Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season 7 Episode 10

It's Only a Paper Moon

Aired Weekdays 11:00 AM Dec 30, 1998 on Syndicado
out of 10
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133 votes

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Episode Summary

Stardate: Unknown Nog takes medical leave in the holosuite program of a 1962 Earth Las Vegas lounge after he lost his leg during a previous battle. Although his new leg is fully functional, he still uses a walking stick, a purely psychological situation, which one of the holo-characters, Vic Fontane, tries to help him overcome.moreless

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  • It wouldn't be make believe if you believed in me

    With a title referring to an old jazz standard (originally a 1933 Broadway number) about a fake backdrop, this Nog and Vic Fontaine episode is direct followup to "The Siege of AR-558" with Nog's mental recovery (lagging behind his physical recovery) taking place in Vic's fictitious holosuite world.

    It's a fun use of Vic the hologram, giving the lounge singer his own little story about what's it's like to finally live a full life as opposed to having his world turned on and off each day (something more fully explored with the Doctor in Voyager). But the meat and potatoes of the episode lies with Nog, allowing Aron Eisenberg to carry the show for the first time with a story that Star Trek hasn't really done before. The idea of post-traumatic stress disorder immediately brings the military to mind, but physical stress can cause mental stress in all walks of life and is something even civilians identify with. When someone becomes ill or injured and can't work, or a student misses significant time at school, or someone suffers a great loss, it's not always easy to jump back on the horse and carry on, even with no threat to life. An injury, absence, or traumatic event can crush the spirit, and emotional recovery can be as painful as physical therapy. Feelings of inadequacy and anger surface, and facing everyday life once again becomes a daunting task. Fictional universes are a tempting escape because they offer a place of interest that's disconnected from the real world, with no reminders of real problems or tragedies past and present. So people lose themselves in worlds online, or in music and books, or even films and television shows. (And yes, there's more than a bit of irony for just such a kind of entertainment providing a forum to explore the issue). This sort of escapism is even more extreme than Barclay's "Walter Mitty" fantasies, because instead of being an occasional diversion or being woven from reality, it's a complete bail-out, with all connections to the real world cast away. The end result is like the ending of Shane, the 1953 Western on television that Nog questions: there are no real consequences. There is no real life.

    Aron Eisenberg handles it all like a pro, and James Darren works well with him. But it's Nicole de Boer who sneaks in the back door and gives the episode a lift as Counselor Ezri Dax. Unlike "Afterimage" where Garak's problem seems manufactured by the writers for her benefit, Nog's problem brings Dax into the fold more organically and even opens the door for her to counsel Vic, albeit more subtly (which is all the better). This time, (with apologies to Echevarria), the writer gets her dialogue right and create a believable therapist as a result.

    All that said, while this is Aron Eisenberg's magna opus, it is just an hour of Nog moping and "Moon" isn't going to crack any top ten lists. (And sadly, while Nog indicates he likes The Searchers, he doesn't mention how much John Wayne's sidekick looks like a young Captain Pike).

  • A follow-up on Nog\'s injury during the Siege of AR-558, Nog moves in with Vic Fontaine on the holodeck.

    I can\'t say with any stronger conviction that I loved this episode. I would definitely put this in my top ten list of episodes from Deep Space Nine.

    The writing team really took the character of Nog to a higher plateau by showing us the difficult psychological healing process after the injury he sustained while defending the captured Dominion communications array.

    I already loved the character of Vic Fontaine prior to this episode, and his providing Nog with a crutch to get over his injury and return to his duties as a Starfleet officer was golden.

    Really having a chance to get into the heart of Nog in the final third of the episode to find out why he was reluctant to leave the holodeck was a touching moment and one that brought a tear to my eye.

    Allow me to share my favorite scene in the entire episode, Nog\'s monologue describing how he feels about returning to duty.

    \"I saw a lot of people get hurt... I saw a lot of people die... but I never thought anything was going to happen to me. Then suddenly Doctor Bashir is telling me he has to cut my leg off. I couldn\'t believe it. I still can\'t believe it. If I can get shot... if I can lose a leg... anything could happen to me, Vic. I could die tomorrow.\"

    The emotion with which Aron delivered that line was gut-wrenching. Serving as a strong parallel to all soldiers in the service of their country there is nobody who, even in the bottom of their hearts, has not felt this way. Seeing death up close and personal, especially losing ones you are close with, can never be easy.

    If you\'re a fan of DS9 and you haven\'t seen this episode yet, make it a point to do so whatever way you can, you won\'t be disappointed.moreless
  • Outstanding follow up to Nog's injury.

    "Time heals all wounds, right?" - Ezri Dax

    What an excellent episode. It's a great follow up to 'The Siege of AR-558'. Nog has always been one of my favorite recurring characters. Even though I swear he gets more screen time than some of the regulars.

    The relationship between Vic and Nog is excellent. Jazz is a big part of my life, and I think this might be exactly the same thing I would do if I had had my leg blown off. Vic's parting conversation with Nog was some powerful writing.

    Character studies are usually my favorite, and this will always be a series classic in my opinion.

    "Computer, end program" - Vic Fontainemoreless
  • This episode mainly takes place on the holo-deck, but still is an above average episode. It deals with alot of mental issues, but was worth watching.

    This episode mainly takes place on the holo-deck, but still is an above average episode. It deals with alot of mental issues, but was worth watching.

    This episode is in between a few more action packed ones and fits nicely into the story line with Nog. I recommend watching Star Trek and this episode.
Armin Shimerman

Armin Shimerman


Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn

Lt. Commander Worf (Season 4-7)

Rene Auberjonois

Rene Auberjonois

Constable Odo

Nana Visitor

Nana Visitor

Major/Colonel/Commander Kira Nerys

Avery Brooks

Avery Brooks

Commander/Captain Benjamin Sisko

Alexander Siddig

Alexander Siddig

Dr. Julian Bashir

Patrick Kilpatrick

Patrick Kilpatrick

Reese (uncredited)

Guest Star

Annette Helde

Annette Helde

Lt. Nadia Larkin (uncredited)

Guest Star

Tami-Adrian George

Tami-Adrian George


Guest Star

James Darren

James Darren

Vic Fontane

Recurring Role

Aron Eisenberg

Aron Eisenberg


Recurring Role

Max Grodenchik

Max Grodenchik


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • This episode is unusual, since it includes flashbacks; in this case, Nog flashing back to his injury during "The Siege at AR-558".

    • When Nog entered the holosuite, he was wearing Ferengi civilian clothing. All of the 1962 period clothing he was wearing while in the holosuite had to be holo-clothing. When Vic shut the program off, the tux Nog was wearing should not have remained, but rather changed back to his original clothing.

    • After being given the Errol Flynn replica cane, Nog exits the scene using the cane in his right hand and favoring his right leg.

    • While in the wardroom, Ezri's rank pips were incorrect (black pip on the right and gold on the left). On the next shot of her and after, the pips came back to the correct position.

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Vic: You stay here, you're gonna die. Not all at once, but little by little. Eventually you'll become as hollow as I am.
      Nog: You don't seem hollow to me.
      Vic: Compared to you I'm hollow as a snare drum.

    • Quark: And who's gonna be paying for all this holo-suite time? (Sisko just stares at him) I guess I am.
      Sisko: And it's very generous of you.

    • Nog: But now you're running all the time. Isn't it great?
      Vic: It's incredible. Since you've been here, I've slept in a bed every night... gone to work every day... had time to read the paper, play cards with the boys. I've had a life. And I have to tell you, it's a precious thing. I had no idea how much it means to just... live. Now, I'm going to return the favor and give you your life back.

    • Nog: I'm scared. Okay? I'm scared. When the war started, I wasn't... happy or anything, but I was... eager. I wanted to test myself... I wanted to see if I had what it takes to be a soldier. And I saw a lot of combat. I saw a lot of people get hurt... I saw a lot of people die. But I never thought anything was going to happen to me. Then suddenly Doctor Bashir is telling me he has to cut my leg off. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. If I can get shot... if I can lose a leg... anything could happen to me, Vic. I could die tomorrow. I don't know if I can face that. If I stay here, at least I know what the future's going to be like.

    • Quark: How can hiding in one of Julian's adolescent programs be a good sign?
      Bashir: Hey...
      Jake: It could be worse. He could be hiding in the Alamo program.
      Leeta: Or that ridiculous secret agent program.
      Bashir: Hey...
      Rom: Or that stupid Viking program.
      Bashir: Hey!

    • Rom: My son is insane!
      Ezri: Rom..
      Rom: He's a one-legged crazy man!

    • (talking about one of Vic's songs)
      Vic: So, let me guess - Julian played it for you, right?
      Nog: Right.
      Vic: If I had him as a publicist, I'd be bigger then Elvis.
      Nog: Who?

    • (regarding Nog)
      Sisko: Medical leave? How can that be?
      O'Brien: Sounds like an excuse to loaf around while the rest of us are hard at work.
      Bashir: Work, and lots of it, that's my prescription.
      Odo: Captain, he could've forged those orders.
      Sisko: I'm afraid they're genuine.

    • Vic: All I can tell you is, you've got to play the cards life deals you. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But at least you're in the game.

  • NOTES (3)


    • Chief O'Brien: "I'm an engineer, not a philosopher."

      This line references the Original Series catch phrase recited by the Dr. McCoy character, "I'm a doctor, not a-"

    • Shane
      In Vic's hotel, Nog is seen watching the 1953 Western classic Shane. Nog doesn't understand the ending of the film that when Shane wins the shootout and saves the town, he is dying, which is why he cannot stay. You can see the last scene where he is slumped over on his horse, presumably from the loss of blood. This is often referred to in film studies circles at "the Myth of the Garden", in which cowboys make a town safe for civilization, but then find that they are too wild for it themselves and cannot stay to earn the fruits of their labor. It is ironic that Nog doesn't understand this since, like Shane, he has sacrificed (his leg) and feels he no longer belongs either.

    • Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
      Nog asks Vic what holograms dream of. This is a wink to Philip K. Dick's book Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?.

    • Yogi Bear

      Vic's "smarter than the average bear" comment is the favorite saying of the Hanna-Barbara cartoon character Yogi Bear.

    • Paper Moon

      The title is a direct quote from the famous Depression era song Paper Moon (words and music by Billy Rose, E.Y. Harbug and Harold Arlen).

      It is a song all about how the power of belief can transform something artificial and shoddy into something real and magical, an especially appropriate sentiment for an episode about a character adjusting not only to a prosthetic limb, but also regaining a sense of his own value.