Monday, April 30, 2012

Nog Gets Real Character Conflict With “It’s Only A Paper Moon!”

The Good: Excellent acting, Great character work, Decent plot
The Bad: Annoying “reverse psychology” with Vic Fontaine
The Basics: With his return to the station, Nog finds life has all sorts of new challenges he is not yet ready to face in “It’s Only A Paper Moon.”

One of the impressive aspects of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is how the show took seemingly minor characters and developed them into fully-realized, interesting characters who could hold both scenes and entire episodes. One of the characters who had a surprisingly extensive character arc on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was Nog. As the show wound down, Nog continued to get some truly intriguing storylines. Nog’s final spotlight episode was “It’s Only A Paper Moon.”

“It’s Only A Paper Moon” stands out in the story of Deep Space Nine as an intimate character arc and while it has never attained the stature of “The Visitor” (reviewed here!) or “Duet” (reviewed here!), it is still an impressive episode. Like all the best episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it focuses quite tightly on a character dilemma and really explores the character of Nog in a way that is very revealing. The episode is a follow-up to “The Siege Of AR-558” (reviewed here!) and it helps to watch that episode before seeing “It’s Only A Paper Moon.”

When Nog returns to Deep Space Nine with his new robotic leg, he is uncharacteristically distant. While the officers and his friends try to engage him, he professes to be tired and Ezri encourages everyone to give him a little space to recover from his trauma. Nog takes to lying in bed, listening to recordings of Vic Fontaine singing “I’ll Be Seeing You,” as it brought him comfort while he was in the sickbay on AR-558. Jake, however, quickly tires of hearing it and he swipes Nog’s recording.

So, Nog goes to the holosuite to visit Vic Fontaine himself. Enamored with the world of Vic Fontaine, Nog decides that the holosuite is going to be his choice of place to recover. Things go fairly well for Nog there, despite Rom being frustrated by his son’s reclusion. Nog starts helping Vic build a larger casino facility and he becomes entirely invested in the fake world, at the expense of his life outside the holosuite. But when Dax visits Vic on the eve of their groundbreaking, she leaves the hologram with something to consider that will change things for Nog.

“It’s Only A Paper Moon” does a fairly decent job of fleshing out both Nog and Vic Fontaine and the only real problem I have with the episode is how obvious Ezri's attempt to work reverse psychology is. Vic Fontaine has been characterized as a surprisingly perceptive hologram up until this point and when Ezri has to nail home her point, it lacks some of its punch. As it is, it is not a dealbreaker for the episode. In fact, the fact that Vic slips a little bit could easily be viewed as character development and on that front, it works.

Largely, “It’s Only A Paper Moon” focuses on Nog, though and even the potentially melodramatic moments of him and Jake fighting work in the context of the episode. In fact, upon rewatching “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” one of the things that always strikes me is how so very much is forgiven by the epiphanic moment for Nog's character. When Nog finally tells Vic Fontaine how he is feeling, the moment is one of the defining ones for the Nog character, on par with his revelation in "Heart Of Stone" (reviewed here!) about not wanting to end up like his father!

What “It’s Only A Paper Moon” does even better than the prior high water mark for the Nog character is give Aron Eisenberg the space to truly emote. When Nog wrestles with what it means to lose his leg, Aron Eisenberg is granted the great dramatic opportunity to shine and present a more serious side of what has frequently been a comedic or troublingly monolithic character. And when the chance comes, Eisenberg takes it, embracing the opportunity to have Nog express both genuine difficulty with describing his emotions and then later breaking down.

“It’s Only A Paper Moon” is light on special effects, but once again employs James Darren's voice as a sterling example of how great a male vocalist can be. That's a pretty special effect in my book! “It’s Only A Paper Moon” might be the best, low-tech episode of the series and, in true Star Trek: Deep Space Nine tradition, part of the success comes from the fact that the series is prioritizing an underutilized character played by a superior performer who is finally given a real chance to show their worth!

[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which provides the full story for the conclusion to the series. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode, movie and DVD set reviews, be sure to visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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