Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Nog Survived DS9's Darkest Episodes

Nog (Aron Eisenberg) lived through the darkest moments of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Dominion War and emerged as a shining example of Starfleet's best. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the first spinoff of Star Trek: The Next Generation and aired in syndication from 1992-1999. Led by Avery Brooks as Commander (later Captain) Benjamin Sisko, DS9 was set on a former Cardassian space station claimed by Starfleet, which set it apart from any Star Trek series before or since. The Dominion War storyline in DS9's final seasons pioneered serialized storytelling that was ahead of its time and DS9 made exemplary use of its sprawling cast of ancillary characters, many of whom became as fascinating and integral to the series as the main cast.

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As far as important ancillary characters go, Nog may rank as DS9's biggest success story. Originally introduced as a school chum of Sisko's young son, Jake (Cirroc Lofton), Nog was also a bartender at the bar owned by his uncle Quark (Armin Shimerman). But the diminutive Ferengi was too smart and ambitious to toil in service of his greedy uncle like his father Rom (Max Grodenchik); with the support of Commander Sisko, Nog became the first Ferengi ever to be enrolled at Starfleet Academy. To everyone's surprise, the Ferengi took to military life like gold pressed to latinum, and he soon returned to Deep Space Nine as a cadet eager to prove himself among one of the finest crews in Starfleet. Cadet Nog worked alongside DS9's senior staff and joined several missions aboard the U.S.S. Defiant, becoming a valued member of the crew.

When the Dominion War started, Nog was excited to prove himself in battle, little realizing the harrowing realities that lay ahead in the devastating conflict that cost the United Federation of Planets thousands of lives. With the exception of Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell), who was murdered by Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) at the conclusion of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 season 6, arguably no one in DS9 paid a higher price during the Dominion War than Nog. But Trekkers also watched the Ferengi grow from a dedicated cadet to an Ensign and finally to a battle-hardened Lieutenant and veteran of the Dominion War.

As far as the darkest moments of the Dominion War go, Nog's trials are equaled only by Captain Sisko's, who compromised his principles and committed a war crime in order to trick the Romulans into the war as allies of the Federation in the DS9 season 6 episode, "In The Pale Moonlight". Meanwhile, Nog would bear the emotional and physical toll of the Dominion War for the rest of his life. In the end, he triumphed and embodied the highest ideal of what a Starfleet Officer should be. But it was by no means easy for Nog, and the Ferengi survived some of the darkest chapters of the Dominion War.

Nog And Jake Sisko Survived Red Squad's Catastrophe On The U.S.S. Valiant

In the haunting Star Trek: Deep Space 9 season 6 episode, "Valiant", Nog and Jake were attacked by the Jem'Hadar and were rescued by the U.S.S. Valiant. The Defiant-class starship was crewed by Red Squad, an elite group of young Starfleet cadets introduced during DS9 season 4 while Nog was still at Starfleet Academy. Red Squad was caught behind enemy lines and all of the ranking officers aboard were killed by the Jem'Hadar. The Red Squad cadets, led by Acting Captain Tim Watters (Paul Popowich), took command of the Valiant and spent eight months waging a secret war against the Dominion.

Nog idolized Red Squad and he was thrilled when Watters made him the Valiant's Chief Engineer, which came with a battlefield promotion to Lt. Commander. But Nog and Jake soon learned that Watters was abusing stimulants and was on the edge. Worse, Watters and his fanatical Red Squad decided to embark on a dangerous mission to destroy a new Jem'Hadar weapon. Jake's objections were quickly silenced while Nog, the good soldier, followed orders despite his own reservations.

In the end, the best and brightest of Starfleet Academy completely failed their mission; the Jem'Hadar proved to be too overpowering for the Valiant and Watters got all of Red Squad killed. Only Nog, Jake, and Acting Chief Petty Officer Dorian Collins (Ashley Brianne McDonogh) survived the tragedy. After seeing two-dozen of his peers, whom he idolized, follow Watters to an early grave, Nog learned a valuable lesson about blindly following orders, especially from "a bad Captain" like Watters. But "Valiant", which didn't shy away from depicting teenagers getting themselves slaughtered, was a truly dark chapter of DS9's provocative Dominion War macro-story.

Nog Lost His Leg At The Siege Of AR-558

Even after he survived the Valiant's destruction, the worst was yet to come for Nog. The Ferengi's own personal trial-by-fire during the Dominion War happened in the DS9 season 7 episode, "The Siege of AR-558". Sisko and his crew arrived at the desolate planet AR-558 to support to a desperate group of Starfleet Officers waging a months-long standoff with the Jem'Hadar. Nog was vital because his excellent Ferengi hearing made him an ideal advance scout, but he was ambushed by Jem'Hadar and the brave Ferengi lost his leg in the assault. As Nog healed in the infirmary, his uncle Quark protected him and saved his life from the advancing enemy soldiers. Starfleet was able to win in the end, but Nog paid a dear price and he became a rare Star Trek character who was permanently disabled during the course of a series.

Vic Fontaine Helped Nog Heal And Return To Starfleet

After being fitted with a prosthetic leg, Nog returned to Deep Space Nine in the remarkable episode, "It's Only a Paper Moon". Suffering from PTSD and severe depression, Nog wasn't responding to treatment from Counselor Ezri Dax (Nicole de Boer) and the Ferengi found himself in Vic Fontaine's (James Darren) Las Vegas holosuite program. Fontaine's music was the only thing that helped Nog deal with his trauma, so Vic took the poor Ferengi under his wing and allowed him to stay in his holosuite program throughout Nog's rehabilitation.

The odd couple took the virtual Las Vegas by storm: Nog quickly became Vic's partner in his casino and he enjoyed the crooner's swinging 1960's nightclub lifestyle. For Vic's part, being with Nog allowed the sentient hologram to know what it was like to live a "real" life and feel like a living person. But, naturally, Nog couldn't stay with Vic forever, and Fontaine had to show his Ferengi pal the necessary tough love to force Nog to return to reality - which he eventually accepted. Despite (or perhaps, because of) its truly oddball premise, "It's Only a Paper Moon" was a touching and deftly-handled story about Nog coping with his PTSD and surviving that ranks high among Star Trek: DS9's finest episodes.

Once he was back in uniform, Nog returned to the war and served alongside DS9's crew until the Federation-Klingon-Romulan alliance won the Dominion War. Before he joined with the Prophets and left the temporal plane, Captain Sisko officially promoted Nog to Lieutenant, junior-grade for his exemplary service. By the end of DS9, Nog emerged from the Dominion War, perhaps the darkest chapter of Star Trek history, as a veteran and survivor who proved himself a true credit to his Starfleet uniform and everything it represents.

DS9 Season 8 Would Have Begun With Nog's Death

In the 2019 Star Trek: Deep Space retrospective documentary What We Left Behind, the series' executive producers reunited to break the story for the first episode of a prospective 8th season of DS9. Set 20 years later, Nog is now the Captain of a starship but DS9 season 8 would have begun with a mystery surrounding Nog's death. The fact that the Ferengi's demise helps reunite the original crew of DS9 only highlighted the importance of Nog.

Tragically, life imitated art when Aron Eisenberg passed away from heart failure in September 2019 at the age of 50. Like Nog was to DS9, Eisenberg was a beloved member of the Star Trek family. Eisenberg's unforgettable performance as the irrepressible Ferengi hero, just like Aron's own life, continues to be an inspiration to Star Trek fans everywhere and shows that life's seemingly impossible challenges can be overcome, just like Nog prevailed over the darkest moments of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.