What You Leave Behind:
A Deep Space Nine Novel by Diane Carey
Though "What You Leave Behind," the Deep Space Nine finale, has come and gone from the airwaves, the Pocket Books version has just arrived in the bookstores. Though I'm usually unimpressed with novelizations of Star Trek episodes, Diane Carey's books are an exception. She did a terrific job with Voyager's "Flashback," and this last DS9 adaptation is equally well-done, especially considering the time constraints under which Carey must have completed the book.
At 212 pages, with photos of the main cast and the station on the cover, the book contains a smattering of typos and inconsistently formatted Bajoran religious chants, but reads smoothly and contains some humorous descriptions not possible in a visual medium. Though I'm sorry Pocket did not choose to adapt the entire final arc in fictional form, What You Leave Behind makes a nice souvenir. My biggest complaint is that no stills were included from the episode.
Of any Deep Space Nine novel, this one would probably be the hardest to read for someone who hadn't diligently followed the series. Like the episode, it starts with Bashir and Dax waking in bed together; yet although there is background information about the previous lives of the Trill symbiont and about Bashir's professionalism, there's no summary of the events which led to their romance, not even Ezri's recent affair with Worf.
We also receive scant information about the illness which almost killed Odo, and far too little depth to the growing friendship between Kira and Damar - one of the pleasant surprises of the concluding arc. One gets the feeling that Carey was put to work on this project before the scripts for the preceding eight episodes had been finalized.
It's also apparent that this book was based primarily on a written script, not a televised episode. Several of the lines in the novelization vary from the ones which were aired, and some of the descriptions of character behavior differ markedly from the screen version. Worf's reaction to learning that Dax and Bashir have consummated their relationship, for instance, is pleasantly paternalistic on the show, but darkly pained in the novel. Sisko gets bossier with Yates, Odo acts more physically affectionate with Kira. He's also more aggressive with the female changeling, aided by descriptions of his internal thoughts and decisions.
Quark too benefits from internal monologues which give his scenes more weight than the comic relief of the episode, but Garak seems almost out of character - his trademark humor missing without Andrew Robinson's inflections to transform his words. While most of the characters gain lines and the reasons for their actions are extrapolated upon, the Cardassians seem to get short shrift. This makes sense with Dukat, whose mental instability surely makes it difficult to write from his point of view, but Damar doesn't quite have the charisma necessary for an underground hero.
On the other hand, Carey includes scenes which were not televised and may never have been filmed, notably a long scene with Kira, Damar and Garak where the colonel converses with a rat and discusses the background of the war. She also has Dukat offer Winn his heart, and shudder at having to touch the book which blinded him - a charming if anachronistic notion - though there's far too little background on the Kai's motivations in general. There aren't descriptions of all the terrific visuals which comprise the space war, but there are a number of lines which make Sisko seem particularly effective as a battle commander.
My favorite innovation comes at the very end, where the author summarizes the flashback sequences from Kira's point of view - when she sees Worf say farewell to Dax, she remembers Jadzia for both of them, and when she watches O'Brien follow his family to a runabout, she recalls her own connection to the son she carried for them even as she rolls her eyes at Bashir's hesitation to give his best friend a hug goodbye.
I suppose I was hoping for a little more philosophy amidst the carnage of war: we witnessed two near-genocides on Deep Space Nine, first the Founders, then the Cardassians, yet few characters reacted vocally to the horrors. This is fine storytelling, but it lacks the profundity of a great war epic.
I preferred the Bajoran storyline to the historic Federation-Klingon-Romulan alliance; this is partly because Winn and Dukat are such colorful characters, but partly because in the end, Sisko makes a stronger Emissary than he does a Starfleet captain. In this novel, he must turn his back on visions of Jake and Kasidy as well as his responsibility to the station in order to challenge Dukat and the Pah-Wraiths. Meanwhile, Kira must fill his shoes, as a Federation officer and as Bajor's representative to the station. There's a lovely image near the end of her in command, walking into Ops tossing the captain's baseball in the air.
The novel remains faithful to most of the emotional triggers of the series - Odo's love for Kira, Sisko's love for his children, Bashir and O'Brien's passionate friendship, Ezri's complex relationships with people who have known her for more than one lifetime. It can't match the depth of the series as a whole, but for those already familiar with Deep Space Nine, it serves as a nice reminder. I'm holding out hope that maybe Pocket Books will compile all the teleplays from the final arc into one of those scriptbooks, which would be even better.
Click here to order What You Leave Behind from amazon.com. Click here for Diane Carey's adaptation of Star Trek Voyager's Flashback.
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