly describe the full contents of it without getting into spoilers but if you're a fan of Star Trek & in particularly, Deep Space Nine, this one film that you won't want to miss.
And yes, they do acknowledge that they don't talk about fan favorite episodes like the popular Trials and Tribble-ations, In the Pale Moonlight or Duet. However they do make sure to give special attention to one famous moment during the credits but you'll have to see the documentary to find out what that is.
I wished they talked about this episode because as a kid, it blew my mind.

Rating: 4.5/5
Worth it's weight in gold pressed latinum.

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