What You Leave Behind

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"What You Leave Behind"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode
What You Leave Behind.jpg
The Federation Alliance fleet prepares for the final battle over Cardassia Prime
Episode no. Season 7
Episode 25 & 26
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Written by Ira Steven Behr
Hans Beimler
Featured music Dennis McCarthy
Production code 575 & 576
Original air date June 2, 1999 (1999-06-02)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes

"What You Leave Behind" is the series finale of the television show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the 175th and 176th overall episodes, and the 25th and 26th episodes of the seventh season. The episode was written by showrunner Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler and directed by Allan Kroeker. It originally aired on June 2, 1999.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures on Deep Space Nine, a space station located near a stable wormhole between the Alpha and Gamma quadrants of the Milky Way Galaxy. The final episode of the series, "What You Leave Behind" sees the end of the Dominion War as Starfleet, alongside the Klingons, Romulans and rebel Cardassians, launch a final attack against the Dominion on Cardassia Prime, as well as the culmination of the Pah-wraiths' emissary Dukat and Kai Winn's machinations back on Bajor.

The episode was mainly well-received, with most critics considering it a satisfying end for the series, though the final confrontation between Sisko and Dukat was largely criticized.[1][2][3]


On Deep Space Nine, Bashir wakes up with Ezri, O'Brien talks with his family about leaving the station after the war, and Sisko comforts a pregnant, nauseated Kasidy. It is the morning of the day the crew will leave for the final push in the war. While heading for battle on the Defiant, Sisko receives a vision of his prophet-mother Sarah. She claims that his most important challenge is "not before you, but behind you." The battle between the Jem'Hadar/Breen/Cardassian fleet and Federation/Klingon/Romulan fleet begins. Kira, Garak, and Damar, hiding on Cardassia Prime as insurgents, incite a worker revolt and power outage, which cuts off communication between the Dominion fleet and the command center housing Weyoun and the diseased Founder. In retaliation, the Jem'Hadar wipe out an entire Cardassian city.

The insurgents are about to be executed by a team of Jem'Hadar and Cardassian soldiers, but are saved when the Cardassians turn on their former Jem'Hadar allies in revenge for the city. Midway through the space battle, the Cardassian starships switch sides, attacking Dominion starships in retaliation for the deaths of Cardassian civilians, which Weyoun discovers when communications are restored. In light of this, as an ultimate retaliation, the Founder orders the eradication of the Cardassian race, and the Jem'Hadar begin firing upon and leveling whole Cardassian cities. The Jem'Hadar and Breen retreat from the battle and regroup at their defense perimeter around Cardassia Prime. Kira and the insurgents storm the command center, capture the Founder, and kill Weyoun's last clone, but Damar is killed. Though the Dominion's Alpha Quadrant forces are facing defeat, the Founder will not surrender, presumably to inflict so much damage that the Alpha Quadrant powers will be deterred from attacking the Dominion.

Sisko prepares for a costly assault on Cardassia Prime. Odo beams to the command center in an attempt to talk her into surrendering. She refuses, citing her people’s security at the hands of the solids. Odo explains that despite the Federation's flaws, intergalactic conquest isn't one of its ambitions and it would never allow the Klingons or Romulans to launch offensives against the Gamma Quadrant, nor are they in any shape to do so. He links with the Founder, curing her disease. She orders her forces to surrender. Odo explains to Kira that he has agreed to cure the other Founders, but needs to join them permanently, to eventually persuade them to trust solids instead of dominating them. Meanwhile, Bashir and Garak have reunited in the command center, reading various casualty reports indicating 800 million Cardassians have been systematically murdered. Distraught over the loss of life and the destruction of huge swaths of Cardassian culture, Bashir says farewell to Garak, who stays to help rebuild Cardassia. Garak is skeptical that they will ever meet again, because they live "in uncertain times."

Meanwhile, on Bajor, Dukat, still disguised as a Bajoran, and Kai Winn, who has turned against the Prophets, trek to the fire caves with an ancient book that will release the Pah-wraiths. After she makes them appear around a chasm, Winn poisons Dukat, but he is resurrected by the Pah-wraiths and restored to his Cardassian appearance.

A peace treaty is signed on DS9, and the crew celebrates in Vic's lounge. However, in the middle of dancing with Kasidy, Sisko suddenly realizes he must go to the fire caves. He arrives and attacks Dukat, but is subdued by Dukat's new godlike powers. Winn tells Sisko to destroy the book, and Dukat kills her. Sisko topples Dukat and they and the book fall into the fiery chasm. Suddenly finding himself in the Celestial Temple, Sisko is told by Sarah that the Pah-wraiths have been returned to the fire caves and will never emerge again. His task is complete, and it is time for him to rest with the Prophets. The DS9 crew is puzzled by Sisko's disappearance until he comes to Kasidy in a vision, telling her that he has moved on to a new stage of his life. He assures her he will return, but because of his nonlinear nature, it could be in a year, or yesterday.

The crew splits up: O'Brien will teach at Starfleet Academy, Odo will join the Founders, and Worf joins Martok by becoming Federation ambassador to Qo'noS. Montages highlight the relationships between O'Brien and Bashir, Ezri and Worf, Kira and Odo, Sisko and Jake, and Quark and everybody. Odo refuses to give Quark a fond farewell, but Quark is pleased anyway, thinking it an unspoken respect. Kira takes Odo to the Founders' planet. Odo asks Kira to tell the crew that he will miss them, "including Quark", and says he will never forget Kira. Then he switches to a tuxedo so Kira will always remember him as wearing the attire she liked best on him, before he sinks into the Link and cures the disease. The color of the Founder "sea", green in the diseased state, returns to its healthy golden color radiating out from where Odo submerged. Bashir and Ezri discuss their future relationship together. Nog discusses his promotion to lieutenant with new station commander Kira before she goes to Quark's to shut down his betting ring on who will be the new Kai. Quark then tells Morn, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Finally, Kira finds Jake on the promenade, and they both look out as the wormhole opens, knowing that her friend and his father now resides in that Celestial Temple.


Ira Steven Behr co-wrote the episode; he was the showrunner of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and wrote 53 episodes overall

The episode was written by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler, and directed by Allan Kroeker. An early draft of the script saw Sisko dying during the final battle at Cardassia, only to be resurrected by the Prophets to fight the Pah-wraiths. Furthermore, Sisko's joining with the Prophets following Dukat's defeat was originally going to be permanent, but actor Avery Brooks was "uncomfortable with the notion of a black man abandoning his pregnant black wife"; the line was rewritten upon Brooks's request to indicate that he would someday return. Keith DeCandido praised this move in his review. The producers also entertained the idea of a final shot of Benny Russell (from "Far Beyond the Stars" and "Shadows and Symbols") sitting outside a studio holding a script for Deep Space Nine.[1]

The final day of filming took place at Vic's lounge. In the episode, during the party, many of the background hologram characters are actually production staff and recurring cast members without their makeup and prosthetics. This is also one of two Star Trek series finales in which Jeffrey Combs, Michael Dorn, and Colm Meaney all appear; Combs would later appear in the Star Trek: Enterprise series finale "These Are the Voyages..." as Shran while Dorn and Meaney had already appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale "All Good Things..." as Worf and O'Brien.[1]

This episode was novelized by Diane Carey, who would also go on to novelize Star Trek: Voyager's finale, "Endgame". Carey had also novelized "The Search", "The Way of the Warrior", "Trials and Tribble-ations", and the season six six-episode opening arc. An official series of novels, the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine relaunch, chronicles multiple characters' exploits following the events of this finale; otherwise, Worf is the only character to appear on-screen after this series, appearing in Star Trek: Nemesis.[1]

Martok has a drink on Cardassia to Ross' and Sisko's disgust; the three had previously promised to drink a toast on Cardassia in "Tears of the Prophets". O’Brien finds the figure of William B. Travis in his home, having accused Bashir of losing the figure previously in "The Changing Face of Evil".[1]

When signing the armistice that ends the Dominion War, Admiral Ross quotes General Douglas MacArthur's speech following Japan's surrender at the end of World War II. Quark quotes Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr with the final line of the show, "The more things change, the more things stay the same."[1]

O'Brien and Bashir's montage includes footage from "The Changing Face of Evil", "A Simple Investigation", "The Storyteller", "Inquisition", "Trials and Tribble-ations", "The Die is Cast", "Rivals", and "Explorers". The music cues used prior to the montage are from "The Minstrel Boy", established in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Wounded" as a song O'Brien sang when he served on the USS Rutledge. Worf's montage includes footage from "The Way of the Warrior", "Our Man Bashir" "Penumbra", "Tacking into the Wind", and "Strange Bedfellows". There are no clips featuring Jadzia Dax as the studio and Terry Farrell could not work out compensation for her appearance in the clips. Odo and Kira’s montage includes footage from "The Abandoned", "His Way", and "Chimera". Quark's montage includes footage from "Shadows and Symbols", "The Ascent", "Homefront", "Bar Association", "Take Me Out to the Holosuite", and "Badda-Bing Badda-Bang". Jake Sisko's montage includes footage from "Emissary", "The Nagus", "The Jem'Hadar", "The Visitor", "The Ascent", "Explorers", and "...Nor the Battle to the Strong".[1]

In 2017, eighteen years after the episode aired, Ira Steven Behr announced a crowdfunded documentary named What We Left Behind, deriving its title from the name of this episode (which itself is based on the Pericles quote, "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others"),[1] which met its goal of $150,000 within 24 hours. The documentary will reflect on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's legacy, featuring interviews with the cast and crew of the series and speculating on what would have happened had there been an eighth season.[4][5]



"What You Leave Behind" was first shown on June 2, 1999 in broadcast syndication. It was the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth episodes of the seventh and final season and received Nielsen ratings of 5.4 percent on the first broadcast. It was the highest-rated episode of the season.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Keith DeCandido reviewed the episode for Tor.com and, while praising the resolution to the Dominion War, felt that it failed as the finale to Deep Space Nine, stating that the end of the war and the end of the TV series were not synonymous. He expressed disappointment in the series' failure to resolve Sisko's primary goal of getting Bajor into the Federation. DeCandido compared the episode to other Star Trek series finales, writing, "TNG revisited the trial of humanity by the Q from its first episode,[note 1] 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." He rated the episode 6/10.[1]

Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club referred to it as an imperfect series finale. He felt that of the "handful of deaths in “What You Leave Behind,” [...] Damar’s is the only one that really stings." Reflecting on the way in which everyone went their separate ways, Handlen wrote, "That’s what this finale is about to me. Not the end of the war, or the death of some bad guys, but the reminder that there are so many stories that go on without us."[2]

Jamahl Epsicokhan of Jammer's Reviews summarized the episode as a "poignant and satisfying end to the final arc and the series." Like Handlen, he was "somewhat disappointed" by Damar's death, as it came in "an action scene and with very little fanfare." As a key element of the story arc, Epsicokhan stated "it's almost as if there simply wasn't time to deal with the death of the man who would've been the leader of a new Cardassia. The notion seemingly is: He's dead; on with the story." He ultimately felt that the episode made for a nice ending, writing that the "closing sense is more one of 'life goes on'", and gave the episode 3.5/4 stars.[3]

Both Epsicokhan and Den of Geek's Gem Wheeler favorably noted the comparisons between the final shot of the episode and the events of "The Visitor", with Wheeler writing that the latter episode gains in emotional impact after watching the series finale.[8]

Many reviewers criticized the Pah-wraith storyline and its resolution. DeCandido had been heavily critical of the direction of Dukat's character following "Sacrifice of Angels", writing "There’s an argument to be made that the world would’ve been a better place if ["Sacrifice of Angels"] was Dukat’s last appearance",[9] as well as the Pah-wraiths following their introduction in "The Assignment", writing that the evil counterparts of the wormhole aliens were "so lazy", "something out of a bad 70s adventure show", and "one of the most wrongheaded plot devices in DS9’s history";[10] with exception to "Covenant", where he had written that "The fact that this is [...] the only Pah-wraith episode that doesn’t have alien possession, glowing eyes, and people firing ray-beams out of their fingers is not a coincidence [as to why he liked the episode]", he had repeatedly said how much he despised "the entire concept of the Pah-wraiths".[11] He saw the final confrontation between Sisko and Dukat as "a stupid side plot involving fire caves, glowy eyes, magic books, and a simply endless amount of shouting", leading to a "totally absurd confrontation" which reduced the "alienness of the Prophets [and] the depth of the rivalry between Sisko and Dukat [to] yelling at each other and then tumbling into a fire", labeling it as "cheap-ass melodrama."[1] Zack Handlen was more forgiving, summarizing "The end of the Pah-Wraith saga is functional without being in any way good. Winn and Dukat get their just desserts, but neither of their fates are thrilling or insightful. [...] Given all the build-up, this wasn’t much of a resolution."[2] Jamahl Epsicokhan shared some of DeCandido's sentiments "concerning the nature of Dukat's twists and turns since his downfall last season in "Sacrifice of Angels"", writing that ""Waltz" was a powerful episode but left Dukat headed in a direction that didn't seem nearly as interesting as the complex layers in what came before." While Epsicokhan found the "epic struggle of good vs. evil, Prophet vs. Paghwraith, [sic] Sisko vs. Dukat [...] entertaining ([with] plenty of neat-looking fire and fury [to] help set the stage of melodrama)," he felt that Deep Space Nine had "always been more compelling when dealing with shades of grey, not cut-and-dry absolutes." Epsicokhan wrote that if Sisko, Winn, and Dukat's final confrontation hadn't been such a letdown, he would have rated the episode 4/4 stars.[3]

Based on user ratings, "What You Leave Behind" holds a 9.2/10 and a 9.0/10 on TV.com[note 2][12][13] and an 8.7/10 on IMDb.[14] The episode won the 2000 Best Television Episode SyFy Genre Award.[15] In a poll conducted on the official Star Trek website to determine the best episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Trials and Tribble-ations" won, leaving the staff to ponder why "remarkable episodes as "The Visitor," "What You Leave Behind," "Duet" and "Far Beyond the Stars"" didn't receive the necessary votes to challenge the winner in earlier rounds.[16]



  1. ^ DeCandido had previously reviewed "All Good Things..." and had given it a "warp factor rating" of 10/10.[7]
  2. ^ TV.com lists "What You Leave Behind" as two separate episodes rather than as one double-length episode.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j DeCandido, Keith (February 24, 2015). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: "What You Leave Behind"". Tor.com. Retrieved November 5, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Handlen, Zack (May 8, 2014). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “What You Leave Behind”". The A.V. Club. Retrieved November 5, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Epsicokhan, Jamahl. "[DS9] Jammer's Review: "What You Leave Behind"". Jammer's Reviews. Retrieved November 5, 2016. 
  4. ^ "What We Left Behind: Star Trek Deep Space Nine Doc". Indiegogo. Retrieved February 10, 2017. 
  5. ^ Burt, Kaytl (February 9, 2017). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Documentary Gets Crowdfunding Campaign". Den of Geek. Retrieved February 10, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine * SEASON 7 NIELSEN RATINGS". WebTrek. Archived from the original on January 24, 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  7. ^ DeCandido, Keith (April 3, 2013). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: "All Good Things..."". Tor.com. Retrieved November 5, 2016. 
  8. ^ Wheeler, Gem (November 2, 2012). "Top 10 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes". Den of Geek. Retrieved November 5, 2016. 
  9. ^ DeCandido, Keith (August 26, 2014). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: "Sacrifice of Angels"". Tor.com. Retrieved November 11, 2016. 
  10. ^ DeCandido, Keith (May 16, 2014). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: "The Assignment"". Tor.com. Retrieved November 11, 2016. 
  11. ^ DeCandido, Keith (December 23, 2014). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: "Covenant"". Tor.com. Retrieved November 12, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Season 7, Episode 25: What You Leave Behind (1)". TV.com. Retrieved November 11, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Season 7, Episode 25: What You Leave Behind (2)". TV.com. Retrieved November 11, 2016. 
  14. ^ ""Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" What You Leave Behind (TV Episode 1999)". IMDb. Retrieved November 11, 2016. 
  15. ^ Hinman, Michael (October 1, 2007). "‘300,’ ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Take Top Prizes In Genre Awards". Airlock Alpha. Retrieved November 12, 2016. 
  16. ^ StarTrek.com staff (April 9, 2012). "Star Trek "Tribble-ations" Wins Best DS9 Episode Poll". StarTrek.com. Retrieved August 27, 2016. 

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