Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) was, in its later years an expertly woven narrative with heart and soul. The universe was populated by a plethora of characters who we all grew to either love or vilify. Every action and nuance was expertly crafted to tell one of the greatest Trek stories in the franchise. Captain Sisko, Major Kira, Chief O’Brien and Worf were pivotal to the story and its outcome; but they weren’t alone. Each and every individual introduced on-screen played an important role. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to focus on just one. His name was Nog.
Star Trek had a way of making ordinary people great. These insignificant footnotes in Trek lore grew into bastions of all that is good and just in the universe. Nog was one such person. He grew from a petulant, scheming, rambunctious kid, to an officer and courageous fighter in the Federation. Nog was, at times, an unsung hero to many, and it’s time we recognize the first Ferengi in Starfleet.
Let’s take a step into the real world for just a moment. Nog was played by actor Aron Eisenberg. What was supposed to be a small role, blossomed into a major reoccurring arc throughout the seven-season run. On September 21st, 2019, Aron Eisenberg passed away. He was beloved by fans, friends, and family and will always be remembered the world around for his contributions to the Trek franchise.
Now, let’s focus on the character of Nog, who Eisenberg brilliantly brought to life on the small screen. When we first meet Nog in the DS9 pilot, he’s young, brash, conniving and always looking to make a few bars of latinum. Nog befriends Jake Sisko, the impressionable son of then Commander Benjamin Sisko. The two hit it off and are often getting into sticky situations. Turning self-sealing stem bolts into profit, or releasing pests into Quarks that cause itchiness and discoloration, the pair were always up to something.
The Ferengi were not the greatest of characters. First introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, they were supposed to be the main villains of the series. It quickly became apparent that they would not. The Ferengi were goofy, silly, and for all intents and purposes, boring. They had a couple of good episodes throughout TNG, but for the most part, the producers realized quickly that perhaps the Romulans were better suited for the villain mantle; until the Borg came in the picture anyway.
Skip to DS9, and the Ferengi were now front and center again. This time we had Quark, his brother Rom, and Rom’s son Nog. These three characters would be pivotal to the show, but we can talk more in-depth about Quark and Rom later.
Nog’s character arc was exceptionally well written. He was one of the first students to attend Keiko O’Brian’s school on DS9. This is significant because a Ferengi was now going to learn something other than how to make a profit. His mind was going to expand in a way people of his home planet never would or could. One could say this is the tiny ripple that pushed Nog into the man he would become. The character quickly realized that there was more than mischief and profit. Nog wanted to matter and make a difference. It wasn’t until the Dominion war that we started to see a significant change in his purpose.
Star Trek is a place where anything is possible. It’s a world where who and what you are doesn’t need to define where you go and what you do. Nog wanted more and he went for it. Petitioning Commander Sisko for an apprenticeship, Nog was eventually accepted into Starfleet. This is a defining moment, as Nog was now the first Ferengi to ever join. Cadet Nog was stationed on DS9 and worked with Chief O’Brian, excelling in all he did. This was a new Nog. Gone was the selfish money hungry child. Here was a dedicated, loyal, and humbled Starfleet cadet.
Nog was eventually wounded in battle, shot in the leg by a Jem’Hadar soldier. It was here that the writing on DS9 showed the audience why it was so unique. For the first time in a Trek series, we get to see what real war does to people. Nog was now suffering from post-traumatic stress and locked himself inside a holodeck that would keep him safe. The outside world scared him. He needed a cane (or at least he thought he did), was damaged and broken.
Nog was too afraid to face what was real, and instead, choose to remain inside a place where there was no war, there was no death. DS9 was dealing with themes of death and loss, of hopelessness and despair. It was a radical concept for a show that typically shied away from such things. It wasn’t until the holodeck program was shut off from the inside that Nog was forced to face his own realities and take steps to heal.
Nog eventually went on to recover with the help of those around him. As the show came to its rousing conclusion, Nog was front and center in helping to defeat the Dominion and win the war. The little kid who often found himself in Odo’s office was now pivotal to the history of the Federation and the survival of the Alpha Quadrant. Nog was made a lieutenant junior grade by the end of the show. In the Episode ‘The Visitor’ we get a glimpse of future Captain Nog.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is arguably the most unique show in the Trek franchise. The narrative deals with heavy themes never before explored in the oftentimes bright and “everything’s fine in the end” series of shows. We cared for every character who popped on the screen, and when they experienced loss, we experienced it as well. Nog could have been a throwaway character, but he wasn’t. We learned to love him. What Nog lacked in stature, he made up for in heart and soul. Rest in peace Aron Eisenberg, you and the character you brought to life will remain forever in the hearts and minds of Trek fans.