Pictured is Aaron Eisenberg as Nog on Star Trek Deep Space Nine . Photo credit Wikipedia
"That's right. I want to be the first Ferengi in Starfleet. Now. Who do I see about getting a uniform?"
Nog, "Heart of Stone", Star Trek Deep Space Nine
Nog is one of the most interesting characters ever to appear in Star Trek. He was the first Ferengi to join Starfleet and a prominent figure who served onboard Deep Space Nine and the USS Defiant during the Dominion War. Nog was played by Aron Eisenberg who passed away recently on 21 September 2019 at the age of 50. Aron was most well known for his portrayal of Nog. Nog was one of my favourite characters on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. In honour of Aron's memory, here are 10 Ways Nog (and Aron) helped to Changed Ferengi in Star Trek.
1. His friendship with Jake helped to improve relations between Ferengi and Humans
Nog moved to Deep Space Nine with his father Rom when it was called Terok Nor and being occupied by the Cardassians. After the Cardassians withdrew, Nog and Rom were still living on the station when Starfleet arrived to administer it. Not long after, Nog met Jake Sisko, the young son of the new station commander. As there were only a few children living on the station at the time, the two boys quickly struck up a friendship. This proved controversial among their families.
Jake's father, Commander Benjamin Sisko, disapproved of his son's friendship with Nog because he thought he was a bad influence on him. Nog was a delinquent and a petty thief at the time who often got into scrapes with station security. Nog's family were distrustful of Nog spending so much time around "hew-mons". Despite their differences, Jake and Nog became close friends, and spent a lot of time having adventures around the station playing pranks.
They were both eventually enrolled in a school run by Keiko O'Brien to keep them out of mischief. Rom disapproved of Nog going to a human school, so he pulled him out. This upset Jake because he knew Nog belonged in school because he couldn't read. He was also worried that if Nog isn't in school with him he won't want to be friends with him because Ferengi and Humans typically don't get along. His father agrees and tells him that Ferengi and Human values are very different. He suggests that Jake could still spend time with Nog after school, but Jake has other ideas. He goes behind his father's back and starts secretly tutoring Nog how to read. After seeing this, Commander Sisko decides to let the two boys stay friends. Jake and Nog's friendship strengthens over the years and has a positive impact on both of their families, helping to bring them closer and to shed misconceptions that Ferengi and Humans cannot be friends and share the same values.
2. Nog's decision to enter Star Fleet forced other characters to re-think racial stereotypes they had about Ferengi.
In the season three episode 'Heart of Stone' Nog brings Commander Sisko a large stack of latinum and tells him that according to Ferengi culture, he is now an adult, and per their traditions he would like to purchase an apprenticeship from him and become the first Ferengi Starfleet officer. Commander Sisko explains it doesn't work that way, if he wants to become an officer, he will have to graduate from Starfleet Academy, but Nog cannot enrol without a letter of reference from a command level officer because he is not a Federation citizen.
Nog asks if Commander Sisko will provide the reference, but Sisko is hesitant. He is sceptical of Nog's motives and thinks he is plotting something, because in his mind, why would a Ferengi ever want to join Starfleet? Where's the profit in it? He isn't the only one who doubts him. Jake thinks Nog is joking and Jadzia Dax is as sceptical of him as Commander Sisko is. Nog is given a cargo bay inventory to complete as a test to see if he is hard working. Sisko and Dax expect him to do a poor job and to steal something, but Nog doesn't steal a thing and completes the job in record time. Dax is encouraged by this, but Sisko still turns Nog down for a reference, because he doesn't trust him.
This leads to a confrontation between Sisko and Nog, which causes Nog to lose his composure. He tearfully tells Commander Sisko that he wants to join Starfleet because he doesn't want to end up like his father, Rom, who is a mechanical genius and could have been a Chief Engineer, but he went into business like a good Ferengi to try and make profit because that was what was expected of him. Rom doesn't have the lobes for business, and neither does Nog, which is why he wants to do something worth while with his life like join Starfleet.
His honesty stuns Sisko, who realises he had been unfair to Nog, and he had been letting his racial prejudices about Ferengi interfere with his final decision. He agrees to give Nog his reference. The episode ends with an overjoyed Nog telling his family about Commander Sisko supporting his decision to join Starfleet. Quark is firmly against the idea, but Rom wishes his son good luck and tells him he would be very proud if Nog became the first Ferengi in Starfleet. This episode demonstrates the negative feelings that many people within Starfleet have toward Ferengi. What makes Star Trek: Deep Space Nine such a good show is how it explores that racial prejudice and forces the characters to confront their bias.
3. Nog proved that Ferengi can care about things other than profit
Pictured is Aaron Eisenberg as Captain Nog from an alternative future. Photo credit Wikipedia.
The Ferengi are a fictional alien species that were introduced in Star Trek in 1987 as part of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ferengi first appeared in an episode called 'The Last Outpost' which aired as part of the show's first season. The idea for the Ferengi came from Gene Roddenberry and Herb Wright. The Ferengi are known for having oversized ears called lobes and for being obsessed with making profit.
The Ferengi have been criticised by some for being defined by their greed and mirroring anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featured several reoccurring Ferengi characters which allowed the writers on the show to explore the Ferengi race and their culture in a lot of different ways.
The main Ferengi characters on Deep Space Nine were Quark, Rom and Nog. The writers of Deep Space Nine did a really good job fleshing out Quark, Rom and Nog's lives over the show's seven seasons. The decision to make Nog pursue a career in Starfleet flew in the face of the stereotype that Ferengi only cared about profit. Nog's desire to join Starfleet exposed racial discrimination that existed within Starfleet toward Ferengi. Nog's success within Starfleet made him a positive role model to other Ferengi who did not care about chasing profit. In the year 2396 four more Fereng enrolled at Starfleet Academy eager to follow his example.
4. He worked hard and earned the respect of others
Nog (Aron Eisenberg), Major Kira (Nana Visitor) and Lieutenant Commander Dax (Terry Farrell) work together to analyze an audio message. Photo credit Wikipedia.
A lot of people within Starfleet see the Ferengi as being motivated by greed, which is viewed as a bad thing, but Aron Eisenberg had a different view of them. He didn't think the Ferengi were greedy for wanting to make profit. He saw them as people who are excellent at setting goals for themselves and then working very hard to achieve them. When a Ferengi decides he wants to do something, he doesn't let anything stop him from achieving his goal. His whole life becomes devoted to achieving that thing, it becomes the centre of his life, and Aron admired that. He used that point of view to help him with his portrayal of Nog struggling to succeed within Starfleet. Once Nog decides he wants to join Starfleet, he doesn't let anything distract him from his goal. He takes it very seriously, and works very hard to get into the Academy, and to earn the respect of his fellow officers. Aron's positive view of the Ferengi really helped Nog to grow as a character.
5. His realistic portrayal of a wounded combat veteran struggling to get over the loss of a limb struck a cord with fans who have been through a similar trauma.
After Nog graduated from Starfleet Academy, he fought in the Dominion War. Nog was present at the Siege of AR-558. It was during that battle he was injured by the Jem'Hadar and lost a leg. In the episode 'It's Only a Paper Moon', Nog returns to Deep Space Nine after being fitted with a prosthetic leg.
The impact of his injury leaves Nog struggling with emotional and physical turmoil, so he retreats into a 1962 Las Vegas holodeck program occupied by a sentient holodeck character named Vic Fontaine to cope. Once inside Vic's program, Nog decides he doesn't want to leave. He feels more comfortable in the holodeck because it allows him to escape from real life. Nog's family and friends are tolerant of him hiding in the holodeck for a while, but eventually put pressure on Vic to encourage Nog to leave. When Vic tells Nog he wants him to leave, Nog breaks down. It is the defining moment of the episode and Aron Eisenberg's most powerful scene. Nog tells Vic how he saw a lot of combat and it has changed him, but losing his leg scared him greatly, because he never thought that anything would ever happen to him. He used to think there was glory or heroism fighting in war, but now he is just scared, because he knows he is not invulnerable.
Aron Eisenberg commented that after the episode aired he was approached by real life combat veterans who complimented him on his performance and told him that Nog's reaction to getting injured was extremely true to life. 'It's Only a Paper Moon' is a fantastic Nog episode. I really like how this episode treats Nog and his situation as a serious one instead of using it as an excuse for laughs.
6. Nog showed that he could use his Ferengi skills (and his lobes) to aide him in his career as a Star Fleet officer in a positive way.
After Nog returns to Deep Space Nine from Starfleet Academy, he has to work hard to prove himself as a cadet. He has a lot to overcome, with many people still distrustful and sceptical of him serving in Starfleet, due to his past as a petty thief and the racial stereotypes that people have about Ferengi. But Nog adapts well to being in Starfleet and manages to use his Ferengi skills and instincts to help him in his Starfleet career. He uses his large ears, which are powerful enough to detect electronic distortion, the decibel level of sound and atmospheric and altitude changes, to help his fellow officers in several episodes. He always has a very Ferengi way of thinking, which can mean breaking the rules sometimes, but Nog is willing to take that risk if it will get the result that he wants.
Nog is often called an example of a 'Good Ferengi' because he uses the same lust and energy Ferengi use to make profit and a good deal, to benefit his Starfleet career. A good example of Nog incorporating his Ferengi ideals into his Starfleet career can be seen in the episode 'Treachery, Faith and the Great River'. In Starfleet you have to do things a certain way, with rules and channels you have to go down, but Nog thinks that is too restrictive. He attacks problems like a Ferengi.
In 'Treachery, Faith and the Great River' Chief O'Brien needs to get his hands on a part to fix a problem on the USS. Defiant, but is facing a three week wait. Nog offers to help him find it sooner, which leads them both down the Great Material Continuum. Nog is a believer in the Great Material Continuum, which Ferengi believe is a force that flows through the universe like a river, connecting people with the things they want to purchase. Nog makes a series of bargains and deals, which break a bunch of Starfleet's rules, but eventually delivers the missing part O'Brien needs to fix the Defiant.
'Treachery, Faith and the Great River' is a great episode because it shows that even though Nog is in Starfleet, he still thinks and acts like a Ferengi, and his instincts can sometimes be right on the latinum. I really like how Nog teaches O'Brien about Ferengi culture in this episode, and gets him to see things from his perspective, and to appreciate his people's view point of how the universe works.
7. He made his father proud
Nog (Aaron Eisenberg) and his father Rom (Max Grodénchik) shake hands. Photo credit Wikipedia.
One of the reasons I love Star Trek: Deep Space Nine so much is the show has a terrific cast and some of the best writing and character development ever featured in a Star Trek series. When we are first introduced to Nog, he is running from station security and seems destined for a life of crime.
When Nog becomes friends with Jake Sisko, you can understand why Commander Sisko is against the friendship in the beginning, because Nog seems a bad influence on Jake and a distraction from his future Starfleet career. But that wasn't what ended up happening. The writers went in a different direction. Jake decided not to follow in his father's footsteps and follow his own path and so did Nog. Jake became a journalist and Nog turned his life around and became the model Starfleet officer Commander Sisko had hoped Jake would become.
I really liked that they made that decision. We got to see Jake get out from under his father's shadow and choose a career that suited him and we got to see Nog go from an illiterate, small time criminal to a distinguished Starfleet officer. Nog's journey is inspirational because we see him escape from a life where he felt trapped and make his own choices. He succeeds where people will think he will fail and works hard to prove he has what it takes to be a good Starfleet officer. Instead of being a bad influence on Jake, it is Jake and Starfleet who is a good influence on him, helping him to realise he do something worth while with his life.
8. He inspired his father to achieve greater things
When Nog's father, Rom, was first introduced on the show he was a typical Ferengi. He didn't want Nog to mix with humans or go to a human school. He was as mean as his brother Quark and just as devious. But over time, Rom softened, and became kinder and more open-minded to other ideas. When Nog announced that he wanted to join Starfleet, Rom supported him and defended his choice to Quark. This was a big change from earlier in the show when Rom had to be talked into letting his son get an education.
In the episode 'Bar Association' Rom gets sick of working for Quark and organises an employee strike. Rom ends the strike after Quark agrees to give into his commands and then, inspired by Nog, quits his job at the bar and accepts a position on Chief O'Brien's maintenance team as a junior grade Diagnostic and Repair Technician. Rom is very pleased with his new job and excited to be working alongside Nog. I love the relationship between Rom and Nog. Rom goes from not caring that much about his son, to being so invested in his future he decides to make changes in his own life, so that he can be more like him.
9. He demanded to be treated with respect
When Nog announces that he wants to become a Starfleet Officer, there are many people who do not believe that he is serious, including Jake who tells his father Commander Sisko that he was under the impression the whole thing was a joke. This angers Nog, because he is serious about joining Starfleet, more serious than he has ever been about anything else in his life. Nog goes after his goal of getting into Starfleet with the same mind-set and determination the Ferengi use to succeed in business. Greed, deceit, distrust and opportunism are all highly praised ethics among Ferengi, and are represented in the Rules of Acquisition. But not every Ferengi, like Nog, shares and believes in those ideas, and some have different priorities in life. Nog is eventually able to prove that he is serious about joining Starfleet and gets people to see him as a hard working individual and not as a greedy, deceitful Ferengi.
10. He did what he wanted instead of what was expected of him
Aaron Eisenberg playing a young Nog at the beginning of the series. Photo credit Wikipedia
In Nog's culture Ferengi males like him are expected to grow up and go into business to make profit like a good Ferengi. The belief that all Ferengi males must go into business is so deeply ingrained into Ferengi society, the very idea that a Ferengi could want to make a different choice, is almost unthinkable.
Nog's journey from a kid getting up to mischief on a space station to a distinguished Starfleet officer against the wishes of his family, is something that a lot of people can identify with. It takes Nog a lot of courage to stand up to his family and to turn his back on Ferengi tradition. His Uncle Quark is very against the idea and goes to great lengths to try and stop Nog from achieving his dream, but Nog prevails, with the help of his father Rom, who couldn't be prouder of him. Nog is an aspiration to anyone who has ever wanted something more, to be different from their family, and to be their own person.
Nog was a great Star Trek character who was brought to life by a very talented man who will be greatly missed.