(written from a Production point of view)
In the aftermath of an injury that left him disabled on AR-558, Nog returns to Deep Space 9, but finds he cannot go on living his uncertain life and seeks shelter within the fictional world of Vic Fontaine and Las Vegas, 1962.
After losing his leg at AR-558, Nog returns home to Deep Space 9 to a hero's welcome. He has undergone extensive medical treatment counseling at Starbase 235. Although his leg has been replaced with a bio-synthetic one, Nog has been placed on indefinite medical leave by Starfleet. Captain Sisko informs him they're due to have a welcome home party for him later in the wardroom, but Nog tells everyone he's very tired and would rather rest. It's clear he is not enthusiastic about seeing everyone again.
During counseling sessions with Dax in his quarters, Nog is caught up on events on the station, but he doesn't seem too interested. Nog finds the counseling sessions pointless. He uses a cane, and complains of pain, even though a tricorder scan does not show any nerves firing, leading doctors to conclude it's all psychological. Nog, in his state, finds this ridiculous and takes out his frustration on Dax; the pain is real, he's not making it up. Mentioning the extensive counseling sessions he's had back at starbase, he asks just to be left alone, and so Dax agrees and calls it a day.
Later, Sisko notices Nog's lack of participation in physical therapy, but Dax suggests giving him some time since sometimes a patient can make the next move for you.
The only solace for Nog is in the recording that Doctor Bashir played during his time in triage on AR-558, "I'll Be Seeing You". He now plays it constantly, enough to drive Jake Sisko crazy. Jake is frustrated that Nog hasn't engaged him at all since he got back, but Nog simply responds that he really has nothing to say. Sick of listening to the same song constantly, Jake insists that Nog go rent a holosuite. Nog does so, and, on the way, he has a sudden flashback on the death of Larkin and getting shot in his leg. In Vic's lounge, he has Vic Fontaine sing the fifteen different versions he knows of "I'll Be Seeing You". He heard about Nog's leg and asks about it casually. He offers to sing more, but Nog wants to sleep. He turns to leave, but can't face his real life. In fact, he asks Vic to live with him, as the terms of his medical leave state he can choose to recuperate wherever he wishes. Vic agrees.
The crew gathers together in the wardroom to discuss the situation with Nog living in a holosuite. Dax points out that this could be a good thing since Nog's counseling wasn't progressing, and Bashir agrees. They decide that someone needs to talk to Vic about Nog's emotional and physical condition and Dax volunteers. When she goes to talk to Vic, Vic explains he has a trick or two up his sleeve to let him heal.
In Vic's suite, Nog is watching Shane. To give him something to do, Vic complains about his inability to do his own accounting, and how his books are a mess. Nog doesn't take the bait and offers to have the computer put some money in his books instead. Vic declines and says that he needs to go do a performance. As he's about to leave, he asks Nog if he is going to come along. Nog says he will, and in return, Vic gives him a lion's head cane that has a lighter built in, a replica of a cane that Errol Flynn once had. Vic says the cane is fragile and asks Nog not to put his full weight on it.
At the show, Jake takes his friend Kesha on a date into the holosuite for Vic's performance. Nog is moody, however, and when the subject of his heroism comes up, Nog becomes irritated. While Jake's getting drinks, Nog is condescending and belligerent to Kesha. When Jake asks Nog what's wrong, the Ferengi becomes angry and starts a fight by throwing the table onto Jake and punching him. Vic has to kick Nog back to their room.
When Vic returns to the suite, he finds Nog watching a movie. He forbids Nog to come back to the show, but Nog promises it'll never happen again. He briefly says he doesn't know what got into him. Vic leaves it and complains about his books again. This time, Nog helps him out so Vic can get some sleep.
Later, Dax comes to the holosuite to see how Nog is doing. She finds Vic first, and, when she tries to convince Vic to persuade Nog to leave the holosuite, Vic refuses, citing Starfleet regulations. Nog soon turns up and tells Dax that if she tries to force him to leave he'll resign his Starfleet commission. He quickly changes the subject, informing Vic that he has enough money to build a new casino. Dax is forced to give up and leaves Nog to it, as he soon finds solace in using his Ferengi business instincts to help make Vic's bar a success. Dax looks on, very concerned about Nog.
Nog and Vic spend a lot of time together including drawing up plans for the casino, watching movies, wooing women at the bar, and reading the newspaper. Dax discretely shows up at the bar and sees Nog meeting and greeting customers. Surprisingly, he's walking around holding, but not using, his cane.
Leeta and Rom show up to the bar and Nog personally seats them at a table. He's now back to normal, greeting them and excited to see them. Nog learns that Rom has been promoted to Maintenance Engineer, First Class and offers to throw a party, only to be informed that there already was a party thrown by Chief O'Brien the previous evening, making Nog realize what he's missing on the outside. Nog shrugs it off, saying he had business to take care of and leaves when a high-roller enters. Meanwhile, Dax and Vic talk about Nog's progress again, and Dax compliments Vic's treatment. She thinks Nog should return to the real world, and convinces Vic the same thing by tricking him into realizing he is just using Nog if he lets him stay.
That night, Vic walks into his apartment to find Nog finishing up the casino plans. Vic puts the plans away and tells Nog it's time to shut down the program. Nog can't understand why Vic is acting like this, and Vic tells Nog that since he turned the program on, he's got to experience real-life and if the experience has taught him anything it's that life is a wonderful thing. Now he intends to do the same and give Nog his life back. Nog pleads for a little more time but Vic is adamant and eventually is forced to shut the program down himself, leaving Nog alone in the empty holosuite.
Nog tries to force the computer to run the program, but to no avail. Chief O'Brien arrives to investigate after noticing in Ops that the holosuite systems were being tampered with. He tells Nog that Vic isn't an average hologram; not only can he shut himself down but can also stop himself from being activated if he doesn't want to be. O'Brien then leaves, telling Nog that everyone misses him in Ops. Soon after, Vic causes himself to reappear, telling Nog again he has to leave. When Nog refuses, Vic asks why he won't and Nog finally begins to open up and tells him through tears what he was holding back from all the counseling sessions. He tells Vic that when the war began, although he wasn't happy about it he was eager for the chance to prove himself to be a good officer and soldier. Although he saw a lot of combat and witnessed many people being wounded or killed, Nog thought he was going to be okay. Then he got injured at AR-558, and now the Ferengi is suffering from an overwhelming fear of his mortality caused by losing his leg, admitting he still can't quite believe what happened to him.
Vic talks him out of it, telling him that if he remains in the holosuite then he will die, but it won't be all at once. He'll disappear a little bit at a time until he's just as hollow as as hologram. Vic reminds Nog that everyone takes chances, and sometimes they win or sometimes they lose; what's important is that they're still "in the game". Nog finally understands that now is the time to leave the holosuite and Vic's world behind and he walks out leaving his cane. When Nog comes downstairs, he runs into Leeta, Rom, and Quark and promises them that while he is not fine at the moment, he's going to be all right, in time.
Soon after, Nog, back in his Starfleet uniform, visits Vic to tell him he's returned to limited duty. He thanks Vic for his help with good news: Quark will keep Vic's program running 26/7, effectively giving Vic a life of his own. Vic celebrates by singing and performing with a renewed vigor.
"At first, it struck me as a little… peculiar. But after I thought it over, I began to think that maybe this is a good sign after all."
"How can hiding in one of Julian's adolescent programs be a good sign?"
"It could be worse. He could be hiding in the Alamo program."
"Or that ridiculous secret agent program."
"Or that stupid Viking program."
- - Ezri, Quark, Jake, Leeta, and Rom teasing Bashir
"He's a one legged crazy man!"
- - Rom, on the new Nog
"And who's going to pay for all this holosuite time? (everyone looks at Quark) I guess I am."
"And it's very generous of you."
- - Quark and Sisko
"She called you a hero, and for that you slugged your best friend? Remind me never to give you a compliment."
- - Vic after the incident in the lounge
"(About Shane movie) I like The Searchers better!"
"Yeah, who doesn't?"
- - Nog and Vic
"Is there anything I can do?"
"You know anything about bookkeeping?"
"I'm a Ferengi, it's in our blood."
"Be my guest." (hands Nog the account books)
"Where's your computer?"
"Right here." (holds up a pencil)
(Nog gives him a look)
"It's 1962, what do you want from me?"
- - Nog and Vic Fontaine
"You all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"And you, take a hike."
"You heard me. You don't come into my club and start hitting customers like that. Now get out before I throw you out."
- - Vic Fontaine, Jake Sisko and Nog
"Vic's matrix is a little different than your standard photokinetic hologram. He can turn himself off and if he doesn't want to appear he doesn't appear."
"You mean he has free will?"
"I'm an engineer, not a philosopher!"
- - Miles O'Brien and Nog
"When the war began… I wasn't happy or anything, but I was eager. I wanted to test myself. I wanted to prove I had what it took 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 didn't think anything was going to happen to me. And then, suddenly Dr. Bashir is telling me he has to cut my leg off. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. If I could get shot, if I could lose my leg, anything can happen to me, Vic. I could die tomorrow. I don't know if I'm ready to face that. If I stay here, at least I know what the future is going to be like."
"You stay here, you're going to die. Not all at once, but little by little. Eventually, you'll become as hollow as I am."
- - Nog and Vic Fontaine
"Look kid, I don't know what's going to happen to you out there. All I can tell you is that you've got to play the cards life deals you. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but at least you're in the game."
- - Vic Fontaine
"Are you okay?
"No, but I will be."
- - Leeta and Nog
Story and script
- This episode is unique in Star Trek insofar as it focuses almost entirely on two non-regular characters, although this was not the original conception of the episode. It began as an A, B, C story, with three concurrent plotlines (like the second season episode "Shadowplay") all taking place in Vic's, and the Nog story was simply one of them. In fact the original pitch for the episode didn't even feature the Nog story at all, because it was pitched long before Nog lost his leg. In 1995 John J. Ordover and David Mack came up with a unique idea, which they pitched to Ronald D. Moore. According to Ordover, "Our notion was that the most attractive pitch would be something that was as cheap for them to produce as possible. Well, that would be an entire episode that had no visual effects, very little makeup, and only one set to light." The original idea involved a Bajoran holiday and everything on the Promenade closed except Quark's, which is where the episode would be set. Ordover and Mack dubbed their idea "Everybody Goes to Quark's". The writing team tried to build an episode from the idea, but they were unable to at the time, and the concept was shelved. It was only with the introduction of the character of Vic Fontaine in Season 6 that Ira Steven Behr suggested revisiting the idea, and setting it at Vic's instead of Quark's. The writers decided to have two comic plots and one serious plot, and it was decided early on that the serious plot would involve Nog's recuperation after losing his leg in "The Siege of AR-558". However, when it came time to actually compose the teleplay, Moore found that the Nog plot, because it was so heavy, was dominating the other two just-for-kicks plots. Soon, Ira Behr realized that the show had become about Nog and Vic, and he told Moore to jettison the other two stories and concentrate on the serious plot. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Ron Moore commented: "The show that was originally pitched to us was called 'Everyone Comes to Quark's'. It was one of those intriguing ideas that everybody liked, but nobody knew how to make it work. It was a high concept show, where you just do an entire episode set completely in Quark's, and you tell all the stories only in Quark's. You do a whole day, from Quark opening the bar in the morning to Quark closing it down at night. We could never really make it work, but none of us really wanted to give up on it, especially me. We said, 'Let's do that goddamn show this year'. I think I said, or it might have been Ira, one of us said: 'If we set the show in Vic's and you did the whole episode in the holosuite at Vic's, maybe it would come off a little easier'. We all sparked to that idea, and we decided to weave in a bunch of different stories. Ira said, 'we need a real strong one. We don't have a heavy one, and one that will give a spine to the episode'. This was around the time that they were working on "The Siege of AR-558", and they were having this big to-do about Nog's leg, these creepy internal discussions that you have, 'Is it one leg or both legs? No, if it's both legs it's too much'. Once that had gone into motion we said, that can be the spine of ["It's Only a Paper Moon"]. Nog dealing with the loss of his leg will be the heavy storyline that will give meaning to everything else within this fun show that we are going to do. Then as we started structuring that episode, the Nog story became so strong, and we realized that it was hard to cut away from that, while Nog is going through this major ordeal in his life. It felt like all the characters should be concerned about him. This is really a Nog show, and we should just lose all the rest of this concept and just do it. Just tell the story of Nog listening to that song in 'AR-558' and that drawing him back to the holosuite, and let him lose himself in there for an episode. By that point, we were so far down the line, that we weren't really saying, you know, it's two guest stars. It wasn't really until we got into the nitty-gritty of writing the episode that everybody said, 'I can't believe we are doing a show about Vic and Nog'. It was just not something we set out to do". (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, No. 4/5, pp 61-62)
- David Mack commented: "…the major force on 'Paper Moon' was Ron Moore. John Ordover and I had pitched a story years before that bore only a passing resemblance to the episode that it became. By the time the DS9 writing staff had finished 'revising' our original pitch, the basic idea was in place. Ron asked us to draft a full outline based on the premise of Nog coming home after "The Siege of AR-558" with a cybernetic leg, and seeking solace in the Vic Fontaine holoprogram. What John and I added to that premise was the reason why Nog was in the holosuite: PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. Essentially, Nog had confronted the truth of his own mortality, and it had destroyed his youthful illusions about being invulnerable and about the 'glory' or 'heroism' of warfare. But the truth is that it was Ron Moore who took that idea and put it into words and images, giving it such resonance and honesty. It was also Ron’s courage as a writer that enabled two supporting cast-members to become the leads for an episode. I am simply honoured to have been part of the process." 
- James Darren recorded his performances at Capitol Records, which was a memorable experience for Anson Williams and Ron Moore. (Cinefantastique; )
- This episode contains a scene from just before the final battle on AR-558 which wasn't actually seen in the episode "The Siege of AR-558"; after Bashir puts on "I'll Be Seeing You", he goes to check on Nog, who inquires as to the name of the song.
- James Darren sings four songs in this episode: "I'll Be Seeing You" (which was already heard in "The Siege of AR-558"), "I've Got the World on a String", "It's Only a Paper Moon", and "Just in Time" (which is heard in the background during the scene with Jake and his girlfriend).
- Obviously, the show is also a personal favorite of Aron Eisenberg's; "I was honored. It was my biggest episode in all seven seasons. I was working every day, and I was in almost every scene. I had a ball. They trusted that James Darren and I could carry an episode, and I gave it everything I had. I played Nog differently than I had before, because he was in a different place in his mind. He wasn't the gung-ho soldier anymore. Now his goals were blurred, and he was on this downward spiral because of fear." His favorite scene is when Nog breaks into tears; "It wasn't written that way. The script just said that Nog gets emotional. When we were ready to shoot, I realized that I had to cry. It was the defining moment of what the episode was all about. You finally see what's inside that's gotten Nog to this point. Up until then, you didn't know why he was behaving that way. I grew that day as an actor." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- After this episode aired, Eisenberg was contacted by a number of combat veterans who told him that his performance was extremely true to life, and who complimented him on his work. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- According to Ronald Moore, this is one of his favorite episodes that he worked on. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Anson Williams described the episode as a top-5 episode of the series.
- It's Only a Paper Moon" was selected by the authors of Star Trek: The Book of Lists as one of the best DS9 episodes.
- Although speculative, the events of Star Trek: Insurrection (which was released between "Covenant" and "It's Only a Paper Moon") could have occurred during this episode. This is due to the fact that Worf is only in the opening scenes of the episode, an episode which spans a fair period of time, and he does not appear at all in either of the next two episodes, "Prodigal Daughter" and "The Emperor's New Cloak" (only the mirror Worf appears in the latter episode). The apparently large period of absence in his appearances would allow him enough time to assist in the security upgrade of the Manzar colony and join the USS Enterprise-E crew during its mission to the Briar Patch before returning to the station by the time of "Field of Fire".
- The 1956 John Ford movie The Searchers is cited as a better movie than the 1953 George Stevens movie Shane; along with John Wayne, the protagonist of The Searchers was played by Jeffrey Hunter, who played Captain Christopher Pike in the very first episode of Star Trek, "The Cage".
- The movie Shane was produced in color, but Nog watches it in black and white. This is appropriate for the holosuite simulation, as most households didn't have a color TV in 1962.
- In the scene in the wardroom, Ezri's collar pips are reversed in some shots, suggesting a temporary wardrobe slip-up as other shots in the scene show the same pips the correct way around.
- Remastered scenes from the episode are featured in the documentary What We Left Behind.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 7.5, 7 June 1999
- As part of the DS9 Season 7 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Constable Odo
- Nicole de Boer as Counselor Ezri Dax
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys
Special guest star
- Judi Durand as Deep Space 9 computer voice
- Holiday Freeman as a holographic lounge guest
- Luther Hughes as a holographic bass player
- Chuck Shanks as an Human operations lieutenant
- Unknown performers as
Uncredited archive footage
- Annette Helde as Nadia Larkin
- Brandon De Wilde as Joey Starrett
- Alan Ladd as Shane
- Jack Palance as Jack Wilson
accountant; Alamo; AR-558; arrangement; Bashir 62; Barnum and Bailey; Battle of Clontarf; Benbasset; biosynthetic limb; bookkeeping; Cal-Neva Lodge; cane; cash register; Charley; church mouse; cigarette; Clontarf; club; coonskin cap; counselor; craps; Crockett, Davy; Davis, Jr., Sammy; De Wilde, Brandon; Dino (aka Dean Martin); Earth; expression; Ferengi; Flynn, Errol; forgery; Grand Nagus' staff; Hoffarth; holosuite; holosuite transilluminator; hotel; "I'll Be Seeing You"; "I've Got the World on a String"; isolinear rod; "It's Only a Paper Moon"; Julian Bashir, Secret Agent; "Just in Time"; Ladd, Alan; Lake Tahoe; Las Vegas; Las Vegas Register; latinum; limited duty; magnetic flux; Makara fizz; martini; medical leave; "Moon River"; movie; newspaper; "Noggles"; olive; Palance, Jack; passenger list; pencil; phone number; photokinetic hologram; physical therapy; plasma conduit; "poor as a church mouse"; popcorn; Presley, Elvis; Promenade; publicist; Quark's; raccoon; receipt; replica; replicator; "rich as a Rockefeller"; robe; Rockefeller family; Searchers, The; Shane (movie); Shane (character); Sinatra, Frank; slang; slot machines; smoking; snare drum; soldier boy; Starbase 235; Starfleet General Orders and Regulations; stepmother; television; transilluminator circuit; tricorder; Uncle Sam; Untouchables, The; Vikings; weaning; western; Yankee
- "It's Only a Paper Moon" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "It's Only a Paper Moon" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "It's Only a Paper Moon" at Wikipedia
| Previous episode:|
| Star Trek: Deep Space Nine|
| Next episode:|