Not Rated. The movie never aims for being offensive. It's pretty tame. But folks do swear in conversation. Also, Star Trek is fundamentally political. A political ideology shouldn't necessarily be part of the MPAA, but there's some controversial topics being discussed throughout. In fact, there's a segment where they talk about whether or not the show addressed certain political landmines. If most fandom documentaries are G rated, this might be PG or PG-13. But again, not rated.
DIRECTORS: Ira Steven Behr and David Zappone
I'm just a hypocrite at this point. I keep watching fandom documentaries about my own nostalgia. I keep saying that they're candy and that they aren't exactly helping me grow as a person or as a film fan. But I really don't care. When I first saw the trailer for this documentary, I tried to play it cool. I told myself that I wasn't interested. I know that information about this doc kept going across my feed, mostly because of the HD versions of Deep Space Nine stuff. I knew it was going to be a Fathom Event in my area and that would probably be the only way to watch it. I remember looking at my phone and I knew that if I really wanted to make it, that I had ten minutes to get to my local theater and watch it. I was making dinner at the time and I also was filled with shame so I didn't ask my wife if I could go to the movies to see the Deep Space Nine documentary. But when it became available through Shout! Factory, yeah, I bought it.
Then Shout! Factory took six or so months to get it to me. That's a different story. In the mean time, I found out that the documentarians --which is a bit of a cop-out because Ira Steven Behr was one of the directors --were getting together a notable portion of the writing staff to plan a series premiere for a fictional season eight. Yeah, that made it worth it. I will always hold fandom documentaries up to a comparison with Trekkies. Trekkies is the gold standard of fandom films. It's what I want all fandom films to be. Trekkies is both loving of its source material and also very critical of it at the same time. It never gets into "should this fandom exist?" But it also doesn't mind poking at the bear a little bit. What We Left Behind isn't Trekkies. It isn't even close. But it also is dealing with a drastically different subject matter. Trekkies wanted the audience to laugh at itself. What We Left Behind is a very loving walk down nostalgia lane to the underground stepchild of the Star Trek franchise, but a walk that includes pointing out the faults of the series as well.
My biggest criticism of a lot of these fandom movies is that they claim that the series could do no wrong. Back in Time is probably the biggest perpetrator of that crime. It's so in love with itself that it never really allows a realistic view of what was happening at the time. It's so rose-colored that the movie ultimately falls flat. What We Left Behind and its attention to its failures is what gives it a little bit more validity than Back in Time and its ilk. I don't want to give this movie too much credit though. I recently graded a persuasive essay defending the actions of our president. All of the citations were "Trump Administration". What We Left Behind really has the same problem. I think Adam Nimoy was originally the director of this film until he abandoned it. When Ira Steven Behr came in as the public face behind this movie, there were some good and bad things that happened. The good thing was that Behr had insight into what really was going on behind the screen, despite the fact that he is often criticized throughout for being an unreliable narrator by his interviewees. That was something I really appreciated, that he left all of that criticism in. The bad side is that, while there is an attempt to be objective, nothing can really be trusted. Behr, as a part of his mission statement, seems to be about full disclosure. He really wants to stress that things weren't always honky-dory behind the scenes. He even paints his own approach to showrunning as often unfair to the cast and crew. But in my head, knowing that he was the director of this movie, that means that there are probably skeletons in the closet that he may not even acknowledge exist. He seems like kind of a punk.
There's something artificial behind it all. Behr has too much going on making a documentary about himself. Any other documentary about oneself would be wrought with problems. Where does the documentary begin and the reality end? Similarly, Behr has a very specific direction that he wants this documentary to go, which means adding this voice that ultimately isn't organic. There are sections of the film where Behr just speaks to the camera. Instead of being a talking head that is responding organically to a prompt, Behr just redirects the flow of the river into the topic he wants addressed. These moments are slightly cringey. Also, there's this meta dialogue flowing through the piece as well. Behr, mostly to be tongue-in-cheek, wants the audience to be aware that this is a documentary and not cinema verite. I get the logic. Star Trek fans seem to know the personalities behind the actors that play their favorite characters. They want to see them play. Because I am such a Trekkie, I'm also indoctrinated into the idea that the Star Trek casts post ToS are more like a family than other series. Trek actors go to conventions and do talkbacks. They seem to see each other a lot. Watching that happen in the documentary is very similar to hitting a Star Trek convention and believing the little skits. Yeah, it's cringey from an outside perspective to watch this metanarrative happen in the documentary. But from a Star Trek perspective, it seems like business as usual.
I'll tell you what makes this documentary worth it and why it overall works. A) I always want to rewatch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Being the snob that I am, I will always advocate that it is my favorite Star Trek show (although I'm really falling in love with Discovery. I know...blasphemy!). But from a nerd's perspective, catching that storyboarded new season premiere is actually gold. I love the process of it. That's something to really sell. Watching people who really get Deep Space Nine come together one more time and breakdown a show is kind of brilliant. Part of me is a little betrayed. Seeing the storyboarded animatics come together is rad, but I always imagined that the season goals were established first and then the episode breakdowns started to happen. Maybe that's still the way it happened. But the way that the writers talked, it really sounded like they came up with a bunch of cool concepts and then it was their job to unbury themselves from the hole that they dug. Again, this all harkens back to the artificiality of this whole documentary. Am I glad that they broke down an imaginary episode of Deep Space Nine? Totally. It's exactly what I wanted in my life. I needed to know what happened to Sisko. I am also super glad that they weren't beholden to character happy endings. But it isn't quite perfect.
What We Left Behind is really enjoyable. It was a warm blanket. I know I'm not stepping out of line by saying that this is a great documentary for Deep Space Nine fans and no one else. But I am a Deep Space Nine fan and I really like having my fandom acknowledged. It's a good feeling. Yeah, it's probably pretty low on the cultural impact bar, but I'm no Martin Scorsese. I was happy watching it. It brought me joy. It's not even the best fandom documentary, but I will say it is one of the better ones.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.