Published Jun 7, 2023
The Best of Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy
'I told you people, I don't need a doctor. Damn it, I am a doctor.'
By Jay Stobie
Karl Urban and I have something in common; we were both born on June 7. However, considering that Urban has contributed much more to the Star Trek franchise than I have, let us focus on his accomplishments.
Faced with inheriting DeForest Kelley's beloved role as Dr. Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy in 2009, Urban expertly tackled the daunting task by crafting a persona that harkened back to Kelley's creation and infused the ship's surgeon with the New Zealander's own charm and acting talents.
With three films set in the Kelvin Timeline under his belt, Urban has gifted fans with scene-stealing humor and an array of memorable, character-defining moments.
"I told you people, I don't need a doctor. Damn it, I am a doctor."
What better way to introduce Karl Urban's Bones to the galaxy than with a clever riff on the classic "I'm a doctor, not a..." catch phrase? The cantankerous encounter with a Starfleet officer aboard a shuttlecraft introduced McCoy's aviophobia, reminiscent of Prime McCoy's distaste for transporters and his irritable (and bearded!) disposition as he arrived on the U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Urban made an excellent first impression on audiences...
"I may throw up on you."
... which continued throughout his initial conversation with James T. Kirk. Despite his argumentative state, McCoy quickly established a cordial repertoire with Kirk. Urban superbly blended a colorful description of stellar perils with a generally welcoming attitude toward the younger cadet. The conversation's easy flow foreshadowed the lifelong friendship that ultimately emerged during their tenure at Starfleet Academy.
"You just stunned our ride!"
As usual, Kirk's fondness for improvisation spelled certain doom for McCoy's well-prepared exit strategy on Nibiru. The doctor's annoyance swiftly subsided as the furious natives pursuing the captain sprinted closer. Leonard's loyalty overrode his analytical mind, sending the doctor on a frantic footrace that ended with an unwelcome plunge over a cliff's edge into Nibiran waters. This brief scene demonstrated McCoy's willingness to follow Kirk's lead, regardless of the unpleasant consequences that often arose.
"I once performed an emergency c-section on a pregnant Gorn."
Granting Bones and Dr. Carol Marcus their own scene on a planetoid in Klingon space provided an interesting dynamic, one not possible with the typical Kirk/McCoy pairing. Bones' transparent flirtations contrasted superbly with Marcus' calm professionalism, leaving the chief surgeon's commentary about his medical exploits to fall on uninterested ears.
Nevertheless, as the situation transitioned into a dire plight to prevent a torpedo from exploding, the doctors demonstrated their selfless natures as they proved willing to sacrifice themselves in order to save one another.
"Oh, don't be so melodramatic. You were barely dead."
McCoy's flippant remark downplayed the relief he felt upon seeing his captain return to consciousness following a deadly encounter with the Enterprise's warp core. Of course, McCoy's cool exterior evaporated when Kirk attributed his resurrection to Spock's victorious brawl with Khan. Normally tolerant of Jim's remarks, Bones clearly drew the line when it came to giving Spock sole credit for Kirk's recovery. While brief, the trio's interaction in the hospital perfectly summarized their complex friendship's essence.
"You know me, Mr. Sensitive."
Dr. McCoy's aptitude for assessing Kirk's state of mind allowed him to offer a comforting ear when the captain expressed melancholy over the anniversary honoring both his birth and his father's death. Bones perceived Kirk's self-doubt as a malady that required treatment from a physician and a friend. The doctor's use of alcohol to spark the conversation paralleled his Prime counterpart's Romulan Ale delivery to a pensive Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
"Feeling philosophical, huh?"
Star Trek Beyond scribes Simon Pegg and Doug Jung brilliantly chose to pair Dr. McCoy with Spock following the Enterprise's destruction at Altamid. This decision, along with masterful performances from Urban and Zachary Quinto, rewarded fans with a heartfelt scene that memorialized Ambassador Spock's passing. The rare moment of raw emotion between the two began to uncover their mutual respect, setting the stage for their relationship's continued development throughout the film's remaining acts.
"You gave your girlfriend a tracking device?"
Leave it to Bones to break a situation down to its bare components. During the search for Uhura, Sulu and the Enterprise's surviving crew, Spock surmised that their colleagues could be found by configuring the U.S.S. Franklin's sensors to identify the Vulcan mineral vokaya.
In addition to fashionably adorning a necklace that Spock had bestowed upon Uhura, vokaya emitted innocuous, yet detectable, radiation. By describing the jewelry as a tracking device, McCoy secured a minor victory in his ongoing verbal sparring match with Spock.
"I'll keep an eye on him."
Spock's emphatic plea to join Kirk, McCoy and Jaylah on the away mission to rescue Uhura did not fall on deaf ears. Recognizing Spock's love for Nyota, Bones convinced Kirk to permit the injured Vulcan to accompany the team by assuring the captain that monitoring the science officer's condition presented no problems. This marked yet another evolutionary step in the increasing level of trust between Spock and McCoy.
"You really want to head back out there, huh?"
Bones' simple comment, made as Kirk and Spock looked out upon the U.S.S. Enterprise-A's newly constructed frame, resonated on two wavelengths. On one hand, the words represented McCoy's disdain for space exploration and a disbelief that his comrades wished to resume their journey. On the other, the rhetorical question signified Bones' resignation to the notion that he would continue to stand by his friends and tend to their medical needs on their trek through the stars.
This article was originally published on January 4, 2019.