Nog takes a similar journey in “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” His war injury causes him to want to withdraw from his whole life, including the life in Starfleet that he fought so hard to attain. He even threatens to resign his commission if Ezri won’t agree to allow him to take his medical leave in the holosuite. Nog doesn’t plan on this retreat. Jake tells him to go to the holosuite if he wants to keep listening to “I’ll be Seeing You” over and over. In that way, his journey to the fantasy world is almost as unplanned as Sisko’s. Through his experience, he too learns to push past his fears and pain and pursue his future in Starfleet and on Deep Space Nine.
What’s intriguing about the interplay between the two episodes is how different they feel from one another, despite their similarities. In his story, Sisko is Alice in Wonderland who has forgotten being Alice at all. In Nog’s story, his investment in the fantasy is more deliberate. He too loses himself in a particular epoch of American history (in this case, the 1960s instead of the 1950s), but of his own free will. And, while Sisko, now Benny Russell, yearns for something he seems to almost remember, but can’t quite touch, Nog seeks to avoid his memories and his other life. Sisko is struggling to find himself, while Nog just wants to get lost. Benny Russell wants badly to wake up from his reality into a dream that seems more real. Nog wants to stay dreaming so reality won’t catch up with him.
But “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” like “Far Beyond the Stars,” is about so much more than the dichotomy of fantasy and reality. It’s about what it means to have a soul and what it is to live without one. For more on that, see my latest post in Reel World Theology’s Trektember 2019 or click the image below.
You can also read my tribute to Aron Eisenberg right here.