Star Trek has impressively managed to hold together a united continuity over the past 50 years – even the rebooted modern movie franchise was good enough to make clear that it was set in a connected separate timeline – but this could’ve been swallowed up by a massive black hole if Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had ended as originally planned.
DS9, the third live-action series in the franchise which ran from 1993 to 1999, came to a close with the two-part “What You Leave Behind” at the end of its seventh season. It wrapped up the ongoing storyline of the Federation’s war with the Cardassians in a satisfying way, but showrunner Ira Steven Behr initially wanted to end it on a left-field twist that would’ve definitely left Trek fans with their jaws on the floor.
Behr described his plan for the ending while speaking at the Star Trek Las Vegas convention, saying that it would’ve tied back to season 6 episode “Far Beyond the Stars” by reintroducing Captain Sisko’s alter ego Benny Russell, and revealing that the whole show was a fiction.
“I did pitch to [executive producer] Rick Berman that the final episode would end up with Benny Russell on Stage 17 at Paramount, wandering around the soundstages, realizing that this whole construct, this whole series, that we had done for seven years, was just in Benny’s head.”
Obviously, this would’ve raised a lot of questions about the reality of the entire Trek universe, which is why Berman ultimately nixed the idea. Something that fans are no doubt pleased about.
“That is how I wanted to end the series. And Rick said ‘Does this mean The Original Series was in Benny’s head? Does this mean Voyager was in Benny’s head?’ I said ‘Hey man, I don’t care who is dreaming those shows, I only care about Deep Space Nine and yes, Benny Russell is dreaming Deep Space Nine.’ He didn’t go for it.”
“Far Beyond the Stars” is actually a smart metafictional episode in which it’s teased that the show is dreamed up by a sci-fi writer from the 1950s. The concept worked in the context of that installment, but “it was all a dream” endings are rarely satisfying, so it’s probably for the best that Behr didn’t get to pull the rug from under the audience in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine finale like he’d hoped to.