'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Showrunner on Fabled Season 8 and the Show's Hidden History

Ira Steven Behr assembled his old writers room to break the first new episode in almost 20 years — and filmed what happened for a new documentary.

Deep Space Nine is getting a next act.

The Star Trek series, which ran for seven seasons from 1993 to 1999, broke ground for the franchise by featuring morally ambiguous characters, dark themes and serialized storytelling, with its Dominion War spanning years. The show ultimately concluded with its leading man, Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks), leaving his quadrant of the galaxy altogether to fulfill his destiny as a prophet. There would be no movie to continue his crew's adventures, like Kirk's or Picard's officers before them.

But not long ago, members of DS9's writers room reunited to tell the story of what would come next — and details of a fabled season eight, episode one will be made public thanks to a new documentary, What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek Deep Space Nine. The documentary — which will feature interviews with cast and crew — launches an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign Thursday to raise money for its completion. 

Deep Space Nine showrunner Ira Steven Behr (1995-99), a producer on the documentary, shares what it was like breaking his first new DS9 story in nearly 20 years, new generations of fans moving beyond Gene Roddenberry, and why he always predicted the show would become more popular after it was off the air. 

You recently got writers Ronald D. Moore, Rene Echevarria and Hans Beimler back together for one day to break a new DS9 episode. What was it like getting the band back together?

That was an idea that I had based on a conversation with Avery, because Avery kept saying, "Don't make it talking heads only." It got me thinking, what would be something you've never seen before? There were ground rules, which was everyone had to watch the final episode of season seven, so everyone remembered where everyone was on the playing field, or at least read the Wikipedia page. We weren't going to have any cheat sheets. We are going in there with nothing for one day to see if we could get through a pilot episode of the show. And we did. Obviously, as with any show, you don't break a show in a day — and if you do, you still go back the next day and refine. This is the raw material, but it's a fascinating process. We had a fantastic time doing it. It was amazing how time slipped away and everyone was back doing their thing and interacting and arguing and getting passionate and it was really a magic day.

You have all gone on to do other things. Were you bringing that experience with you, or was it like being back in the late '90s all over again?

I don't think anyone was thinking about anything except, "Let's not look like idiots in front of the cameras," and hopefully we could refocus on the show. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done, whether you are writing TV, movie, novels. Every day, it's a new day. You can't sit down and go, "Well I did this last year so that means today I'm going to have a great day!" That's bullshit, it isn't going to happen. For one day, we were all immersed into the universe of Deep Space Nine and all of those character meant something, and all of those storylines.

You were the boss on the show for years, but there must have been things going on you didn't know about. What's something you learned about DS9 while making this doc?

The thing that took me aback was when Nana Visitor [Kira Nerys] made it very clear that at the time she considered me to be one of the suits. And that certainly was not how I viewed myself. I came down to the set. The suits did not come down to the set. I thought I had a much better relationship with the cast than that. And it was just like, seriously? But when you are doing 26 episodes a season and it's just once that train goes, it never stops. Plus we never really left the soundstage, so they were working under these conditions. Always inside. Always in the dark. I'm sure any sense of what was really going on seemed just out of reach for them. They lived in their own kind of bubble.

Here's an exclusive clip of Visitor in the documentary

By today's standards, 26 episodes a season is crazy given the type of storytelling you were doing. Today you'd probably have 13 or something. Was it a grind?

We were working all the time, so the days went quite quickly because we were so focused on what we were doing. If you ask me, "Would you like to do another show today at 26 episodes?" I would think long and hard before I said yes.

You used to say the show would become more popular after it was off the air. How did you feel about DS9's reception at the time, and how do you view its legacy now that it's considered by many to be the greatest Trek ever?

It was very clear early on that Star Trek fans are no different in some ways than other fans of other types of shows. They like what they like and that's what they want. I totally understand it, but we were doing something a little different. We set out to do something different and we held to that course no matter what. That's what we thought the franchise needed. Yes, at the time, it was different and different doesn't necessarily take off immediately. People are suspicious of different. We were able to do so many things because Voyager was the Star Trek series that waved the flag of the franchise. Or TNG before that, so we had our own pace to be that kind of somewhat outlier show. So yes, I always believed the audience would catch up. If I had any idea how the delivery system was going to change over the years, if I had any idea that there would be binging, I would have been even more definitive in my belief. But I had no idea about that. I just thought it would be a slow word of mouth.

This documentary is going to have fans in it as well. What's your relationship like with the these days?

When I go to conventions now, and I see these fans, some of whom were not even alive when the show was on. All the tired belief systems of Star Trek, which was "the first series was the best, without a doubt. Then TNG took it even further. And that's what Star Trek is, and that's what it has to be." All that stuff, they don't give a crap about any of that. They don't have to follow any banner. They don't have to follow any path. They see a show, they like it, they don’t like it. Gene Roddenberry has been gone a long time. He's a brand name, but to the younger audience, he's just a name. And he's not something they have to salute.  And he doesn't tell them what a good series is, in terms of the Star Trek universe. They just come to it on their own, and I think that's been a wonderful thing.   

For more from the documentary, directed by Adam Nimoy and from 455 Films, check out its Indiegogo page.