A Tribute to Nog

When Aron Eisenberg passed away a few months ago, I meant to write an article celebrating Nog, similar to my recently published one on Odo. However, life intervened and it’s taken this long to get around to starting it. Nonetheless, the time has finally come to acknowledge Eisenberg’s work as Starfleet’s very first Ferengi.

Originally introduced to be TNG’s equivalent of the Klingons in TOS, the Ferengi didn’t quite work out as planned. At best their onscreen appearances were cringeworthy, at worst, they touched on antisemitic tropes. However, on occasion, the Ferengi could rise above all of that. Nowhere was this more evident than with Nog, a character who started off as a stereotypical irritating troublemaker.

In his early appearances, Nog disdained education, looked down on women, and frequently led “Starfleet brat” Jake Sisko astray. Over time, however, Nog started to show more depth to his character. Eschewing the path of profit, Nog instead chose to apply to Starfleet Academy. Not only did he face the challenge of being the first ever Ferengi to join Starfleet, but his early career also coincided with the Dominion War. Few who watched his early episodes could ever have guessed that Nog’s arc would end with him losing a leg and having to deal with the ensuing PTSD.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s examine some of Nog’s most memorable moments.

Heart of Stone

When Nog tells Sisko that he wants a letter of recommendation for Starfleet Academy, the commander decides to test his commitment by setting a series of difficult and tedious tasks. After Nog passes them with flying colours, Sisko has to accept the possibility that this isn’t just Nog’s latest prank, and that the young man is serious in his ambitions.

Not only does this episode mark an important turning point for Nog, but it also features one of his most heartfelt lines, when he finally admits to Sisko that “I don’t want to end up like my father!”. Having seen Rom’s brilliance stifled by his failed attempts to conform to the Ferengi ideal, Nog envisions a different life for himself – and this is the first step on that path.

Valiant

When Jake and Nog’s runabout is attacked, they are rescued by the Valiant – a Defiant-class starship crewed entirely by Starfleet cadets. Despite their youth and inexperience, the cadets are committed to fighting the Dominion, and Nog is keen to pitch in and help out. But while Nog is blinded by his devotion to duty, the civilian Jake rightly points out that the Valiant’s mission effectively amounts to suicide.

While this episode suffers for how unlikeable the Valiant crew are, it is notable for putting Jake and Nog’s friendship to the test. Having long wanted to be a part of the elite ‘Red Squad’ of cadets who crew the Valiant, Nog is overeager to prove himself worthy of their respect. It takes the more pragmatic Jake to realise the truth – being righteous and heroic doesn’t guarantee success or a happy ending.

The Siege of AR-558/It’s Only a Paper Moon

The horrors of the Dominion War are explored in detail in The Siege of AR-558, which tests both named and generic characters to their limit – and sees Nog lose his leg. Although he’s promised a prosthetic replacement, It’s Only a Paper Moon shows us that healing the mental wounds is a lot harder than healing the physical ones, even in the 24th century.

Star Trek has often glossed over the topic of PTSD – it touched on it in TNG’s Family, but as a rule our Starfleet heroes often shrugged off the aftermath of the traumatic events they experienced in space. It’s Only a Paper Moon finally shines a light on the effects of dealing with trauma, as Nog retreats to the holosuite to escape reality. At first, Vic Fontaine’s holographic nightclub seems like the perfect place for some much needed R&R, but as Vic himself knows, it isn’t healthy for Nog to hide out there forever. Both James Darren and Aron Eisenberg really bring their best to this episode.

Progress/In the Cards/Treachery, Faith and the Great River

Despite claiming that he doesn’t have the “lobes for business”, Nog nonetheless proved himself an adept trader on several occasions. In Progress, Jake and Nog go into business as the “Noh-Jay Consortium”, with the aim of turning some of Quark’s unwanted stock into pure profit. The pair join forces again in In the Cards, as Jake enlists Nog’s help in obtaining a rare baseball card for his father. Both episodes run along predictable lines, but are an entertaining distraction from some of DS9’s heavier stories.

Nog uses his skills one last time in Treachery, Faith and the Great River, where he agrees to help Chief O’Brien navigate the “Great Material Continuum” for a much-needed graviton stabiliser. Even though Nog’s trades involve the temporary loan of both Sisko’s desk and General Martok’s bloodwine, fortunately everything works out in the end.

The Magnificent Ferengi

Although I’m not a fan of DS9’s seemingly obligatory “silly Ferengi episodes”, this one is slightly more enjoyable than the rest. Yes, it eventually descends into pure farce, but it does show Nog trying to use his Starfleet skills to train the rest of the hastily assembled Ferengi squad.

What are your favourite Nog moments? Comment below and let me know.

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