It's Only a Paper Moon (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

"It's Only a Paper Moon" is the 160th episode of the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the tenth episode of the seventh season. Directed by Anson Williams, the episode was written by Ronald D. Moore and based on a pitch by David Mack and John J. Ordover, who had previously written "Starship Down" from season 4.

"It's Only a Paper Moon"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode
Episode no.Season 7
Episode 10
Directed byAnson Williams
Story byDavid Mack[1]
John J. Ordover
Teleplay byRonald D. Moore
Featured musicJay Chattaway
Production code560
Original air dateDecember 30, 1998 (1998-12-30)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Prodigal Daughter"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (season 7)
List of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes

The episode serves as a sequel to "The Siege of AR-558" (S7E8), with Nog suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and phantom pain following the loss of his leg.


After having his leg replaced after a battle injury (in "The Siege of AR-558"), and following months of rehabilitation at Starbase 235, Nog returns to Deep Space 9. He suffers flashbacks of his injury and feels pain in his new leg, even though the doctors do not detect any physical pain stimuli. The crew greets him warmly and intends to throw him a party, but Nog instead secludes himself in his quarters, sleeping most of the day and listening to a recording by Vic Fontaine of "I'll Be Seeing You" on repeat. When Jake becomes fed up with the constant repetition, Nog seeks out Vic in Quark's holosuite. After hearing Vic perform the song in every arrangement he knows, Nog convinces Vic to allow him to stay in his suite at the hotel for the night. Nog then decides to stay long-term, and with some disagreement among the senior staff, as well as Nog's family, and with assurances from Vic of his ability to help, counselor Ezri Dax consents to the idea to see where it leads.

Vic and Nog bond quickly, but at the expense of Nog's relations with his friends and family; he gets in a fight with Jake and a meeting with his father Rom and stepmother Leeta is short and awkward. Vic and Nog continue to grow closer, and as a Ferengi, Nog is happy to help Vic with his finances, and even recommends Vic expand his business. The two plan to build a new casino, and as Nog becomes more confident, he relies less and less on his cane. Ezri, impressed by Vic's results, reminds him that Nog needs to leave soon; Vic had been enjoying himself so much that he had forgotten Nog was there for rehabilitation. Vic then urges Nog to leave, and when he refuses, Vic self-terminates the program, forcing Nog back into the real world.

Nog attempts to restart the holosuite, but Miles O'Brien, having detected his efforts from Ops, explains to Nog that Vic can prevent his own program from starting. O'Brien tells Nog that everyone misses him before leaving him alone. Vic then appears, and Nog finally admits the emotional trauma his injury caused and his fear of death; Vic counters that if he stays in the holosuite, he'll still die, "not all at once, but little by little". Nog returns to limited duty but convinces Quark to leave the program running all the time to return the favor to Vic and to give him a chance at a "real" life.


The episode derives its name from the 1933 song of the same name.

The episode was initially written by David Mack and John J. Ordover; they initially pitched the episode as "Everybody Comes to Quark's" and sold it alongside what would later become the season 4 episode "Starship Down". The original episode was set entirely in Quark's bar, following three separate storylines. The plot "sort of bounced around the writers room for a couple of years", before it was set to following Nog's loss of his leg and relocated to Quark's Vic Fontaine holosuite program. Mack and Ordover were hired to rewrite the story to account for these changes, and Ronald D. Moore further rewrote. Moore removed the second and third storylines as he felt they interfered with the dramatic impact of Nog's PTSD.[2] Keith DeCandido, a close friend of both Mack and Ordover, noted in his rewatch of this episode in 2016 that he was slightly disappointed that so little remained of the original pitch, writing that "there are some gems in the original that the world has seriously missed out on" (although he still rated the episode a 9/10).[2]

Aron Eisenberg, who plays Nog, has stated that this episode is his personal favorite.[citation needed] He mentioned in several interviews that after the episode aired, wounded combat veterans and VSOs (Veteran Service Organizations) contacted and praised him for his realistic portrayal of the psychological trauma of being severely wounded in battle and the resulting loss of a limb, a trauma which often lasts far longer than the physical injury itself.[3]

Vic and Nog preferring The Searchers over Shane is a minor in-joke, since The Searchers featured Jeffrey Hunter, who played Captain Christopher Pike in the Star Trek: The Original Series first pilot episode, "The Cage".[2]


Cultural referencesEdit

Vic gives Nog a fictional cane similar to one Errol Flynn once used, to replace Nog's Starfleet-issued cane. Vic also refers to being "bigger than Elvis" had Julian Bashir become his publicist. Vic and Nog watch two 1950s films, The Searchers and Shane, and prefer the former.[2]

Vic Fontaine sings "I'll Be Seeing You" (which also appeared in "The Siege of AR-558"), "Just in Time", "I've Got the World on a String", and "It's Only a Paper Moon".[2]

Critical responseEdit

Keith DeCandido, writing for, believed it to be a superb episode, writing that it's "a testament to the strength of DS9's ensemble that it can give over an entire story to two characters who aren't even opening-credits regulars and make it one of the show's most compelling hours". He gave the episode a "warp factor rating" of 9/10, removing a point due to Ezri Dax's incompetence as a counselor, and because of how much of the original "Everybody Comes to Quark's" pitch was removed (see § Production above).[2]

Jamahl Epsicokhan of Jammer's Reviews gave the episode 3.5/4 stars. He praised Nog's "vivid, believable character evolution" which complemented his growth throughout the series and summarized it as "one of the most effective "small" DS9 stories in quite some time." In addition, Epsicokhan enjoyed the mystery behind Vic Fontaine in regards to his sentience and own growing character development, pointing out the scene in which Nog asks Vic, "When you sleep, do you dream?" and Vic avoiding the question.[4]

The A.V. Club's Zack Handlen conversely disliked the unexplored implications of Vic's consciousness, especially as the episode featured him significantly more than previous episodes. He also somewhat disliked Nog's posttraumatic stress disorder being solved in the space of one episode. However, Handlen noted how Nog's PTSD "has some real edges to it, and [how] some aspects of it should be familiar to anyone who's suffered a period of severe depression". He lauded Aron Eisenberg's acting and, in contrast to DeCandido's review, referred to Ezri's counseling as "not terrible". While he wished that the writers hadn't "taken the easy way out in the end with the magical all-knowing computer program", he found the ending (in which Nog arranges to keep Vic's program running all day) "sweet".[5]

Based on user ratings, "It's Only a Paper Moon" holds an 8.3/10 on[6] and an 8.0/10 on IMDb.[7]

A 2015 binge-watching guide for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by W.I.R.E.D. recommended not skipping this essential episode.[8]

In 2016, SyFy ranked this the 4th best holodeck episode of the Star Trek franchise.[9]

In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter ranked this episode as the 14th best of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.[10] They note that it follows up on some of the events of "The Siege of AR-558", which they had ranked as 15th best of the series.[11] They rated the episode the 56th best episode of all Star Trek episodes to-date.[12] In 2019, CBR ranked this the 8th best holodeck-themed episode of all Star Trek franchise episodes up to that time.[13]

In 2019, ranked "It's Only a Paper Moon" the sixth best episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.[14] They note it focuses on Nog's recovery from a war experience with the help of the holographic Vic Fontaine character.[15]

In 2019, ScreenRant ranked this the number one episode, in a top ten review for the character Nog, noting how he had recover from his time in combat.[16]


  1. ^'s%20Only%20a%20Paper%20Moon%20(Star%20Trek%3A%20Deep%20Space%20Nine)&f=false
  2. ^ a b c d e f DeCandido, Keith (December 30, 2014). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: "It's Only a Paper Moon"". Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  3. ^ What We Left Behind – Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (2018)
  4. ^ Epsicokhan, Jamahl. "[DS9] Jammer's Review: "It's Only a Paper Moon"". Jammer's Reviews. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  5. ^ Handlen, Zack (March 6, 2014). ""It's Only a Paper Moon"/"Prodigal Daughter"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  6. ^ "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Season 7, Episode 10: It's Only a Paper Moon". Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  7. ^ ""Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" It's Only a Paper Moon (TV Episode 1998)". IMDb. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  8. ^ McMillan, Graeme (2015-05-13). "WIRED Binge-Watching Guide: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  9. ^ Granshaw, Lisa (2016-10-05). "From baseball to Sherlock Holmes: The top 10 Star Trek holodeck episodes". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  10. ^ "'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' — The 20 Greatest Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  11. ^ "'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' — The 20 Greatest Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  12. ^ Hollywood Reporter 'Star Trek': 100 Greatest Episodes
  13. ^ "Star Trek: Ranking the 20 Best Holodeck Episodes". CBR. 2019-01-04. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  14. ^ "The 10 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine'". Star Trek. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  15. ^ "The 10 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine'". Star Trek. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  16. ^ "Star Trek: 10 Best Nog Episodes, Ranked". ScreenRant. 2019-09-29. Retrieved 2019-10-28.

External linksEdit