Sunday, March 6, 2016

The TV Sidekick Blogathon: Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy of "Star Trek"

Welcome to our (first) contribution to The TV Sidekick Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe!  You can check out all the other terrific posts on a collection of wonderful TV blogs in this fun event by clicking here.  Naturally we gravitated to our favorite TV series ever for our inspiration.

Honestly maybe Dr. McCoy isn't exactly a sidekick in the traditional sense at all, though in the world of series TV it's surprising how many sidekicks to the main star ended up very much standing right alongside him or her in fan devotion and importance.  We'd certainly put Dr. McCoy, played so memorably by the late DeForest Kelley, into this category.  He may have served under Capt. James T. Kirk ( the charismatic William Shatner) but soon it was obvious that both Dr. McCoy and the pointed-eared Vulcan Mr. Spock -- a portrayal that catapulted Leonard Nimoy into history -- had become Kirk's friends, confidants and part of an equal trio that has kept Star Trek alive as it approaches its 50th anniversary later this year.

Most appealingly, McCoy personified the humanity of the Starship Enterprise.  With Kirk as its energy and Spock as its intellect, the ship needed McCoy to bring the heart into the equation.  Naturally as the ship's doctor he had a professional role and healing presence but McCoy's personality as concocted by the writers and as performed by Kelley captured a special blend of competence and compassion.

McCoy became Kirk's confidante, his sounding board when command decisions required more than Mr. Spock's logic or Kirk's own impulses to action.  Whether on the bridge or over a sip of Saurian brandy, Kirk allowed McCoy to question him in a way that Spock wouldn't and no one else would presume to.  Kirk had the good fortune to have a Medical Officer as McCoy, a man as wise as he was proficient.

In fact sometimes super-proficient, such as the time McCoy repaired the silicon creature the Horta using improvised cement instead of sutures.  McCoy was adaptable.

He also became Spock's if not confidante then at least a reminder of his human half which the Vulcan tried to disavow.  McCoy sensed a vulnerability in Spock that usually manifested in testy banter or humorous bickering but sometimes also in sage observations that, deny it though Spock may have tried, hit the mark.  Their scenes together are often the highlights of any episode and prove that sometimes sidekicks band together to create greatness uniquely their own.

McCoy was also courageous -- such as when he tests the Miri cure on himself -- innovative (as exampled above) and otherwise invaluable to the Enterprise crew and particularly Kirk and Spock. He also was frequently put in peril -- contracting the Miri virus in the first place, getting an overdose of cordrazine, and being tortured by the Vians, among other indignities -- and we felt even worse about it because it was McCoy.  

Not that he didn't also get to exercise some of that McCoy charisma on the ladies.  We got to meet one of his old flames Nancy Crater (though that didn't work out too well), we saw McCoy flirting with Yeoman Barrows et all on Shore Leave and we also saw McCoy through his doomed romance with High Priestess Natira on that hollow world.  

It was impossible not to be drawn to Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.  Whether serious or silly or sage or sarcastic, McCoy was irresistible because he was all of us.  He was a down-to-Earth man who found himself in outer space.  The Universe couldn't have known how lucky it was, but Star Trek fans certainly did.

As we mentioned before, be sure to visit all the other blogs sharing their thoughts of TV sidekicks in this blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe; click here for links to everything!

We'll be here Tuesday with our second Sidekick entry, this time someone completely different but similarly lovable -- Ralph Malph from Happy Days!  Join us back here for that!


Caftan Woman said...

You couldn't hear me, but when I scrolled to your screen credit for "Bones", I impersonated the soprano hitting that high note at just the perfect moment. I always think of that as an appropriate hallelujah for all DeForest Kelley / Leonard McCoy fans. Imagining the show without him feels empty.

Lisa said...

I think I actually *did* hear you! Lovely!!

Without him -- would be like ripping the heart out of Star Trek. I was always a Spock girl, but McCoy comes in a close second! And adorable -- undeniable!

Thanks so much for the comment, CW!

Amanda By Night said...

Absolutely agree about Bones brings some heart to the show. I like Star Trek, but was never one of the major fans of the series, still I recognize how integral the characters were and how much chemistry they had with each other. I always liked Bones because of DeForest Kelley's delivery, which often reminds me at times of Charleton Heston's charming but OTT line in Airport 75 that goes something like, "Dammit, baby. You've got to fly the plane!" Bones was often that voice pushing Kirk with enthusiasm but seriousness, and I loved it.

Great article!

Jaina said...

Bones is my favourite -- always warm, kind and 100% done with weird space crap. I'm always delighted when he complains about the transporter, it's such a fun quirk for the medical officer.

Thanks for highlighting him!

Lisa said...

Thanks for the comments! Especially as I get older I appreciate McCoy's wisdom and crankiness even more!

Rick29 said...

When I saw the first episode of STAR TREK when it debuted (and I was a wee lad), I thought Dr. McCoy was the main character. That was because "The Man Trap" episode (known as the "Salt Monster" one in my family) focused on Bones. He was a good character from the beginning, but Bones evolved as the series continued and his relationship with Mr. Spock became one of the series' most interesting elements. I think you nailed it when you noted that he personified the ship--and the show's--humanity. Terrific pics, by the way!

David Hofstede said...

McCoy is prominent in so many of my favorite original series episodes for many of the reasons you described. For those of us who could never be as heroic as Kirk or coolly logical as Spock, we saw in Bones a kindred spirit- a down-to-earth, no B.S. character who is never really happy unless there is something to complain about. :)

Citizen Screen said...

LOVE!! Bones really was all of us as you say and he adds oodles of fun to the Star Trek universes. This is such a fun post and I love all of the images you include. Well done, JIM!


Mitchell Hadley said...

I particularly enjoyed the scene in "The Trouble With Tribbles" when Bones asks Kirk what you get when you feed a Tribble too much and Kirk replies, "A fat Tribble?" The look Bones gives him is a verbal rim shot, which makes him not only a great second banana, but an excellent straight man.

Great job, reminding us why Bones is such a beloved character, and why he'll never be overshadowed by Kirk and Spock. When DeForest Kelley passed away, even though much of the original cast was still living at the time, my wife commented that this was the end of the original Star Trek, and this piece reminds us why.

Lisa said...

Thanks for all the comments! Truly, it's clear that we all love Dr. McCoy/DeForest Kelley and always will!

Britt Reid said...

Whenever Kirk needed to relax, who did he hang out with?
Not Spock or Scotty, the other senior officers, but McCoy, the guy we'd most like to go partying with.
McCoy was also the only one who could question Kirk's (or Spock's, if he had command) decisions in front of the crew, and didn't hesitate to do so when he felt it appropriate.
He was the "ultimate Best Friend" to both Kirk and Spock because he would risk anything, even their friendship, to do what he felt was best for them.
Well done!

Lisa said...

Agreed, Britt!! And thanks!

Joanna said...

I love this triangle you've created to analyze the characters' strengths and relationships. Very smart--thanks for sharing it.