Leonard McCoy (TOS)

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Name: Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy
Occupation: Starfleet Officer
Relationships: Father David McCoy (deceased)
Daughter Joanna McCoy
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
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Played by DeForest Kelley in Star Trek TOS and subsequent movies, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy served as ship's doctor aboard the starship Enterprise. He provided the emotional voice of the show, concerned with morality and humanity, as a foil to Spock's cold logic. The two operated as opposing angels on the shoulders of Captain James T. Kirk; only with their input could he make a proper decision.

"McCoy's Song" from Contact #2 (1976), by Bev Volker

McCoy is established as older than most of his crewmates, having left a career as a medical doctor on Earth to join Starfleet later in life. He is acerbic, and rude to Spock sometimes to the point of xenophobia – banter that Spock can give right back to him. Many fans do not interpret Spock and McCoy's relationship as harmful or hateful: the two have been known to defend each other to common enemies, and even Kirk seems amused by their bickering.[1]

The nature of Spock and McCoy's relationship makes McCoy an interesting addition to the popular Kirk/Spock pair, or an interesting substitution for either primary. All configurations of the trio are popular in slash.

McCoy's catchphrases "He's dead, Jim" and "I'm a doctor, not a [bricklayer, escalator, etc]" are iconic to Star Trek, and to an extent, to pop culture at large.


Gen Relationships

A Fan's Comments on McCoy in Fanfic

McCoy. Dear McCoy. My favorite TOS character, if I had to pick. Like I said in the previous post on Contact [2], McCoy's Eyes are the single greatest narrative device that has ever existed when it comes to analyzing a fictional relationship in fanfic. McCoy's Eyes are the integral to Kirk-Spock -- he's the perfect storm of intimate familiarity and third-party outside perspective and believable curiosity. And without McCoy's Eyes, I'm pretty sure Kirk/Spock would not have come into existence the way it did. It's insane how much of the fans' attempts to put into words the way they feel about the Kirk-Spock relationship - everything that's fascinating and appealing about them - is done via McCoy, with the fans stepping into McCoy's shoes, putting their words into McCoy's mouth, etc. It's partly a thing because it happens so much in canon -- in various episodes, it was already a built-in narrative device (it happens more than once, though the ends of Amok Time and Requiem for Methuselah are probably the biggest examples) for McCoy to bridge Spock's feelings to the viewer.

He's also fulcrum of so much fannish tension - not so much outright discord, from what I can see, but a mostly unmentioned, but very obvious, push-and-pull between various cohorts of fans. On one hand, the show is persistently oblique about making clear statements about the various relations between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Is it more of a Kirk-Spock duo, with McCoy as the most prominent member of the supporting cast? Or is it a Kirk-Spock-McCoy trio, just with very different relationship dynamics between Kirk-McCoy, Kirk-Spock, and McCoy-Spock? It seems to change depending on the episode. Either way, very few Kirk/Spock shippers or Kirk&Spock friendship-focus fans seem to actually dislike or devalue McCoy, but at the same time are mostly interested in Kirk and Spock (good thing McCoy wasn't a woman, or she'd have been bashed and demonized to hell and back, no doubt), leading to a lot of "so, how do we address this issue?" discussions. Plenty are thoughtful and interesting but more often are unintentionally hilarious or irritating (like all fanfic - Sturgeon's Law!). Here are the most popular ones I could think of off the top of my head:

1. "Explaining" how McCoy's relationship with them is just different, making a big detailed analytical manifesto of it.

Result if written well: a fascinating character study about how people's relationships with different people are all unique.
Result if written badly: Methinks The Fan Doth Protest Too Much.

2. Including McCoy or emphasizing his contribution to the triumvirate to go "look, seriously, you guys, he's totally awesome!"

Result if written well: Way of showing that love is an inclusive rather than an exclusive emotion, and the amount of love you feel for one person does not diminish the love you are able to feel for another person.
Result if written badly: So what you're trying to say is, McCoy's worth as a character is entirely predicated on the extent to which Kirk and Spock deign to include him in their friendship?

3. Making all slash into Kirk/Spock/McCoy rather than Kirk/Spock.

Result if written well: awesome complex OT3ness
Result if written badly: Making McCoy "just" Kirk or Spock (or both's) best friend inherently devalues McCoy's importance to them! People in successful romantic relationships don't want or need friends!
It depends entirely on how the fic is written. Narrowness of scope is key, I think. If you find yourself making broad blanket statements that use the words "inherently," "impossible," or "mere," then congratulations, your fic is rude and stupid. Better luck next time! But if you're writing specific scenarios or ideas or emotions where the various facets of human relationships that the above scenarios tie into are at the core of the story, it's much more likely to work well. [3]

Common Tropes in Fanworks

Mirror McCoy

Some examples of fanworks where McCoy experiences the Mirror Universe:

McCoy as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes

The popularity of Leonard Nimoy's appearance on stage as Sherlock Holmes, general interest in Sir Arthur Canon Doyle's characters, Spock's logic and personality, and fannish speculation about Amanda Grayson's possible relationship to Holmes (which was fanned by in 1991 by the motion picture, The Undiscovered Country") [4]

See Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek.

McCoy and His Daughter, Joanna

Joanna McCoy was Dr. McCoy's only child, and was a character in an unfilmed script. Joanna is often mentioned and portrayed in fanworks.

These fanworks included many poems and stories that portrayed Joanna as a little girl who struggles with her parent's divorce. Some fanworks focus on Joanna who becomes a nurse (often aboard the Enterprise) and/or becomes romantically involved with Jim Kirk. This provides complicated scenarios for McCoy and Joanna.

McCoy and Joanna's relationship is often one of estrangement and anger which turns into one of acceptance and reconciliation. The subject of divorce and abandonment plays a key part. Some fanworks kill off Joanna so that McCoy's grief can be explored.

  • Joanna ("McCoy is unexpectedly reunited with his daughter, and they finally reconcile their past. She is attracted to Spock (much to her father's chagrin) and also the unknowing resolver of an ancient Vulcan prophecy.") (1988)
  • Forever Apart (Doctor McCoy's daughter, Joanna, falls for Captain Kirk.) (1975)
  • To Each His Own (a highly controversial story) (1980)
  • All My Crewmen (1976-77) (McCoy's daughter Joanna has seen assigned to the Enterprise on special assignment -- unfortunately McCoy has not told her about Natira.)
  • The Hand that Touches by Jacqueline Paciello from Pegasus #2 (1977)
  • The Same Wilderness by Beverly Clark ("Joanna McCoy is one of those rescued from a damaged ship. Relations between McCoy and his daughter are strained until McCoy is injured and Joanna's true feelings for her father become apparent.") from Sehlat's Roar #3 (1977)
  • The Kinship (features Dr. Joanna McCoy who is half-Vulcan) from Fantasy #4 (1978)
  • The Other Side of the Coin by Rochelle Hausman, Robyn Kevelsen, Susan Hochman and Margaret Clark ("Jim Kirk meets Joanna McCoy and becomes romantically involved with her. Neither realize that Leonard McCoy has an important place in the other's life, but when the three learn of the situation, there is plenty of fireworks from the outraged doctor." from Rim of Starlight #2 (1978)

McCoy's Troubled Marriage

Explorations of divorce, incapability, betrayal, the effects of careers on personal life; McCoy is sometimes portrayed as a victim, but just as often as an equal perpetrator in his own failed marriage.

  • Angry Sunset (1974)
  • Broken Rules, Desperate Chances by Julie McCoy in Cordrazine (1981)
  • Not All of Your Laughter, Not All of Your Tears by Ingrid Cross in Odyssey #1 (1977)

McCoy and Original Characters

McCoy as a lover of original characters, see Sadie Faulwell for example

McCoy and Natira

Fiction and art about McCoy and the canon character, Natira.

McCoy and the American Civil War/Time Travel

A common trope was to explore McCoy's adventures and reactions to being sent back in time to the American Civil War. The origin of this scenario was due to McCoy's roots as a "country doctor, something he stated on the show. Fans extrapolated this bit of background, both from McCoy's southern accent and a statement in secondary canon stated in the 1980 book, U.S.S. Enterprise Officer's Manual by Geoffrey Mandel, and ran with the fanon that McCoy's specific place of birth was Georgia, U.S.

  • The Southern Surgeon’s Nightmare by Paula Block in Alpha Continuum #2 (1977) (McCoy wonders what sins have landed him in a purgatory of endless Civil War surgery.)
  • Southern Comfort (1982) ("...a McCoy/Kirk/Spock adventure taking place back in the 1800's, where a time-tampering alien will ensure a Confederate victory in the Civil War. The South was never THIS wild! Meet General Sam McCoy and a Confederate soldier who ain't quite what 'he' seems to be." [5])
  • The Tale the Cap Told by Cathy German (2002)

Whump or Hurt/Comfort

Fanworks where McCoy experiences pain is fairly common, the severity varies. The scenarios are often brought about by common Star Trek tropes like shuttle crashes, capture by hostile aliens, some sort of space born illness, among others. In hurt/comfort fanworks it is most commonly Kirk or Spock providing the comfort, but in rarer stories you will find other members of the senior crew giving him comfort





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  1. ^ See this thread on trekbbs.com re Spock and McCoy's relationship (thread started August 2013)
  2. ^ a review Classic Zines: Contact #2 (Star Trek: TOS), intrigueing, December 20, 2014
  3. ^ from Classic Zines: Contact #2 (Star Trek: TOS), intrigueing, December 20, 2014
  4. ^ The Undiscovered Country was ritten and directed by Nicholas Meyer, who'd also written The Seven Percent Solution, it gave Spock this bit of dialogue: "When you have eliminated the impossible, everything that is left must be the truth", which he attributes to one of his ancestors. Since this is a quote from the Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign of Four, it implies that Spock, and therefore his human mother, Amanda Grayson, are descendants either of Holmes or of his creator Arthur Conan Doyle. , interest in Sherlock Holmes ran high with fans. This bled over to McCoy as John Watson, and less common, McCoy as Holmes himself.
  5. ^ from an ad in Datazine #19