The Good: Engaging acting, Wonderful character work, Great plot, Decent effects
The Bad: Reuse of special effects.
The Basics: Despite some recycled special effects sequences, “What You Leave Behind” finishes the televised saga of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!
As Star Trek: The Next Generation wanted viewers to know, “all good things come to an end.” With Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it’s all about “What You Leave Behind!” “What You Leave Behind” is the series finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and it is the least self-contained finale in the Star Trek franchise. Every other series of Star Trek, one may easily watch the pilot and finale back to back and have, at the very least, an understanding of what is going on. With Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which was much more of a serialized television show, that is not the case. “What You Leave Behind” is essentially the tenth part of a single, long story arc.
Actually, “What You Leave Behind” is the culmination of years worth of stories and character development. It is the climax to a war story, a fierce character conflict, a rebellion, everything but the resolution to a diplomatic nightmare. Despite my considering “What You Leave Behind” to be a perfect episode and one of the top ten episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, “What You Leave Behind” has two problems for people who are detail-oriented. The first is that the mission that Sisko had is not achieved; “What You Leave Behind” does not culminate with the Bajorans joining the Federation. Despite having a decent build-up, like Colonel Kira in a StarFleet uniform for several of the episodes that precede “What You Leave Behind,” the final leap is never made. The other niggling problem is that director Allan Kroeker recycles space battle footage from earlier episodes in “What You Leave Behind.” As much as “What You Leave Behind” should have gone out with a bang, there are troublingly reused sequences, most notably from “Sacrifice Of Angels.”
Outside those two things, which are somewhat nitpicky (especially the first one, at least in the context of the episode!), “What You Leave Behind” is damn near perfect. It is easily the best finale of the Star Trek franchise.
The morning of the united Federation, Klingon and Romulan assault on the Dominion forces in the Alpha Quadrant, Dr. Bashir wakes up in bed with Ezri while O’Brien and his family pack. As the war looks to be coming to a conclusion, O’Brien has decided to move his family back to Earth as he takes a teaching position. On Cardassia Prime, Kira, Damar, and Garak continue to lead a civilian uprising against the Dominion forces. When Jem’Hadar forces storm Mila’s house, killing Garak’s remaining family, he is enraged. As the battle along the Dominion Front is joined, things look grim for the allies until the Cardassians turn against the Breen. Meanwhile, on Bajor, Kai Winn and Anjohl Tennan (Gul Dukat as a Bajoran) are reunited, with Tennan’s eyesight restored by the Pah-wraiths. They begin their journey to the firecaves in order to release the pah-wraiths.
With the Cardassians rising up in the street, the Dominion forces start slaughtering Cardassian citizens wholesale as they fortify their position. With the absolute annihilation of an entire city, the Dominion appears desperate. Damar, Garak and Kira storm the Dominion’s central command post as the space fleet advances. At Cardassia Prime, the fleets are locked in a stalemate when Odo proposes a solution to end the war. Beaming down and linking with the Female Shapeshifter, brings an end to hostilities, but it comes with a price.
The Dominion War over, celebrations break out on Deep Space Nine and the crew spends a last night together before Odo, O’Brien and Worf plan to depart the station. But amid the revelries, Sisko is visited by the Prophets and called to the firecaves for a final battle between Dukat, Winn and himself!
The two-hour series finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is interesting in that it takes the opposite form of the series premiere, “Emissary” (reviewed here!). While that episode worked its way out from Commander Sisko into a larger universe, “What You Leave Behind” cuts back the big conflicts until only the battle between Sisko and Dukat remains. The culmination of the Dominion War is a necessary plot change, but the resulting battle between Sisko and Dukat is operatic and character-driven. It also has a somewhat refreshing sense of finality to it, which fits in with the darker themes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
One of the nice things about “What You Leave Behind” is that all of the main characters get their moment. Ezri and Bashir appear ready to start a real relationship, which helps motivate Worf’s decision to join Martok on the Klingon Homeworld. Quark manages to get the last line of the series, Kassidy Yates appears for a decent pregnancy moment and Jake Sisko is vital to the final, heartbreaking image of the series (I swear, I’ve never made it through the finale without crying!). “What You Leave Behind” gives Kira her leadership moments, Odo his heroic and humanistic moment, Damar his chance to lead, and Sisko his chance to make peace with the conflicted aspects of his responsibilities (to StarFleet and to Bajor). Even Nog gets a moment.
One of the most compelling moments of the episode actually comes from Garak. With eight hundred million dead on Cardassia, Garak is in shock and his final scene with Bashir actually hints at the potential that Garak might take his own life in the future (which, based on a convention I once had with actor Andrew Robinson at a convention, is what the actor was actually going for in the scene!). “What You Leave Behind” is chock full of character moments and fans still gush over the scene in Vic’s where they can pick out actors, producers and the like out of make-up in the background!
“What You Leave Behind” finds the actors working at the top of their games. Nana Visitor and Casey Biggs bring their characters of Kira and Damar to the point where they are compelling leaders. Louise Fletcher gets the chance to play Kai Winn as delightfully maniacal and Marc Alaimo pushes Dukat over the line to full-fledged villain once again! The episode is a delight to watch for the quality of all of the performers. Avery Brooks manages to have Sisko’s character seem like a religious icon – like Sisko was supposed to have been all along. And without a word, Nana Visitor and Cirroc Lofton see the series off in a way that creates a beautiful, sad, finite end to the series.
We can ask for nothing more.
[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which provides the full story for the conclusion to the series. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek episode, DVD and season reviews, be sure to visit my Star Trek Index Page for an organized listing of all the Star Trek reviews I have written!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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