‘Classic’ Trek Profile : Dr Leonard McCoy

dr Leonard_McCoy bones star trek tos

McCoy – 2227

Kelley – 1920 – 1999

“Damn it, Jim/man, I’m a doctor, not a …..”

Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy was the old Southern Country Psychician with the reassuring bed manner, somehow seemingly out of time in the 23rd Century. McCoy was one third of the “friendship axis” with Kirk and Spock.

McCoy brought the moral conscious to the trio and he would invariably play this card. whenever Kirk requested counsel – or not. In A Private Little War, 1968 – S2 McCoy castigates Kirk for arming a previously peaceful society, in a fight against the Klingon’s.

McCoy wasn’t afraid to tell people what he really thought regardless of Starfleet rank and wouldn’t hesitate to shout down Kirk and Spock, when he felt it necessary.

Kirk’s physical, Corbomite Manoeuveur

His place was usually in sickbay alongside his right hand woman – Nurse Chapel, but he would make forays to the bridge where he would stand behind the Captain’s chair and offer pearls of wisdom.

Spectre_of_the_Gun mccoy star trek tosMcCoy was quick to utilise the non invasive surgical techniques to treat his patients but he didn’t embrace all of the technology and certainly wasn’t a fan of the transporter which he likened to having his atoms violated. McCoy would, where possible, prefer to take shuttlecraft to his destinations. McCoy was also partial to a drink or three usually keeping a bottle or two of Saurian brandy hidden away in Sickbay.

DeForest Kelley was an experienced actor and was quite the catch for Gene Roddenberry’s new Sci Fi project, he had appeared in a number of Roddenberry pilots over the years, before Star Trek. Kelley had spent a career playing in a lot of Western’s and film noir’s, mainly as villians. He was mostly known for his role in the Western – Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – 1956, as Morgan Earp. This was something he was to repeat in the Star Trek episode Spectre Of The Gun, 1968 – S3 although this time he was placed firmly on the other side, as one of the doomed Clanton gang.

In 1963, he starred alongside Leornard Nimoy in the Virginian – 1963, as a Cavalry Doctor caring (badly) for his patient Nimoy (who died!). His Trek intial testing was for the role of Spock, but he wisely settled on the character of the Doctor.

I’m a Doctor……not a……..

kirk mccoy nancy man trapMan Trap, 1966 – S1 saw McCoy meet an old flame Nancy, on a planet whilst the Enterprise was doing a supply run. McCoy was surprised to see how little she had changed in all of the years since he had last seen her.

It turned out that Nancy was just the mental projection of a creature which could mimic any desirable form to get close to its victims and suck the salt out of their body. It had happened across the real Nancy and killed her.

McCoy dithered as the creature got its suckers around Kirk’s face and began to kill him, but he came to his senses enough and shot the creature dead. He was distraught after this, having lost the woman he had loved, many years before.

mccoy sulu naked time star trek tosNaked Time, 1966 – S1 had the crew contracting a deadly virus “PSI 2000” named after the planet it was brought back to the Enterprise from, by Spock and Lt. Tormolen. The virus manifested itself as exaggarating the deepest desires of whoever it infected. Sulu ran around without his shirt, waving a sword, Kirk got horny and Spock burst into tears.

McCoy worked in his lab tirelessly to crack the virus and come up with a cure, just as the infected crew were about to destroy the Enterprise.

McCoy would always pull something special out of the bag when it was needed. In Devil In The Dark, S1 – 1967 he improvised a bandaid on a rock monster by using cement and a trowel. In Operation Annihilate! 1967, S1 McCoy comes up with a method to combat the flying omlette’s by exposing them to ultravoilet light. In an experiment which very nearly blinds Spock!

In The Deadly Years, 1967 – S2 the crew contracted a deadly virus which accelerated the aging process. McCoy would concoct an antidote to save the day, just as the ship (which had ventured over the neutral zone boundary) was coming under attack from a Romulan Bird-Of-Prey.

“I don’t know what’s causing it! Virus, bacteria or evil spirits!! but I’m trying to find out!” McCoy – The Deadly Years

An old country Doctor with impeccbale manners for the ladies!

McCoy was quick to diagnose the nature of the Tribble’s in Trouble With Tribbles, 1967 – S2 noting the more they ate – the more they reproduced and that upon finding a huge stack of them dead, that someone had poisoned them.

In Shore Leave, 1966 – S1 McCoy would think himself going mad whilst on a planet sourjourn, as a white rabbit ran past saying ‘I’m late! I’m late!” being chased by a little girl, aka Alice In Wonderland. McCoy shouts on Sulu who is taking some readings nearby, and Sulu cannot confirm what McCoy has seen. McCoy reports back to Kirk what he had seen, via his communicator attempting to pass off the encounter as a hallucination.

McCoy and the White Rabbit

He would however, have no such luck with his next encounter. Believing that a black knight on horseback with a jousting lance, was another apparition, McCoy was killed as the knight charged him.

Luckily though, the planet itself was creating the illusions as some kind of “thought theme park” and brings back McCoy with a Rigel Cabaret girl on each arm.

McCoy and Spock’s early relationship was a torrid love/hate relationship, as each was a polar opposite of the other. McCoy would be irritated by Spock’s inhuman and cold logic and Spock would be equally annoyed (but not show it) due to McCoy’s overtly emotional, crotchety humanness.

mccoy spock gallileo sevenThe Galileo Seven, 1967 – S1 played a great counterpoint between Spock who was in command of the Galileo shuttlecraft, and McCoy who was the main human objector in his crew.

The crew, crashland on a remote planet and come under attack from hostile giant inhabitant’s with spears, as they bicker and squabble and fight Spock’s logical orders. When crew members are killed, McCoy leads the condemnation of Spock for suggesting the bodies be left unburied, so more time can be spent repairing the ship.

Kirk’s nickname for McCoy was “Bones”, this was suggested as per Roddenberry’s original pilot that it came from the term “saw bones” given to 19th Century Doctor’s. In Mirror, Mirror – 1967 – S2 and Star Trek XI another explanation is given that it refers to when McCoy got divorced, his ex-wife left him with only his “bones”. Although “Mirror, Mirror” McCoy was his evil opposite.

this side of paradise star trek tos McCoy_with_mint_julepIn This side of Paradise, 1967 -S1, McCoy was baffled why the human colonists on a world bathed with deadly cosmic rays, were so fit and healthy. He gets his answer later when he is affected by spores from an indigineous plant. McCoy is overcome with feelings of contentment and refuses to leave the planet, preferring to lounge under a tree chewing on a blade of grass whilst betraying a deep southern drawl of an accent.

“Hey, Jim boy, ya’ll ever had a real cold Georgia-style mint julep, huh?” McCoy – This Side Of Paradise

Meanwhile, Kirk is battling to keep the Enterprise functioning, as members of the crew are themselves overcome by the spores and beam down to the planets surface in their droves.

Mccoy cordrazine city edge forever star trek tosThe City on the Edge of Forever, 1967 – S1 had McCoy accidentally inject himself with an overdose of Cordrazine and acting wild and paranoid, he stepped through a portal and went back in time. The Enterprise ceased to exist which meant McCoy had changed the past somehow. Kirk and Spock followed McCoy back to America in the 1930’s depression to try and retrieve McCoy before he changed history. It turned out that the event was the death of Edith Keeler who McCoy saves from a traffic accident. Kirk has to stop McCoy from saving Keeler, as she steps in front of an oncoming truck.

Amok Time, 1967 – S2 had McCoy giving Spock a physical examination on the orders of Kirk, as Spock seemed to be suffering from some kind of stress related disorder. It turned out that Spock was going through “Ponn Farr”, a condition which affected him every 7-8 years.

Worse was to come as Spock returned home to Vulcan with Kirk and McCoy, only for Kirk to be chosen to fight Spock to the death. In the thinner Vulcan atmosphere and heavier gravity, Kirk was suffering so McCoy requested to give Kirk an injection of Triox by – to help him cope. Spock then seems to kill Kirk and complete his ceremony, only to discover later on the Enterprise that Kirk is alive and well, having been injected with a different compound to make him appear dead. McCoy is amused as Spock let’s an uncharacteristic emotional response slip, upon finding out Kirk is still alive.

mind meld mirror mirror evil mccoy star trek tosMirror, Mirror, 1967 – S2 is widely considered one of the finest Trek episodes. McCoy is accidentally transported, along with Kirk, Scotty and Uhura into an alternate reality where the Federation are a warlike race. McCoy is horrified to visit the Sick Bay in this alternate world, only to discover it full of devices of torture.

In Journey To Babel, 1967 – S2 Spock saves the life of Sarek (Spock’s father) by operating on the Vulcan equivilant of a heart attack. This all takes place whilst the Enterprise is under attack from an unknown ship. He even manages to persuade Spock to be a blood donor to aid his fathers recovery.

“Spock, I’ve always suspected you were a little more human than you let on! Mrs Sarek? I know about the vigorous training of the Vulcan youth, but tell me, did he ever run and play like the human children, even in secret? ” McCoy – Journey To Babel

In Friday’s Child, 1967 – S2 McCoy’s previous assignment on planet Capella IV was to prove invaluable as Kirk was sent to negotiate a mining treaty with the Capellan’s, from under the noses of the Klingon’s.

Not only did McCoy speak the language and know the customs, he warned Kirk not to touch the Capellan female’s wrist charm, lest he wish to face a 7-foot tall Capellan male in combat, as per their tradition. McCoy ends up in charge of an aggressive Capellan woman who is just about to give birth and doesn’t want McCoy’s help.

Kirk: “How did you arrange to touch her, Bones, give her a happy pill?”
McCoy: “NO, a right cross!”
Kirk: “I’ve never seen that in a medical book.”
McCoy: “It’s in mine from now on!”

McCoy’s strong bedside manner

McCoy succeeds in delivering a Capellan baby – who will one day become the Capellan aire, thus swinging the balance of power back to the Federation and giving Kirk the ace up his sleeve to steal the mining contract out from under the noses of the Klingon’s. Much to the Klingon’s annoyance!

Spock would save McCoy’s life in Bread and Circuses, 1968 – S2 when they were forced to fight in gladiatorial TV show, by incapacitating McCoy’s much stronger opponent with his signature neck pinch. The two back together locked in a cell bicker like it is going out of style when Spock irritates McCoy by not accepting his gratitude for saving his life, calling Spock a “pointy eared Hob Goblin”.

Spock and McCoy locked up together

McCoy did return the favour in Spock’s Brain, 1968 – S3, though. Spock’s brain is stolen by a group of aliens and he will die in 24 hours if it is not returned to his body. McCoy links Spock upto a remote control device which can support and manipulate his lifeless body. When the Enterprise catches up with the Alien’s, McCoy patches himself into the Alien’s computer banks to learn the procedure to reattach Spock’s brain, saving the life of the Vulcan.

In The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky, 1967 – S2, McCoy discovers he has an inoperable and incurable disease and is given a year to live. McCoy intends to live out his remaining time on an artificial hollow asteroid world. McCoy meets and falls in love with an inhabitant female called Natira who he marries. Luckily, whilst Spock is searching the library computers on the asteroid he happens across a cure for McCoy’s disease. Cured McCoy bids farewell to his bride to continue his tour of duty.

World is Hollow preview trailer

The Tholian Web, 1968 – S3 has Kirk go missing between dimensions and trapped in the transporter, whilst two Alien ships attempt to trap the Enterprise in a massive web. Unable to retrieve the Captain, the rest of the crew has a funeral service for Kirk. Spock and McCoy view the Captain’s last orders which is a touching message imploring them both to work together for the greater good. When Kirk is finally retrieved he quizzes his Officer’s to see if they watched his tape. Both lie and say they did not get time to see it, much to Kirk’s disappointment.

Kirk quizzes Spock and McCoy

plato's stepchildren mccoy platonian star trek tosPlato’s Stepchildren, 1968 – S3 McCoy came to the aid of some Psychic god like beings – The Platonians, whom mentally were very powerful but physically, a wound could kill them. Knowing this, the Platonians try to force McCoy to stay and be their personal Physician. McCoy refuses so the Platonians kidnap Kirk and Spock and force them to perform humiliating rituals in front of McCoy, using their Psychic powers.

McCoy realises that the Alien’s power is derived from a chemical in the food they eat. McCoy then prepares concentrated doses of Kironide and injects it into Kirk and Spock. After some more ritual humiliation entertainment, Kirk and Spock overcome the Psychic control and warn the Platonian’s not to try anything like this in the future or suffer another visit from the Federation.

McCoy was to go through the wars in The Empath, 1968 – S3 as Alien’s torture him nearly to death to force an empathic being called Gem to heal him.

Coalminer/mechanic McCoy and the Empath!

mccoy hyperthermia all our yesterdays star trek tosAll Our Yesterdays, 1969 – S3 had Kirk, Spock and McCoy transported via a library into various era’s of a doomed planet’s past. Spock and McCoy end up in an ice age and McCoy succumbs to hypothermia, whilst Spock undergoes a return to his more primitive barbarian past. Both are able to escape the freezing conditions by following Kirk’s voice back to the invisible entrance to the portal.

mccoy beard star trek motion pictureAfter the events of the original five year mission, McCoy seemingly went into a semi retirement and it wasn’t until the gigantic V’ger probe threatened the galaxy in Star Trek – The Picture 1978 that McCoy was forcibly seconded back into Star Fleet, along with all of the original crew
to fly out and meet the huge probe. McCoy who joined the Enterprise crew quite late on looking like a disco dancing pimp and sporting a bushy beard, refused to take the transporter prefering to take the long route on a shuttlecraft, his hatred of Transporting still fully intact, after two officers are horribly killed in a Transporter malfunction.

“Well Jim… I hear [Nurse] Chapel’s an M.D. now. Well I’m gonna need a top nurse… not a doctor who’ll argue every little diagnosis with me. And they probably redesigned the whole sickbay, too! I know engineers…… they LOVE to change things!” McCoy – Star Trek Motion Picture

In Star Trek II – Wrath Of Khan, 1982 McCoy was back at the academy helping Admiral Kirk train cadets. He also formed part of Admiral Kirk’s inspection party on board Captain Spock’s Enterprise, when it was called into action, against Khan in a hijacked Federation ship – USS Reliant.

McCoy and spock celebrate “old” Kirk’s birthday

star trek ii wrath khan spock mccoy katra meld
McCoy would have his hands full treating the sick and dying after the Enterprise’s skirmish with Khan. McCoy would also have to bear Spock’s Chakra (soul) as the Vulcan incapacitated McCoy (who had stood in Spock’s way) with the nerve grip and then melded with him, before entering the warpdrive room flooded with deadly radiation.

In Star Trek III, Search For Spock – 1984 McCoy was undergoing a crisis of concious as his mind was mixed up with Spock’s.

“That green-blooded son of a bitch! It’s his revenge for all the arguments he lost!” McCoy upon being told he was sharing Spock’s mind – Star Trek III

He attempted to charter a ship back to Planet Genesis, but was picked up by the Star Fleet gestapo and thrown in a cell, for acting very strange as Spock’s characteristics showed themselves. He attempted to nerve pinch one of the Star Fleet security guards, much to their amusement.

Kirk would come to McCoy’s aid and break him out before boosting the Enterprise and travelling back to Genesis to pick up Spock body and then onto Vulcan where Spock and McCoy would undergo the Vulcan ceremony of “Fal-Tor-Pan” to remove Spock’s Katra from McCoy and instill it back into Spock’s body.

spock mccoy Star Trek III vulcan ceremony

After being excised of Spock’s consciousness, McCoy seemed to finally make peace with the “new” Spock and bury the hatchet with him. After sharing his mind, McCoy must have gained a unique understanding for his Alien friend.

McCoy would still maintain his straight laced approach with people though and hadn’t entirely mellowed. He berated a 20th Century Doctor in Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home – 1986 who was about to operate on Checkov who had serious head trauma.

McCoy rides roughshod over the 20th Century Hospital staff

“My God Man! Drilling holes in his head is not the answer! The Artery must be repaired! Now put away your Butcher knives and let me save this Patient!” McCoy to 20th Century Doctor – Star Trek IV

mccoy father david star trek vIn Star Trek V – The Final Frontier – 1989 Sybok would take away the pain in McCoy’s life. His long standing guilt over the death of his father David whose Life Support he turned off, only for a cure for the disease his father had, to come to light shortly after.

In Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country – 1991 McCoy would try his best to save the assassinated Klingon Chancellor Gorkon and wound up in a Klingon prison for his troubles, the ice world of Rura Penthe.

In the Star Trek Next Generation episode Encounter At Farpoint, 1987 a 137 year old Admiral McCoy inspected the Enterprise D with the Android Data, having again took a shuttle rather than use the transporter. McCoy was to liken Data’s encyclopedic knowledge to another individual McCoy knew, a certain Vulcan. Regarding the Enterprise itself McCoy remarked to Data :

“You treat her like a lady… and she’ll always bring you home!”

137 year old McCoy

chapel mccoy star trek tosSo that was that for McCoy, he was seemingly still very much active in Star Fleet (perhaps more in a honorary position). Of course his appearance wasn’t really anything more than a nice cameo by an old Original series regular, so we shouldn’t read too much into why he lived to be 137 years old +!

In the end, McCoy was the grouchy, cantankerous, well travelled, slightly weary of life, very human Southern Doctor whose sole motivation as a Star Fleet officer was to care for his patients. He was an anachronism in terms of his old worldy demeanour and his futuristic gizmo’s. He held his friends close, but never pulled any punches with them. Spock used to receive the biggest verbal lashings from McCoy, but in the end he was always there for his friends and although McCoy stated he wasn’t a Psychiatrist, infact he was – but he would perform his sessions informally, over a Saurian Brandy – or three.

Spaceman


  • cully1

    my favourite doctor,a 20th century type man in the 23 rd century,god dam it ,his dead jim!!!!!!!

  • cully1

    my favourite doctor,a 20th century type man in the 23 rd century,god dam it ,his dead jim!!!!!!!

  • cully1

    he’s dead jim

  • cully1

    he’s dead jim

  • Souki76

    I found his cameo in TNG quite moving. A real highlight.

    I can never understand why the media didn’t pay more respect to De Forest Kelly when he died. I think I remember seeing a small column in a tabloid rag but nothing on the TV or radio. The passing of TOS cast members should be headline news.

    Thank goodness they didn’t stick with the old codger from the first pilot. Bones was superb. He’ll live long and prosper in our memories.

  • Souki76

    I found his cameo in TNG quite moving. A real highlight.

    I can never understand why the media didn’t pay more respect to De Forest Kelly when he died. I think I remember seeing a small column in a tabloid rag but nothing on the TV or radio. The passing of TOS cast members should be headline news.

    Thank goodness they didn’t stick with the old codger from the first pilot. Bones was superb. He’ll live long and prosper in our memories.