Monday, February 13, 2006

Who's Your "Simple Country" Doctor (Chief Medic?)

Continuing our fantasy crew (see previous blog entries on irritating kids, spaceships, droid sidekicks and space babes!), this week it's time to choose our CMO: Chief Medical Officer.

In 1964, Irwin Allen's adaptation of Space Family Robinson, Lost in Space introduced to American TV audiences a very naughty, trouble-making Doctor named...Smith! Played with delicious (and flamboyant) glee by Jonathan Harris, Dr. Smith has a way of getting himself, and his shipmates on the Jupiter 2 into danger. If we all want to be turned into giant, ambulatory alien vegetables ("The Great Vegetable Rebellion"), he's our choice.

On September 8, 1966, a doctor nicknamed "Bones" appeared on "The Man Trap," the first aired episode of the original Star Trek. Played by the late, great, DeForest Kelly, Dr. Leonard McCoy is a CMO for the ages. He can cure silicon-based life forms ("The Devil in the Dark"), reverse an accelerated aging disease ("The Deadly Years") and counter (with a derivative of Klingon nerve gas!) the deleterious mental effects of spatial interphase ("The Tholian Web"). Dr. McCoy isn't only a great doctor, he's a terrific bartender. If he populates our sickbay, we'll always know where the Saurian Brandy is hidden. Also, Dr. McCoy is the one individual who offers us the most (and best) catchphrases. "He's Dead, Jim!" "I'm just a simple country doctor," "I'm a doctor not a (fill in the blank.)" Just about everything Bones ever said is memorable. I've always been a huge fan of both Kelly and Dr. McCoy, and I must admit, he'd probably be my first selection for a CMO.

But then, of course, there's stiff competition from Dr. Helena Russell (Barbara Bain), the doctor on Space:1999 (1975-1977). If you like the Ice Princess-type, she's our Doctor. Glacial, intellectual, with a dry wit that can cut you to the bone, Dr. Helena Russell also happens to boast the finest, most perfect cheekbones I've ever seen on a physician. Helena has pulled off her own share of miracles on Moonbase Alpha too, charting the enhanced telepathic abilities of the Alphans ("The Lambda Factor"), combating a basewide case of "lassitude" ("The Beta Cloud" ) and awaking from suspended animation all sorts of aliens both friendly and hostile ("Earthbound," "The Exiles," "Mark of Archanon.") Dr. Helena Russell is a widower (her husband died on a dangerous space mission to Jupiter...), but she's in love with Commander Koenig. Still, if you appreciate a kind of remote, elegant beauty and intellect, Dr. Russell would be a terrific choice. She's even led dangerous missions on the lunar surface ("The Last Sunset") and shown great resourcefulness (she opened gas tanks aboard a crashed eagle and fired a laser rifle into it, blowing it up as a "flare" for would-be rescuers to notice...)

On the 1970s Saturday morning TV show, there was also a young physician in-training, Tee Gar Soom (Brian Tochi). He's an energetic, agreeable young cadet, who also boasts super-strength, which I guess might come in handy on landing party missions. On 1978's Battlestar Galactica, a former socialator (prostitute) named Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang) trained to become a medic. She was gorgeous, young, and well, hot as hell.

On Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, there was Dr. Elias Huer (Tim O'Connor), but I can't really tell if he was a physician or not. He was more like a diplomat/world leader. And he relied awfully heavily on that Twiki bling-bling, Dr. Theopolis.

The multiple ensuing generations of Star Trek gave us more memorable doctors. Dr. Beverly "Bev" Crusher (Gates McFadden) joined the crew of the Enterprise-D at Farpoint. She's a widower like Dr. Helena Russell, but has the added (and unfortunate...) baggage of a teenage kid, Wesley. I like Dr. Beverly Crusher, however, because she's as quick with a phaser as she is a med-kit ("Best of Both Worlds") and because - ahem - she's hot-to-trot. Who can forget "Bev" sexily unzipping her uniform and explaining to Captain Picard that she hadn't experienced "the comfort" of a husband in many years in "The Naked Now?" Damn! Of course, Dr. Crusher is just as brilliant a physician as Dr. McCoy. Perhaps more so. I'll never forget the episode "Remember Me," in the fourth season of The Next Generation, when Dr. Crusher made the ultimate (and correct deduction) about her strange situation on an underpopulated Enterprise. "If there's nothing wrong with me, there must be something wrong with the universe..."

Beverly Crusher left the Enterprise-D for a while, and was replaced by Dr. Katherine Pulaski. Now, I must admit, I've always loved Diana Muldaur. She was great on Star Trek as Dr. Anne Mulhall in "Return to Tomorrow" and as Miranda in "Is There in Truth No Beauty." However, Dr. Pulaski - as a character - never really worked for me during the show's second season. She was abrasive, and worst of all, cruel to Data. How can you be cruel to Data? That's like kicking a kitten or something. Pulaski was brilliant, all right, but irritating as hell. And I hated that clips-episode "Shades of Gray," where Riker had an infection that could only be relieved by experiencing old emotions (meaning reruns from previous shows). The episode was horribly conceived and executed, and - really - Pulaski was horrible in it.

Deep Space Nine gave us Alexander Siddig's very funny, very inexperienced Dr. Julian Bashir, a stuck-up guy who - we learn after several seasons - is actually a genetically engineered super genius. Bashir is a fun guy, and if we have a holodeck or suite aboard ship, we should be sure to include him. I always get a kick out of the "early" Dr. Bashir in the series' first season, pining after Jadzia Dax, and being utterly terrified of Garak, the Cardassian tailor. I liked that he stuttered and stumbled over his words, and seemed genuinely awed to be out there on the frontier. In a franchise where people are too often perfect and unafraid of being in space, Bashir always reminded me that outer space/alien confrontations can be intimidating.

Voyager's Holographic doctor (Robert Picardo) is another solid selection for CMO. If we can keep him from singing opera and turning evil (as he did in one second season episode...), he'd be great! He's got an acerbic sense of humor (like Bones McCoy), but could there be a more experienced, more thorough physician? I mean, he's programmed with the memory and knowledge of Starfleet's best CMOS (including Bones). He might be the best choice for that reason alone. And - of course - we can deactivate the guy when he gets too prissy.

Other selections? On Enterprise there was Dr. Phlox; on Babylon 5 there was Richard Bigg's Dr. Franklin. Neither of these guys would be my first selection, but I suppose they could fit the bill. Also, Dr. Chapel, from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Dr. Kate McRae from The Black Hole, Stephanie Beacham played a doctor on Sea Quest DSV. Or if we want to keep things simple, we can get the medical droid, Two-One Bee, from The Empire Strikes Back...

So who's our CMO? And does he or she make house calls?


  1. Anonymous3:50 PM

    Well, McCoy would be the obvious choice because he is a good doctor and a hell of a nice guy. There really isn't a TV doctor of any genre to compare with him. I wouldn't mind drafting 21B as an assistant for Bones. 21B was able to build a whole new hand for Luke and a droid like him helped save Anakin after the Mustafar duel. But, on the other hand, McCoy was able to put Spock's brain back in his head! So I am casting my vot for McCoy, Leonard H. . . . Son of David.


  2. John, I'm going to have to go with the Holographic Doctor from Voyager. Not only was he the only really great character on the show, but he was also the one who showed the most character development in the seven seasons of that program. In addition, he provided the best laugh in "Star Trek: First Contact." Medically speaking, as you said, he has all the knowledge of every downloaded medical log throughout Federation history. And, Picardo himself gives a great interview. Now, if your ship specifically needs an optometrist...

  3. So hard to choose, beyond the fact that They'd all be Star Fleet medical personnel. I mean I'd have choosing between The HoloDoc, Beverly Crusher, and McCoy is hard, setting aside my desire to jump Bev (something Picard should have done once he finally knew her "true" feelings about him). The temptation is to say "the simple country doctor" (a conceit of course, but one that probably goes back to Dr. Roy Dafoe, the man who delivered the Dionne Quintuplets, and his fictional radio counterpart Dr. Christian) and McCoy's versatility is worth acknowledging. On the other hand Bev was dealing with a larger crew and a bigger staff. Still McCoy was a pioneer and quick with a jibe about Vulcans (and later, a certain android). He's chief with Bev and the Holodoc on staff. Bashir can be an intern.

  4. All right, Howard Margolin is officially our ship's optometrist! :)

    As far as CMOS however, it looks like we're leaning towards McCoy, with one vote for the EMH. Of course, we could cheat here. We could have McCoy and be equipped with an EMH.

    I'm still thinking about Helena Russell though. In my own life, I've always preferred women doctors...