Star Trek: There's a good Reason Kirk calls McCoy 'Bones' Star Trek"s Leonard "Bones" McCoy had his nickname even before he was a character, and there"s a reasonably simple factor behind that origin.

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DeForest Kelly together Dr. McCoy in Star Trek
Dr. Leonard McCoy develops the third component of Star Trek’s “holy trinity,” in addition to Captain Kirk and also Mr. Spock. He’s likewise the only among the 3 with a nickname: “Bones,” a referrals to his function profession together a physician. The The 2009 movie reboot to be very particular about the origin of McCoy"s nickname, yet the initial character never ever received an main explanation. The was part of the original ide of Star Trek – predating even the personality of Leonard McCoy – and also was an additional early authorize of the type of fist to detail that do the show a classic.

Roddenberry’s initial pitch because that the show had a details reference come a doctor called “Bones.” It no Dr. McCoy, but instead Philip Boyce (played through veteran actor john Hoyt), who served under Christopher Pike in "The Cage," and who to be replaced, together with most of the rest of the cast, for the show’s second pilot. Nevertheless, the nickname moved over, and also was supplied in virtually every episode when Kirk described his chief medical officer. Clearly, it hosted some especial prominence to creator Gene Roddenberry.


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Spock, Kirk and McCoy on Star Trek: The initial Series
“Bones” is brief for “sawbones,” a term indigenous the early 19th century that referred to a doctor’s often-gruesome practice of amputating injured limbs. The implications administer a an excellent deal the character advancement in a solitary word. In the first place, it argues the Enterprise’s mission is a danger one, akin come combat, and also that the ship’s operated doctor is there to repair injuries as much as study new diseases or find brand-new medicines.

But it also suggests something about the character himself, a self-described “country doctor” who can be cantankerous and challenging at times. The “sawbones” name says a figure devoted to “practical” medicine, who does what functions without necessarily following medical procedure. It’s very much in keeping with McCoy. In fact, before Star Trek, gibbs DeForest Kelley, like numerous of his fellow actors members, was largely well-known for his functions in Westerns (Gunfight in ~ the O.K. Corral, Warlock, death Valley Days), the primary TV and also film genre the the era. So, a gruff country doctor was definitely in keeping with his onscreen persona. And Roddenberry, that famously pitched Star Trek to NBC executives as "Wagon Train come the Stars," to be no stranger come Westerns, having actually written because that such TV collection as Have total - will certainly Travel, Jefferson Drum and The Virginian.



J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot was an ext explicit around the nickname, however. In a conversation v Kirk (Christopher Pine) ~ above their means to Starfleet Academy, McCoy expose the only reason he’s joining Starfleet is since he lost whatever in a divorce. “All I gained left is mine bones,” he mutters before offering Kirk a drink. In the DVD commentary for the film, Abrams claims the moment was improvised by knife Urban, a longtime Trek fan.

It’s unclear whether this explanation applies to the element Universe’s Bones, but it’s definitely in keeping with the character’s personality: contentious, passionate, grumpy, and also forced right into a vessel the considers much less than safe by circumstance. Either way, that does the same task as the element Universe’s nickname by putting a human confront on the personality and permitting audience members to much better identify with life plank a 23rd century starship.

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There is no main word on whether Boyce will show up in Star Trek: Strange brand-new Worlds, in addition to the rest of Pike’s crew, or whether the show will resolve his nickname of “Bones” if that does. Given how very closely the surname is connected with McCoy in ~ this point, it seems unlikely. Roddenberry’s commitment to detail paid turn off in an iconic character, and also the nickname continues to be an inseparable part of the package.