Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"It's Only a Paper Moon"

***1/2

Air date: 12/28/1998
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
Story by David Mack & John J. Ordover
Directed by Anson Williams

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"How can hiding in one of Julian's adolescent programs be a good sign?"
"Hey."
"It could be worse; he could be hiding in the Alamo program."
"Or that ridiculous secret agent program."
"Hey..."
"Or that stupid Viking program."
"Hey!"

— Quark, Jake, Leeta, and Rom, with Julian on defense

Nutshell: An engaging and realistic follow-up story of combat consequences.

Invigorating, how Nog has grown as a character since this series began. His Starfleet path has not only been well documented by an abundance of episodes, but the transition has been one that strikes me as gradual and realistic. It's the sort of growth that makes his character a well-defined person rather than something to drive a plot for an hour. Five years ago if you had told me Nog would become this solid a character, I would've thought you were crazy. (What's interesting and somewhat worrying is that Nog these days gets so much more screen time and meatier stories than Jake. Something needs to be done about the Jake-as-cipher problem—and soon.)

"It's Only a Paper Moon" is an episode that proves DS9 still remembers how to deal with consequences. In this case, we see how the loss of Nog's leg in "The Siege of AR-558" has affected him. Sure, 24th-century medicine has replaced it, but the emotional scars are still there, and Nog is simply not ready to dive back into reality.

An episode like "Paper Moon" requires little synopsis. The plot is simple: Nog retreats into the holosuite, where he finds comfort in Vic Fontaine's fantasy world. Living in a fantasy helps his recovery process (his psychological limp begins to go away, for example), but before long Nog finds that he's so caught up in helping Vic run his holographic lounge that he doesn't want to leave. His clinging to fantasy shows the early stages of a dependence upon it.

A lot of this story's success boils down to good sense. It's hard to underline moments of sensibility without simply pointing to them and saying, "Look—that's sensible," so I'll take the easy way out and do just that.

First was the good use of Dax as a counselor. If there ever were a counselor's situation on DS9, this is it. But I appreciated the fact that Nog was utterly sick of talking about his feelings to Starfleet shrinks. I imagine that he'd been over it and over it by this point, so Dax's brief, unsuccessful interview was a sensible idea that ultimately had a believable outcome.

Next was the good use of Jake, something we need to see a lot more of (and soon, please). Jake has been patient with Nog, who refuses to let other people reach out to help him. But Jake just can't take it anymore: Listening to his roommate play a recording of Vic singing "I'll Be Seeing You" over and over and over again is enough to drive him up a wall. (Don't they have headphones in the 24th century?) The idea of Nog seeking comfort in Vic's "I'll Be Seeing You" is particularly real; it seems to me that Nog is reliving a life-changing moment in his mind over and over again, trying—and failing—to come to terms with it.

Later, after Nog retreats into the holosuite to hear Vic sing the song "live," Jake decides to try to be a nice guy and visit his friend. He brings with him a date for a night of entertainment at Vic's lounge. He goes to get drinks, and by the time he gets back, Nog has twisted everything she has said into some sort of inquisitive comment about his artificial leg. When Jake tries to straighten things out, Nog tells them both to leave. Then he dumps the table over and slugs Jake.

It's about here that it becomes clear Nog is no longer the Nog of before "Siege of AR-588." He lost his leg, but he also lost a great deal of inner peace. And no one can sort it out but him.

Maybe Vic can help him. Granted, Vic doesn't seem like the most obvious candidate to work someone through a post-traumatic episode—and it would be nice to see Ezri in action as counselor—but the story has already told us that in Nog's mind he's past the point of counseling. Vic is the break from reality; and if there's one thing that Nog perhaps has had too much of, it's reality.

There have been times in the past where I've said the use of Vic has come across as too incidental, seeming like unnecessary filler. That certainly isn't the case here. Vic is the perfect dramatic device for this story. Even when his cameos have seemed gratuitous, Vic has represented an escape from the daily grind of war, which is exactly what he provides here. His musical numbers are appropriate, especially considering the lyrics as applied to the situation.

What also works is the story's juxtaposition of fantasy and reality as concepts of our perception. Losing oneself in the fantasy world of holodecks has long been considered something of a danger in the Trek universe (dating all the way back to Lt. Barclay in the TNG days) and here, Ron Moore quietly comments on the nature of fantasy worlds, particularly in one scene that subtly scrutinizes the consequences of violence in reality versus in fantasy: Nog watching the movie Shane on television is appropriate on several levels, most importantly the level that has Nog wondering how Shane can act as if nothing has happened right after he's been shot. The very simple answer: no realistic consequences.

Of course, one cannot avoid the consequences of reality forever, and Ezri's clever and timely visit to Vic (the psychiatrist uses a cleverly worded technique to prod the hologram into realizing Nog needs to return to his life) drives home the point to Vic that Nog cannot hide forever. Next it becomes Vic's job to drive the point home to Nog. The way Vic does this is with a sympathetic but pragmatic approach that is appropriate for the situation and in tune with Vic's direct-approach personality.

And speaking of the nature of reality, another mysterious and challenging question of "Paper Moon" is of course the same question I find myself at times asking about Voyager's Doctor: At what point is an artificial entity sentient? Is Vic growing beyond his program? What are the consequences of that? "Paper Moon" asks some of these questions, but prefers a mystery and does not supply us with the answers. (Nog: "When you sleep, do you dream?" Vic: "Good night, kid.") It's just as well; I don't think I'd want definite concrete answers trying to explain such complex questions. I appreciated, however, the idea of Nog's extended visit giving Vic the chance to "live a life" in the holosuite, which only serves to reinforce Vic's understanding of why Nog has to get back to reality.

I also very much liked the use of (gasp!) Rom and Leeta. For once, they're treated as people rather than bad comic caricatures. When they come to visit Nog, there's an understated but genuine sense of concern for his well-being. (It's amazing how un-annoying these two can be when they're toned down to a sensible level. That's all I've ever asked for.) All the supporting characters come off well simply because they're allowed to react realistically to Nog's situation.

But what this is really about is Nog, whose course as a character has been charted with confidence and realism. It comes as no surprise that by the end of the story he is ready to face his troubles rather than hide from them, and when he does, it rings true. He confesses how he was eager to prove himself when the war started—which he was. He explains how he was convinced that even though people were dying all around him, he was sure it wouldn't happen to him—which youthful naivete can do. And he knows that a taste of his own mortality has changed him—which it has. His role in life feels different to him. He's wiser and, as he himself says, feels older once he has returned to duty.

All of this is vivid, believable character evolution—something we suspect could have happened all along, and something that makes perfect sense in retrospect. The best characters are the ones that change and learn over the years, and the writers have done a particularly good job of realizing that through Nog. "It's Only a Paper Moon" is one of the most effective "small" DS9 stories in quite some time.

Next week: Ezri's homecoming.

Previous episode: Covenant
Next episode: Prodigal Daughter

Season Index

56 comments on this review

Chris Swanson - Thu, Dec 20, 2007 - 11:16pm (USA Central)
What always impressed me about DSN is the ability of the show to make minor supporting characters into ones more interesting than the major characters on Voyager, Enterprise and TNG. The mere fact that such an incredibly GOOD episode as this one was built around Vic and Nog tells you a lot about the ability of this show to really do a good job on the characterizations.
Eddy - Sun, Dec 23, 2007 - 11:14am (USA Central)
Yeah, this is definitely one of my all-time favorites on Deep Space Nine, and a good example of why I love the show so much.
Brian - Mon, Sep 22, 2008 - 8:06pm (USA Central)
Watching Jake get mad with Nog over constant playing of the song made me think. Are headphones a thing of the past in the future. You'd think you could have a song beamed into your head.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Wed, Feb 11, 2009 - 1:44pm (USA Central)
A very good and very necessary episode that was true to the characters and to realism in acknowledgement of the Nog's impossibility to simply "jump back in the action".

Let me add one more thing: While I absolutely concur with Chris Swanson in most he wrote, I am not ready to compare the well acted and well scripted TNG main characters to the hollow ones in Voyager and Enterprise (even they had good ones, though!).
Bookmark - Sun, Mar 29, 2009 - 2:17pm (USA Central)
I would have given this four stars -- easily one of the best DS9 episodes, with an excellent choice of title to boot.
Jayson - Tue, Jul 21, 2009 - 5:42pm (USA Central)
I would like to add to Chris's comment about the development of DS9's supporting cast. Not only were they well development and used effectivly (mostly). Aside from that, its a testement to the shows producers and writers that they could build a whole episode around two guest stars and the audience would barely notice. Both Vic & Nog are such good characters that I didn't even think about the fact that they aren't main cast members.

Btw, there was an episode of TNG called "Lower Decks" where the focus was on the guest stars but nothing as good as this episode.
Joseph B - Tue, Dec 1, 2009 - 7:56am (USA Central)
I have to admit that I really enjoyed this ep! There's no question that it's probably the most effective holosuite/holodeck program since TNG's "Elementary, Dear Data".

By the way, in regards to the query regarding Nog not using headphones: It's probably safe to say that headphones/earbuds would be extremely dangerous for a Ferengi's ears. Their ears are so sensitive it would probably be difficult to find a safe volume level without compressing the dynamics of the music to the point that it wouldn't be representative of the source.
Brian - Tue, Dec 1, 2009 - 10:44am (USA Central)
The same logic would suggest he could have the volume of the music low enough that he could hear it fine while a human couldn't. In any case it was purely to fit the script. I doubt they really considered headphones and their usage by Ferengi. It wasn't a serious remark by me Joseph.
Destructor - Sun, Dec 20, 2009 - 6:58pm (USA Central)
Love this episode. As much as I disliked the introduction of Vic, this episode made it all worthwhile. Even thinking about Nog's breakdown at the end makes me a bit teary- actually watching it makes me lose it completely. Wonderfully done.
Will - Sun, Dec 27, 2009 - 6:10pm (USA Central)
If something like what happened to Nog in "Siege of AR-...whatever" on Voyager, it would've been forgotten. You can see elements of BSG shining through in this episode.
Mal - Wed, Apr 21, 2010 - 7:17pm (USA Central)
@Will

Actually, you can see more then just nBSG shining through. There is also Caprica:

TA: So this whole city is like a Game?

Gamer: Yeah. It's kinda like a different version of Caprica City. They update it so it matches...

TA: OK, what's the object of the game?

Gamer: It's a mystery. It's almost like, figuring out the object of the game *is* the object of the game. But we think it's about getting things that convert into points, like money, or weapons -

TA: So no one's ever finished it? Or won it?

Gamer: Not yet. There's this thing - when you die in the game, you're out - you can't ever come back...

Ron Moore is clearly concerned about people getting lost in virtual worlds - avoiding the real world - and wasting away their lives.

Chris - Tue, Jun 29, 2010 - 3:52pm (USA Central)
As no-one has said it so far, I thnk we should recognise the terrific acting by Aron Eisenberg who really made it easy to believe in Nog's internal torment.
Marco P. - Tue, Aug 24, 2010 - 5:34am (USA Central)
"It's Only a Paper Moon" is a great DS9 episode, I really liked this one. It not only has a "feel-good" touch, but it strikes the right chord on a number of "serious" subjects such as the reality of war, the trauma of losing a limb (was Nog experiencing something similar to phantom limb problems?), and obviously the danger of substituting a fantasy world with reality.

On that last topic, I would have found interesting to have Dr. Bashir expose us to some statistics on how frequent holodeck-addiction is. I can't remember if this was ever covered during the TNG Barclay episodes, but it certainly makes a worthwhile matter for consideration. If a holodeck can so easily replace reality in even the most subtle ways, why not create a program representing ideal life and live in it forever? "Because it's not real" isn't a sufficient argument, as I am sure many people would be willing to forget that little detail, especially if their real life is a miserable one.

I also completely agree with Jammer on topic of hologram sentience (the conversation between Nog and Vic on dreaming made me think of Philip K. Dick and his "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" novel -which of course gave rise to Blade Runner). Given his degree of advancement, his liberties (he can turn himself off), and the fact he is consciously aware to be a hologram, I would say Vic Fontaine has as much right to exist than Voyager's Doctor. Star Trek Voyager obviously explores that area in much more detail and to greater satisfaction.

Once again: great job Ron D. Moore.
Nic - Mon, Nov 8, 2010 - 10:00am (USA Central)
Although I myself have never faced combat, I thought the "key" scene of the episode was not as powerful as it could have been. It just seemed too simple, and his almost immediate recovery in the next scene seemed too easy. Vic also seemed a little TOO real at times. But it's still a good episode and I'm glad they took the time to show Nog's recovery.
Trekvet - Wed, Jan 12, 2011 - 6:41pm (USA Central)
I met Aron Eisenberg in Las Vegas this summer and thanked him on behalf of veterans for his sensitive work in this episode, which I had initially feared might be a cliched, superficial handling of a serious issue. I'm sure I'm not the only veteran who found this ep sympathetic and very moving. Eisenberg seemed equally moved by my cpmments to him. Belated kudos also to Anson Williams and the writers for this DS9 look at an age-old problem.
Elliott - Thu, Jan 13, 2011 - 10:00am (USA Central)
Tiny Tim comes home...

Someone had better explain to me why every species and person in the 24th century seems to get something from corny music from the early 20th on earth.

I'm being too harsh I suppose, this was a decent episode. I generally can't stand Jake or Nog, but each was tolerable here and Nog was even compelling at times.

I'm a little concerned that Starfleet goes to such lengths for the medical leave of one Ensign, but can't seem to find replacement personel for ARR-5...whatever... When it suits the writers, they take every advantage afforded by the enlightenment principal the Federation embodies. However, in this case it as taken for a good end. The montage was too much--they're always, always corny and a cheat for the writers avoiding writing the dialogue (in this case it's also a prequel to the crappy finale).

The weakness in the story has to do with Vic...the opportunity here was for the hologram to learn something about what it means to be a real person from Nog, dealing with a very real dilemma. Instead, he simply possesses all the wisdom and ability of a Guinan via virtue of some programmer (not to mention, he has ambition, passion and a desire for company...it's unsettling).

A side comment...why is it in this progressive Universe, Jake and Sisko's love interests all have to be black? It's pretty noticeable and a little disturbing...it's as though the script says "Jake brings in a girlfriend" and the staffer says "find a black girl then"...I don't like it one bit.

Overall, it was a good episode. The fact that it's a followup to another episode is inconsequential, it stands alone as a decent piece of character work. I can't help noticing that as usual, DS9's "periphery" characters (Nog, Garak, Dukat, Weyoun, etc) are better developed, drawn and acted than the regulars.
Jay - Sun, Feb 6, 2011 - 1:32pm (USA Central)
So how does holographic food (like the popcorn Nog ate) work...does the body digest it and pass it? Or was Nog getting real meals somehow? And shouldn't Odo have clapped the Bajoran way at the beginning of the episode rather than the human way?
Captain Tripps - Mon, Oct 10, 2011 - 10:52pm (USA Central)
As I understand it, replicators play a huge part in the makeup of the holodeck, so the food is probably real, in so much as any of the ersatz edibles are.
Scott - Tue, Dec 6, 2011 - 11:15pm (USA Central)
So... You're living on the holodeck in a Vegas simulation. And you have to poop. Where does the poop go?
Scott - Tue, Mar 6, 2012 - 12:07am (USA Central)
In the food.
Nebula Nox - Fri, Apr 6, 2012 - 11:13am (USA Central)
This episode really strikes home. I was in a serious accident - not a war - but the shock and pain were significant. They did a great job dealing with the trauma - better than anything I've ever seen anywhere else.
Justin - Tue, May 1, 2012 - 1:47pm (USA Central)
This is the kind of followup story treatment B'Elanna's self-harming problem should have gotten on Voyager. Either that or they should have fed Nog some banana pancakes and he would have bounced right back.
Bill - Wed, Jul 25, 2012 - 11:47am (USA Central)
Another episode that showcase what a useless character that Ezri is. She's not even a worthy counselor
George - Sun, Aug 26, 2012 - 1:06pm (USA Central)
Even a hologram is better than Ezri in her job! What was the point for bringing her to the show?
Grumpy - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 9:24pm (USA Central)
Rather than credit this episode for addressing the consequences of an earlier story, this show bothered me for a different reason: all the follow-up was crammed into a single hour. At a time when shows like Homicide and ER were spreading a character's recovery over several episodes, DS9 confined it to one (which is the most to expect from Trek). Better if Nog's arc had been split between three episodes, is what I thought at the time.

However, as presented, the story does fit within a single episode.
Kristen - Wed, Sep 26, 2012 - 6:13pm (USA Central)
I'm surprised to see a whole part of the plot missing from the recap, the reviewer commentary, and the comments. It was the part that made me REALLY appreciate the story, rather than just appreciate it.

This is an episode about friendship! Vic needs Nog just as much as Nog needs Vic. When Ezri pulls her patented reverse psychology move on Vic, it's because she knows that he's come to count on Nog. And he's no longer just thinking of what's best for Nog. He's thinking that he's gonna miss being a person and having a friend. That's why he isn't pushing Nog to leave.

Once Ezri subtly makes some noise about this, Vic realizes that it's more important that Nog leave the holodeck. Even if it means that he goes back to being a part-time, unimportant, not-really-real person.

And that's why the very end is so poignant. Nog returns the favor -- getting Quark to leave Vic's program running 26 hours a day -- and shows that he's just as good a friend to Vic as Vic was to him.

So it's not just about Nog getting himself over his trauma. It's about how friendship plays a role in that healing. And how being a good friend to someone in need can change your life for the better, too.
Vic - Wed, Oct 3, 2012 - 3:27pm (USA Central)
Thank you, Kristen. I was thinking the same thing. And thank you, Nog.
Arachnea - Sat, Dec 1, 2012 - 2:00pm (USA Central)
Thank you indeed Kristen for pointing out the major point of this story.

And for those who throw hate at Ezri, you should understand that counselling is not always about talking. She let Nog - the patient - find a way to heal himself best, because she knows he won't listen to anyone, even less a shrink.

Even the best psychiatrist couldn't have gotten through. Nog needed a friend but most of all, a new friend. Someone who had nothing to do with his life before his injury. Though I hope (I don't remember) that the issue continues to be shown, because it is utterly nonsensical if Nog is seen smiling and without further counselling later on.

A nitpick (I like to do it :P): the Federation is responsible for Nog's recovery, so why is it that Quark must pay for the holosuite time ?
Herman - Sun, Feb 24, 2013 - 3:17pm (USA Central)
Loved to see one of my favorite western movies, Shane, featured in this episode!

Vic is a pretty endearing character that I like a lot, and as a nerd I like stories about AI's being self-aware and having free will, but his program seems a needlessly risky and morally dubious experiment to me.

I agree with Elliott above that it's disturbing that 400 years into an extremely multiracial future, in which even different species mix, Jake and Sisko only seem to date black women (human or Bajoran).
Josh - Sun, Feb 24, 2013 - 8:23pm (USA Central)
Jake dated a "white" dabo girl named Mardah back in season two and three.

Anyway, who cares?
Dork Knight - Sat, Mar 2, 2013 - 9:46pm (USA Central)
Very well said, Kirsten, and I completely agree.

To address a couple of points from Elliot's post -

While it may be a tad far-fetched for a number of alien species to be entertained by 400-year-old Earth music and situations, it sort of fits in with the whole conceit of Star Trek; that being the principle of "Humans are Friggin' Awesome."

Think about it. Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans, and other species have all been shown (and stated in dialogue) to be somewhat-to-significantly stronger and faster than Humans. Vulcans have longer life spans. All of the above species - as well as Cardassians, Bajorans and Ferengi - have very old and even ancient civilizations that have been technologically advanced for some time; traveling the to other worlds (and in some cases conquering them) at a time when humanity's biggest engineering triumphs were aqueducts and the Colosseum.

Yet these slow, weak, technologically inferior Humans, in just 300 short years, took to the stars, formed a vast and powerful Federation of varying and disparate peoples based on tolerance, exploration, understanding and peace. By the time of the show the Federation had become THE dominant force in the Alpha Quadrant. And even though the Vulcans, Andorians, & Alpha Centaurians (I BELIEVE those were the initial other three charter members) were all enlightened, space-faring cultures well-ahead of humanity by the time they started their trek through the stars, it's been made abundantly clear on multiple occasions that Earth and its people are the driving force and "heart" (for lack of a better term) of the Federation. Nog even marvels aloud at this fact as he reads his earth history in "Little Green Men."

It's an ego-stroking conceit to be sure, but it's been an established fact of Trek from the very get go. Humans are Awesome. Plus, as Kirk said in one of his best lines, "Spock, You want to know something? EVERYBODY'S Human."

As to the racial aspect of the Sisko's love interest, I'm sort of with you, here... I don't remember it bothering me (or even really noticing it) when I first watched this series a decade ago, but it does stand out to me a bit now on repeat viewings. It does seem to be a little... odd... considering the color blind world of the 24th century, BUT - One thing that I recently realized that makes me sort of okay with it:

I'm a 30 year old white guy (Irish American) who considers himself to be about as open and tolerant as any other member of my generation. My circle of close friends is comprised of multiple races, backgrounds and sexual orientations. I live by as strict a "take people as you find them and judge them on their actions and by the content of their character" policy as I can. I strongly believe the people should be able to love and, if they choose, marry whomever they want.

And yet I find that I am personally attracted primarily caucasian girls of a similar european ancestry to my own. It doesn't mean that I DISLIKE women who are black, asian, semitic, latin, etc. or that I wouldn't date them if there was a physical or emotional attraction. It's just that my "type" so to speak - that is the physical traits to which I respond chemically and whatnot - tend to be white girls of western-european descent, and I don't feel that there's anything intolerant or unenlightened about that, so I certainly won't judge Ben or Jake Sisko for having similar ethnocentric tastes.
Dan - Sat, Apr 13, 2013 - 7:10am (USA Central)
Elliott, I completely agree with you about Sisko and Jake. Their preference for black dating partners is clearly racist, and their preference for women makes them despicable homophobes on top of that. Outrageous.
Elliott - Sat, Apr 13, 2013 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
@Dan; don't be obtuse. I in no way hold this kind of racist casting against the characters. The impression throughout the series was that any love interest of the black human males must be black females. I can hold the same criticism for Tuvok and T'Pel on Voyager. That a Vulcan couple would have the kind of in-species racial prejudices is really, really stupid. But at least they didn't make every subsistent love interest black. Sisko's lingering 20th century racism is briefly touched upon in "Our Man Bashir", but the issue was never addressed. I think I was pretty clear that I don't hold this issue against the show per sæ, it was just a noticeable contradiction in the show's production. Just like how there are no gay characters.
William B - Sat, Apr 13, 2013 - 2:48pm (USA Central)
@Elliott, I don't disagree per se, but I don't think the casting of black actresses for the Siskos' love interests is all that exceptional. Did Picard or Riker ever have non-white love interests, for example? (Picard's relationships or near-relationships are, what -- Beverly, Janice Manheim, Vash, Kamala, Eline, Neela, that woman from Insurrection; Riker's -- well, I won't list them all, but you know.) The only major interracial relationships in the various series that come to mind are of non-humans -- Worf/Troi or Dax, Paris/Torres, the Tuvok romance as you pointed out. Geordi had Leah I suppose. I certainly may be forgetting some. But the next generation series were still predominantly featured white humans dating other white humans, and that is as much a problem as the Siskos' partners being black.

Agree on the lack of gay characters being contrary to the stated ideals.
William B - Sat, Apr 13, 2013 - 2:49pm (USA Central)
ETA: oh right, and that woman from "Tapestry", re: Picard.
Elliott - Sat, Apr 13, 2013 - 6:30pm (USA Central)
The follies of typing on smartphones... That should be "subsequent " not "subsistent".
Elliott - Sat, Apr 13, 2013 - 6:53pm (USA Central)
@Wlliam B: but that's sort of the point, isn't it? Even in Trek there was a pervasive sense of tokenism with the inclusion of non-whites. So, the that the white character's love interests rarely ventured outside Caucasian was lamentable, but more a symptom of the fact that most of the characters shown at all were white. So, when you have 2 prominent black characters in a universe in which they are a minority and introduce love interests who are of the same minority, it smacks of race-based casting rather than the less offensive complacency of tokenism.
Dan - Fri, Apr 19, 2013 - 2:13am (USA Central)
I think you're just an overly sensitive PC douche looking for problems where none exist. This isn't the 90's anymore. Grow up and stop picking at scabs you have no intention of healing.
RStretton - Wed, Jun 5, 2013 - 9:59pm (USA Central)
I just rewatched this episode last night and it was better than I remembered it. I can't say that I find it particularly great though. Nothing really happens and the arc of the episode is so obvious that you could watch the first 5 minutes and give an accurate synopsis of the rest of the episode (a regular failing of Trek).

Vic's story is the most interesting part and typically largely ignored. He is clearly sentient and effectively forced to act as a slave inside the holosuite. Quite how and why such a construct could be allowed to come into being for something so trivial god only knows. I guess it's yet another example of the creators not really thinking things through.

I also wouldn't praise Trek for follow through using this as an example. In fact the pure episodic nature of the series is its greatest problem and cramming this story into one episode doesn't work too well. It feels a bit forced. Still there was decent acting all round and at least Nog wasn't so annoyingly earnest about being a Federation officer. A solid 6/10 for me.
JimmyDee - Tue, Jul 30, 2013 - 11:42am (USA Central)
Gotta say, it's pretty ridiculous that people are complaining about the lack of mixed race relationships in the game because they are spending too much time pairing up aliens from mixed alien races? What type of 'color blindness' thinks Worf-Jadzia doesn't count as a mixed-color relationship between main characters, or T'Pol and whoever that boring actor was that she was banging on screen... or handful of relationships that Jake had in the first few seasons with non-black girls/women don't count because... I just don't get it.

Having said that, I always felt that racism was handled a bit too heavy handed by DS9. In TOS, Kirk and Spock just didn't understand the reasoning behind the Cherons. Kind of like you wouldn't understand racism if someone was talking about different colored cats. But on DS9, it was much more of a roaring behemoth, dealt with by facing it head on in a huge barrage of explosions.

And I definitely noticed it too with Jake and Ben. Strong leanings toward black girls. But maybe they just liked 'home cooking'? We know they did for food and entertainment.

Racism isn't 'handled' properly until it is simply not an issue.

Certainly, I appreciate what Star Trek has done for showing how it is possible to overcome prejudices such as race, color, even financial standing. But it's best moments for overcoming racism have always been the quieter ones.

Bear in mind that DS9 is my favorite Trek and Ben Sisko is absolutely the reason for it. Nothing to do with him being black. He's just a badass who had it rough and still keeps grasping for the rope of morality as the Universe tries to drag him down.

Isn't it funny too that this episode was about trauma, stress, escapism, sentience, life, and friendship between a character living in the 60's and a Ferengi. And somehow, the discussion gets overwhelmed by debate about racism. (?)

PS. as an avid classical guitarist, I resent the suggestion that it might be considered unrealistic for 400 year old music to be considered captivating to humans and non-humans alike. OK, so I play mostly stuff from 150-50 years ago, but good music is good music.
ProgHead777 - Sun, Aug 11, 2013 - 12:20am (USA Central)
I was thinking after I watched this episode that if you told me in season 1 that Aron Eisenberg would, in season 7, cause tears to well up in my eyes, I would have laughed in your face and said you were nuts. I'm not laughing now. It's funny that Jammer says pretty much the same thing in this review. I leery of the Vic Fontaine character at first but a combination of smart writing and an astoundingly charismatic performance from James Darren has put those fears to rest. I find the idea that Nog found solace and healing in Vic's company to be very believable and at least some of that is because of James Darren. Hm, crazy. *shakes head*
DAISHI - Sun, Oct 27, 2013 - 6:54pm (USA Central)
I know Elliot may not understand this, but black people like seeing black couples on television. There aren't enough of them as it is. It's a different form of racism to insist that when blacks are portrayed they should be with other race individuals. Unless he's forgotten why the African American community was upset with Disney's lack of willingness to put the princess in The Princess and the Frog with a black man.
Kotas - Thu, Nov 7, 2013 - 9:48pm (USA Central)

Very well done, memorable episode. Also I noticed something funny: when the crew is discussing Nog's situation, the pips on Dax's collar switch order.

9/10

Cthulusuppe - Thu, Dec 12, 2013 - 9:23pm (USA Central)
I think of this as my favorite DS9 episode ever. And it surprises me because 1) I've never liked Nog, 2) it doesn't progress the plot and 3) it occurs in the midst of the worst DS9 season of the series (I'm sorry, but any time a work of fiction makes God(s) real, I just turn off). Imo, the fact that I'm sucked into to this episode is evidence of how good it is.

Jammer only gave it 3.5 stars, and I feel it should've gotten 5 stars out of a possible 4. This episode was a breakthrough for mainstream television. It's that good.

Somehow, the DS9 writers managed to perfectly capture depression and anxiety in a single hour without making Nog appear to be worthless or excessively narcissistic. I've never seen depression and anxiety handled so perfectly on television before or, surprisingly, since.

Jammer, if you still read the comments to your reviews, I implore you to re-examine this episode. It deserves a higher evaluation.
Ric - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 11:03pm (USA Central)
Wow, what a good surprise. A piece of memorable episode among the horrible standard of S7! This one was really good and it is a surprise all along. From centering on Nog to being a HS episode in a show that has a history of bad HS ones. There were all reasons to expect a bad experience.

Guess what, this is universal character development, but in a scifi scenario. That respects the inner logic of Trek. Good stuff.
Quarky - Sun, May 4, 2014 - 12:48am (USA Central)
Good episode but I have had problems with Nog and Rom. I do not like the changes their characters make. Nog goes crying to Sisko begging to join starfleet. He says he's not a good ferengi. He says he doesn't have the lobes for
business and isn't good at making profit. Then once he joins starfleet all of a sudden the writers make him a great ferengi. All of a sudden he has a gift for finding rare alcohol and trading and acquiring any item you need. Then you have Rom who Odo says can't fix anything. Then all of a sudden he's an engineering genius. Rom also said that any woman caught wearing clothes and earning profit should be SEVERLY punished. By the end of the show he is all for woman's rights. These might be great characteristics but it totally changes the ferengi.

I've noticed that sometime after around 2010 people started trying to find racism and sexism in everything. Maybe it is our society changing. Youll see it everywhere online. These reviews are a perfect example. Read some of the other reviews. You'll notice around 2010 people's comments will start complaining about it. It's just something I've noticed. I don't care if jake dated a black woman by the way.
Robert - Mon, May 5, 2014 - 10:33am (USA Central)
@Quarky

"Good episode but I have had problems with Nog and Rom. I do not like the changes their characters make. Nog goes crying to Sisko begging to join starfleet. He says he's not a good ferengi. He says he doesn't have the lobes for
business and isn't good at making profit. Then once he joins starfleet all of a sudden the writers make him a great ferengi. All of a sudden he has a gift for finding rare alcohol and trading and acquiring any item you need. Then you have Rom who Odo says can't fix anything. Then all of a sudden he's an engineering genius. Rom also said that any woman caught wearing clothes and earning profit should be SEVERLY punished. By the end of the show he is all for woman's rights. These might be great characteristics but it totally changes the ferengi. "

Rom's character has changed considerably, no argument... but anytime Quark appraises himself he basically sucks. Compared to anybody who isn't Rom. Even cousin Gaila owns a moon.

I get the feeling that Nog is a bright boy who knows more about trade/barter than the average member of the "no money" federation or a random lounge singer in a holosuite program... but I think the point of Nog's speech to Sisko is that he thinks he could be a great Starfleet officer but not a great businessman. Like, at BEST he'd be a Quark. He'd never be a Gaila or better. But maybe, just maybe he could be a GREAT Starfleet officer.

I always felt his 7 year arc was earned. Rom's... well you could say he was hiding how he felt for Quark's sake (an early episode has him bringing Nog to school and then pulling him out as soon as the Nagus finds out). So there's definite evidence that he was more liberal than he was letting on and just had no spine. I think there also were instances of him fixing things too, but I can't remember right now. Either way, he DEFINITELY changed more in 7 years than was earned by what was shown on screen. But I think the seeds were there. It was just a case of too much too fast.
Robert - Mon, May 5, 2014 - 10:35am (USA Central)
As for Jake... he dated the only 3 black bajorans that were ever on screen. THAT was a little weird. I don't think it particularly bothered me, but things like that pull me out of the show a bit. Like somebody is using 20th century concerns in a 24th century setting.

Tuvok too. He's the only black vulcan we've ever seen, so of course his wife is the second black vulcan we get to see :P
Paul - Mon, May 5, 2014 - 3:43pm (USA Central)
@Robert and Quarky: The characters in early DS9 were very different than the characters in late DS9. Some of that worked as character evolution. Some of it was clearly a byproduct of the characters not working early prompting forced changes.

The biggest example where it was clearly forced was Dax, who is much calmer and more cerebral early in the series until about the halfway point in season 2, when she's playing Tongo with Quark, having one-night stands, etc. This is most pronounced in "Playing God."

Rom's arc actually sort of makes sense, if you figure he was trying to be very Ferengi early on and then figured it wasn't working. Nog's arc was harder to take because he went from essentially being illiterate -- Jake helps him learn to read in one early episode -- to joining Starfleet in like two years.

The character evolutions that were equally as noticeable but less forced were Sisko's (rejuvenated by his time on DS9 and the Dominion threat), Kira (less angry after seeing Bajor somewhat succeed on its own and becoming more trusting of aliens), Odo (becoming more humanoid, which makes sense because he was human for a short time and because of his relationship with Kira) and Bashir (who was an arrogant ass in the first season or so, but who grew, probably thanks to time around O'Brien).

Worf, of course, was already developed and O'Brien sort of was, too. Quark evolved some throughout the series, but he probably changed the least.
Robert - Tue, May 6, 2014 - 9:13am (USA Central)
Nog getting into Starfleet 2 years after he was functionally illiterate is certainly hard to swallow considering Wesley once missed out on the academy entrance exam (which was also hard to swallow). But I feel like Nog's personality changes were more natural than Rom's.

I do agree with your points about other characters though. DS9 had a large number of character changes that did not feel forced, to the credit of the show.
BigDTBone - Tue, May 6, 2014 - 1:21pm (USA Central)
There is a huge difference between being illiterate and not being able to read/speak English. Universal translators ate one thing but they can't change words on page.
Robert - Wed, May 7, 2014 - 8:58am (USA Central)
"There is a huge difference between being illiterate and not being able to read/speak English. Universal translators ate one thing but they can't change words on page. "

Hmm... while you are right I always assumed that he couldn't read Ferengi and that the PADD they were reading had Ferengi and English on it and that Jake reading in English comes out in perfect Ferengi and vice-versa so that you actually could teach someone to read without speaking their language :P

I suppose it IS possible he was teaching him how to read English. The universal translator is a wonky, wonky, wonky plot device anyway. When Sisko/Dax let's loose a Klingon phrase... why? Can Worf tell they are actually trying? Does it sound different than when he usually hears them speak Klingon? How many characters know English?

The amount of brain-pain that it causes to start thinking about this stuff is mind boggling.
eastwest101 - Fri, May 30, 2014 - 11:57pm (USA Central)
Well I am in the minority here, I think this is a massively over rated episode because, for me, it was unduly ernest, forced, pedestrian and predictable, and it ultimately bored me to tears as it involved the two main characters whom were the most annoying and un-necessary parts of the cast (Nog and Fontaine). I only give this 1 star for the briefing room jokes at Bashirs expense. An absolute snooze-fest to watch.
Nonya - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 11:17am (USA Central)
I agree with eastwest. This episode was painfully boring. Nog himself is unlikable, and...well, nothing happens.
Koko Bongo - Sun, Jul 20, 2014 - 10:49am (USA Central)
The sum of spare-part characters? A boring episode that does nothing to move the DS9 narrative. Scenes drag on for valuable minutes, the plot is thin. Nog should've just gone to Risa, had sex with a few hookers, and he'd be fine.

When you have Vic Fontaine trying to help someone, that's trouble. And it's annoying. And Ezri, Rom and Leeta have more screen-time than the other main characters. Says it all. I don't quite get how others who praised this episode had the patience to sit through this mess, or not fast forward at the least.
Robert - Mon, Jul 21, 2014 - 8:20am (USA Central)
"A boring episode that does nothing to move the DS9 narrative."

The end of Nog's arc (which amounts to growing up) that begin literally in the first episode of the first season does nothing to move the show's narrative?

You don't have to like Nog, his arc, Vic or this episode... but this statement is totally bonkers. Just because an episode isn't moving the war doesn't mean it's not moving DS9's narrative!

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