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Run time: 140 minutes
Director: Ira Steven Behr & David Zappone
Release date: 13 May 2019

What We Left Behind – Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a documentary, taking a retrospective look at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, its influence, meaning, and legacy. The documentary was produced by 455 Films and directed by Ira Steven Behr and David Zappone. Shout! Studios released the film.

The documentary also features several of the writers breaking the story of a hypothetical eighth season of the series. Working with CBS Digital, scenes from all seven seasons were remastered in high definition.


What We Left Behind.jpg

In addition to interviews with most of the Deep Space Nine main and recurring cast – with the notable exception of Avery Brooks, whom Behr was unable to convince to participate but who did advise Behr to not just make a talking heads film – the documentary also includes Behr, Ronald D. Moore, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, René Echevarria, and Hans Beimler breaking the story for an eighth season of the series – Behr advising the writers to "check the Trek page" for the series finale in advance. [1]

The documentary was first revealed by Behr during the Deep Space Nine panel at the Star Trek Las Vegas convention in August 2016. A crowd-funding campaign to complete the documentary, including additional interviews, post-production, and licensing clips from the series, was launched on 9 February 2017 and reached the goal by the next day. [2]

The documentary premiered in New York, Los Angeles, and London. Blu-ray, DVD, and digital versions have been released as well.

Hypothetical Season 8

The show's writers reassembled on 8 March 2015 to break the story for a hypothetical new episode. It would take place twenty years after "What You Leave Behind", and was explicitly stated to take place in 2395.


Nog, now captain of the USS Defiant, evades weapons fire from a cloaked ship. The Defiant manages to escape through the Bajoran wormhole, and the crew is relieved to arrive at Deep Space 9. (A whiteboard claims they are on a Runabout as opposed to the Defiant.)

Act One

Two weeks earlier...

Deep Space 9 is now a religious shrine, with large statues of the Emissary along the Promenade. Kira is still in charge of the station, and is now a vedek. Bajor has still not joined the Federation, and there are minimal Starfleet personnel on the station.

Quark steps into Kira's office. She is inquiring about an invitation on her PADD, asking if it is true. On Earth, it is 2395. O'Brien is the dean of mechanical engineering at Starfleet Academy. He gets an invitation to return to DS9. Keiko says it will be a chance to see Molly, who is twenty-six and serving in Starfleet.

The Emmett Till

Ezri is now captain of a ship called the USS Emmett Till (β), in the Gamma Quadrant, "boldly going." (A whiteboard describes the ship as the "Nightengale" (sic), a medical ship.) Julian Bashir is the ship's CMO, and they are happily married. (The whiteboard adds that they have a "challenged" twelve-year-old daughter, Eddy.)

Worf is on Qo'noS. Martok is old, and Worf is going to be his successor. Martok tells Worf to go to Deep Space 9 to see what is happening there.

Jake is living in New Orleans as a successful but isolated writer. He gets an invitation from Quark, but immediately deletes it. He then goes to take a sonic shower, but is surrounded in bright white light.

Back on DS9, everyone reunites in Quark's. Quark still has everyone's bar tabs, and points out that there is interest accumulated. (Morn is still visible in the bar.) Amidst the reunion, everyone talks about Sisko's absence. There is frustration and disappointment that he has never returned. Jake is the last one to arrive at the station. It is revealed that everyone has been invited to bid farewell to Vic Fontaine, who is dying. Vic says that the real reason for the invitation is not him. Nog instructed Quark to gather everyone. He appears on a viewscreen in the holosuite, and apologizes for the false pretenses. As he is about to explain further, the Defiant explodes, killing Nog and everyone aboard.

Act Two

Major Palik of Bajor tells everyone in the briefing room that the destruction of the Defiant was an accident. Later, everyone is mourning the loss in Quark's, and they start to reason that it was not an accident. Worf says that a certain treaty is very specific when it comes to the death of Federation citizens, and that Ezri is in charge of investigating what happened.

Ezri visits Kira in her office, and explains to her and Palik that the Federation has jurisdiction. Kira gives her three days to conduct the investigation. After Ezri exits, Palik remarks that this is going to be a problem.

Later, Kira walks along the Promenade with a young Starfleet officer, flattering him, and asking that, as a special favor, she see the data from the investigation before Ezri does. She walks away, and the officer is approached by Jake. It is revealed that the science officer is Joseph Yates-Sisko. Jake says that his father came to him in a vision and told him to come home.

Act Three

O’Brien and Bashir discuss the investigation, but all they find are dead ends. The question remains, what was Nog doing in the days before his death?

Ezri and Molly interview the few Starfleet officers remaining on the station. The Federation presence on the station is small and powerless. They say that Nog had an obsession over the last few weeks. He and Kira had a major blowout the day before he left. Ezri confronts Kira over this new information. She says it was unrelated to what happened, and she will handle the investigation from here. She then says she wants Ezri off the station.

Worf, aboard a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, beams down to caves on Bajor and meets up with Garak. Knowing Worf is a man of honor, Garak has reached out to him. He warns Worf not to trust the Bajorans, especially Kira. Garak then provides proof that Vedek Kira, on a missionary excursion, has converted Jem'Hadar to be the new Bajoran army. Nog likely discovered this, which was why he was killed. Worf is told that he has no friends here, and not to trust anyone.

Elsewhere, Section 31 feels that religion, due to being divisive, has to disappear from Earth. They plan to destroy the wormhole and, along with it, the Prophets. The Bajorans will then join the Federation, once their religion is out of the way. Julian Bashir, as an example of a character who has lost his way, is now in charge of Section 31.

Act Four

There have been tensions between the Federation and the Bajorans. Palik is specifically concerned that some element of the Bajoran government might be implicated in a crime. There is pressure being put on Kira to expel the Federation. Kira is worried about her secret of the Jem’Hadar army.

Rom is called in, and there is a "state funeral" for Nog.

Joseph meets Jake in a cargo bay and reveals that Starfleet killed Nog; Section 31 knew that he knew something and killed him. (What he really knew was their plan to kill the Prophets.)

Act Five

The crew is gathered at Quark's, lamenting that Kira is kicking them off the station, but they do not want to go. Bajoran security officers arrive and draw their weapons. There are Klingon and Bajoran ships around the station, as well as the Emmett Till. Tensions are high.

Kira arrives and Palik tells her he has his orders. She steals a guard's weapon and stands with her friends. As they are about to shoot at each other, there is a bright white light, and Benjamin Sisko reappears. Simultaneously, he also appears on the Klingon bridge, and the Bajoran bridge. Lastly, Jake is standing in the station office, examining his father's old baseball. Sisko appears to him and says, "I'm sorry, Jake. I lost track of time."

The episode ends on a cliffhanger.

Background information

Ronald D. Moore commented: "[The reunion] was really fun. I knew going in, when Ira and I first talked about it, when he pitched it to me, I was like, ‘That's a really cool idea. I wonder what that'll be like.’ And then going in, it took a little while to kind of sink into just talking about it as a show again. Because at first, you're just kind of catching up and you're kind of trying to remember the names of characters and what we'd established and, ‘Oh wait, where did we leave the Dominion and what was this?’ And after an hour or so, it just became another writer's room. By the end of that day, our biggest disappointment was that we had just broken a story that wasn't going to get made. It was like, ‘Wow, this was cool and this was fun.’ The next step should be somebody writing the story outline, somebody who's going to get to write the script. It was like, ‘Oh, but no, we just did this for fun.’ The fun stopped once we realized that it wasn't going to get made, but it was great. You just lost yourself in it. You just really, at a certain point, you'd forgotten it was an exercise and you really were debating story and tossing ideas and pitching things, wrestling around structure... It was really fun to be back in that for a day." [3]

Behr commented: "It was never meant to be canon that is what season eight of Deep Space Nine was. We had one day to talk about it. We never came back to talk about it more. It was just a chance for the audience to see how the process went down, and that’s all that was meant. So the idea that this exactly what we would have done is false. No comic book, no novel would make it any less false. It was just a wonderful day to be with everyone back in the room. It was an exercise." [4]

Ira Steven Behr commented on Sisko's return: "Well, obviously we're never going to know, because there's never going to be an actual Deep Space Nine show starring Benjamin Sisko. Certainly not one with Avery Brooks in that role. It's all theoretical. But I will say, what I would think was next for Sisko was that he would have to re-find his humanity. Because once you've basically lived with the gods, or become a wormhole alien which is almost the equivalent of being a god, it's finding your way back to your simple humanity that matters. People sometimes get too above the fray. I think that's happening in this country, in a weird way. In the last couple of years we thought we were above all this, and people now are realizing that they have to come down and fight for the right to have the freedoms that they were thought were theirs by birthright. And this country and its freedom and democracy could all be taken away very fast. There will always be people who want to take it away, so you have to be willing to fight for it. How much would Sisko's sons mean to him in order to reach back into his humanity?" [5]

Section 31 is the villain of the episode. Behr commented: "Section 31 came very late in the game. As we show in What We Left Behind, if there was an eighth season, Section 31 is the direction the show was going in. After the Dominion how can you come up with another villain? The villain would have to be on the inside, and it seemed like an absolute normal progression for Deep Space Nine to see how the Federation would stand up if the villain was us. We showed restraint with Section 31 because we ran out of time." [6]

Potential later installments

At one point in the writer's room discussion, it is suggested that Kira should bring Odo back from the Founders' homeworld to investigate Nog's death. Ira Behr rejected the idea, saying that it would be better to save Odo's re-appearance for later in this hypothetical season 8.

Background information


Ira Steven Behr announced the documentary in 2016, but had been working for some years on the project. Behr commented: "We all went through this unbelievable experience that took seven years of our lives and now we've had all this distance from it, and it was like what does the show mean – what does the show mean to us as individuals, as people, and what does the show mean, if anything, in terms of the franchise and the culture... I had been interviewed a couple times for other docs, Trek docs, and I got really friendly with Bill Shatner and had a wonderful interview with him for the TNG doc and then Dave Zappone said, 'We can't do Shatner again, would you like to be Shatner'?" [7]

Behr also commented: "What inspired me was, I went to my first convention in 13 years back in 2012. Dave Zappone, who had done all these other Star Trek documentaries, Chaos on the Bridge, The Captains, Spock, came up to me and said, "Hey listen, Bill Shatner is not going to do another Star Trek documentary." He did three in a row. They interviewed me and him, so that's how I knew Dave. He said, 'Bill's not going to do another one, and we want to do a Deep Space 9 doc. How would you like to be Bill Shatner, and interview all the actors, and do this doc?' I never thought of doing a doc. I was just in a good mood because I was seeing people I hadn't seen. Avery Brooks, I hadn't seen in 13 years. We had this big reunion, hugs, and all this stuff. I was feeling really, really positive. I just said yes without thinking." [8]


The documentary was planned to be more than a series of talking heads interviews, an approach suggested by Avery Brooks to Ira Behr. This gave Behr the idea of filming in the writers room as they developed what an eighth season would be like. Behr commented: "That was an idea that I had based on a conversation with Avery, because Avery kept saying, "Don't make it talking heads only." It got me thinking, what would be something you've never seen before? There were ground rules, which was everyone had to watch the final episode of season seven, so everyone remembered where everyone was on the playing field, or at least read the Wikipedia page. We weren't going to have any cheat sheets. We are going in there with nothing for one day to see if we could get through a pilot episode of the show. And we did. Obviously, as with any show, you don't break a show in a day – and if you do, you still go back the next day and refine. This is the raw material, but it's a fascinating process. We had a fantastic time doing it. It was amazing how time slipped away and everyone was back doing their thing and interacting and arguing and getting passionate and it was really a magic day." [9]

Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard Nimoy, became director and a producer of the documentary after finishing For the Love of Spock. [10] He later stepped down from the project due to other commitments and getting married to Terry Farrell.

Nimoy commented: "After 173 episodes, people still want more DS9, which is not unusual as fans felt the same way about TOS, which only produced 79 episodes. We're sticking to the original vision for the documentary, but with some modifications. These things evolve over time, and the fact of the matter is DS9 evolved dramatically through seven seasons for a number of reasons, and we're going to be looking at that, as well as what the show was about, how it changed, a focus on the characters and how they evolved over time. Then we're going to try and take a look at what's happened over the past 17 years since the show stopped airing. A lot of the perception of the show has changed. Accessibility to the show has changed in terms of being able to rewatch the series. We're going to look at the show to see what are the elements that have appealed so much to fans in retrospect, and what has happened over the past 17-20 years in pop culture, and on the planet, to cause people to reassess DS9, and bring it out as one of the jewels in the crown of the Star Trek franchise. There's just this immense popularity, due in no small part to the fact that a number of the original cast members are still out there, are still attending conventions, are still together, and there's a lot of camaraderie and love that they've extended to the Star Trek family that I've observed from attending conventions. So while the documentary is evolving, much like the show did, we are staying true to that original concept of 'What made this show so special?'" [11]

Behr commented on Avery Brooks: "The fact that he plays a significant role just came along as we were editing it over this period of time. Really, it was part of finding the film. That wasn't a mandate. He was obviously an important part of the film beyond his acting – what he came to represent, especially after 2016 and what's been going on in this country. When I had that reunion with Avery, if you'd told me that he wasn't going to be in the doc, I would never have believed it because we had such fantastic reunion. We hugged for a long time. We hugged it out like the clock was ticking for that hug. So, I never would've thought he wouldn't be involved. But that was his decision. There would not have been a writer's room segment if it wasn't for Avery. As I say in the doc, Avery kept saying, "You know, man, you're going to get caught up in the same old stuff. You're going to get caught up in that talking head thing, and it's just going to be another doc." That little voice was in my head all through the years, and that's why I didn't want to go linear. I kept telling guys, 'We're not doing Deep Space Nine 101. This is not a doc for people who've never seen the show or don't care about Trek. We'll never win people over with this'. So, [Brooks] was involved. Was it disappointing that we couldn't interview him? Of course. What other Trek series would not have the captain involved? Name me one other show. You can't. So, don't even try. But that's what makes Deep Space Nine so unique. It was the perfect obstacle to be thrown in in our path from the get-go, that our number one on the call sheet was not going to be involved. Makes it more interesting." [12]

Partial DS9 remastering

DS9-not-remastered.png DS9-remastered.png
Standard definition frame grab of Deep Space 9 (left) compared to an enlarged, 1080p HD version (right).

The documentary makers approached CBS about having footage from DS9 remastered. [13]

The documentary team wrote that they planned "to follow up with our intent to scan and remaster selected shots from the series for presentation for the first time in HD. While we want to reiterate that nothing's guaranteed until we can get into details further with various departments, we've been empowered by our positive talks with CBS Television Studios, along with guidance from familiar faces Mike & Denise Okuda and VFX master Doug Drexler, among others."

Nimoy commented: "We've really expanded the scope of the project – the length of the time will expand – but it also allows us to acquire more clips from CBS from the original episode... and we are now in discussion with CBS about trying to get to the original negatives, to rescan them to give high-definition resolution to our film so that Deep Space Nine can be seen in high def for the first time. CBS is open to discussion – it's expensive, it's complicated, there's a lot of logistics involved – but now that we have the financial backing to pursue this, we're really determined to make it happen." [14]

Behr commented: "For many, many years – and decades, it seems – I've talked to people about getting DS9 in HD, discussing ways to make it happen. It's not what I set out to do with the doc, it would be an offshoot of it. If it doesn't happen, I'm not going to feel like, 'Oh, damn, that was a level of success we did not reach.' It's a total offshoot – has to do with money [and] other things – it's not so much a matter of the series itself, it's just the technology of how the film was shot and how the special effects were shot back then, and the changeover. It would be nice. Just imagine: if we do get a chance to do the clips [for the doc] – I'm not talking about the series – the clips for the doc, in high def. That would be... extremely cool. Plus, it would give the fans another decade of dreaming what the whole series would look like! It would be that little taste, a lovely little taste – that first injection that leads to so many others." [15]

In July 2017, Behr commented: "I have not been happy about the DVDs. I have talked about it for twenty frickin' years. I was disappointed with the way the show looked on DVD and the idea of giving the fans something they haven't seen before and getting to look at the show and going "Oh, wow, that is a pleasant surprise." It's something we have wanted to do since we first talked about this doc."

"We have the Okudas [Mike and Denise] involved and they are looking to see what is available and most importantly of all, what are the costs. It is not cheap. So we will have to see. There are all sorts of things being thrown around, including the possibility of finding things that haven't been seen before, from deep within the vault; possibly takes that haven't been seen or parts of scenes that weren't used. The Okudas have a wide open mandate." [16]

Eventually, twenty minutes of footage were selected for remastering for which four hundred reels of 35 mm films had to be scoured. [17] Of the scenes eventually remastered, it was the visual effects heavy battle sequence from "Sacrifice of Angels" that was the most challenging and expensive to do so (see: Remastering projects' ramifications), and it constituted the highlight of the remastered scenes, being featured twice in the documentary. [18]

Fundraising campaign

The crowdfunding for the documentary was undertaken by Indiegogo. After the first goal was successfully reached in donations, four stretch goals were announced: the first to extend the documentary from sixty minutes to ninety minutes, the second to commission an original score for the documentary and an extended writers room feature, the third to film more interviews. The fourth goal was secret at the beginning, but was revealed later as approaching CBS for original footage from the series to be remastered in high definition.

The success of the crowdfunding campaign took Behr and the documentary filmmakers by surprise. He commented: "When they told me they were going to go, we had already been working on the doc for a couple of years. It was going to be an hour long doc at the time. They said, "We need money for the animation and for music. We're going to raise a 150,000." I said, "Can we do that in 30 days?" They said, "Well, we think so." I said, "I don't want to do it if we're not going to make the goal because it's just too embarrassing." They said, "No, no, no. We're going to make a 150 in 30 days." Then in 29 hours, we made like 159,000. It's like, "You guys seriously underestimated the potential here." It was like, "Oh my God, this is a feature film now. This is serious business. This is like a full-time job. This is not something I'd do on the weekends. Holy," you know. So, yes, it was quite surprising, and very fulfilling that the fans came through in that way." [19]

Several tongue-in-cheek videos were released, including one where a "Mr. F" approaches Behr in secret with money for the documentary, worried that "Patrick" might find out. [20]


The filmmakers discovered a treasure trove of material from when DS9 started production in 1992. This material included audition tapes from various actors, including Peter Capaldi and Anthony Head. [21] [22]

Premiere and release

The documentary was screened in Los Angeles on October 12th, 2018 and in New York on October 14th, 2018. [23]

Shout! Studios released the documentary. [24]

The documentary was screened in select theaters on 13 May 2019. Backers of the documentary were able to watch the documentary on April 25, 2019. [25]

After the theatrical releases, the documentary was released in the USA on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and as a digital format through Prime Video on 6 August 2019.

Other media

The Emmett Till

The John Eaves-designed USS Emmett Till (β) will be released as a model in the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection and possibly feature in Star Trek Online.

Behr was approached to develop the story of season eight into a graphic novel but declined. [26]

Reception and aftermath

Rene Auberjonois commented: "Ira was fantastic. We did extensive interviews at my place and at conventions. I'm glad that Ira has been passionate about it and determined to make it because it's pretty easy for us to feel like the middle child who never got the attention we deserved. And that's all bullshit. The fact is the show stands on its own and my sense is, and we’ve talked about this a little bit, and I discussed it with Ira, too -- but the further away we get from it, I feel like the show has gotten more popular than it was when we were actually doing it week to week. Maybe that’s because now people can stream the show and they can watch the arc of it. It feels like an entire, complete novel, like a Russian novel. So, I'm really pleased that Ira and David (Zappone) have focused on it and been determined to do it. It'll be fun to see it, and I don't think it will be your ordinary documentary. I think it'll be a little quirky and a little bit strange, just like DS9." [27]

Trekcore called the documentary: "the definitive and best Star Trek documentary ever produced." [28] The Irish Times recommended the film to see in the summer of 2019. [29]

The success of the documentary led to a Star Trek: Voyager documentary. [30]


Uncredited archive footage


Produced by
  • Reggie Allen – associate producer
  • Jake Barrett – associate producer
  • Ira Steven Behr – producer
  • Eliza Blair – associate producer
  • Daniel James Chan – associate producer
  • Kai De Mello-Folsom – producer
  • Therese 'Tag' Goulet – associate producer
  • Joseph Kornbrodt – producer
  • Kevin Layne – producer
  • Rob Lohman – associate producer
  • David McMillian – associate producer
  • Jo Dee Moine – associate producer
  • Collin Perschon – associate producer
  • Jonathan Ted Wright – associate producer
  • David Zappone – executive producer / producer
Film Editing by
  • Joseph Kornbrodt
  • Luke Snailham
Makeup Department
  • Brenna Haukedahl – makeup artist
  • Jenny Hou – makeup artist
  • Vanessa Marie – makeup artist
Production Management
  • Kai De Mello-Folsom – production manager
Art Department
Sound Department
  • Music by Dennis McCarthy and Kevin Kiner
  • John Austin – sound recordist
  • Paul Austin – sound recordist
  • Devin Golub – sound recordist
Camera and Electrical Department
  • Sara Ab – assistant camera
  • Maram Al Jaoser – camera operator
  • Patrick Anenu, Jr. – assistant camera (as Patrick Jnr Anenu)
  • Tyler Cherman – camera operator
  • Adam Gharib – camera operator
  • Ferid Hasbun – camera operator
  • Star Li – camera operator
  • Anvar Madraimov – swing: grip/electric
  • Armando Milano – swing: grip/electric
  • Don Mosley – lighting consultant
  • Ruperto Luis Sanchez – camera operator
  • Alexander Tobias – swing: grip/electric
  • Jonathan West – visual consultant
Other crew
  • Alison Crees – production assistant
  • Katie Gunderson – producer's assistant
  • Alejandro Rojas – production assistant
  • Victor Formosa – special thanks
  • Chris Ihlenfeldt – special thanks

Content gallery

Media releases

External links