In case you haven’t heard the news, Aron Eisenberg, the actor who played Nog and who is thus the star of this episode, has died. There have been a lot of Star Trek deaths in my lifetime: Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Jimmy Doohan, Grace Lee Whitney, Anton Yelchin, and of course Gene Roddenberry, to name a very few. Countless cast and crew members have died over the past 53 years. I’ve been saddened by them all, including ones, like Jeffrey Hunter, that occurred before my birth. But Aron’s was one I grieved.
He was 50 years old, just ten years older than me, and I admired him greatly. He took a goofy, little, raspy-voiced Ferengi kid who liked pulling pranks and getting into trouble and made him a multi-layered, textured, fully developed character. This was due, of course, to changes in how the character was written, but such changes would not have been possible if the writers didn’t trust their actor to deliver, if Eisenberg himself hadn’t begun to show that he could give depth and humanity to an alien character who could have been little more than a comic irritant.
I’ve never seen Eisenberg play any role but Nog. I don’t know how good he was in other contexts. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this was his finest work. Some actors are limited by heavy makeup. Others, like Ron Perlman, Michael Dorn, Doug Jones, Armin Shimerman, and Max Grodénchik (all Star Trek performers) shine behind latex. Aron was one of those. And I have no idea if his acting skills translated as well when he didn’t have pointy teeth and giant ears. But behind and through all that rubber and the inherently comical nature of his character (recall his “growly dance” at Jadzia’s bachelorette party in Season Six), Aron Eisenberg made something deeply human and genuine in Nog. And that feat—that overcoming of a deck that seemed to be stacked against him as an actor—showed the skill and the soul he brought to his work and to his life.
Aron had health struggles all his life and was living on his second transplanted kidney. (Transplants save lives. Be a donor. #DonateLife) But his spirit and his energy were indomitable. By inhabiting the life of a weird little alien kid on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Aron Eisenberg has inspired countless people who similarly feel the cards of life are dealt against them. But, as Vic tells Nog at the end of the episode, “All I can tell you is that you’ve got to play the cards life deals you. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but at least you’re in the game.” Aron played the game, by all accounts, with passion and vigor, making the most of everything he had. May the rest of us be inspired by him and Nog to have the courage to do the same.
Nog lives his life by the principle, “The river will provide.” Now, unlike Nog, I don’t particularly believe in the river of the Great Material Continuum. But I do believe in the River of the love of God and the presence of the Divine in this world. And I believe that where humanity is at its best, its brightest, and its most loving, the River flows. I see the river flowing in the work of Aron Eisenberg, as I do throughout Star Trek and so many of our creative human endeavors. And I know that, through the work he leaves behind, the river that flowed through Aron Eisenberg will continue to flow for generations to come.
If you’d like to contribute to Aron Eisenberg’s family in this difficult time, consider donating to the GoFundMe located here.