Interview: Ira Steven Behr On Revisiting ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ With ‘What We Left Behind’

Ira Steven Behr in crowdfunding video for What We Left Behind - Deep Space Nine doc

Earlier this year the campaign for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine documentary What We Left Behind surpassed all expectations, bringing in almost $650,000. DS9 showrunner and What We Left Behind producer Ira Steven Behr has actually been working on the doc for a few years and is set to give fans a glimpse at this week’s Star Trek Las Vegas convention. TrekMovie checked in with Ira to see how things are coming along on the documentary and to find out what he has planned for Vegas.

Getting closer

Can you say where you are in the process for What We Leave Behind?

We have started a very rough assembly and when I say assembly I mean the various interviews, some of which have got pretty long. So it would be nice to do three hours of me and Armin Shimerman [Quark] or me and [co-creator] Rick Berman, but I don’t think that’s the movie. They are looking through the various interviews to identify the salient moments that work the best, and that is a pretty big job right there. We are also having some stalwart people tracking down various components for upresing to HD.

How long do you think it will be in the end?

We keep talking about 90 minutes. We are going to take 150 hours of interviews plus everything else and boil it down to a crisp 90 minutes, so that will be interesting to see. Plus there are going to be extras galore, like the “Writer’s Room: Breaking Episode 1” of the mythical season 8. I really want to present all six hours of that to the fans. People want to see what it is like to be in a writers room. It is Robert [Hewitt Wolfe], Ron [Moore], Rene [Echevarria], and Hans [Beimler] and myself. and we really dipped in there starting square zero to come up with a full story and breaking down an entire episode in one day.

Deep Space Nine writers room - documentary

What We Left Behind “Writer’s Room” extra

Getting Avery?

Are the interviews complete?

Mostly. I am still doing some final interviews, the bulk of which will be at the Vegas con. After Vegas I would think – unless something surprisingly wonderful comes up – the interviews will be complete.

Did you get everyone you wanted?

Well, we didn’t get Avery [Brooks].

I was going to ask

Yes, that is the question everyone is asking. I spoke to Avery and he is a big supporter of it. He has watched a bunch of the interviews, both actors and behind the scenes people. He is very supportive of the doc. But he has made it clear from the beginning that he has said everything he pretty much wanted to say and had to say about Deep Space Nine, and he didn’t feel he has anything important to contribute. So we are disappointed, but Avery is my captain and I take his word very seriously. So that is the story. If he has a change of heart he knows we would make every effort to get him filmed. If not, we have plenty of archival footage of him.

Avery Brooks in Deep Space Nine

Getting to the truth is complicated

You mentioned you spoke to Rick Berman. Obviously he was the man in charge of Star Trek as you made Deep Space Nine, how frank could you get with him? As I understand, people didn’t always agree. There were some tensions, like when Terry Farrell left the show. Does time heal all wounds, and could you talk about all those things now?

Well that is obviously a complicated question. I think it has to do not just with what we are doing with What We Left Behind, but documentaries in general. There is truth and there is truth. How much behind the scenes stuff is necessary to tell the story and how much of it is the current need to point fingers and get something good for the sizzle real to get people thinking everyone is going to talk trash.

I have walked that line. I have certainly brought up many many subjects that maybe back in 2000 or 2005 I would not have brought up so readily. I think people talk and we have a lot of interesting answers. I do think that time does heal wounds – certainly in terms of what is a television show because the fact is the television show is the show, which is the most important thing of all of this. And the show hasn’t changed. But the fans’ reactions have changed, and that is what has interested me from the beginning. That is what I am going for with a lot of this. And for people that worked on this show for seven years and felt that they and the show may have been somewhat undervalued can now realize that time has been kind to Deep Space Nine, and that is what this documentary has morphed into.

Deep Space Nine creators Michael Piller and Rick Berman

Getting bigger (and High Definition)

This project has grown quite a bit since its inception.

Yeah. When we started this in 2013 it was this little hour-long doc that I wasn’t even sure why I had said yes to. They just caught me at my first convention in 13 years, which I had gone to to see Avery [Brooks]. When they asked me to this I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I was in the middle of the convention floor and I knew the guys because they interviewed me for some of their other Star Trek docs, and I just thought it would be a little something that would be on a DVD or something very small, and it has taken on a much bigger life.

I started out doing this for the actors and for the people who worked on that show to kind of celebrate the fact that “Hey, being the bastard middle child is not only OK, but it is kind of cool.” Because in today’s world we are the only goddamn show that feels anything like a modern TV series of the whole franchise. That is why I am doing it. And it became a thing with this fan response. Avery called me up one day and said “Have you been seeing the fans at these conventions? These young fans who weren’t even alive when we filmed the show and they love it and don’t care it isn’t Kirk and Spock or Picard and Data. They don’t care whether Gene [Roddenberry] would care about the show or not. It’s a new age, it’s a new day.”

So I thought “Yeah, it’s true.” So then I thought I was doing it for the fans. It seems I am trying to do it for all of them. I am certainly not doing it for someone who never watched the show. That isn’t the person I am trying to talk to. I am trying to talk to the people who have joined the party and shown their support.

Regarding the converting of footage into HD from the original: how does that factor into the doc?

There are a lot of interviews at the core of the documentary, and there are all kinds of artifacts and behind the scenes things that people kept that add to the story, but the show itself has to be the centerpiece. No one person is the centerpiece of this doc. And one of the things the fans – and I include myself in this quite a bit – everyone has been looking for a better looking product.

I have not been happy about the [Deep Space Nine] 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.

Type of shot from Deep Space Nine that could really benefit from HD remaster

Getting the Orb to Vegas

What do you have planned for Star Trek Las Vegas?

We have a bunch of things. There is something called the “Deep Space Nine Confessional,” which is at the CBS All Access Stage. We will be filming fans and hopefully non-fans to tell us how they feel about the show. So that is going to be kind of interesting. One of the things about this doc I wanted was to get people who worked on the show to talk to fans.

We will hopefully show some teaser clips of the doc or some interesting footage. So that will be cool. We will do the panel and will be taking questions there. We are going to have a special guest with us on the panel. I am bringing the Bajoran Orb of Delightful Anecdotes, and that Orb will be telling stories from its time on the set that should be amusing as hell.

Ira Behr is headed to Vegas with amusing anecdotes and more

More from Ira

Ira was kind enough to spend some more time talking about Deep Space Nine and more so check back later this week for more of our interview.

What We Left Behind At STLV

On Sunday at 12:15 on the main stage at Star Trek Las Vegas Ira along with director Adam Nimoy and other producers will hold a Deep Space Nine: What We Left Behind panel and sneak preview of the documentary. In addition, they will be holding “Deep Space Nine Confessional” interactive events in the CBS All Access room on Wednesday (1:15), Thursday (2:30), and Sunday (3:30).

Ira will also be participating in two DS9 panels: a Q&A with Rene Auberjonois, Nana Visitor, Armin Shimerman, Max Grodenchik, and Aron Eisenberg on Wednesday at 12:30 and another DS9 panel on Sunday at 1:45 with Jeffrey Combs, Casey Biggs, Nicole de Boer, Jimmy Darren, Marc Alaimo, and Alexander Siddig. Both will be in the main ballroom.

Here is a sneak peek of What We Left Behind that was released in May.

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I hope an exec sees the restored footage and green lights a remastering project!

my hopes to

me three!

Me four!

Im surprised it hasnt happened. I know the TNG sets maybe didnt sell as well as they hoped. But I’d think they’d look at the value over time, not just the initial box set sales. How can DS9 continue to sold to syndication, Netflix etc without an HD conversion?

Is everything else done, all the other series’? If so, you sell Star Trek as a package but one of the series’ is SD? Come on…

If I was Netflix, I’d offer to pay for the restoration for a lucrative licensing deal. With All Access being so important, perhaps CBS will spring for this so they can feature HD DS9

I wondered about that ever since they said they wouldn’t do DS9/VOY because TNG Blurays didn’t sell well. As if that’s ehere they make the money. Netflix probably has to pay a premium for TOS and TNG HD. It’s 2017 – Netflix viewers who watch the show would probably be surprised that it’s not HD. CBS could even co-finance a remaster with Netflix.

Your right, its not just about the DVD’s – DS9 doesn’t do well in Syndication because it abandoned the Star Trek format
Unlike TOS TNG. so its never gunna Happen. VOYAGER is much more likely- those executives will enjoy Jeri Ryan in HD much more than Odo.

It might actually work if it were a joint deal between Paramount/CBS and Netflix. Production finance is often shared between studios when it comes to funding feature films – Interstellar being a prime example which Paramount shared with WB. One studio might have domestic distribution rights while another might have international rights. If Paramount/CBS could cut a deal with Netflix for some of the production costs, Netflix gets the lucrative licensing deal you. It could turn into a potential win/win scenario. CBS could also leverage the All Access feature as well. Great idea.

Preordered. I would have backed this project when it was first posted if I had known about it. Somehow I missed it.

I’ve been watching through all of the Star Trek shows with my 2 kids. DS9 has always been my personal favorite incarnation of Star Trek, ever since the pilot aired. My wife and I even named our son Avery because we liked the name, from Avery Brooks. (Its maybe going a bit to far to say he is named after the actor, but, yeah that’s how big a fan I am.)

Its been pretty interesting to see how much my kids like DS9 – it is easily their favorite, too. I think Ira is right that it is the only “modern” TV series of the bunch. To them, this is just how TV is supposed to be. My daughter (who is 12) likes all of them, but my youngest (Avery) only likes DS9. He says “Its the only one where the characters seem like real people.” They especially gravitate towards the O’Brien family. I know a lot of people don’t like them, but their problems and struggles always seemed very real to me. And of course the kids really identify with their kids.

I am disappointed that Avery Brooks won’t be on this. Obviously, I have always been a big fan of his. Hopefully they’ll find enough archive footage that he won’t be too much missed. I have read and re-read my DS9 Companion, but I just can’t get enough behind the scenes info from DS9, so this is going to be awesome.

If the characters seem more real to contemporary audience than it proves the series failed as Star Trek is supposed to be about the future where humanity has evolved not wallowing in the negativity of today’s War culture.
It may be a good War/drama series but it’s not Star Trek.

On the one hand it’s sad that Avery Brooks will probably not be a part of this documentary (or only in old archive footage). On the other hand, it’s kind of refreshing to have a celebrity say: “I will not be in this unless I have something new to say.” Because very often all they do is retell old stories that they’ve told many times before. It’s a chance to get some publicity, not necessarily to reveal anything new. Apparently Avery thinks that he doesn’t need that publicity.

Sean Connery is like that too…

After Shatner’s Documentary that featured Brooks, Im not sure any of us need to hear what Brooks has to say anyway.

Ha, true. He came off pretty loony.

I still believe Brooks was just acting crazy there. He saw that doc as what it really was: a Shatner ego trip. Not dissing the man (that TNG doc was great), but the Captains doc… well, let’s just say I’ve never seen a doc where the interviewer takes center. :)

Lord yes. I wanted Shatner to zip it for just two minutes and let the other actors SAY something.

Can’t wait to see the documentary. And as Matt said I hope CBS suits will approve remastering DS9 sometime in the near future.

God I love Nana Visitor. Kira is probably one of the best characters in Star Trek. There was nothing like her before DS9! Why this show was so amazing.

I have a cat called Kira, now 20 years and 5 months old! Named after Kira from Trek’ of course.

Wow, that is a senior kitty! I’m sure you give her lots of snuggles and num-nums.

OMG, that is so cool! And she is still going! I love stories like this. Shows the power of Trek.

I thought she was one of the worst and most annoying characters in Star Trek.

I know I’m gonna be in the minority here, but I absolutely hate DS9. I can’t sit through a single episode without becoming bored to death. How on earth people like DS9 and some even consider it their favorite is beyond me cause in my opinion it is the least Trek of all Treks to date. Idk how it even lasted as long as it did cause the concept from the very beginning was extremely flawed. The characters are annoying, the setting is boring, the whole Bajoran-Cardassian conflict is tiresome, and the Ferengi are probably the worst alien species Star Trek ever contained.

Not everyone will love everything. No biggie, you gave it a shot and didn’t like it. For me, its still my favorite Trek show. I love everything about it.

Me too. I liked the continuing storylines, not flying off to a new planet to solve its problems in sixty minutes, then on again to another planet for next week.

The first 2-3 seasons are very much “let’s make this like TNG but boring” (which is saying something as TNG could be very boring at times)… once the show changed hands towards the end of Season 3 though it really took off in quality and became actually fun to watch. I would give it another spin but stick to just the ‘essential’ lists of episodes for the first few seasons. Helped me get into it now I do consider it my favorite after it being my least favorite before.

I don’t hate it- but yeah, it’s definitely my least favorite series (well, bar Enterprise, which I don’t even count as an actual Star Trek series ;-) ). Most of the characters didn’t connect for me (well, most of the ones with their names in the credits, at least- Odo is great, and so are many of the recurring characters like Garak and Nog), the sets were just ugly to my eyes, and Bajor and Cardassia are (for me) more boring cultures than even the Kazon, so a deep-dive into their politics does nothing for me. I’d much rather have something bright, adventurous, Roddenberrian, and fun.

But I do think Ira hit the self-sealing stem bolt on the head; of all of Star Trek, this is the one that is most like modern (gag) television, so it’s gone from being the hipster choice to the mainstream favorite, because it requires less appreciation and genre-love to be accessible to a wider audience. That makes its current surge of popularity make a lot more sense- and turns us Roddenberrian Trekkies into the hipsters within the franchise.

TNG was my entry point into Star Trek. When DS9 came along I didn’t really warm up to it at first. For example, I specifically remember that I didn’t really like the pilot. It had too much conflict for my taste. I don’t remember anymore whether I even watched the early episodes during first run. At some point (and I can’t remember when) DS9 won me over. The first fan fiction I wrote was a DS9 novel (this was even before the Dominion war started), and I couldn’t wait to see each new episode during later seasons.

I think for a LOT of people it took awhile to warm up to DS9 and I include myself in that. It was just so different than how we thought of Star Trek at the time. Nothing about it felt that familiar other than being in the same universe. But the tone, stories and characters just felt like another show at times. But I think the more people watched the more they appreciated it.

But yes I thought DS9 was pretty slow in the beginning…because it was. The stories were more character driven from the beginning. Oddly there wasn’t a lot of action the first season (I say that since we know later that drastically changes lol). It was more psychological and philosophical in its approach. But I really started to appreciate that aspect about it. But I think I didn’t truly become a big fan of it until its third season. By season four I was a die hard fan and never looked back.

But yes to this day many still don’t like it much because it is so different and thats fine. What really bothers me about TM are people who come here and just trash other shows because they didn’t like them. I’m not saying they can’t like them, but don’t treat them as if they are not ‘real’ Star Trek which is pretty eye rolling and does a disservice to the millions of the fan base that do like them. And I include the KT films in that. Thats what creates the divide in fandom. Trek fans sadly can be some of the worst ‘fans’. But sure if you just don’t like a show or films or they never grabbed you thats fine. And DS9 is not a show for everyone.

I think DS9 has really become many fans number one show but it certainly didn’t start out that way and I think honestly due to our binge watching culture these days many who gave up on it early went back to it and saw just how ambitious and unique it got and fell in love with it. And that it really question values of the Federation in a way TOS or TNG would’ve never dared. It really does feel like a post 911 show although it ended a year before that event. Enterprise tried to go that route later but it was always part of DS9’s make up.

And its one of the few shows that got stronger every season as the writers got more confident and really had something to say. And given the huge ensemble DS9 had, which to this day is still the biggest, it says a lot how so many of those characters got amazing development, even the ones that just started as side characters.

This is why I love DS9 so much. I would love another Trek show to come and take its crown and MAYBE Discovery might do that for me, but not holding my breath.

Well said, Tiger2. I agree wholeheartedly about the fans who cause divisions and give us all a bad name. I didn’t care for DS9 at all when it initially aired, but got into once I gave it a chance and started at the beginning. Now, I love it. So with Discovery, I’m skeptical, but open minded enough to try it. If I don’t like it, I’ll watch reruns of old stuff.

I don’t hate it, I think it is a good Sci-Fi War Drama series but I don’t consider it Star Trek for so many reasons, Ira hated TNG & wanted to do an Anti- Star Trek Star trek & I think Avery Brooks attitude towards Star Trek (other than DS9) & Star Trek fans to be pretty bad. He was insulting to my Gay friends in person.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: They all LOOK. GREAT. As far as I’m concerned, they could all jump right back into their costumes for DS9 season 8 on Netflix. I’ll bet they could even figure out a way to get Terry Farrell back into the show–hey, they did it for Leonard Nimoy!

I ponied up my credits to support “What We Left Behind” and am DYING to see this. And I echo the other comments upthread–let’s hope this *finally* spurs an 1080p release of Deep Space Nine.

Just give me everything. All 150 hours.


Thanks for the interview! It’s nice to know that the people involved aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions. Thanks also to TrekMovie for being willing to discuss the accusations about Rick Berman’s treatment of Terry Farrell. On a happier note, I hope that the Okudas are able to get some more DS9 stuff out there for us Niners!

Yes but, when does it come out?