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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #86: Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy

Not pictured: A bricklayer

So much of the dynamic of the original Star Trek focused on Kirk and Spock, on their friendship and tension, on the balance of body and mind. But the vital third part of this triad was Dr. McCoy. Where Kirk represented instinct and Spock intellect, McCoy was wisdom. Where Kirk personified the physical and Spock the mental, McCoy was the emotional. Together, the three embodied the internal struggle of humanity, and our reliance on these three aspects of our selves. The original (and still the finest) Star Trek series was a sci-fi western, but it was also a morality play, and a darn good one.

McCoy himself was a tragic figure, almost more so than the other two members of this enduring triad. If Kirk was isolated by command and Spock by birth, McCoy's loneliness was somehow less heroic, less epic, more human, more familiar. This was a man who failed at marriage, who struggled to be a father, who always lived in the shadow of two more celebrated peers and yet never failed to support, advise, and defend them. Kirk was the heart of the Enterprise, Spock the brain, and McCoy the aching, resilient soul. A doctor (and not anything else), his priority was always the lives and health of the men and women under his care, whether they be a captain or a crewman. He was well versed in the medicinal use of Romulan ale, Saurian brandy, and became all too adept at recognizing the condition of death.

There was a cantankerous quality to Bones, a grumpy country doctor persona that railed against modern man's reliance on technology and yet pushed the boundaries of medical science through bold research. While Kirk and Spock were mythic heroes, he was an everyman who rolled his eyes at the latest tin-foil babe to swoon over Kirk and who delighted in swiping at Spock's aloof veneer. And yet his fierce loyalty never wavered. There are a hundred McCoy scenes I could cite, from the original series and the feature films that followed. To close, I'll just recall the final scene of Journey to Babel, when McCoy has both Kirk and Spock in Sick Bay, recovering from surgery. They both try to speak, and he succeeds in shushing them both. "What do you know?" McCoy asks, "I finally got the last word."

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