****SPOILERS FOR DS9 FINALE**** (we’ll returned with more balanced looks at the franchise and/or focuses on other series next week)
STLV (Star Trek Las Vegas) is in full swing, and there’s been a big DS9 focus this year. In just the past day or so, the internet has been blowing up about Ira Steven Behr’s mention of his idea to place all of Deep Space Nine “inside the head of Benny Russell.” Benny Russell is Captain Sisko’s twentieth century alter-ego of sorts, a twentieth century sci-fi writer that Sisko inhabited/became during one of the best episodes of DS9. Behr’s idea was to end the series showing that all of DS9 was inside Russell’s head.
A couple of things about this:
first, this is not news. It’s an idea that Behr and others have talked about before. And as Hans Beimler said about the idea years ago, “It’s important that this series be a seven-year arc, not a two-year arc, so to end on that note I think would have been inappropriate.”
Two: It’s a bad idea. Trek is a collaborative process, not an auteur’s vision. Not even Roddenberry had complete control on any of the series. The benign neglect that Behr received on DS9 is definitely the closest anyone came to being a modern check-stops-here showrunner, and even he was overruled by Berman (thankfully in this case).
This implies that Behr is saying that HE is Benny Russell. He is saying his show is what an african american sci-fi writer who had lived through a life of prejudice and hardship would have come up with. There’s nothing extraordinary about the idea that there are writers behind a TV show. So why include it in the finale? Only if it is somehow significant who the writer is. As much as I love DS9, Behr goes a step too far to say that the show is what Benny Russell would have made.
I would have loved to live in a world where Star Trek had been created and helmed by minorities. The ham-fisted analogies would have been much more nuanced and lived-in. But that’s not who Roddenberry was, it’s not who Behr was, and it’s probably better if we remember the limitations of their perspectives rather than try to pretend they did it the same way a black man would’ve.
But what do you guys think? Should DS9 have ended with an “its all in his mind!” ending? And how would that have affected the rest of the series?
One more item from STLV that I want to briefly mention is this quote from Andrew Robinson. Like his character, Garak, Robinson is claustrophobic. And I feel like you can hear Garak coming through in this little gem about his first day in a make-up chair:
“I’m claustrophobic, the more pieces [of latex] they put on, the weirder it got and the more scared I got. Then they put that black rug, they called a wig, on and then they put on that furniture pad they called a costume, and I’m sweating like a pig. I’m thinking I gotta call my agent, I gotta get out of this. Then I looked in the mirror, and I saw this thing looking back at me, and the actor in me, who is smart, knew it was an opportunity.”
So as long as we are on the topic, let’s talk about the DS9 finale. The amazing fully serialized epic nine-parter that ended the series is one of the series best spans, in my opinion topped only by the six part Dominion occupation of the station at the beginning of season six. Both were ahead of their time in an era dominated by the attitude that you never “punished” a fan for missing an episode.
Like most early shows that dabbled in serialization, though, things were not planned out from day one. Over the course of the series, a plethora of different plot strands had cropped up and while most of them were amazing in and of themselves, shoehorning them all into a finale (even one as large as this) resulted in controversial decisions. Kai Winn and Dukat, for instance, are two of the best character Trek (or televised sci-fi for that matter) has ever produced. Bringing them together and then dovetailing them into the pah-wraith arc, however, is not a satisfying conclusion (in my opinion). Dukat’s story was over — he didn’t need to come back. Winn always worked better as the political survivor you could never quite get out of your hair. I didn’t want to see her become a cartoon super-villain. And the pah-wraiths . . . well, that idea always seemed to belong to a lesser show.
The whole reason they included the pah-wraiths in the finale was that Behr and Berman both felt that DS9 had been about more than the Dominion War and they wanted the finale to reflect that. Which . . . yes, it had been. It had been about Bajor. But the pah-wraiths aren’t really indicative of the best Bajor storylines. A good Bajor finale would have been about the Bajoran people being strong enough to take hold of their own destiny, not once again relying on Sisko to take care of them. I would’ve liked to see the Bajoran people tell the prophets to bugger off — thank you very much for ignoring us during the occupation and using our caves as a prison, please take your nasty pah-wraiths somewhere else and leave us alone. THAT would have been a very Trek-esque ending that was both surprising and yet showed growth.
The Bajor storylines are only one aspect of DS9, but it’s an aspect that played a very important role in the show and it would have been to see a more resonating ending. Besides that, the finale is amazing. At least, I think so. Even though the VOY finale and NEM take place later, in my mind “What you leave behind” is the real ending to that era of Trek.
What about you guys? What did you like about how DS9 ended? What would you have done differently?
I know there are people here who have the DS9 relaunch books. I’ve read some of them. Feel free to discuss those in the comments. Tell us if they are a worthy successor to what we saw on screen.
Also: Tell us about your own Trek rewatches. What episodes have you perused in the last week? Or novels, comics, or anything else related to Trek. Just because I only talked about DS9 (this week, other weeks will have different focuses) doesn’t mean you have to!
And now, a random image from Memory Alpha.
Emptied emergency rations of a Vulcan ship that crashed on Earth in 1957. (ENT: “Carbon Creek”)