Star Trek’s flagship vessel the USS Enterprise has featured plenty of physicians over the years, some of them more gifted doctors and appealing characters than others. From the very first pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the ship’s doctor was positioned as a crucial presence on the Enterprise, often serving as a personal friend and counselor to the ship’s captain. They also tended to be one of the few characters with the authority to overrule the captain’s orders if they felt it was medically justified.
In Star Trek: The Original Series, the dynamic that Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) shared with Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) was that series’ defining relationship, a somewhat volatile but deeply loyal trio of close friends. Star Trek: The Next Generation got plenty of narrative mileage out of the romantic tension between Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden). While not every Enterprise doctor was as crucial as those two, virtually all of them brought something to the table.
9 9. Dr. Mark Piper – Star Trek: The Original Series – “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
Dr. Mark Piper (Paul Fix) only appeared in one episode of TOS, the show’s second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Piper was primarily seen tending to Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood), a close friend of Captain Kirk who began exhibiting strange, dangerous powers after encountering a mysterious energy field. Piper was something of a prototype version of Dr. McCoy, an old country doctor who was something of an anachronism in the 23rd century. Fix was ultimately deemed too old for the role by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and he was replaced by Kelley’s McCoy without explanation for the remainder of TOS.
In an attempt to escape an impending attack by the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact, Dr. Crusher reluctantly activates the Enterprise-E’s Emergency Medical Hologram (Robert Picardo) to serve as a distraction while she evacuates patients and staff from sickbay. The EMH is only present for one brief scene, but it’s a fun one, as the holographic doctor offers the Borg drones some analgesic cream as he assumes their skin is irritated from all their cybernetic implants. Picardo more famously played a different version of the EMH program on Star Trek: Voyager, where he became one of the most beloved doctors in all of Star Trek.
7 7. Dr. Phil Boyce – Star Trek: The Original Series – “The Cage”
Dr. Phil Boyce (John Hoyt) only appeared in one episode of TOS, the show’s original pilot “The Cage.” An older, somewhat blunt man, he served as a close advisor and friend to Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter). His most memorable moment is likely when he breaks out a martini from his medical kit for a distressed Pike. Roddenberry was talked into hiring Hoyt as the ship’s doctor, preferring DeForest Kelley even at that early stage of the show’s existence. Hoyt was not asked to return for Star Trek‘s second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” much to the actor’s disappointment.
6 6. Dr. Katherine Pulaski – Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2
Beverly Crusher actress Gates McFadden departed TNG after season 1 due to clashes with head writer Maurice Hurley. She was replaced in season 2 by Dr. Katherine Pulaski (Diana Muldaur). Envisioned as a sort of female version of McCoy, Pulaski never quite worked as a character. She lacked Bones’ southern charm, only sharing his irascibility. Her treatment of the android Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) often came across as cruel and reductive. Muldaur notably did not enjoy her time on the show, and after Beverly Crusher returned to TNG in season 3, Pulaski was dropped and never heard from again.
5 5. Dr. Phlox – Star Trek: Enterprise
Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley) was a Denobulan physician who served as the Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise NX-01 for the entire four-season run of Star Trek: Enterprise. Phlox was something of an eccentric, a lover of Earth culture and animals, and often used unorthodox medical treatments. He was a close friend and advisor to Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), and was one of the few crew members with extensive prior space travel. Enterprise was infamous for the thin characterization it offered its supporting players, but Phlox was an exception, aided in no small part by Billingsley’s warm, charming performance.
4 4. Dr. Leonard McCoy – Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond (Kelvin Timeline)
No other actor in the Kelvin Timeline movies evoked the spirit of the original version of their character quite like Karl Urban’s take on Dr. Leonard McCoy. Urban and Deforest Kelley don’t actually look much alike, but Urban managed a pitch-perfect version of Kelley’s southern accent, and channeled the gruff but endearing energy of the original version with seeming ease. Bones’ scenes with an injured Spock (Zachary Quinto) in Star Trek Beyond are some of his best, reestablishing the classic contentious friendship between the two characters. Urban’s version of McCoy is arguably the Star Trek reboot films’ greatest achievement.
3 3. Dr. M’Benga – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Initially played by actor Booker Bradshaw in two episodes of TOS, Dr. Joseph M’Benga is the Starship Enterprise’s Chief Medical Officer under Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) in the prequel series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Now played by Babs Olusanmokun, M’Benga is one of Pike’s oldest friends on the ship. His relaxed demeanor and expert bedside manner make him an easy character to like, and his mentorship of Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) is one of the most rewarding relationships in SNW. M’Benga harbored a secret in SNW season 1 where he hid his terminally ill daughter in a transporter buffer until he could find a cure.
2 2. Dr. Beverly Crusher – Star Trek: The Next Generation
Dr. Beverly Crusher was the brilliant, determined Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise-D and E. She had been close to Captain Picard, as she was married to his late best friend Jack Crusher (Doug Wert). Beverly and Jean-Luc had an on-again, off-again romantic tension in the years they served together, always choosing not to pursue a relationship to maintain their professionalism. Beverly had a son with Jack, the boy genius Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), who also became an important member of TNG‘s Enterprise-D crew. Beverly was a force in her own right, often caught up in high-concept sci-i plots like the TNG episodes “Remember Me” and “Cause And Effect.”
1 1. Dr. Leonard McCoy – Star Trek: The Original Series
Introduced in the TOS episode “The Man Trap,” Deforest Kelley’s Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy would serve as Captain Kirk’s Chief Medical Officer on the USS Enterprise for over 25 years. A passionate, emotional man by nature, McCoy often clashed with his friend Spock, who was driven by logic and reason. With the possible exception of Spock, McCoy was Captain Kirk’s closest friend and confidante. His stern but compassionate demeanor established the template for Starfleet doctors. There’s been no shortage of great doctors aboard the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek, but Leonard McCoy is the greatest of them all.
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