Star Trek homeSkip to main content

Star Trek 101: Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy

Star Trek 101: Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy

Star Trek 101 debuted in October and the latest regular column serves two functions: succinctly introduce Star Trek newcomers to the basic foundations and elements of the franchise and refresh the memories of longtime Trek fans. We'll be pulling our entries from the book Star Trek 101: A Practical Guide to Who, What, Where, And Why, written by Terry J. Erdmann & Paula M. Block and published in 2008 by Pocket Books. An invaluable resource, it encompasses The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, as well as the first 10 Trek feature films.

Today, we share Star Trek 101's file on Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Chief Medical Officer.

"He's dead, Jim." --  McCoy, from "The Enemy Within"

Given half a chance, Leonard McCoy is far more likely to explain what he isn't than what he is. He's not a bricklayer, psychiatrist, escalator, engineer, coal miner, or moon-shuttle conductor. He's "just an old country doctor" who happens to know a lot about twenty-third-century medicine. Born in Georgia, on Earth, McCoy still retains a touch of the charming Southern gentleman about him, which balances out his often cantankerous nature.

More than a little old-fashioned, McCoy isn't convinced that humankind should be galivanting across the galaxy in a warp-powered starship. He loathes having his atoms "scattered back and forth across space" via the transporter, and he is disturbed by the fact that neither computers nor Vulcans have a clue about compassion. As might be expected, Spock's slavish devotion to technology, logic and statistics drives McCoy crazy, and he's constantly trying to punch holes in Spock's cool Vulcan reserve. However, Spock is just as good at getting a rise out of McCoy, playing the good doctor's emotions like a concert pianist.

If Kirk represents the soul of the Enterprise and Spock the mind, then McCoy is undoubtedly the heart. The good doctor's insight provides the captain with a touchstone to his own humanity. He's the guy Kirk seeks out when he needs to let his hair down, generally over a drink.

Key McCoy Episodes:

"I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget." -- McCoy, from "Space Seed"

Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann are coauthors of numerous books about the entertainment industry, including Star Trek 101; Star Trek Costumes: Fifty Years of Fashion from the Final Frontier; Star Trek: The Original Series 365; and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion. They currently are writing the latest in their series of Ferengi novellas, which (so far) includes Lust’s Latinum Lost (and Found); and Rules of Accusation. Their most recent non-Star Trek book is Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History.