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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