Paramount; Fox

Star Trek Faces Bones In The Ultimate Bones-off!

TOS's McCoy battles Bones's Brennan to determine which doctor best deserves their shared nickname.

Look, I didn't know what I was doing. As Star Trek Week drew closer, I thought it would be funny to make a joke about marrying DeForest Kelley's Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy to Emily Deschanel's Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan. It was a funny sentence or two taken out of context of a larger piece I was pitching. Of course, my bosses at this site didn't just take it as a joke. They thought it would be a great little Show Down, on its own. And I said yes, because I'm a people pleaser, despite the fact that I had never watched a single moment of Bones and wasn't even certain if the main character was ever called "Bones." Oh sure, I knew the other "Bones." I grew up watching and loving the original Star Trek. Well, because of my big dumb mouth, here we are. And here we go.

Who got there first?

The original Star Trek debuted September 8, 1966, thirty-nine years and five days before Bones arrived.

Winner: Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

Who got the nickname from a more important figure in his/her life?

In the case of both of these Boneses, the person who handed out the nickname is just about the only person who uses it. For Dr. Brennan, that person is Seeley Booth. He gives Dr. Brennan the nickname to get under her skin a bit, because she's a bit humorless. Of course, this leads to romance and then babies. Like all nicknames do eventually. Speaking of which: Capt. James T. Kirk is the man who gave Dr. McCoy his moniker. The show was canceled before their romance could even begin (I'm assuming).

Winner: Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan.

Who was surlier?

Dr. Brennan mostly comes off aloof or cold, which could read as rude at worst. But she doesn't hold a candle to the constant state of exasperation of Dr. McCoy. In every social interaction on the Enterprise, McCoy exudes the fraught energy of a new father, operating on a couple hours of sleep and having to deal with people who don't understand what he does or what his job entails. (See "Who has the better catchphrase?" below.)

Winner: Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

Who was the more believable doctor?

Dr. Leonard McCoy, as he repeatedly reminds nearly everyone he meets, is a simple country doctor, as if it's an accident that he's on a spaceship in the future, instead of in some remote Western town at the turn of the 19th century. Conversely, Dr. Brennan's intelligence puts her practically within a stone's throw of the autistic spectrum, smart to the point of total social ineptitude. She knows a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, provided that stuff is science. While Dr. McCoy speaks to the Platonic ideal of the house-call era doctor, Dr. Brennan definitely comes across more thoroughly educated.

Winner: Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan.

Who had cooler tech?

Oh sure, Dr. Brennan's lab overflows with the shiny, well-lit accoutrements of your average 21st century television crime drama. The tables are lit from within, glass partitions stand where walls would normally be, and everything seems recently polished. In other words, totally unlike any medical lab you might have the good (or terrible) fortune to end up in. Naturally, any sample of any kind can be analyzed in a matter of moments, as befits the plot. This last fact also applies to Dr. McCoy's main gadget, the Tricorder. Dr. McCoy also has that cool hypodermic thingy and medical beds that wirelessly monitor a patient's vitals. Sure, those gadgets are every bit as realistic as the "realistic" gadgets Dr. Brennan's team use. But McCoy's are believable because: the future. On the strength of the Tricorder alone, there's only one way this one can go.

Winner: Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

Who had the better catchphrase?

When faced with pop culture references, Dr. Temperance Brennan frequently says, "I don't know what that means." That may pass for comedic relief on Bones, but it doesn't hold a candle to Dr. McCoy's great "I'm a doctor, not a BLANK" catchphrase. Among the things Dr. McCoy claimed not to be: bricklayer, escalator, mechanic, engineer, and coal miner. So well-known and beloved was this phrase, it became a meme over forty years later.

Paramount

Paramount

As a bonus, Dr. McCoy repeated the phrase "He's dead, Jim" like a mantra. The fact that that particular line was so common speaks more to the dangers of hanging out with James T. Kirk than anything, I think.

Winner: Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

Verdict

By the end of next season, Dr. Brennan will have totaled two hundred forty-six episodes as a "Bones." In contrast, the original Dr. McCoy only managed seventy-nine television episodes and six feature films -- three more if you include the more modern version. But more isn't necessarily better. Dr. McCoy not only became "Bones" first, he definitely did it best. Honestly, Dr. Brennan is less of a "Bones" and more of a Spock, like so many mystery show leads on TV these days. In the end, for me -- and this may be the nostalgia talking -- there can be only one "Bones."

Winner: Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

Paramount

Paramount

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