"What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" Talkback (Spoilers)

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

I realized as I was watching this (a long overdue viewing) that this was going to be a long review. So if you ain't into a ton of reading I advise you to duck out now. I won't blame you.

But I found that movie very moving and something I personally connected to like few documentaries. Here is another warning. I'm gonna talk about my comic book and my writing process. If you are sick of me doing that or think Gilda And Meek sucks, this review will also not be for you. But I couldn't review this specific film without talking about my process and how influential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was for me.

I have watched and rewatched many series over the decades. And if I like a series I'll rewatch it every ten years or so. But no matter HOW much I loved a show when I was watching it over the air, it's almost always slightly worse when I revisit it. With three exceptions. They are Twin Peaks, Justice League Unlimited, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There are some series I still have an appreciation for (like Farscape, Superman: The Animated Series, and Millennium) but those are the big three fandoms I've had that have stood the test of time. Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Doctor Who (both versions), The X-Files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Gargoyles, none of that stuff still passes my personal muster. Buffy and Angel were fun as hell to enjoy the ride week after week. To view them in hindsight it is often outright painful, which is also true for The X-Files, Doctor Who, and literally an entire third of the run of Next Gen.

There is something else very unusual about Deep Space Nine for me, speaking as a Star Trek fan. But Deep Space Nine has been vindicated in hindsight if not by Star Trek fans, then by fans of great television. DS9 was considered Star Trek's red-headed stepchild for so long. But I personally, believed as I watching it over the air that it was the best Star Trek series, period. I came to that conclusion in the third season, and nothing has changed my mind. In other words, I loved Deep Space Nine before loving Deep Space Nine was cool. The late Aron Eisenberg is in tears for much of this documentary because he has always been one of those actors on the show (and they tended to be the recurring ones) who always understood how special and rare it was as it was happening, and that nothing like it would ever happen for them again. It's the role of Eisenberg's career. He never got cast again, at least in anything I've seen. And him remembering how wonderful the series was to perform in and watch as a fan is my heart bursting in tears of joy at the same time.

You will get arguments back and forth over whether the greatest Star Trek character is Captain Picard, Spock, Data, Kirk, Bones, Scotty, or Worf. If you asked me, without hesitation, I'd say it's Garak. And I've always thought that. And I like that people have come by my of thinking regarding how great this show is.

Justice League Unlimited is one of the three shows I mentioned that haven't lost their punch over the years, but unlike Twin Peaks, and DS9, it did very little to influence Gilda And Meek And The Un-Iverse. I sort of structured a few continuity ideas for my saga around it, but I sort of fixed what I thought JLU could have done better, so I'm not sure I would call that a direct influence. Twin Peaks definitely gets a LOT of story credit in the idea that I am not the least bit interested in telling a realistic story with realistic characters. Real life sucks. I prefer awesome stories with awesome characters. Also I don't want to overexplain what's going on, and I want to let the reader make up their own mind what they are seeing or what the subtext is. That's the Twin Peaks influence.

DS9 is literally everything else. And Gilda And Meek is not strictly speaking a science fiction series. What scares and impresses is I learned something about the show from this documentary that put it even closer to my writing than I could have ever imagined. Ira Steve-Behr talks about how Michael Piller always believed that the characters are always the most important thing, and the story should always service them and not the other way around. This is a rare viewpoint, and another reason I seemed to be the only person who loved the series finale of Lost. But it's how I approach my writing too, and it's amazing the creator of my most influential show of all time used to speak my entire mantra before I even realized it myself. What's especially rewarding, is that I didn't get it from him. I came to the realization on my own. Hearing Piller say it gave me validation that I know what I'm doing and always have. It was also kind of eerie and shows DS9 influenced Gilda And Meek in ways I hadn't even suspected.

I was unsurprised at the fact that Rick Berman was against both the Dominion War Arc AND creating the Defiant. Berman is the guy responsible for Star Trek: The Next Generation having an underwhelming last season (not counting the admittedly awesome final episode), Captain Kirk having the poopiest death possible in Star Trek Generations, Voyager being an utter mess, and Enterprise being appalling. Berman always claims to be the steward of Gene Roddenberry's legacy. And damn it, I think that's true. And that's not a good thing. I personally think a lot of Gene Roddenberry's ideas and output (especially regarding the role of women in power and psychiatry) aren't just outdated, or outmoded. For me, I find a lot of it outright offensive. And I will get pushback from people who refuse to hear anything bad said about Star Trek's version of Santa Claus. But on a very real level, I don't like the future seen in either Star Trek OR The Next Generation for different reasons. For The Original Series, it's obviously the casual sexism and the fact that Gene would talk about how perfect the human race could become while using aliens as surrogates for undesirable races. It got even worse later on and the Ferengi on Next Gen are thinly veiled offensive Jewish stereotypes. Yeah, Star Trek had the first diverse, multi-racial cast. That's great. But it doesn't get full credit because it's using its sci-fi allegory to take potshots at marginalized groups using alien bad guys to show how much they suck.

Deep Space Nine took one look at the Ferengi, and decided they were the most recognizably human characters, and treated them that way from that point forward. That would never occur to Roddenberry, which is one of my problems with Star Trek in a nutshell.

I think Roddenberry was an outright lousy writer when it came right down to it. He created the character of Wesley Crusher based upon himself, and didn't see that epic backlash coming, when any halfway intelligent person wouldn't be dumb enough to base the most capable, intelligent, and angelic character after himself. He was actually surprised Wesley wound up the most despised character in Star Trek history, despite Wil Wheaton's not inconsiderable charms.

But my biggest problem with Roddenberry has to do with the fact that he unilaterally decided certain rules Star Trek had to follow regarding the perfection of humanity, when he clearly didn't understand people at all. He especially didn't understand psychiatry. The TNG episode "The Bonding", about a little kid whose mother is killed on an away mission, was as bad as it was because Roddenberry told Ronald D. Moore flat-out in that the future, little kids didn't grieve their dead parents. They were evolved enough to accept it and instantly move on. And I don't want to live in a future where adults have conditioned little kids not to feel bad about their parents dying. And what pisses me off, is that nobody (besides noted crank Harlan Ellison) ever calls Roddenberry on stuff like that. This review will be the first time I'm talking about ALL of this in-depth. I'd only done it in bits and pieces before because I have been SO worried about fans of the original Star Trek coming after me for daring to speak ill of Roddenberry's messed up philosophy.

Roddenberry also believed there should not be any conflict between the humans. On some level, that makes sense. Humans are past fighting wars in the future. But Gene took it a step further than even that or beyond any reasonable measure. People weren't allowed to even ARGUE about things in The Next Generation. Do you know how to prevent wars between people? Arguing. Talking your problems out, and not bottling up your feelings. Roddenberry wanted credit for making a psychiatrist a bridge officer while believing that psychiatry doesn't even work.

People fight on Deep Space Nine. People are unhappy. People work it out. Like grown-ups. There is no situation on the show where Barclay or Kurn comes on board, and the other characters go into conniptions because they refuse to instantly fit in like good little cogs. Nobody fits in on Deep Space Nine at first. The struggle is making it the place where Sisko belongs.

One of the biggest complaints I have about The Next Generation is that the characters are all super boring. Their idea of popular music is our version of classical. For fun they play symphonies to each other in Ten Forward. Yeah, Riker dug jazz, but that's it. That's as fun as music got. Rock and roll was unheard of. Their idea of great comedy was Joe Piscapo. And the holodeck programs for Dixon Hill and Sherlock Holmes were startlingly dull. All of that specific technology at their disposal and THAT'S the best videogames the 24th Century has to offer? Nobody is allowed to have fun in the 24th Century? I think Roddenberry thinks classical music and Sherlock Holmes shows how smart and evolved people will be (little kids even do calculus now!). Instead it makes them look unrecognizably alien to me, and also weirdly unfathomably lonely and broken. This is not any sort of ideal future I'd ever want to live in. The Robots in Matrix and Terminator conquered the Earth without firing a shot because humanity simply turned into them instead. I am not okay with that and you shouldn't be either.

Literally the only relatable passion a Star Trek: Next Generation character ever had was Deanna Troi's love of chocolate, which at some point became outright creepy, and outright sad that that was literally Troi's most well-known characteristic. TNG was NOT known for writing strong female characters, and Troi's entire side-interest being a dessert is a case in point.

The Holosuites on DS9 are used for pornography and prostitution, which as skeevy as it is, is far more relatable than being obsessed with an Irish village or Victorian mystery the way Janeway on Voyager was. As far as the non-porno programs go, the James Bond style one Julius dug, and the Ocean's 11 caper that Vic Fontaine's program came up in the last season, with are actually, (gasp!) FUN! Novel idea, that.

I want to live in DS9's future. People talk out and work out their problems instead of automatically being expected to never quarrel. Humans are flawed, and some are jerks like Julian Bashir, and that's part of the challenge of getting along and making the situation work. The problem with the future on The Original Series and The Next Generation is that I can view how humanity can get to Deep Space Nine's future. For watching Next Generation, it's like Trump < World War III < Steal Underpants < ??? < Perfection of Humanity(!). I never believed Gene's vision because it wasn't credible. Deep Space Nine? It created controversial ideas like Section 31 and said that the road to paradise is never gonna be blameless. That's not how people work. That's not how people SHOULD work. It's a future I want. And it's a future I can build towards. Ira Steven-Behr basically took Gene Roddenberry's dumb but well-intentioned idea, and made it work for the first time ever.

People will talk smack about DS9 not following Gene's ideals and rules. My perspective is that the goodness and future of humanity does not get to be decided by one man. If one of his ideas is bad, it's okay to overturn it. And DS9 was the first Star Trek to do that. And it earned my devotion and respect for it.

What's interesting is that both Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard are sort of picking up on the ideas of a flawed humanity in the future depending on our circumstances, without really understanding how DS9 thread that needle successfully. I don't disagree that in the future there will be humans who smoke and go through drug abuse. But it doesn't feel quite exactly consistent with Gene's idea and message. And the message and idea may have their flaws. But it's not a bad message or idea. Behr made it work in a way that Kurtzman is kind of moving TOO far away from. It's a tough needle to thread between treacly sap like The Next Generation, and gritty f-bomb dropping, drug addicted crew members on Picard. But DS9 got there.

So I've talked a LOT about the show, how and why I think it's the best Star Trek, how its view of conflict resolution and character development influenced Gilda And Meek. What haven't I talked about yet? The documentary! Weird, right?

Not all of this stuff was new to me but it was great capturing a lot of it on camera. Everybody loves and supports Terry Ferrell, but when she describes that when she was having contract negotiation troubles for the final season, one of the producers told her that if she wasn't on this show, she'd be working at K-Mart. And that just made me want to travel back in time and punch whoever said that in the nose. Dulmer and Lucksly and the Bureau of Temporal Investigations would totally understand. I love that she cried during that moment, and Behr showed that moment, even if it made the production staff look bad.

I was very interested to see an interview with Marc Alaimo. I have always had very dark thoughts about this specific actor. I have always believed he was secretly crazy. He would go on in interviews about what a good guy Gul Dukat was deep down, and how he thought he should have had a romance with Kira. It's turns out there were larger reasons he expressed the second crazy opinion (watches Nana Visitor glare in Ira Steven-Behr's direction) but I've always pictured him as a dirtbag. His name not being on Trek Against Trump did not surprise me in the least.

Here is my solidified impression of Alaimo. He's absolutely crazy. He unjustifiably angry about stupid things. He thinks he's better that he is. He is also super funny and charming, and the one and only person who could or should have played Gul Dukat. This interview made me sort of understand why the cast always seemed to sort of merely tolerate him on the set. And it also made me realize why they tolerated him to begin with. You needed that big a personality to play Dukat. Even if he's a creep.

Rene Auberjonois suggested something I did not hear in the many tribute videos the cast made for him when he died. He suggested the make-up put him in a bad mood. He was known as being prickly on-set, and that he maybe wasn't like that in real-life, and none of the cast were able to see that at the time. Seeing him say that made me wonder a bit about Visitor later describing him as prickly after his death. Was he? Or was his personality merely allergic to latex? Him suggesting the make-up was largely responsible for his grumpiness gave me a lot to think about.

Avery Brooks! Avery Brooks is surprisingly hilarious, which is great because he frankly wasn't always. I understand the notion of why the producers asked him to shave his beard and grow out his hair in the first three seasons. In point of fact, I'm very conservative in my appearance, and think all facial hair looks bad all the time. But as far as the shaved head goes, I literally did not love Sisko until The Way Of The Warrior when his head was shaved. And yeah, I might hate facial hair in most cases, but for Brooks, it really helped the effect. I am as down on mustaches and beards as you can get. And yet, I didn't love Sisko until Season Four. In absolute defense of my dislike of facial fair, I was ALSO not completely sold on Sisko when he grew the beard at the end of Season 3. It was really the shaved head that did it for me.

I will never get tired of seeing Nana Visitor do the "Why You Suck" look and speech at Ira Behr for having the idea of having Kira and Dukat have an affair. They played up her rage in the end credit comedy routines, but if you ever want to say, Matt Zimmer, Deep Space Nine is NOT a perfect series, just remind me that Behr came up with that specific idea before Visitor shot him down HARD and practically threatened to quit over it. Behr is treading very lightly here, and corrects her that she had misremembered things, and that that specific idea never made it to the script stage, and that the script he handed her was the reworked version with Kira's mother. As far as I'm concerned, that is literally his only possible defense. If he had broached that idea back then to Visitor on-camera, and she had stabbed him to death, violently and painfully, had I been on the jury, I would not have left my jury box until I convinced all 11 other people to fully acquit her. I might be exaggerating, but I might not be. But Visitor's fury is righteous and she was the specific person responsible for the fact that Deep Space Nine remained an amazing series. I shudder to think of my opinion in hindsight if that had happened. Would it still have influenced Gilda And Meek? In what ways would that influence have changed? Would it have influenced it for the worse? These are all questions I don't like thinking about. I don't like thinking about how if things had gone slightly differently, and if a different actress had been cast as Kira, I would have wound up hating the show. That scares the hell out of me on every level. I never wanted Buffy Season 6. For it to happen to DS9 would have been absolutely vulgar.

For the record, I feel the same way about Agent Cooper and teenage Audrey Horne on Twin Peaks. A lot of dumb TV producers seem to need to be kept in check by their more intelligent actors. I just wish Sarah Michelle Gellar had more clout than she did.

Speaking of strange sexuality, I am very disturbed how hot Hanna Hatae is now. She literally looks like a Japanese supermodel. It scares me a little.

See, when they talked about the best scene on DS9, I assumed they were gonna have Quark and Garak discuss root beer. No, it's Alamarain, which by all accounts, was Avery Brooks' least favorite moment on the entire series. Look at his expression in "Move Along Home" right before he is asked to sing and dance that. He is SUPER pissed. That is quite the Deep Cut for Behr to come back to as the "Best" of DS9. I think in some alternate Universes it caused Brooks to quit the series and the show to be canceled in the middle of season 1.

The end credits also discussed that they should have brought up Trials And Tribblelations, In The Pale Moonlight, Duet, and The Visitor. The fact that they did in the credits makes me forgive them.

The opening and closing musical numbers with Max Grodenchik, Jeffrey Combs, Casey Biggs, and Armin Shimerman are awesome, as is Andy Robinson's dripping-with-Garak introduction.

Behr pointed out something that I don't think Berman gets enough shade for. They are checking off progressive social issues that DS9 explored and when it comes time to put a checkmark next to "gender identity" Behr is like "Don't check that one." The guy next to him is like, "Why? Rejoined was a great episode!" And Behr's like "Yeah, but it was only one episode. We failed there." Everybody knew Garak was gay and they didn't explore it (left unsaid in the documentary is that they gave him a very awkward romance with Tora Ziyal instead). But a potential romance, or even a mere unrequited crush between Bashir and Garak? That would have been amazing. And I want to give Behr all the credit in the world for recognizing that for all of the progressive ideals Star Trek claimed to stand for, it was one of the very last sci-fi franchises to start showing same-sex relationships from episode to episode instead of in gimmick or allegory episodes like "Rejoined" or TNG's "The Outcast". And when the guy asks Behr if the studio would have signed off on that plotline and Behr says, "Probably not. But we didn't even ask," I doubt it was the studio that had this perspective. I am 100% positive it was Rick Berman himself. He was very clear in interviews back then that he didn't consider "Rejoined" a gay story at all. He was the first guy to distance himself from that controversy when it happened. I remember that clearly and it disgusted me. And his tenure on Star Trek literally lasted until 2004, and we still never saw a gay character. Behr owning that failing shows he has more integrity and guts than Berman ever did.

Rick Berman says he's the new Host for the Gene Roddenberry Symbiote here as justification for his wrong decisions that vindicated Behr decades later. I think he's a tool instead, and needs to get the frak over himself.

I love when Michael Dorn says he's always asked his favorite Star Trek episodes from the Next Generation, he always has to correct the fans that his favorites are from DS9. I don't blame him. I don't think "Once More Unto The Breach" or "Soldiers Of The Empire" are Worf's best episodes from either of those two series (they might not even make the top five) but they are the most quintessentially Klingon Star Trek episodes ever devised. I see why he loved them so much.

The writers room break-down of DS9 Season 8 was amazeballs. That would have been perhaps the greatest DS9 episode ever, and it frustrates me it will never be created, least of all because Aron Eisenberg is already dead. But I think fans need to petition Paramount to release the treatment for that episode as a novelization or comic book adaptation, and have the rest of those writers finish a potential Season 8 after that. Frankly, if I had seen that over the air, I might be inclined to think it was the best Star Trek episode of all time. It would probably also knock Twin Peaks: The Return out of first place for the best TV revival ever too.

Honestly, this documentary was hilarious, gut-wrenching, meaningful, awesome, exciting, moving, thought-provoking, brutally honest, tear-jerking, raw, and fun all at once. The last tag being Garak's quote about all of his stories being true, especially the lies, shows that Behr actually understands what mattered and resonated about the show. He wouldn't have given Garak the last word if he didn't. This was amazing, a thing of beauty, it took me back, validated all of the choices I have made as a writer, and showed that DS9 was imperfect. That's not merely everything I want from a documentary. It's everything I want from a piece of fiction too. *****.
 

Dantheman

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Loved how Jeffrey Combs geeked out over being killled by Linc from The Mod Squad, and Rene Auberjonius apologizing to people for how he may have acted to them on the set of DS9, because he couldn'tr eat while wearing the Odo makeup.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Loved how Jeffrey Combs geeked out over being killled by Linc from The Mod Squad, and Rene Auberjonius apologizing to people for how he may have acted to them on the set of DS9, because he couldn'tr eat while wearing the Odo makeup.
One of the producers being thrilled to be able to kill off Will Robinson on Star Trek was fun too.
 

the greenman

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I felt really bad for Terry Farrell. She was a beautiful young woman, who at that time was just starting her career. She took a chance on 'Becker', but it wasn't meant to be. According to her sounds like it was more "political Hollywood' stuff going on. Not sure, just feels like that.

Sent from my LM-Q730 using Tapatalk
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Joined
Jan 19, 2004
Messages
30,964
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Framingham, MA
I felt really bad for Terry Farrell. She was a beautiful young woman, who at that time was just starting her career. She took a chance on 'Becker', but it wasn't meant to be. According to her sounds like it was more "political Hollywood' stuff going on. Not sure, just feels like that.

Sent from my LM-Q730 using Tapatalk
She's still a beautiful woman.
 

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