Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Deep SpaceNine, Season 7: It's Only A Paper Moon

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDeep Space Nine, Season 7
"It's Only A Paper Moon"
Airdate: December 30, 1998
158 of 173 produced
158 of 173 aired


Nog returns to DS9 after receiving a replacement leg and convalescing with Starfleet medical. But some of his less outwardly apparent wounds still need healing, and he retreats to the holosuite as a result.

Huh huh huh. Fire! Huh huh huh.


Matthew: Okay, so this is definitely the best Vic Fontaine episode. So there's that. But is that a great feat? I definitely liked the notion of seeing Vic Fontaine's suite at the casino, and the notion of someone retreating into the holodeck after a PTSD experience makes a ton of sense for the technology. But with that said, there are a number of things that nag me about this story. Would someone receiving medical leave for a mental issue really be given carte blanche to choose their own rehabilitation? Would Quark really foot the bill for this? Why is Nog even rooming with Jake in the first place? It's been years since they were roommates, and it seems like a bad idea for such a recovery. Also, I feel like Nog was too immediately dour within the episode. I would have preferred that he put up a front initially only to let things seep through the cracks. I also found Nog's moods really uneven - he seemed to be in a smashing mood when Vic gave him his new cane, but then minutes later he was a complete putz to Jake and his date.

Kevin: I agree that how he gets there is a little tortured (and now you know how I feel when the law gets brought up), but once we're there, I like the ideas this episode raises. We've seen characters retreat into fantasy in the holodeck, like Barclay, but this is retreating into an alternate reality. With Barclay, the characters and events are outsized. I can't but imagine the program jumps from one to the the other instantly, if only because what could the plot actually be? Here, Nog spends the night. He ends up doing bookkeeping. He watches TV. Maybe it's just that I just binged "Westworld," so the idea of immersive fiction is on my mind. but this holodeck episode posits the escapist possibilities of a fine grained realistic world rather than the glossy distractions of a fake one. Sure, he's living a fairly rarefied life for the time, but it's not facially impossible. In other fantasy episodes, or, say the Nexus, we've both tagged a universe for being so perfect, it would have to fail any close inspection. Here, it has a decent shot. I wish they had spent a little more time with that idea, and maybe explore if other people have done something similar. I mean, what if you could flawlessly recreate a world, your world, except you were still dating your last significant other, or you had gotten that promotion. I can see an appeal to that even stronger than a world in which you are Superman, and on some level, always know that the story can't be real. As for his behavior, like Picard's in "First Contact," I found it pretty in line with what I know about PTSD and it's related mood swings and decidedly non-linear path to recovery.

Matthew: Criticism aside, I generally enjoyed how the plot progressed. I thought the episode did an OK job of making Vic Fontaine a bit more interesting and a bit less flummoxing that previous episodes. His approach to Nog made sense - he is a program trying to make a user happy (if you'll excuse the Tron-speak), but he has limitations in terms of understanding. Ezri's gentle prodding made sense in getting Nog's "therapy" to progress in the right direction. Nog's rationale for wanting to stay made sense - craving stability. I enjoyed the classic television and the costumes. With that said, I frankly would have liked it a lot if some time had been given to Nog's human-phile tendencies. Why is he so invested in a human historical fantasy? Starfleet? Western movies? It almost seems self-hating, or at least something that would offend a guy like Quark.

Kevin: The highlight of the episode far and away is Nog's breakdown at the end. It was honest and blunt, but despite doing it while crying, it never felt over the top. I tend to treat for obvious reasons as closely related to The Siege of AR-558. That episode was unflinching in exploring the horrors of fighting, this one the continued problems of living. Because I tend to respond more to talking about feeling that action sequences, I honestly prefer this half of the pair, personally. The arc of Nog's emotions all really made sense. It easily outclasses the war movies he would have been watching in Vic's room. Honestly. I found it so genuine and interesting, I could easily forgive any artificiality to the set up that got him there. I couldn't help but think of Picard confessing that Madred had in fact broken him in "Chain of Command." I remain both entertained and delighted that the show lets the character be less than perfect enough to have a difficult time facing their mortality.

Matthew: Should I just let my questions about Vic Fontaine go? Is he sentient? If he is, how many other holograms are? And if he is, then is staying with a sentient being really a waste of life for a biological being? Overall, I wasn't a big fan of the lampshade-hanging they did on these question (e.g. "I'm an engineer, not a philosopher"). I would have liked more to be said about holo-addiction and the effect this technology has on humanity (and aliens, too).

Kevin: I'm just going to write a brief paragraph on this issue and start Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V whenever Vic or the Doctor comes up. Because these issues were raised in service of an interesting story and an interesting character in Nog, I can be a little more sanguine about them. When we raise the terrifying prospect that the being we create to recreationally kill or have sex with may be sentient (hello, again, Westworld) for no other purpose than Ira Steven Behr likes this era of music and decor, that is less successful.


Matthew: I have been annoyed by willful story deficiencies when Vic Fontaine is featured in an episode. I have not, however, been annoyed by James Darren's portrayal. He's definitely cool and charming, and he can handle the level of Trek dialogue he is given. I really enjoyed his interactions with Nog and Ezri, and believed the unique position he was in being given Nog's care.

Kevin: Yeah, he really nails this fine line of being an outsider, but being game for whatever is happening in the story. He also finessed the references to the 60s and Vegas. A lesser performance would have really overstressed the reference to Sammy Davis Jr. and he steered well clear of that.

Matthew: I like Aaron Eisenberg, a lot. But I was not in love with the acting job here. To be sure, some of it was the script, and some of it was the subject matter. But mainly I found Nog dour and annoying. Would a soldier returning him from war with mental and physical wounds be dour and annoying? Sure. But realism doesn't make it fun to watch. Nicole DeBoer does an interesting job mixing her sort of mousy Ezri persona with the demands of her counseling role. I think she strikes a good balance - it was subtle and fun to see her professionalism peek out of her shy demeanor.

Kevin: I take your point that in scenes like the ones with Jake, he was annoying, but I found his ultimate catharsis to be quite effective. Especially in episodes like "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River," he did a really good job selling his enthusiasm at having a job to do and doing it well, so seeing that be broken down and reformed as someone more mature, was interesting and enjoyable to watch.

Production Values

Matthew: Vic Fontaine's suite sure seems like a re-use of Bashir's secret agent pad. But hey, it works. I loved the props, like the television, the bar, the furniture. There were some really nice little details, too. The blanket with the satin edge should be a nice cue to anyone who has ever stayed at grandma's house in their lifetime - it is such a quintessential home furnishing from the mid twentieth century.

Kevin: Second only to the times the show was staging the then contemporary world, like "The Voyage Home" or "Future's End" have they managed such depth with the decor. Part of it was probably understanding that they would come back to this, so they should shell out the cash to do it right. The rest was probably the raw enthusiasm the creators clearly have for the era. Let me say that they are not my favorite color schemes of all time, but I can't say they aren't period appropriate.


Matthew: I'm going with a 3 on this one. I was consistently annoyed by the punting on Vic Fontaine philosophical questions, and I found Nog a bit off-putting. But I enjoyed the setting, Darren's performance, and the look into holo-addicition and PTSD.

Kevin: This is a 4, almost a 5 for me. Had they really dug into a broader point about holodeck, and retreating into fantasy and just what the hell Vic is, this would easily be a five. In the end though, I felt for Nog and his experience, and that is the mark of a successful episode. That makes a seven from us.

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