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What I Left Behind: What I learned from the Star Trek Deep Space Nine Documentary

What I Leave Behind...
A Review of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine documentary
“What We Left Behind...”
And more..

By John H. Baker
May 2019

May 2019 has been an interesting month for many reasons both good and otherwise. The things that really starting me thinking was a film titled “What We Left Behind...” It is a documentary about the making of the television series, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” my favorite series of this franchise. I was quite involved in the fan club of Alexander Siddig aka Siddig El Fadil, who played Dr. Julian Bashir, but we lost touch after production ended. That is not the point.

This film was a special one night screening in movie theaters across the United States. Similar screenings are scheduled on other evenings in Canada, Europe, etc. Eventually on August 6, 2019,the film will be released digitally and on DVD and Blu-Ray. It was entirely crowd funded by fans.
DS9 has long been considered the “poor stepchild “ of the Star Trek legacy. It never stood alone on television, concurrently airing alongside”Next Generation “ or “Voyager “ the flagship show, of a newly-created UPN network. Both of those series built on the theme of space exploration upon which the original series was based.

DS9 was a space station. The crew stayed put for the most part, as visitors came and went.
Also, the series recurring characters did not always play nice, they didn’t always get along.
There was darkness. There was conflict. There was friction. I admit that is what drew me in. Don’t misunderstand, I enjoy all of the Star Trek incarnations. On each of them, I found favorite characters and episodes.
‪So watching the DS9 documentary and hearing mail producers got, I realized trolls and haters existed before social media... just as venomous and irrational...just less public... which is something.... I suppose!‬

I am a writer, and during my my studies in graduate school, conflict was emphasized as a hallmark of compelling storytelling. On DS9, conflict was the centerpiece. Religious conflict, gender and equality in the workplace and society as a whole were discussed. Addiction, family, racial and ethnocentric issues , all types of warfare (including germ and chemical). even gestational surrogacy and ethics were addressed.

And, yes, this caused dissent, and controversy as some saw it as a break from traditional Star Trek values. But I like many others was intrigued by those qualities which set this show apart. ST: TNG is great but there was no need to air a carbon copy, and DS9 was anything but that. It was a World all its own within the Star Trek universe.

That is the point. In order to leave something behind that has meaning, you must create something with a unique signature. You cannot reinvent the wheel. That is why reaching back and revisiting the past can be so interesting yet so tricky.

Even in this documentary, the writers and producers wondered how certain characters and storylines would be received today, DS9 has certainly found a renewed popularity, and even a new audience in this era of streaming video... But would Kira’s “terrorist” history play differently on television in this post 9/11 world? Who knows? That is one of many interesting questions posed by this documentary film.

I have been around for more than 50 years now and I’ve had many wonderful opportunities and experiences. One of the most amazing was being a regular audience member, along with my mother, Joann, for approximately the last six seasons of the landmark 1990s comedy series, Murphy Brown, during its original incarnation.
Recently, there was a reboot of the series. Although the show was now being produced in New York City, and we still live in California, Mom and I were able to travel to watch the taping of one episode. This particular episode centered on the 2018 midterm elections. I loved it! Thought it was truly funny simply as a piece of television comedy. The writing was sharp. The actors were spot on. And it was made and aired prior to election night. So the election outcome was left unknown. And although comedy was played on both sides. I quickly became aware that many people’s biases and preconceived ideas of what the show would be, would keep them from even tuning in to see what it was actually all about. Although CBS recently decided not to continue with Murphy, I truly believe it was important to revisit a series such as this, in the current climate. Can we still look at our society objectively? Can we approach difficult issues with openness and even humor?
Or have we lost our ability to laugh at ourselves? This film certainly has its sense of humor in tact!

Maybe if sitcoms aren’t a the best vehicle to examine our current place in the universe, perhaps science fiction and documentary film work better?

I get it! I have biases. We all do. And we are all entitled to our unique points of view.
I suppose that is why I really enjoy this sort of edgy entertainment.
Even as a fan of musicals, but taste runs toward the edge. As in one of my favorites, Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s Classic JEKYLL 8 HYDE, originally ran Broadway for approximately four years in the late 1990s, despite mixed reviews, the gothic musical enjoyed a revival for its 20th Anniversary in an even darker, edgier version. It continues spawn production all over the world, an a film version in currently in pre-production as well. The composer Frank Wildhorn has talked about the fact that he never considers any of his projects “finished.” He loves to update and revise his works, even after they’ve been successful....
And I believe we should all continually reassess our lives, issues and commitments. Looking back can be a first step toward moving forward.

I loved this look back at Deep Space Nine! This film was not a self-congratulatory ego boost for cast and crew, they noted things they felt honestly could have been better, while noting their strengths and challenging. It was also a love letter to the fans.... and even a took us on a journey to imagine what a series revival might looked like.

For me personally, it allowed me recall the days when I attended conventions and remember fun times with “Sid”and his fan club. I thank everyone connected with this piece for reminding me its important to “boldly go” in your own direction... and to have the courage to revisit your past unflinchingly, so you understand where you still need to be...

Copyright (c) 2019
John H. Baker



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