It's Only a Paper Moon (****)
I'm going to say something utterly unsurprising and say that Nog is the best Ferengi character in Star Trek. It's not because he's the least Ferengi-like Ferengi, it's because he's the Ferengi that most closely matches the spirit of 20th century humans, which is what it's claimed the Ferengi are all about. Modern humans care about profit and accumulating things, sure. But that's not all we care about. Nog wants to be rich in the same way that the rest of us do, but it's not the driving force behind his whole life. He has other things he wants to do, he wants to be a better person, and if he makes some money along the way then that would be swell.
This is part of the reason why Paper Moon works so well,
…for Nog it's a huge deal, just like it would be for any of us.
I have my problems with the idea of Nog living in a holosuite for several weeks, and the fact that Vic's program is left to run permanently from here on out, but it makes for a nice story, so whatever.
So I feel I should chime in here. As one might gather from my user name, It's Only A Paper Moon
is an episode very close to my heart.
First, on a "ur-level" (as opposed to a "meta-level"), I love the story. I think TheGodBen
nails it: using Nog is a great way for the writers to deal with the trauma of war and the trauma of recovery. Vic is used masterfully, in depicting both his unique skills and his unique limitations, in a way that keeps him from becoming a Mary Sue, but at the same time injects some very different material into the story.
Ezri's counseling background comes in handy here, allowing further differentiation of her from Jadzia, and is a nice continuity nod to her established position. (As opposed to Worf and his position as Strategic Operations Officer; not much is done with that.) Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of the Incompetent-Psychotherapist trope; even though it makes for easier story-telling, the reality is that psychotherapy is extremely helpful for many people and is a critical component of recovery for many trauma victims. On the other hand, Ezri is still a very young counselor, one who actually hasn't even finished her training. So, in-universe, her limited success with Nog makes some sense. And, as Ben
said, we get a (imo) great story out of it, so I'm fine with overlooking it.
Now, on a more "meta-level": to me, this is a respectful story about Star Trek fans like me.
A little background: I found Star Trek at a young age in the midst of the greatest trauma of my life. It is possible, of course, that there are worse things yet to come for me; however, I believe that they will not surpass this episode in my life, because I will have emotional coping skills and maturity to help me deal with those traumas, in a way that I could not as a child.
Star Trek became something for me to hold on to, as my life was turned on its head. Over the course of a summer, I became a die-hard Trekkie. I watched every episode of every series that I could find on TV, then convinced my parents to buy me the (then quite new) DS9 DVD box sets, since it was the only series not available on the air at that time. I plumbed the depths of EAS, DITL, startrek.com, the list went on and on. Lucky enough to have an extremely good memory, I memorized detail after detail, quickly developing a core of knowledge about Star Trek that allowed me not only to enjoy the episodes themselves but also to synthesize, on my own, new stories, theories and observations consistent with the established canon.
Star Trek, as a universe, became an escape in which I could totally immerse myself.
I have been fortunate. Unlike Nog, Star Trek has never become an unhealthy escape, a way for me to avoid dealing with real life. In many ways, Star Trek gave me additional tools to deal with real life.
But there is always this voice in the back of my head, a reminder to be mindful to not lose myself in this, my favorite pastime.
, I think, speaks to the real healing power that escapes can have when someone has had "too much reality." It acknowledges and respects the healthy ways they can be used, and does not portray Nog as being foolish or weak for seeking refuge in the holosuite. In some ways, he is shown to be very wise and self-aware, enough so that he goes of his own free-will to the place where he can begin to heal.
But Paper Moon
also speaks honestly about the way such an escape can be overused. And it confronts, in a very cathartic way, the reality that you eventually need to go back to living your life. If you don't, you'll die; not all at once, but little by little.
, John Ordover
and Ronald Moore take us on an emotional journey that is extremely effective, at least, for me. The result is an episode that tells a great story, one of the few of its kind, in the great epic that is DS9, and to a lesser extent, Star Trek, but also a story that transcends its context and becomes relevant in a wide range of circumstances.
, I understand why this episode does not get 5 stars under your rating system. But, for me, it's a 10 out of 10, and one of Trek's finest hours.