What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”
It's one thing to write unflattering comments about movies made by strangers, knowing only the finished product. But when you contributed to the Kickstarter that funded the movie, and you followed along with production updates over the years detailing how hard everyone was working on the project, and you've been a follower of the primary participants for decades and feel like you know them personally, it's not so fun to write a less-than-glowing review.
I loved Deep Space Nine when it was on the air in the nineties. It was a far more challenging, complex, and considered show than any previous Star Trek. It remains to date the only Trek series that seriously considered the moral weight of its characters' choices, that forced them to live with the consequences of difficult decisions. (Discovery is working at that but hasn't fully succeeded, at least not yet.)
And so, I should like a DS9 documentary that revisits the series two decades later, especially one made with the involvement of nearly every major person involved in the series, even a Paramount studio head. But this movie wastes a lot of time simply patting the series on the back for being dark and progressive and bold, which are surface qualities that don't really get at why it was special. It also recites a lot of well-known behind-the-scenes stories. Unless you're a new fan who just discovered the series on Netflix, there's not a lot of information in this documentary that you haven't heard before. It also meanders a bit, lacking a unifying narration by an on-screen host. (Showrunner Ira Steven Behr shows up periodically with his blue goatee in what was probably intended as host segments, but they don't really work, and the movie's focus wanders all over the place.)
The movie does better when it conducts an interesting thought experiment: Five of the show's most important writers reunite to break down a complete premiere episode of a hypothetical season eight, set twenty years later. It's great to see them bouncing ideas off of one another, as the old series characters come to life with animation. And the episode that they brainstorm sounds like it would be really fun! With so many new Trek shows in production, it's kind of a shame that there isn't a way to revive DS9 in some form other than this. But, as the documentary acknowledges, DS9 has always been the underappreciated Trek series, accustomed to its limited fan base.
I'm really glad to have helped fund this project and to see my name in the credits. It's great to spend a couple of hours catching up with the people who made my once-favorite show, retelling old stories with new perspective. But I can't quite say that this ruled. If you're not already a Niner, this isn't the movie for you. If you know not just what that term means but what episode inspired it, then you're the target audience for this.