Vulcan Stev's Database

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The view from my chair: Non Benevolent Doctor Names in Star Trek

Gene Roddenbery began a tradition when he recasted the role of Dr Boyce from The Cage.  Hiring DeForst Kelley for the role of the irascible Dr. Leonard H. McCoy or “Bones”, he started something that has been kept through each of the spin-off series.

Roddenberry gave the character the nickname of “Bones” in homage to naval tradition of calling the doctor of the ship “Bones”, short for sawbones.  Doctors or early sailing ships were limited in what they could do for scurvy, frostbite, or severe wounds.  The doctor would usually end up sawing off the affected limb or appendage and thus was called sawbones by the crew.

Roddenberry used this terminology as well as other naval terms to link Star Trek to a reality fans embraced.  The non-benevloent sound to the nickname was unintentional.  The morbidity of the nickname was hinted at once in the episode “Catspaw”.  Kirk begins to address Dr. McCoy with the usual “Bones,” he then turns and looks at a skeleton and calls the good doctor, McCoy for the remainder of the episode.

Intentional or not, this non-benevolent naming continued with Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Doctor Beverly Crusher signed on for six years of the show and all four TNG movies.  I’m not counting Dr. Pulaski in this article.  This could be entirely coincidental as Roddenberry could’ve pulled a name out of a hat for all we know.   Berman and Pillar could be forgiven for following suit when they created the doctor for Deep Space Nine.  Doctor Julian Bashir, a fresh graduate from Starfleet medical signs on for a full seven years of antics on the fringes of the Federation.

I don’t think I’m the only one who noticed the trend; Bones, Crusher, Basher er… Bashir.  I chalked it all up to mere coincidence when Voyager was announced and the character of the Holographic doctor was originally supposed to take the named Dr. Zimmerman.

Yes it was all a coincidence.  This was just my fevered imaginings.  I was looking for conspiracy where none existed.  Alas my relief was short-lived when the doctor did not take the name of his creator.  In fact the whole idea of his looking for a name became one of the underlying character-arcs of the entire run of the series.  I remember posting this question on Star Trek Bulletin Board (you remember those forerunners of the internet don’t you?).  We suggested all sorts of horrific names for the doctor; Cruncher, Smasher, Annialus, that list went on to have all sorts of comments but was eventually relegated to the archives.

When Enterprise was announced and it was revealed that one of the aliens on board would be the doctor, I wondered how or even if this tradition would continue.  When I discovered the name of the doctor was going to be Phlox.  I inwardly smiled, the “conspiracy theory” had all been in my head.  That is until I noticed that Phlox sounded suspiciously like ‘flogs’.

Bones – Crusher – Basher – Flogs – and a doctor who is still searching for his non-benevolent identity.  Coincidence? perhaps.  However I wonder if the creators of Star Trek have some deep subconscious fear of doctors.  I’ll let you decide.

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May 10, 2010 - Posted by | Star Trek | , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Maybe not a subconscious fear, but perhaps a deserved loathing of a certain competing series of godawful British science fiction starring a certain doctor…?

    Comment by Otto | May 10, 2010

  2. @Otto – Now that’s an angle I hadn’t considered. Good point.

    Comment by Vulcan Stev | May 10, 2010


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