An Ode To Dr. McCoy

When I was a child, we watched a lot of the original “Star Trek” TV series in the house. The show was playing in syndication at the time, and we could see it every day if we wanted to—which we did! 🙂

Around the house, I had a nickname: “McCoy.” Or, “Bones.”

I didn’t express much of a desire to be an actual physician, so I don’t exactly know how that nickname “stuck.”

I only knew, as I grew older, that something about the character Dr. Leonard McCoy resonated with me.

In addition to being a healer, McCoy was a nurturer & caretaker. These qualities didn’t mean he was passive—quite the opposite, in fact. He was frequently emotional, even aggressive, when the health and lives of others were at stake.

McCoy was also the type of person who didn’t want to “give up” on anybody. He did his best to heal as many people as he could, even when it seemed like a “lost cause.” While others might argue for a solution that would sacrifice a few lives for the welfare for the many, Dr. McCoy was always searching for solutions that could save everybody.

Star Trek actress Grace Lee Whitney described McCoy as Captain Kirk’s “friend, personal bartender, confidant, counselor, and priest.” And I think this aspect of counselor/priest is very much key to McCoy’s larger purpose on the Enterprise.

He’s also the “foil” to the emotionless Spock, the two sometimes butting heads on various issues. However, while they may have their disagreements, it is also true that the Vulcan has learned vital life-lessons from the Doctor, and vice-versa.

Finally, while Spock—master of the Vulcan mind meld—was generally known as the most psychic of the group, it was McCoy who was more naturally empathic. This made him the perfect choice to “hold” the dying Spock’s “katra” (similar, I suspect, to the ancient Egyptian concept of the Ka) at the end of the second “Star Trek” movie, only to give it back to him during the next film.

Exploring how this fictional character, brought to life by the wonderful DeForest Kelley, has resonated with me over the decades has helped me better define who I am now. To me, this is one of the wonderful things about pop-culture. Within the TV shows, movies, books, video games, and comics we consume we can encounter heroes who spark our desire to be better people.

We grow up with these heroes. And sometimes, we grow into these heroes.