In Praise of Nog: How the Late Aron Eisenberg Embodied One of Star Treks Most Memorable Characters - Christ and Pop Culture

On September 21, Aron Eisenberg handed away at age 50. Whereas maybe little recognized elsewhere, in science fiction circles the diminutive Eisenberg stood bigger than life. Throughout the 1990s, he took what may need appeared a thankless function as an obnoxious teenager in Star Trek: Deep Area 9 and helped craft it into one of the crucial memorable points of a sequence that many now regard as the most effective within the franchise. Because the adolescent Ferengi Nog, Eisenberg reminded viewers that energy of character will be discovered within the unlikeliest of locations.

The Star Trek universe isnt all the time form to actors depicting kids. When Gene Roddenberry tried to create a younger model of himself for his family-friendly Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Subsequent Era, the end result was Wesley Crusher, the function that might hang-out actor Wil Wheaton for years (till The Large Bang Concept allowed him to exorcise these private demons). Star Trek: Deep Area 9 was the third canonical sequence, and the primary to emerge after Roddenberrys loss of life. It was a distinct path from the earlier exhibits, with extra serialized storytelling, and its place on a much less cellular settingthe eponymous station, Deep Area 9gave the writers an opportunity to take a look at people who, although nonetheless in house, had been extra grounded in a way of place.

From second-rate would-be entrepreneur to brave, self-sacrificial (but nonetheless susceptible) hero, Aron Eisenbergs portrayal of his characters journey retains worth.Elementary to this understanding was Avery Brookss Commander Benjamin Sisko, the primary African American Trek lead, and the primary commanding officer we acquired to see who was additionally a father. A single father or mother to younger Jake (Cirroc Lofton), Sisko took on a home function that was seemingly unthinkable for Captains Kirk or Picard, married as they had been to their respective ships. Jake was on the cusp of younger maturity, and the writers wanted his dad to wrestle with the results of a possible unhealthy affect within the less-regulated frontier surroundings of Deep Area 9. That affect got here within the type of Eisenbergs Nog.

In portraying a Ferengi, Eisenberg was already beginning in a contentious scenario. Star Trek: The Subsequent Era had initially arrange the large-lobed, crooked-toothed Ferengi to be the first nemeses for the Enterprise-D, now that the once-hostile Klingons had develop into uneasy allies of the Federation. Gene Roddenberrys Trek imaginative and prescient within the 80s was extra UNcosmopolitan than his distinctly American-flavored absorb The Authentic Sequence, and so the avaricious capitalistic Ferengi began because the go-to villains. However regardless of a mysterious build-up within the early episodes, they proved extra comedian than menacing. The Subsequent Era would finally transfer on to extra threatening adversaries, such because the scheming Romulans, the fascist Cardassians, and, after all, the ruthless Borg.

Deep Area 9 grew to become the nexus of an try to nuance viewers notion of the Ferengi, moderately than merely discarding them or utilizing them solely for comedic functions. This got here first within the type of Quark, Nogs uncle and a bartender on Deep Area 9s civilian promenade. Quark was performed by Armin Shimerman, who had starred as one of many first Ferengi ever seen within the early Subsequent Era days. Whereas Shimerman and DS9s writers allowed Quark a completely three-dimensional character arc, he remained at coronary heart a real Ferengi, devoted to profit-seeking in response to his peoples spiritual scripture, the Guidelines of Acquisition. It was in Quarks brother Rom (Max Grodnchek) and Roms son Nog that audiences started to see how far more the grasping Ferengi may very well be able to.

Within the early seasons, Nog was nonetheless used largely for the sake of comedian reduction, as he and Jake acquired one another into hassle. This hassle usually got here of their makes an attempt to emulate their function fashions, Jake making an attempt to comply with within the footsteps of his father the Starfleet officer, Nog making an attempt to indicate off his would-be enterprise acumen. Their scenes had been virtually all the time a part of a subsidiary storyline, however labored partly as a result of pure chemistry between Lofton and Eisenberg. This was notably exceptional given the stunning age gapthough the ever-growing Lofton shortly shot up previous six ft, he was virtually a decade youthful than Eisenberg (who remained 5 ft in peak throughout his grownup life).

Loyal Deep Area 9 viewers will bear in mind when every thing modified: the third-season episode Coronary heart of Stone. As soon as once more, it was imagined to be simply one other B-plotthe main storyline targeted on what was itself a pivotal second, when the forlorn Constable Odo (Rene Auberjonois) confessed his unrequited love for Main Kira (Nana Customer). But for a lot of followers, this vital occasion was eclipsed by what appeared a stunning and virtually ludicrous growth: Nogs insistence that he wished to affix Starfleet. I think that as Coronary heart of Stone performed out, loads of viewers shared my very own preliminary reactionskepticism. Absolutely this was simply one other one-off subplot, designed to mine Nogs psyche a bit additional however to not impact lasting change. Absolutely Nog didnt actually need to be in Starfleet; the writers wouldnt let that occur would they?

It seems that there was a psychological issue involvedNog wished to keep away from the failures of his father, a genius held again by his naturally obsequious temperament and a Ferengi tradition that undervalued his skill-set. However the writers didnt see these private motivations as trigger to dismiss Nogs wishes, and in the long run, Commander Sisko did certainly suggest him. I used to be greater than somewhat shocked on the end result, however not as shocked as I may need been, for one easy motive: Aron Eisenbergs efficiency.

What Eisenberg dropped at the desk was a ubiquitous earnestness. When portraying Nog early on as a youthful teenager, Eisenberg by no means let audiences neglect what we adults so usually dohow severe the trivialities of adolescent life appear to adolescents. All the things from a infantile prank to a quest in quest of self-sealing stem bolts appeared to be of preeminent significance. Even their enjoyable was seriousthis was, certainly, a part of the humor. However by no means earlier than had Eisenberg so completely marshaled that present for representing excessive seriousnessthese had been the identical feelings, but someway totally different. Nog, we knew, actually meant enterprise.

Eisenberg was involved that Coronary heart of Stone meant hed be out of a job, his character packed mild years away on Earth. However finally, the alternative proved true: as a cadet, and later as an ensign, Nog served underneath Sisko within the unfolding Dominion Struggle saga. Eisenberg and Lofton started depicting characters who stayed associates at the same time as their lives crossed reverse paths: Jake Sisko eschewed Starfleet to develop into a civilian author, whereas Nog deserted his cultures obsession with revenue for responsibility and sacrifice within the service throughout fight.

That growth allowed Deep Area 9 to discover subjects by no means earlier than actually broached within the Star Trek universe. Gene Roddenberry had been reluctant to permit his writers even one episode to discover the trauma Captain Picard confronted after his assimilation into the Borg in The Subsequent Era. However ever the darkest Trek incarnation, Deep Area 9 explored much more brutal territory in The Siege of AR-558, when Starfleet explorers actually grew to become troopers. On this episode, Nogs responsibility led to severe damage, and his leg needed to be amputated. The emotional and psychological penalties of his PTSD grew to become the topic of Its Solely a Paper Moon, during which Nog sought to keep away from his fears by avoiding actuality within the digital actuality realm of the holosuite.

By no means earlier than have Star Treks producers actually wrestled with such intimate and difficult materials. And so they did it via the eyes of Nog, as a result of by season seven, we had watched him develop up, from an particularly annoying youth to an grownup with grownup duties and grownup ache. That solely labored due to Aron Eisenberg. Distractingly small, coated in cumbersome, absurd make-up, forcing his high-pitched voice via a tangle of false enamel, Eisenberg nonetheless made us imagine within the authenticity of his agony and his worry. Certainly, Nogs path to therapeutic was (but once more) imagined to be a B-plot, certainly one of three storylines in Paper Moon, earlier than the producers made the dangerous determination to focus fully on his arceven although Eisenberg was formally a visitor star, not an everyday solid member. He would later recall that precise fight veterans would write approving letters to him: That was the most effective praise.

I have no idea the non secular state of Aron Eisenberg at his loss of life, which, on the interpersonal degree, is after all a big query. What I can know of him comes from the cultural artifacts he left behind, and greater than the rest, his appearances on Star Trek: Deep Area 9 characterize his inventive legacy. There is just one gospel, but the virtues that circulation from that gospel and that ought to animate Christian habits derive from a goodness of Gods character that’s embedded in our very cosmos. And whether or not or not we acknowledge that supply, Christians can have a good time manifestations and embodiments of that goodness, these virtues, wherever we see them.

Such virtues had been usually evident in Eisenbergs Nog, and thru seven seasons, Star Trek: Deep Area 9 followers might watch the method of their cultivation. From second-rate would-be entrepreneur to brave, self-sacrificial (but nonetheless susceptible) hero, Aron Eisenbergs portrayal of his characters journey retains worth. It’s simple to indicate heroes ready-made, and stylish to indicate heroes abdicate their heroism. To indicate the gradual, halting, painful course of by which these qualities could take root in sudden locations? That’s arduous workthe work that Aron Eisenberg was capable of accomplish.


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