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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – What You Leave Behind (Review)

Ending a television series is always a daunting proposition, even with ten episodes allocated to that purpose.

There are very few “perfect” television finales, very few final episodes that perfectly encapsulate everything that made a television series great. Indeed, many popular television series end with underwhelming finales. Some are even retroactively tarnished by this legacy; The Finale for SeinfeldDaybreak for Battlestar GalacticaThe End for Lost. To its credit, the Star Trek franchise arguably has one perfect finale with All Good Things…, the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

A touching conclusion…

It might have been greedy to ask for two such perfect finales, especially in such close proximity to one another. What You Leave Behind is not a perfect finale by any measure. It is clumsy in places, it makes bad choices in others. The audience can feel the budgetary constraints on the production team at certain points, and the time constraints on the writing team at others. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine does not end with a “perfect” two-part episode. It ends in a messy fashion.

Still, even if What You Leave Behind is not a perfect television finale, it is a good one. What You Leave Behind doesn’t do everything that it could do, but it does everything that it needs to. While clumsiness and awkwardness hold the episode back from perfection, they exist in such a way as to add to its charm. What You Leave Behind captures the spirit of Deep Space Nine, in its successes and its failures. What You Leave Behind is a finale that speaks to the core essence of its show, to its best and its worst selves in the same breath.

The big goodbye.

The result is a finale that feels satisfying and earned, despite its narrative miscalculations. What You Leave Behind is true to Deep Space Nine, and focuses primarily on trying to pay off seven years of character threads and two years of story. Its gravest mistakes are inherited, the result of decisions made more than a year earlier in episodes like Waltz or The Reckoning that were allowed to fester and grow over the following thirty-odd episodes. Even in its failures, What You Leave Behind is trying to do right by its story.

There is a large gulf in quality between All Good Things… and What You Leave Behind. However, that gap is smaller than the space that separates What You Leave Behind from Turnabout Intruder, Endgame or These Are the Voyages… For all its issues, there is something heartbreaking in What You Leave Behind. There is a sense that this is truly the end of the line, that things have changed and the world keeps right on spinning.

We all need a little space…

One of the most striking (and appealing) aspects of Deep Space Nine was how hard it worked to feel different from The Next Generation. This is not to belittle or demean The Next Generation, which remains one of the most impressive science-fiction series ever broadcast on television. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that any long-running franchise needs to evolve and grow over time, that production teams cannot continue to offer “more of the same” as times change around them. Deep Space Nine did that.

As such, it makes sense that What You Leave Behind is a fundamentally different sort of episode than All Good Things…, with the writing staff on Deep Space Nine opting not to follow a popular and beloved template in wrapping up their show. What You Leave Behind is a series finale that feels very much unique to Deep Space Nine, very much in tune with the show around it. This is a series finale that could only have worked on Deep Space Nine, and only exists as one last example of Deep Space Nine boldly committing to do its own thing.

Mapping out plans.

On a superficial level, the most striking aspect of What You Leave Behind is how over-stuffed it is with plot. Early in the seventh season, the production team committed to the idea of drawing together years of backstory into a single cohesive narrative that would build towards the finale. This was most obvious in the final run of ten episodes that began with Penumbra, but the production team were clearly seeding episodes like Treachery, Faith and the Great River and Chimera with plot points and thematic elements that were designed to pay off at the end of the year.

Even allowing for all this build-up and preparation, What You Leave Behind has a lot of ground to cover in its ninety minute runtime. Trying to summarise the plot of What You Leave Behind makes the episode sound over-stuffed, like one of those crazy twisty episodes of Star Trek: Voyager like Worst Case Scenario or Demon. Reduced to paragraphs and prose, the plot developments in What You Leave Behind can feel like a series of ad hoc developments linked primarily by the words “… and then…”

Bringing the Dominion to heal.

Sisko joins the invasion of Cardassia and then Damar executes a terrorist strike and then the Dominion wipes out an entire city and then the Cardassians turn on the Dominion and then Damar tries to take Central Command and then the Dominion attempts genocide on the Cardassian people and then the Female Changeling is convinced to surrender by Odo and then the war is ended and then the crew go for drinks together before going their separate ways and then Sisko defeats Dukat in the Fire Caves and then half the primary cast leaves the station and then Jakes stares off into space looking for his father.

There is a lot of ground to cover in ninety minutes, with What You Leave Behind effectively serving three different masters. What You Leave Behind is the story of the end of the Dominion War, it is also the story of Sisko’s role as “the Emissary of the Prophets” and it is also the story about how this particular group of people broke up and went their separate ways. That is a lot of material to cover, particularly at the same time. Indeed, it seems reasonable to argue that What You Leave Behind is more over-stuffed with plot than any of the eight episodes leading up to it.

The very model of efficiency.

Indeed, this emphasis on plot serves to distinguish What You Leave Behind from All Good Things… The plot of All Good Things… was actually pretty simple, “timey wimey” technobabble notwithstanding. The plot simply served as a hook on which the teleplay might hang a series of character-driven scenes to examine the past, the present and potential future of this crew while tying back to the events of Encounter at Farpoint. In hindsight, it is tempting to wonder if the big issue with What You Leave Behind is that it is too driven by plot and too caught up in action.

(What You Leave Behind is so caught up in its action that the production team have to recycle a lot of the battle footage from earlier episodes. Certain special effects sequences are lifted from episodes like Sacrifice of Angels, while inserts are taken from episodes like The Dogs of War and even films like Star Trek: Generations. There is a sense that budget on What You Leave Behind has been stretched to breaking point, given the impressive supporting cast and the number of sets and extras. The episode looks good, but it buckles under the limits of conventional nineties television.)

Disarming observations.

What is particularly remarkable about What You Leave Behind is how deftly the episode manages its big sweeping plot arcs with smaller moments. In keeping with Deep Space Nine‘s approach to characterisation, What You Leave Behind finds the time for small character-centric beats in the middle of this epic narrative. This is reflected in any number of intriguing narrative choices, such as the decision to include a scene of Quark and Vic playing cards as the Federation fleet moves toward Cardassia. However, What You Leave Behind finds smaller beats even within its larger story.

This is perhaps most obvious in the dynamic between the Female Changeling and Weyoun that plays out across the finale. These are two supporting characters who exist at a remove from the primary cast, isolated both in terms of narrative function and in terms of geography from the rest of the leads. They are clustered away on the familiar sets of Cardassian Central Command, providing necessary exposition about the Dominion’s military tactics in the final days of the conflict. The duo could easily be reduced to a simple plot function, but the script cleverly layers their interactions.

Gods and monsters.

Weyoun is sycophantic, but also ambitious; that ambition tied to his desire to impress the Female Changeling. Weyoun is clearly uncomfortable when the Female Changeling promises to surrender Earth to the Breen. “Apparently, I was under the mistaken impression that all Federation territories would fall under my jurisdiction, including Earth,” he confesses. “And so they shall,” the Female Changeling concedes. “I would promise the Breen the entire Alpha Quadrant if I thought it would help win this war.”

Despite her angry demeanour and her aggressive mistrust of humanoids, the Female Changeling seems to genuinely care for Weyoun. When Garak brutally murders him at the climax of the story, the Female Changeling actually seems sorry. “I wish you hadn’t done that. That was Weyoun’s last clone.” Although Weyoun has just been murdered, it seems like that small acknowledgement would imbue his existence with some sense of meaning or purpose. It suggests a more complex bond between the pair than their roles might suggest.

Weyoun is feeling a little burnt out.

Even this dynamic between two supporting characters is nuanced and developed, reflecting who these people are on a fundamental level. When the Female Changeling is on the verge of collapse, Weyoun clumsily tries to comfort her. “My loyal Weyoun,” she smiles. “The only solid I have ever trusted.” It is almost tender. “I live only to serve you,” Weyoun states. “And you have served me well,” the Female Changeling concedes. “I would give my life to save yours,” Weyoun vows. The Female Changeling nods, wearily. “If only it were that simple.”

This is an interesting relationship. The Female Changeling clearly appreciates Weyoun’s faith and devotion. She obviously trusts him. More than that, there is some small indication that she actually likes him. However, the Female Changeling is perfectly capable of reconciling her fondness for Weyoun with a willingness to end his existence. If Weyoun could save (or perhaps even extend) her life by offering his, of course the Female Changeling would accept that bargain. The Female Changeling believes herself to be a god, even if she might occasionally smile on the mortals beneath her.

Don’t flake under pressure.

What You Leave Behind is populated with wonderful moments and character beats. Deep Space Nine often seemed more invested in the mundane reality of day-to-day existence than The Next Generation or Voyager, more fascinated with the smaller moments that make up an individual’s life. Deep Space Nine would often devote entire subplots to small character beats. Indeed, many of the characters on Deep Space Nine lived their lives in these small moments that unfolded against the backdrop of other episodes.

This is perhaps most obvious in the dynamic between Jake and Benjamin Sisko. Although episodes like Explorers and In the Cards put that relationship front-and-centre, it often seemed like Jake lived most of his life in the background while the show dealt with more “important” fare. Jake teaching Nog to read in The Nagus, Jake deciding not to attend the Academy in Shadowplay, Jake introducing his father to his date in The Abandoned, Jake moving in with Nog in The Ascent. However, the same is true of the lives of most other characters; Worf, Dax, Bashir, Odo.

Raising the roof.

As such, it is only appropriate that What You Leave Behind should find the small “human” moments in the middle of this crisis. Damar shamelessly flirts with Mila in the basement, as the older woman remarks upon that “fine, handsome figure of a man.” These are little moments that make the characters feel like real people, suggesting that supporting characters like Damar or Mila have a depth that extends beyond several of the regular characters on Voyager. They are part of the texture of Deep Space Nine.

These moments also serve to enrich the narrative itself, diffusing the epic swell of this heroic struggle with more mundane concerns. When Kira hits upon the idea to launch a daring strike against Cardassian Central Command, Garak is disappointed to discover that the door has been reinforced. He laughs. Damar challenges him. Garak points out the absurdity of this situation. “Here we are, ready to storm the castle, willing to sacrifice our lives in a noble effort to slay the Dominion beast in its lair and we can’t even get inside the gate.”

Damar has a lot on his plate.

Indeed, What You Leave Behind seems to find these small character moments as important as the larger arcs. “Mark my words,” Martok promises Sisko and Ross in Tears of the Prophets. “By this time next year, the three of us will drink bloodwine in the halls of Cardassia’s Central Command.” That promise pays off in What You Leave Behind, in a beautiful and bitter scene which underscores the tragic cost of war and the differing perspectives on victory.

What You Leave Behind even pays off long-neglected relationships. Bashir and Garak have been friends since Past Prologue, the second episode of the series. However, following their adventure together in Our Man Bashir, the two characters drifted apart. They would occasionally interact with one another, usually in the teasers to episodes like A Time to Stand or Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges. However, What You Leave Behind makes a point to bring the two characters back together one last time, to bounce Garak’s cynicism off Bashir’s idealism.

Touching interaction.

To be fair, What You Leave Behind is arguably indulgent in places. There is a solid argument to be made that the big dramatic moment between Bashir and O’Brien, in which O’Brien confesses his desire to move back to Earth when the Dominion War is resolved, should probably have been shunted back into Extreme Measures. It would certainly have added something of substance to the familiar “O’Brien likes Bashir more than Keiko” conversation that felt like a retread of Hippocratic Oath.

Some other inclusions are even more awkward, particularly given how rushed the episode can feel in places. The finale is crammed full of plot points and story beats that often struggle to find room to breath. However, the writers still find time for Vic Fontaine to perform a stirring rendition of The Way You Look Tonight, which becomes woven into the rest of the episode’s soundscape. This leads into a set of flashbacks that feel arbitrary and unnecessary, audio-visual exposition of relationships and dynamics already evoked through the rest of the story.

Shouldering responsibility.

The flashbacks are well-intentioned, but also awkward and manipulative. It feels like What You Leave Behind is telling rather than showing, yelling at the top of its voice about the emotion bond that exists between these characters. The music swells, the montage starts; the footage is even tinted gold so as to properly evoke nostalgia for the events of the past seven seasons. It is an understandable inclusion from the writing staff. No Star Trek cast grew as much as these characters. However, it is still unnecessary storytelling.

The audience knows that Bashir and O’Brien care deeply about one another, because they have seen O’Brien struggle to tell Bashir that he is leaving, and they have seen Bashir struggle to accept it. The audience knows that Odo and Kira love one another, because they’ve seen the heartbreak as Kira understands that Odo has to return home to the great link and her commitment to supporting him along the way. The flashbacks feel redundant and clumsy, as if not trusting the actors to convey the depth of their relationships within the episode itself.

The missing piece.

The choices about what to include and what to exclude are similarly arbitrary. Did Bashir and O’Brien have any life outside of one another? Is Kira’ character arc built solely around her relationship with Odo? Where is Jadzia Dax, especially for Worf? To be fair, there were outside factors that explained her exclusion, as Ira Steven Behr explained:

We had planned to see Terry Farrell in the flashbacks but she refused to let us use any of her clips. The way I see it is this: Her manager was informed that we were thinking of using Terry in a scene in the final episode. It would have probably been three hours of work… maybe four. The price they quoted us was too high for the budget. After all, this was a show where we had to cut out hundreds of thousands of dollars from the original draft. Her manager was informed that we weren’t going to be able to use Terry. And on top of it, the scene we had been thinking of for her was really not that germane to the plot. I think Terry’s feelings were hurt. When it came to the issue of the clips, they again felt that they would prefer that we went a different way without using the character of Jadzia Dax. So we did. I wasn’t happy about it. I’m still not happy about it. But it is a reminder that even Star Trek is just part of the great showbiz sludge.

All of this reinforces the idea that the flashbacks are unnecessary. This issue is compounded by the emphasis on recent episodes like Penumbra or The Changing Face of Evil. Similarly, it seems strange that Quark’s memory of the previous seven years is that time nobody invited him to the holosuite in Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang.

Three for three.

Still, even these issues are well-intentioned. They result from a clear desire on the part of the production team to be true to Deep Space Nine, to reflect the spirit of the series in this ninety-minute finale. What You Leave Behind is clumsy, but that clumsiness is never the result of laziness or indifference. At worst, What You Leave Behind suffers from being too emotional invested in these characters and this world, too earnest in its efforts to sell this heartbreaking conclusion.

What You Leave Behind is effective three finales nested on top of one another. Most immediately, it sets out to resolve the Dominion War. This long-form story arc kicked into high gear with the formal declaration of war in Call to Arms, but had been simmering since the middle of the second season with episodes like Rules of Acquisition. The Dominion had been properly introduced in The Jem’Hadar, expanded into the Alpha Quadrant in In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light, and kicked off war on a galactic scale.

You know, for a former spy, you’d think Garak would be a better liar.

What You Leave Behind is tasked with ending this war. Building off the final act of The Dogs of War, the teaser of What You Leave Behind gets right down to business. The Federation and its allies are mounting an invasion of Cardassia Prime, pushing deeper into enemy territory than at any earlier point in the conflict. Weakened by Damar’s uprising and having lost the advantage of the Breen weapon, the Dominion pulls back. It is very clear that this will be the last battle of the war, one way or another.

“All right people, what do you say we end this war?” Sisko asks towards the end of the teaser. In the awkward silence before combat, Odo reflects, “This war, Captain. It has to end.” Sisko agrees, “And it will. Soon. One way or the other.” When the battle takes a turn and the Dominion tries to solidify its lines around Cardassia, the Federation insists on seeing this conflict through to the bitter end. “We have an opportunity to put an end to this war once and for all,” Sisko states. “Let’s finish what we started.” This sense of ending is important to What You Leave Behind.

Cutting the Dominion down to size.

The end of the Dominion War is perhaps the most carefully and meticulously choreographed aspect of What You Leave Behind, the resolution that comes closest to perfection. There is a sense that the writers had a very clear idea of how they wanted the story to end, and had already begun working on slotting all of these narrative elements into place. The end of the Dominion War is very tightly constructed, from a simple storytelling standpoint. Everything coheres, coming together at just the right moment.

Consider the mechanics of the Cardassian betrayal of the Dominion. Damar’s resistance cuts communication to the fleet. This prompts the Dominion to destroy an entire Cardassian city. The battle wages in the sky above Cardassia. However, once these communications are restored, the Cardassian fleet receives word of this atrocity. It is plotted like clockwork, with the communications blackout serving to justify that mass murder, and also setting up a ticking clock that pays off with an effective twist.

The Dominion are squeezing the life out of Cardassia.

The Cardassians arriving and turning the tide is very reminiscent of the last-minute arrival of the Klingon fleet in Sacrifice of Angels, right down to the reveal coming as an enemy ship closes on the Defiant. Still, the twist is set up with clockwork precision. There is an efficiency to the storytelling that is absent from various other narrative threads within What You Leave Behind. There is a great deal of care that goes into the construction of this small plotting element.

However, this is not merely a plot twist designed to catch the audience off-guard and to turn the tide in the gigantic space battle. It serves a larger thematic purpose. The Dominion War was (and remains) one of the most controversial aspects of Deep Space Nine. Even today, fans and producers argue over whether the decision to tell an extended war story within the Star Trek franchise represented a betrayal of Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision. There are quite a few vocal Star Trek fans who would argue that Deep Space Nine is “not Star Trek” because of its decision to feature a war.

A Mila miles away.

However, What You Leave Behind puts paid to this theory once and for all. What You Leave Behind ends the Dominion War in the most Star Trek of manners. In Before Her Time, Garfield Reeves-Steven argues that, on a fundamental level, “the story of Star Trek is how our enemies become our friends.” Archer makes peace with the Vulcans over the course of Star Trek: Enterprise. Kirk makes peace with the Klingons in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Ultimately, Sisko makes peace with the Cardassians and the Dominion.

The Dominion War is not won through an act of brutality. Indeed, the Dominion War is arguably lost through an act of brutality. In response to terrorist uprisings, the Dominion respond with mass murder, destroying Lakarian City. “Two million men, women and children gone in a matter of moments.” The Dominion believes that it can secure peace and submission through brute force, that it can scare the Cardassians into line with shows of force. This proves to be a fatal miscalculation. This senseless brutality turns the Cardassians against the Dominion.

Lightening the mood.

Indeed, the Federation is openly disgusted by the brutality and horror of war. When Martok meets Sisko and Ross for that drink in the halls of Cardassian Central Command, he notices their discomfort. “Before you waste too many tears, remember, these are Cardassians lying dead at your feet,” he urges them. “Bajorans would call this poetic justice.” Sisko and Ross do not agree. They are horrified by the casual violence and the mangled bodies. “That doesn’t mean I have to drink a toast over their bodies,” Sisko reflects. The show would seem to agree with him.

This attitude towards war is hardly surprising. Deep Space Nine had never glamourised the conflict, instead exploring the tragedy of senseless violence in episodes like Rocks and Shoals and The Siege of AR-558. In its final stretch of episodes, Deep Space Nine made a conscious effort to portray war as a zero-sum game. In Strange Bedfellows and Tacking Into the Wind, the series made a point to have characters reflect on the same battles from opposite sides of the lines. More than that, the series seemed to mourn the tragic loss of Cardassian lives.

A missing link.

As such, it is no surprise that What You Leave Behind should end the Dominion War with an act of mercy and compassion rather than violence. In When It Rains…, Bashir determined that Section 31 had masterminded the biological weapon that had infected the Great Link. In The Dogs of War, Sisko explicitly forbade Odo from sharing the cure to that disease with the Founders. However, Odo disobeys that order in What You Leave Behind. He cures the Female Changeling and agrees to cure the Great Link.

This is how the conflict ends. Not with shots fired, but with forgiveness offered. The Dominion War is resolved with two outstretched hands reaching to one another, merging and melding into one single entity. The Dominion War comes to a close with an understanding that empathy and understanding can trump hate and paranoia, that Odo’s optimism about the human condition can win out over the Female Changeling’s cynicism and pessimism about these so-called “solids.” It is a very humanist ending.

His best self.

Indeed, the Dominion War ends with Odo offering something of a statement of purpose for Deep Space Nine as a whole, explaining to the Female Changeling, “Believe me, I’m well aware that the Federation has its flaws, but a desire for conquest isn’t one of them.” Indeed, Deep Space Nine has been quite wary of the Federation, quite skeptical of the organisation. Episodes like The Maquis, Part I, The Maquis, Part II, Homefront, Paradise Lost and Inquisition suggest that the organisation is not perfect. However, Deep Space Nine never quite loses its faith in people.

“The Dominion has spent the last two years trying to destroy the Federation, and now you’re asking me to put our fate in their hands?” the Female Changeling demands. Odo simply responds, “Yes.” Odo has had a very tough life, and has many reasons to mistrust the Federation. They tried to supplant him in The PassengerThe Search, Part I and The Search, Part II. They infected him with a biological weapon in Homefront and Paradise Lost that then infected his people in Broken Link. However, even after all that, Odo still believes in people’s basic decency.

Liquid courage.

This is Deep Space Nine in a nutshell. For all that the series is regarded as cynical, it never loses that basic Star Trek idealism. Deep Space Nine never loses its faith in people, or in the belief that things can be better. Deep Space Nine is not a rejection of the utopian humanism at the heart of the Star Trek franchise, it is an exploration of that humanism. The act of compassion that ends the Dominion War is all the more optimistic for the suffering around it. Even surrounded by horror, even suffocating in carnage, basic decency wins out. That is as optimistic as any Star Trek moral.

The end of the Dominion War is perhaps the most satisfying resolution within What You Leave Behind. It feels organic and logical, very much in keeping with the themes and direction of the arc. It pays off just about every dangling thread, give or take the possible Jem’Hadar civil war suggested by One Little Ship. Indeed, What You Leave Behind seems to consciously prioritise the end of the Dominion War. It front loads the episode with this particular story thread, and devotes about an hour of the ninety-minute runtime to providing closure to the arc.

War is over.

However, Deep Space Nine was always more than just the Dominion War. Even allowing that the Dominion War was the culmination of longer-running threads, Deep Space Nine was always about more than two civilisations in conflict. What You Leave Behind has to deal with two more major endings within its runtime. It has to wrap up the story of Bajor that began with Emissary, and it has to offer a satisfying end to the journey of this cast of characters. Neither of these endings is as successful as the end of the Dominion War, although one is noticeably weaker than the other.

What You Leave Behind tries to bring a sense of closure to Sisko’s mission as “the Emissary of the Prophets”, ending a journey that began when Jean-Luc Picard assigned him to oversee Bajor’s admission to the Federation and when Kai Opaka named him as the Prophets’ spiritual ambassador to Bajor in Emissary. However, the episode bungles the attempt. The finale offers no real resolution to that longest of plot threads, with none of the characters even acknowledging the details of Sisko’s original assignment to Bajor.

This plot was dead on arrival.

In The Fifty-Year Mission, co-write Hans Beimler acknowledged that Bajor’s admission to the Federation was simply never the focus of this massive concluding arc:

The one thing that nobody may have brought up is that the original mission of DS9 was to bring Bajor into the Federation. That wasn’t even mentioned. Nobody cares. In the final arc, all the dangling storylines that were important had to be put together and given a context and meaning and unity at the end. That’s what the arc was about. Tie them all up together. Not tie every loose string, but at least address every loose string and give them some sense of unity and purpose.

To be fair, episodes like Rapture had suggested that Deep Space Nine was never particularly interested in Bajor’s admittance to the Federation. Given the series’ skepticism about the Federation, episodes like For the Cause could even be seen to criticise Sisko’s original mission as a form of neo-colonialism.

“I’ve booked the Fire Caves for this evening.”

More to the point, Deep Space Nine had long struggled to make Bajor an interesting place. The series drifted away from Bajoran politics in its second half, pointedly political stories like ProgressIn the Hands of the Prophets, The Homecoming, The Circle, The Siege and The Collaborator giving way to religion-focused stories like Destiny and Accession or playing out in the background of character-driven stories like Life Support, Shakaar or Crossfire. Bajor had been introduced as the focus of the show and faded slowly into a background element.

Truth be told, Bajor was no longer an on-going concern to Deep Space Nine by the start of its third season. This was driven by a variety of factors, from a general audience disinterest in Bajor to the studio’s worries about the ratings of Bajor-centric episodes. There are no major Bajor recurring characters, outside of Kai Winn; the last appearance of First Minister Shakaar Edon was in The Begotten, which was also the appearance of Doctor Mora Pol. Even Winn appears noticeably less frequently than supporting characters like Garak, Rom, Damar, Weyoun or Dukat.

His old self again.

Writer and critic Keith R.A. DeCandido has argued that this failure to resolve the central Bajoran plot thread is a fundamental failure on the part of What You Leave Behind:

Amusingly, of the four spinoffs, DS9—which is, to my mind, the strongest of the quartet overall—is the only one to fail this most basic structural tenet. TNG revisited the trial of humanity by the Q from its first episode, Voyager got our heroes home from the Delta Quadrant, and Enterprise ended with Earth helping form the Coalition of Planets that would eventually mutate into the Federation. But DS9 blew the landing by treating the show like Star Trek: The Dominion War.

Everything was in place for it, too. Kira being given a Starfleet commission so that the Cardassian rebellion would have the approval and influence of the Federation was the perfect prelude to Bajor becoming officially part of the Federation. And it would’ve been a far more appropriate and interesting resolution to the ongoing story of Bajor than a stupid side plot involving fire caves, glowy eyes, magic books, and a simply endless amount of shouting.

Of course, it should be noted that Endgame consciously avoids dealing with any of the consequences of getting Voyager home, while These Are the Voyages… skips ahead in time to a point where all the nation-building to get to the Federation has been complete. At least What You Leave Behind does not cheat.

You Winn some…

Even if this decision to avoid the lingering question of Bajor’s admission into the Federation makes sense, What You Leave Behind bungles its Bajor-centric plot thread. Since the sixth season, Bajor has amount to little more than a spiritual battleground between the Prophets and the Pah-Wraiths. There is a potentially interesting idea there, particularly juxtaposing Bajor’s position caught between the Federation and the Dominion in the fifth season, but Deep Space Nine never develops that idea in any interesting direction.

Instead, the Prophets and the Pah-Wraiths are generic one-dimensional foils. The Prophets are unequivocally good, even after the revelations about Sarah Sisko’s pregnancy in Image in the Sand and Shadows and Symbols. The Pah-Wraiths are unequivocally evil, something reaffirmed even in an otherwise nuanced episode like Covenant. The entities are even colour-coded for the audience’s convenience; the Prophets are white and blue while the Pah-Wraiths are deep red. It is stock science-fiction mysticism, drawn in crayon colours.

Burning down the planet.

The early seasons repeatedly hinted at the idea that the Prophets were complicated entities, gods by accident rather than design with no interest in the affairs of the mortal realm. By Sacrifice of Angels, the Prophets were convinced to embrace their role as religious deities. Since the introduction of the Pah-Wraiths in The Assignment, and particularly with the emphasis on a looming end-time battle in The Reckoning, the show has embraced a very simplistic morality without any room for nuance or exploration.

This is a problem because the mythic battle between the Prophets and the Pah-Wraiths is less interesting than literally anything else in the show, with the possible exception of the mirror universe episodes after Crossover. The problem with the story is not so much the boring nature of the Prophets and the Pah-Wraiths, but how that boredom seems to infect and contaminate otherwise interesting characters. Kai Winn and Skrain Dukat were legitimately interesting antagonists, but they get pulled into this mess of a storyline and suffocated by it.

I’m sorry Dukat, but, to be fair, the Pah’Wraiths never had an episode as good as Crossover.

The Pah-Wraith subplot was so boring and pointless that the show struggled to extend it across the whole ten-episode closing arc. In many ways, the arc was complete at the end of Strange Bedfellows, when Winn swore her allegiance to the Pah-Wraiths. The Changing Face of Evil got some dramatic weight from the reveal of Dukat’s identity, but too much of The Changing Face of Evil and When It Rains… was given over to Winn and Dukat reading old books while more interesting things happened. It was a relief when the plot thread was written out in When It Rains…

Three episodes of absence have done little to enrich the arc. His sight restored by the Pah-Wraiths because they clearly realise that the series is wrapping up, Dukat indulges in cheesy eighties b-move banter. “Together we will release the Pah wraiths so they can lay claim to the Celestial Temple and destroy the Prophets,” Dukat boasts. “And their Emissary,” Winn adds. “No, no, no,” Dukat protests. “Benjamin Sisko will be dealt with by me and me alone.” Winn replies, “Assuming he survives the invasion of Cardassia.” Dukat grins, “Oh, he’ll survive. But I promise you, he’ll wish he hadn’t.”

“I believe the script calls for a MWAH HA HA here?”

The Pah-Wraith subplot is a problem on many levels. On a purely thematic level, there is something disappointing in the knowledge that Sisko has spent the last seven years preparing to push a guy holding a book over a cliff. It seems like the Prophets really oversold the level of skill involved in the task, to the point that it feels like a cruel joke. It seems almost like a wry twist on the classic “O’Brien must suffer” formula, with a regular guy who has his entire existence up-ended by powerful genre-driven forces that affect him in strangely human ways.

Of course, on paper, Sisko was supposed to prevent the Pah-Wraiths from laying claim to the Celestial Temple and wreaking havoc across the cosmos. “Soon the Pah wraiths will burn across Bajor, the Celestial Temple, the Alpha Quadrant,” Dukat raves as Sisko arrives. “Can you picture it? A entire universe set in flames, to burn for all eternity.” However, none of this feels tangible. It is three actors on a familiar cave set, fighting over a book prop, with some fairly standard computer-generated imagery in the background. It is underwhelming, to say the least.

Burn with me.

Even within the context of this single episode, that final confrontation is particularly underwhelming. The biggest issue is structural. What You Leave Behind spends about sixty minutes on the conclusion of the Dominion War, brings the crew back to Deep Space Nine for one final farewell before everybody goes their separate ways and then decides to offer another ending. The episode ends a large narrative, begins to offer a postscript, and then interrupts that to offer another ending. Sisko literally sneaks away in the middle of the “farewell” party to complete his quest.

This causes all manner of awkwardness in trying to work out a chronology for What You Leave Behind. Much has been made of the awkwardness of juxtaposing Dukat and Winn’s journey into the Fire Caves with the Battle of Cardassia, because the ending of the Dominion War should have unfolded over days and weeks; it took the fleet over a day to reach Cardassia, the battle seemed to last a very long time, and it would take at least a day to get back. One hopes that Dukat and Winn packed a hearty lunch. Of course, it could be argued these scenes are non-linear.

Frankly my dear, I don’t give Adami.

Similarly, negotiating surrender takes more than a few mere hours. The German surrender at the end of the Second World War took just over a week from the suicide of Adolf Hitler in his bunker, and that was in the face of total defeat. It took almost a month to negotiate the surrender of Japan following the dropping of two atomic bombs. Still, it makes sense for What You Leave Behind to condense this diplomatic process. The Dominion’s surrender might have made a nice introductory arc to a hypothetical eighth season, but here it needs to be handled within the series finale.

However, Sisko’s confrontation with Dukat and the Fire Caves throws off the pacing of the episode. This is most obvious in the scenes that immediately follow his disappearance. Worf, Bashir, Dax and Odo attempt to comfort Jake. “We found the Captain’s runabout orbiting Bajor,” Ezri states. “But when we scanned the fire caves, there was no sign of him,” Worf elaborates. “Colonel Kira and Chief O’Brien have completed another scan of the planet. As far as they can tell, he is not there.”

Peace in our time.

“You’re not calling off the search yet, are you?” Jake asks. Odo responds, “Not until we find your father.” This raises an interesting question. Even after Sisko visits Yates to confirm that he will be spending an indefinite amount of time in the Celestial Temple, it seems strange that the the crew on Deep Space Nine should depart as originally planned. Sisko was effectively the head of this family, and one of the most vital Starfleet officers during the whole crisis involving the Dominion. His sudden disappearance in the immediate aftermath of the war should be a huge deal.

However, What You Leave Behind attempts to segue smoothly from that conversation between Sisko and Yates back into the departures that were initiated with the “farewell” party that Sisko left; the next scene is Miles O’Brien staring back at his old quarters and indulging in a nostalgic flashback. This transition is disconcerting. There is no sense that any major characters delayed their departures following Sisko’s disappearance, no indication that Sisko’s ascension caused even the slightest disruption to anybody’s schedule.

Some crew members were balling their eyes out.

This as the effect of making that final confrontation between Sisko and Dukat seem particularly incongruous, as if it is a narrative cul-de-sac that exists apart from everything else that follows. Sisko’s mysterious disappearance does not hang over O’Brien’s departure or Odo’s return. Although What You Leave Behind explores the impact of Benjamin Sisko’s departure on Kasidy Yates and Jake Sisko, there is never a sense of what it means to other characters. There is never a sense of what losing the Emissary (even in completing his task) means to Bajor.

There is one small mention of the impact of Sisko’s disappearance on a member of the primary cast outside of his own family. Promoted to lieutenant, Nog reflects, “I guess putting me in for promotion was one of Captain Sisko’s last official acts.” What does Sisko’s disappearance mean to Kira, given he helped her evolve from a terrorist to a decorated officer? What does it mean to Odo, given that a lot of his respect for humanoids was tied up in Sisko? What does it mean to Dax, given the symbiont’s complex relationship to Sisko? What about Worf, who was saved from retirement by Sisko?

“What’s a Zack Snyder?”

Structurally, there is a sense that What You Leave Behind might have worked better if it allowed its narratives to overlap rather than playing them sequentially, if it had found a way to juxtapose Sisko’s confrontation with Dukat against the battle for the heart and soul of Cardassia. This would have prevented that confrontation from feeling like an unnecessary coda, and might even have heightened it a little bit. it would have given the fight stakes beyond three actors on a long-standing cave set.

Juxtaposing the invasion of Cardassia with the battle between Sisko and Dukat would also play into the show’s faint (and unfilled) recurring suggestions of “a war in heaven.” At various points in the run, Deep Space Nine has suggested that the Dominion War and battle for the Celestial Temple might have overlapped with one another; the Prophets warn Sisko of the pending Dominion invasion in Rapture and destroy the Dominion fleet in Sacrifice of Angels, the Dominion provided Dukat with support in his war against the Prophets in Tears of the Prophets and Penumbra.

They think it’s all over.

Of course, running these two plots in parallel would be difficult. It would involve isolating Benjamin Sisko from the invasion of Cardassia, which would mean taking the nominal lead of the series out of the primary plot thread. This would create its own plotting difficulties, although it would provide a mirror to Tears of the Prophets. In that episode, the Prophets asked Sisko to choose between his role as Emissary of the Prophets and his life as a Starfleet Captain. His choice had dire consequences. Asking him to make the same choice again would be effective symmetry.

Still, regardless of the clumsiness with which it is executed, this plot thread focusing on Sisko and Dukat emphasises one of the big differences between What You Leave Behind and All Good Things… Put simply, What You Leave Behind is clearly intended as an ending. All Good Things… was intended as a series finale that would build to a series feature films beginning with Generations. As such, All Good Things… could not really shake up the status quo. Instead, it opted for an ending very much in the spirit of “… and the adventure continues!”

Well suited to this conclusion.

Deep Space Nine was not setting up a series of potential feature films. In an interview with Cinefantastique, Ronald D. Moore acknowledged the freedom that this afforded the creative team:

Said Moore, “When TNG was ending, we just wanted to give a rousing finale to the series, give a valentine to the fans who had watched it. You had the opportunity to do something that we hadn’t done very much of throughout The Next Generation, which was to play a lot of continuity. You hadn’t seen us really tie the episodes so tightly together. For the fans who had watched the show, they could really appreciate going into the past, present and future in the life of Picard (Patrick Stewart), because there was a lot of meaning to that. DS9, the episodes are tied very tightly together already. You are not setting the stage for an immediate feature, or anything like it. We are ending the series and resolving plot lines, and sending characters onto their next stage in life, whatever that may be for all of them.”

That option was not possible on The Next Generation. The closing scene of All Good Things… featured the primary cast gathered around the poker table, with Picard promising, “The sky’s the limit.”

Table it for later.

Of course, that ending was arguably perfectly suited to The Next Generation. In many ways, The Next Generation was a very stable and steady show, not just in terms of episodic storytelling but also in terms of tone and mood. There was something reassuring in the stability of The Next Generation, something vaguely comforting in the idea that these people would spend most their lives together exploring the cosmos. The Next Generation ended after seven seasons, but it was possible to imagine these characters continuing their journey indefinitely into the future.

In contrast, Deep Space Nine always had a set ending, even if the nature of that ending changed over time. Emissary suggested that this ending would come when Bajor joined the Federation, even if the emphasis would later shift to the Dominion War. There was always a sense that Deep Space Nine existed in a transitory state, that things would not always remain static. After all, Sisko would leave the station for extended periods at multiple points in the run of the show; he surrendered the station to the Dominion in Call to Arms and retired to Earth in Tears of the Prophets.

Sent packing.

This sense of impermanence does not undercut Deep Space Nine. Instead, it imbues the series with a sense of meaning and purpose. Endings are sad, but they can also enrich experiences. Experiences have value precisely because they end, some encounters and relationships have worth because they do not continue indefinitely. René Echevarria conceded as much to Cinefantastique:

So many masters have to be served, so many things have to happen. A couple of them could be very sad. Sisko leaving, Odo leaving, we are working on how to mitigate the sadness of that and make it feel that it’s the right thing. That’s where he belongs; that’s where they belong. Our people will go on. They have shared a beautiful time together but now they are splitting up for the most part. Most everyone is leaving. ‘For one shining moment there was this place called Deep Space Nine,’ is the feeling we want to evoke. It’s really been a terrific experience. I’m just very proud of the show, and loved working on it, and love these characters. I just think they are the most three-dimensional, and most believable and most interesting characters in Star Trek, just a lot of fun to write. You just sit down and start writing a scene, and they just talk to you and tell you what they want to say.


In some ways, this dissolution of the family unit at the end of What You Leave Behind feels earned and justified. It feels organic and logical. The cast of The Next Generation were a family unit, and it is hard to imagine them truly separating, even in the bad future of All Good Things… However, Deep Space Nine feels more like college friends, people who come together for an extended and intense period and drift apart in later years.

“You know, I still somehow appeared in more episodes than Jake.”

This is perhaps the third and final conclusion nested within What You Leave Behind, the fond farewell to these characters and this family. Sisko leaves to go to the Celestial Temple, O’Brien returns to Earth, Odo journeys through the wormhole to cure his people, Worf becomes an ambassador to the Klingon Empire. There is a bittersweet quality to all of this, a sense that this is the end of an era. Maybe these characters might see one another again, but it is hard to imagine that this family could ever be reunited.

“You’ve been such a good friend,” Garak confesses to Bashir after the invasion of Cardassia, setting the tone for the rest of the finale. “I’m going to miss our lunches together.” Bashir responds, “I’m sure we’ll see each other again.” Garak is less certain. “I’d like to think so, but one can never say. We live in uncertain times.” Later, Sisko offers his own twist on that sentiment, “This may be the last time we’re all together, but no matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us, a very important part, will always remain here on Deep Space Nine.”

“The Alpha Quadrant’s toast.”

Deep Space Nine is the first Star Trek series to wrap up in such a manner, although the two younger spin-offs would make a similar effort. When Voyager returns to the Alpha Quadrant in Endgame, it is clear that the crew will have to go their separate ways. When Enterprise is decommissioned in These Are the Voyages…, the supporting characters make small-talk about their next assignments. However, those two endings feel trite and insincere. They nod towards the dissolution of a family unit without exploring the consequences.

What You Leave Behind is a little rushed and clumsy in its farewell scenes. O’Brien and Bashir settle for a silent hug at the airlock, because there is so much else going on around them. Kira does not get to say farewell to Kirayoshi. Worf waves farewell to Ezri, but does not get an extended interaction with characters like Odo or O’Brien. However, the series has done enough heavy lifting with these characters that the audience can fill in the gaps. There is enough material in the episode that these departures feel tangible and meaningful. That is to the credit of Deep Space Nine.

The space (and time) between us.

Of course, the break-up of this family unit is largely extrapolated from the disappearance of Benjamin Sisko. Sisko’s is arguably a father-figure to the extended cast of Deep Space Nine, and his ascension to the Celestial Temple represents the dissolution of this unlikely “found” family even beyond the loss to Kasidy Yates and Jake Sisko. What You Leave Behind is the only Star Trek finale to wrap up with the departure of the series lead, the death of future!Janeway in Endgame notwithstanding. It is an important and powerful creative choice.

After all, up until Star Trek: Discovery, the Star Trek series have largely been defined by their commanding officers. During the production of Enterprise, the network reportedly suggested killing off the character of Jonathan Archer at the end of the third season. Executive producer Brannon Braga refused, because he believed that any given Star Trek series was held together by its leading character and actor and that to lose that key figure would be to lose the spirit of the show. What You Leave Behind is built around that assumption.

Talk about baggage.

Understandably, Sisko’s departure made a lot of people uneasy. Discussing the episode with Cinefantastique, the production team acknowledged that there was some creative compromise with the studio:

Answered Behr, “The studio was interested. I told them from the beginning that if the time comes when we need Sisko, this enables you to see Sisko. It was meant to be able to bring Sisko back, if indeed there is a life after this series. But in terms of the end of the series, it’s a very effective ending.”

Added Moore, “The studio wants us to leave some kind of door open, and we are going to try to leave it open a crack. It’s not going to be easy, if they wanted do something like that. But we don’t think they are going to do anything. There is no indication, none whatsoever.”

Indeed, What You Leave Behind was clearly written as the last story to feature these characters, to provide a sense of closure and conclusion; tie-in stories and documentary special features notwithstanding.

A familiar song.

Of course, as a result of this creative compromise, What You Leave Behind faintly suggests that Sisko might return at some unspecified point in the future. “When will you be back?” Yates asks. “It’s hard to say,” Sisko responds. “Maybe a year, maybe yesterday. But I will be back.” Yates promises, “And I will be waiting.” This promise would seem to offer a get-out-of-jail-free card for anybody hoping to tell more Deep Space Nine stories, and has been exploited by the tie-in novels that build off the end of Deep Space Nine.

To be fair, there are very good reasons why the production team would choose not to permanently separate Benjamin Sisko from Kasidy Yates and Jake Sisko. After all, the portrayal of African American families in popular culture is a contentious issue. The popular imagination tends to fixate upon the idea of African American fathers as absent, playing to various racial stereotypes about African American family units. These stereotypes are filtered and repeated through popular culture like film and television, feeding into a cycle of racist generalisations.

Breaking up the band, and breaking out the big band.

In an interview with Cinefantastique, Ira Steven Behr acknowledged that this was a legitimate concern when it came to writing Sisko out of the show, particularly for the actor Avery Brooks:

Avery thought that there was an element of that, that felt like the character was dying, and also an element of that, that felt like the character was abandoning his pregnant wife, which is an African- American stereotype in today’s world. I totally agreed with that. What we did was, we came up with a very slight change, basically having to do with his acknowledgement that he needed to stay with the Prophets for a little while to get some good clean Prophet training or whatever, and he was going to be coming back. The line we wrote that I thought fixed things a great deal, as did Avery, was when Kasidy asks him, ‘When are you coming back?’ He says, ‘It could be a year, it could be yesterday.’ We all know that being with the Prophets is kind of a non- temporally linear thing, and that he was in a position where he was definitely coming back. No matter how long he was going to be there with them, he was going to be back soon.

After all, Benjamin Sisko might exist in an optimistic post-racial future where these stereotypes are a thing of the past, but Deep Space Nine was airing in the context of the late nineties. The production team understood that.

Ferengi and crooners and Behrs, oh my!

Sisko’s African-American heritage is a fundamental part of his identity, which contrasts him with the other major Star Trek leads. Certainly, very little about Jean-Luc Picard suggests a deep connection to French culture outside of a few choice words and occasional reference to wine. In contrast, Sisko has always been an African-American character in touch with his heritage; the redecorating of his quarters with artifacts from Earth in The Search, Part I, his trip back in time in Far Beyond the Stars, his objection to white-washing in Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang.

It makes sense for What You Leave Behind to avoid that unfortunate cliché. It is a testament to the writing staff on Deep Space Nine that they were cognisant of the optics of that particular creative choice, particularly when contrasted to the franchise’s other misbegotten decisions like the characterisation of the Kazon as a bunch of racial stereotypes or the handling of Chakotay’s Native American heritage on Voyager. There is a dignity and care to Deep Space Nine, even as the curtain comes down on the show in its final minutes.

“I’ll be seeing you…”

Appropriately enough, What You Leave Behind chooses to give its line to Quark. The Ferengi bartender is perhaps the most unlikely breakout character on Deep Space Nine, particularly given the Ferengi’s status as failed villains transformed into a bad joke on The Next Generation. Over the course of these seven seasons, Ira Steven Behr transformed the Ferengi into a complex and multifaceted race. More than that, it is very clear that Behr harbours a deep and abiding affection for Quark.

It is fitting that Quark should serve as an anchor on Deep Space Nine, a tether between the past, the present and the future. The writing team had famously decided that Quark couldn’t become Nagus in The Dogs of War because he had to remain on the station as one strand of consistency. As with Odo and Kira, Quark had been on the station long before the events of Emissary. Unlike Odo and Kira, Quark had been running the same bar for what seemed like forever. It makes sense that Quark should remain constant as the universe changes around him.

A glass act.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” Quark reflects to Morn, a bittersweet sentiment for the Star Trek finale that undoubtedly involves the greatest degree of change. Apparently, Ira Steven Behr had always known that Quark would be the character to close out the series:

I will say that it was always joked about by Rick Berman and myself that Quark would have the last line. It just seemed that as the barkeep on the station he is the one continuity we could not overlook, so what started out as just a kind of joke basically evolved into, it’s the only possible ending we could have. I thought it worked nicely.

There is something surprisingly poignant in that, particularly given how much had changed in the intervening years. The Deep Space Nine writers often seemed to be writing by the seat of their pants, so it is reassuring to know that this crucial narrative decision had been carried consistently across the length and breadth of the show.

Putting the pieces together.

Of course, while Quark got the last words of the last episode, he does not get the last image. The closing sequence of What You Leave Behind is largely silent. Kira is walking through the promenade and spots Jake standing at one of the viewing ports on the upper deck, staring into space towards the wormhole. This is a young man waiting in the hope that his father might one day return. It is a heartbreaking image, one which suggests that it would have been more compassionate for Benjamin Sisko to tell his family that he wasn’t coming home. Now Jake waits, in limbo.

As Kira joins Jake at the window, placing her hand on his shoulder as a gesture of support, the camera pulls back. It pulls out from the station and into deep space. The purple Denorious Belt glistens in the background as the station grows smaller and smaller. There is a sense that the show is leaving these characters in peace, pulling away to afford them some sense of privacy. The characters on Deep Space Nine are so rich that it is easy to imagine future adventures, and that closing shot serves as an effective way to pull the audience out of this world.

Spaced out.

According to Ira Steven Behr, the production team settled on that closing image quite late in the process:

As I’ve said, working on that final episode was quite stressful for many reasons. We were under a time crunch, a budget crunch and frankly, neither Hans [Beimler] or I were happy about the thought of the show ending. At times we felt like the guy pulling the switch on the electric chair. Except we were both pulling the switch and sitting in the chair at the same time. Go figure. So my wife decided, in the middle of writing the script, that I had to get away for one day, so we went up to Santa Barbara on a Saturday and stayed overnight. We had a great meal, great sex… you know the drill. I left Santa Barbara feeling calm. On the way home, having not thought about the episode for 24 hours. The idea of the final episode just literally popped into my head. It was the strangest thing. I’m surprised I didn’t drive the car off the road. At the time the final shot was supposed to be a pull back shot of Quark and Kira in the bar. Or right outside the bar, but it suddenly just became clear to me that the final image had to be that kid waiting for the father he didn’t know would ever come back. It was the kind of downbeat but hopeful ending that was indicative of DS9.

Having Kira come and put her hand on his shoulder seemed right as well. After all, she was taking over the station from Sisko. It seemed only right that she should be there to help comfort his son as he would do if he had the chance. I got very excited about this idea and when I came back to work I told it to the writing staff. René Echevarria, a sensitive lad if ever there was one, said something like it gave him chills or it made him want to cry. I knew if I had René I would have America.

René Echevarria was right on the money. It is a powerful and affecting shot.

“Well, Jake. It could be worse. You could have been in Star Wars.”

In the end, that image brings a sense of closure to Deep Space Nine. It echoes a similar shot that was employed in a similar story in The Visitor, which suggests recurrence. However, it also provides a weird sense of symmetry back to the opening scenes of Emissary. At the start of Emissary, Benjamin Sisko watched as his family was torn apart. Sisko was powerless as his wife Jennifer was killed in the Battle of Wolf 359, and the episode suggested that her death had created a deep and lasting wound that only healed in time.

The closing image of What You Leave Behind brings those opening scenes around in a full circle. Once again, the Sisko family is torn apart by forces that exist beyond their reckoning. However, this time Benjamin Sisko has been lost. Jake has lost both parents, and is very much alone in the world. For all that Deep Space Nine is an epic saga about galactic wars and eternal struggles, the opening minutes of Emissary and the closing minutes of What You Leave Behind suggest something much more intimate.

Objects in space.

Deep Space Nine is the story of a family found and a family lost.



15 Responses

  1. Whew! Congratulations on wrapping up DS9!!

    I will say that ‘What you leave behind’ is the only ST finale that got me choked up at the end. ‘All good things’ was great but never made me emotional, ‘Endgame’ was a serviceable action episode (and – along with Seinfeld – is the only TV finale I’ve ever watched on TV as it aired!), the others aren’t worth noting. As cheesy as it was, I got seriously choked up at the nostalgia clip show, and at the last shot seeing Jake left behind looking out from the station.

    • Thanks! It was fun. But worth it. And the closing shot is beautiful.

      Really, just cut the Pah-Wraith stuff, and you’d have an episode in the same league as All Good Things…

  2. I agree with most of what you said. Despite its many flaws, especially being rushed at times, the unneccessary flashbacks and the Prophets-story very much drifting into fantasy-territory, the last scene and its music alone always make me cry for minutes. I sometimes found Jake Sisko the least intersting character, but finally one clearly identifies with him. The finale could have been a lot better, but if it had been the farewell would have been even harder…

    • Oh no, the ending is brilliant. That closing shot is magnificent, probably the best closing shot of a Star Trek show, because it captures the essence of the series; the relationship between Jake and Ben, the sense that Deep Space Nine is this floating city in the middle of a vast universe.

      • Oh, you misread my comment! I am fully in agreement about the final shot – this alone is masterful. Just the rest of the episode seems less “whole” and hectic. Considering the stakes the war ended rather abruptly. Sisko’s sacrifice/transition was equally fast. The episode just seemed stuffed. The last 90 (or so) minutes left me always wanting more, because a) 89 minutes were rather mediocre compared to the rest of the series and the season and b) because the last minute was such a melancholic, emotionally dense moment. Those two things combined make the whole episode brilliant – though, in my mind, a little accidental.

      • Apologies!

    • The last scene *and its music*- agree completely! It’s entirely fitting that the final musical cue for the series should be the main theme played on a lonely solo trumpet, just like the title credits in the first three seasons before the (overwrought and somewhat pompous) Season 4 re-orchestration- the aural counterpart of DS9 seen as just one little dot in the vastness of space.

  3. I actually like “What You Leave Behind” a lot more than “All Good Things.” Then again, I am apparently the only Star Trek fan in existence who was underwhelmed by “All Good Things.”

    I guess there are a couple of reasons for this. First, as I have mentioned a few times before, I really do not like time travel stories where everything gets reset at the end. Second, much more significantly, despite the fact that it is supposed to be an epic conclusion, “All Good Things” is not actually allowed to provide any sort of closure because The Next Generation crew leaped right into movies without a break, so the status quo absolutely needed to be maintained. For me “All Good Things” is a better-than-average story that is given much greater significance solely by the fact that it is the final televised episode of TNG.

    In contrast, for all its flaws, “What You Leave Behind” is absolutely a dramatic conclusion with a tremendous emotional impact. There is a huge amount of weight to it, one where at the end pretty much everything has changed. It feels so much more important, at least to me. The final confrontation between Sisko and Dukat is rushed and somewhat underwhelming, but at least it *is* a definitive final confrontation.

    I’ve never watched “All Good Things” a second time, but I love to re-watch “All Good Things.”

    Of course, in the end it’s worth noting that TNG and DS9 were two very different shows, so it makes sense that they would end up with two very different series finales.

    • Oops! Sorry, I meant to say that I’ve never watched “All Good Things” a second time, but I love to re-watch “What You Leave Behind.” I wish I could edit these comments!

    • Interesting. I can’t imagine watching What You Leave Behind, except as a larger rewatch of the entire series. However, I can watch All Good Things… separately, and it actually makes a nice Christmas story, given its Past/Present/Future structure.

    • I think “All Good Things” is a pretty strong episode of TNG, but an absolutely perfect finale. “What You Leave Behind” works basically the same on either level-as an episode, it’s brilliant in some ways, pretty dire in others. As a finale, it’s really satisfying in some ways, and not at all in others. It’s also worth noting that DS9’s finale had a much, much tougher job. Overall, it’s not quite one of the best DS9 episodes, but I think it’s very, very good. Certainly one of the better finales I’ve seen.

  4. Hey, great review of a great show! I was trying to post a longer comment but it seems systematically rejected as spam. Any idea why?

    • Oops, this time it seems to work (it appears that I needed to use an email *not* associated with a wordpress account… weird).

      I wanted to say it’s a great point that Odo ended the war with an act of empathy. I was somehow underwhelmed that he didn’t get to elaborate on his motives when he was asked by the female changeling why she should trust the Federation. After all, the last time we saw Odo, he was outright bitter and furious about the Federation trying to commit genocide to his people. We never got to see on screen how he moved from there to reconcile with the Federation and to even defend it in front of another changeling. This should be material for great(er) drama, and it’s a shame it was not explored (just like it’s a shame that in season 6 we never saw on screen how Kira forgave Odo for his betrayal).

      And Odo’s line – “I’m well aware that the Federation has its flaws, but a desire for conquest isn’t one of them” – isn’t exactly the best summary of his life on DS9. DS9 is not about whether the Federation was peaceful or belligerent – the show is actually quite vocal that the Federation as an institution is skrewed up. DS9 is all about human relation and individual decency, and it would have been more satisfying if Odo took one more minute to articulate this in the finale – something like, I know that the Federation has its flaws but I also came to know many solids can be trusted; we have differences but we’ve learnt to coexist with the difference; I’ve met up with hostility of some but also love and friendship of many; some solids engineered the disease, but some other solids risked their lives to get me the cure; being solids means they are all different individuals, the vice of some should not be projected to all… Given that one highlight of the premier was Sisko trying to explain the meaning of linear existence to the wormhole aliens, it would also have created some nice symmetry to have someone bridging the gap between solid and the liquid beings.

      • Turning Cardassia into what Bajor was like at the start of the series was a brilliant way to end the Dominion War.

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