This is a ranking of every major Star Trek doctor, from worst to best, based on my assessment of their skills as a physician. No, this is not a favorites game -- this is science. Medical science! How well can they handle a tricorder? How many successful diagnoses have they made? Who's got the best hair? Have they ever had sex with an alien ghost candle? Like I said -- science.
When I gave my initial list order to my editor, he insisted I was trolling. Dear reader, I give you my solemn vow that no trolling will be involved in the construction of this very serious list of fictional space doctors. The order the doctors appear in may cause you to feel a mild burning sensation, but much as with Borg implants, the application of an analgesic cream will take care of that.
Are you ready for this? It's doctor vs. doctor vs. doctor vs. doctor vs. doctor vs. doctor.
LET'S DO THIS.
Dr. Leonard McCoy - New Coke Edition (Star Trek Reboot)
Karl Urban is very good at playing Bones. He isn't quite imitating DeForest Kelley, but he still recaptures the spirit of the man's portrayal. There are a lot of criticisms that may be levied at the Trek reboot, but Karl Urban's performance isn't one of them.
But his version of Bones is a terrible doctor. I mean that picture above says it all, really
Remember that time Bones gave Kirk a vaccine against viral infection from Melvaren mud fleas? Because it'd give Kirk the crippling symptoms of mud fleas and that's the best idea Bones could come up with to sneak Kirk on to the Enterprise? Yes. We all memorized the exact particulars of that scene, I'm sure.
But the bad doctor part comes after when Bones tries to calm Kirk's symptoms but accidentally gives him a horrifying case of CARTOON HANDS INSTEAD. And just look at McCoy's face -- HE HAS NO IDEA WHAT HE'S DOING.
I trust WebMD more than I trust this guy. What's that, WebMD? I have "cancer of the everything"? Better hurry up and finish writing this list then!
Katherine Pulaski (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
If you thought Pulaski was this far down because she's a poor man's Bones, or because she doesn't think Data is a real boy, or because of her bad 80s perm, you'd be wrong. Those are reasons why she's a terrible person, not a terrible doctor.
And to pause from our jokey explanations, the problem with Pulaski is that she's all tell, no show. Her previous commander, Captain Taggert, talks about how much he likes her, but we never see why. She writes a seminal paper on viruses, but we never see her skills on that front in action.
Here's something good Pulaski did -- she saved Picard when a routine procedure on his artificial heart went sideways. You know who explicitly told her not to operate on him? Picard. So even when she's right, she's wrong.
And take into account a case like "Unnatural Selection" where a genetic experiment causes everyone who comes into contact with a few young people to aggressively age and die. Do you know who fixes that problem? Here's a hint -- not Pulaski. Oh, she tries. She infects herself in the process and nearly dies, but she tries. She winds up leaving Data and Picard holding the bag. They figure out a cure. They save her at the last possible moment. You might think that would be a doctor's job. You might think that. I guess Pulaski showed you!
I wouldn't normally take a physician's personal decision into account, but when that personal decision is to get down with Riker's dad? I don't know about you, but I wouldn't take the advice of anyone who ever intentionally found themselves 'twixed the sheets with a Riker man. No sir!
Julian Bashir (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Things Bashir is good at:
- Space Tennis
- Space Darts
- Space LARPing
Things Bashir could be better at:
- Being a doctor
I know, I know. He's not a bad doctor. In fact, he's an excellent medical researcher. Discovering cures, inventing dietary supplements, staring into space very seriously after looking in a microscope -- he's got the science end of medicine down.
But where's the bedside manner, Julian? Maybe spend a little less time thinking about how cute you are, hitting on your co-workers all the time, and focus on making people emotionally well, my dude. We get it -- you made a pretty good candy bar that one time and you've got genetically enhanced good looks that women tolerate and Garak lusts after. Cool. Whatever.
If I need someone to get the job done when we're in the middle of a war? Bashir's my guy. Gotta deal with Section 31? Bashir's my guy. Simultaneously annoy yet melt the heart of chief engineering officers? Bashir's my guy.
But if I'm just sick? He's fourth down on my ZocDoc list. Sorry, Julian. Being genetically enhanced in the brain just doesn't cut it.
Beverly Crusher (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
You ever notice the Disney-like lack of moms on Star Trek? Especially moms who are full-time main characters? It's basically just Bev and Keiko, and Keiko is still more recurring than main.
What does that have to do with doctors? Well, nothing necessarily, but I do think Crusher's mombilities play a big factor in why she's such a good doctor. Hands down -- best bedside manner in the alpha quadrant. Did you know when she was younger she made fun of a guy for having a bad beard once, and then decided she'd be kind from then on because she made that dirty-faced dude feel bad? Sainthood, thy name is Beverly.
And as a doctor, she's got a pretty solid record. She finds cures for ship-wide epidemics, she helps birth a huge, space-born organism, and she's repeatedly saved the life of every crewmember on the Enterprise D who isn't Tasha Yar. Sorry, Tash.
Crusher gets a pretty raw deal, too. You remember all those times she and Troi would get in their glitter stockings for their weird space yoga? And remember how Troi was always telling Crusher how she was boinking these creepy dudes all the time and how Crusher almost never got any ever because Picard is sex stupid and needs to get woke?
And then, friend, Crusher met a sexy alien ghost candle in "Sub Rosa" that made her feel so good that her eyes changed COLOR. Dude. And she still came back to the ship when all was said and done. You think you could think of duty when you're in the middle of constant orgasmic bliss? Yeah. Didn't think so.
But mostly Crusher's just got great hair and could probably tell me I'm dying and still make things feel like they're going to be okay. Because she's the mom for the entire Federation.
Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Star Trek)
Bones went full Grumpy Cat when he found out he was number three on the list, but Kirk hooked him up with these two women in fur bikinis and then he was fine.
Look, he's a solid doctor, I don't think anyone would deny that. He's always on Kirk to stay in peak physical condition. He's diligent, he's somber, he's a solid diagnostician -- and he's kind of mean, right? I mean, if you missed a few check ups, would you want Bones to be the doctor you saw? No. He'd be mean! And not just regular-type mean -- he'd be "your cat is a little overweight and your vet is scolding you about it" mean. And that's the worst mean of all!
Despite the fact that his job is Chief Medical Officer, it's not really his primary function on the Star Trek. Spock's the brain, Kirk is the heart, and Bones is the gut. If something doen't smell right, Bones knows. When a dude is too cool to be true? Bones knows. When Spock is dead and his sum knowledge needs to be stored somewhere? Bones. Gotta be Bones. Which is great! He's a well-defined character.
But, for all the lives I'm sure he's saved, Bones has uttered the phrase "He's dead" probably more times than any other doctor in the history of television. It's literally his most well known catchphrase after "Dammit, Jim I'm a doctor not a clickbait headline" which is what he said to me when he heard about this article. Fair play, Bones, but you're still number three.
The Doctor (Star Trek: Voyager)
Being a doctor is his raison d'etre. Sure, the Doctor likes his opera, he enjoys pulling a Pygmalion on Seven of Nine every now and again, but he's really defined by his profession since being a doctor is, literally, what he was created to do.
Is he always great at it? Uh... no. But here's the thing -- he's dealing with stuff week-to-week that virtually no Starfleet doctor ever has before. And the Doctor is having to build skills off of his somewhat limited software.
So, yeah, sometimes he turns into an evil version of himself on accident. These things happen. Yes, his attempt to be a therapist caused him to convince Seven she was Borg raped when, oopsie daisy, she wasn't. And sure, sure, there was that one time he failed to prevent Paris and Janeway from mutating into intergalactic platypi and breeding together, but that's all water under the bridge!
The guy is supposed to be an emergencies only stand-in. He's the Bat Phone, not the "darn, I stubbed my toe" phone! But I challenge you to find any doctor more dedicated towards self-improvement. The Doctor leaves the ship frequently to visit other worlds with the specific intent of attending medical symposiums. And, even though it sometimes yields unexpected results, the Doctor does rewrite his own program with the specific intent of being better at what he does.
But if all those generic platitudes do not persuade, you, let's get real and consider "Latent Image," an episode that defined the Doctor in a way that perhaps no other Star Trek doctor has ever been defined before. In it, he discovers that his memory has been erased to remove an instance where, given the equal choice of saving one crewmate over another, he chose to save the one he knew best. His program breaks down because of a flaw -- it cannot explain why he would choose one person over another, it cannot condone that he might have unethically played favorites in the realm of life and death. But the Doctor unlocks those memories and, rather than having his mind wiped again, sits in the holodeck, largely by himself, to learn how to live with the impossible decision he had to make.
Basically, if I was sick with anything except Space Platypus Disorder (it's a serious affliction, y'all), this is the doctor I'd see.
Phlox (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Yes. Now you know why my boss was like "girl, you be trippin'". But I genuinely stand by my prognosis -- Phlox is the best doctor in the history of Star Trek.
Phlox has it all -- he's got a great bedside manner, his medical know how stretches across innumerable worlds, he's a real frontier doctor who knows how to work with whatever he has in front of him, and he's pretty solid at doctor/patient confidentiality.
But, and I know this will sound like a cop-out, Phlox wins by technicality. You see, he is the only doctor on record who managed to cure someone of being a Borg mid-assimilation. Yes, the somene he cured was himself, but it still counts, especially since he did it earlier than anyone else ever in the history of Starfleet. He didn't even know what a Borg was, fam!
Is "Regneration" a stupid episode? Yes. Is it ridiculous that Phlox cured himself of Borg? ABSOLUTELY. But it happened. And for that reason alone he is miles better at being a doctor than anyone else on this list.
Plus, Phlox is that chill, open-minded uncle with a bunch of wives who just wants you to do you. Stress, man -- it's a killer. Phlox is the anti-stress. He's the 420 of doctors. He probably prescribes some edibles and a martian wombat (they're cuddly as hell) for most illnesses.
I rest my case.