Why Did Dr. McCoy Get the Job Aboard the Enterprise?

Three doctors from ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’

Paramount Three doctors from ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’

Those who watch “Star Trek: The Original Series” closely can tell that not everything was completely set in stone from the start. Meaning, much like other television shows and films, which are created by a staff of dedicated professionals, “Star Trek” evolved over time. Even though the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, was a visionary, much of what it became was due to collaboration. 

Thanks to a wonderful series of shows created by the “Inglorious Treksports,” fans now have a deep appreciation for what Roddenberry set out to create. Hosts Mark A. Altman and Daren Dochterman have spent many hours dissecting and discussing the series bibles (also known as writer’s guides). Those were a handbook for the writers, actors, producers, effects teams, and others hired to help create Roddenberry’s vision into a reality.

Sometimes that meant bending the rules of these bibles a bit, especially when it came to budget considerations or storytelling reasons. One of these interesting changes was when Roddenberry decided to change the name of the captain of the Enterprise from Robert Winter to Christopher Pike for “The Cage.” This was the title of the first “Star Trek” pilot episode. 

Fans will also note in that story, Captain Pike was supposed to meet a “winged humanoid,” according to the original treatment of “The Cage.” Some of this was actually filmed but left on the cutting room floor.  

One of the most apparent changes that rippled through those early episodes was the revolving doctor. It was filmed first, “The Cage” featured Dr. Boyce as the ship’s doctor. Boyce was played by veteran actor John Hoyt. In the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the ship had yet another doctor. This time, fans met Dr. Piper, who was played by Paul Fix

Eventually, the series settled on DeForest Kelley, who would portray Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in three seasons of “The Original Series,” two seasons of “The Animated Series,” six feature films, and one appearance on “The Next Generation.” 

Over time, Kelley proved to be a good choice for the chief medical officer, as he was clearly a fan favorite and a member of the original “Star Trek” trinity. But why Kelley and not the other two actors?

Dr. Boyce: Hoyt Was Not Asked to Return for “Where No Man…”

Actor John Hoyt was 59 when he appeared in “The Cage,” and according to “Star Trek: The Original Series – A Celebration,” Hoyt was simply not asked to return for the second pilot. The book, written by starship expert and author Ben Robinson and Ian Spelling, a respected journalist and Trek expert, details many of the stories of actors who appeared just once or twice in the series. Hoyt was one of them.

According to “A Celebration,” Hoyt said that he watched the screening of “The Cage” before it aired and felt like he had avoided a disaster, as the reaction of those in the screening room was “silence.” He later admitted that he missed out on the Trek phenomenon. 

Dr. Piper: Roddenberry Felt That Paul Fix Was Too Old

Robinson and Spelling write that Fix “didn’t have much to do” in the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Roddenberry wanted Kelley for the doctor role. According to the book, Roddenberry “regarded Fix as a weak link” on the show. 

In the book, Trek insider and writer D.C. Fontana said that Roddenberry wanted a “more vigorous doctor.” Fix was 64 when he appeared in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

Roddenberry Got His Man — De Kelley

In the end, the role went to Kelley, who had known Roddenberry for some time. He’d even appeared in two failed pilots for Roddenberry. According to “A Celebration,” Kelley told Roddenberry that Trek would either be a big hit or a big miss.

“It turned out to be a bit of both,” said Kelley. 

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