Every Star Trek fan knows who DeForest Kelly is even if they’ve never watched The Original Series
Portraying the Chief Medical Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy beginning in 1966, DeForest Kelly continued in the role until 1993 when he voiced Dr. McCoy in the video game Star Trek: Judgment Rites. Prior to Star Trek, he had a long and successful career in mostly westerns that started in 1945. But, to Star Trek fans, he will always be known as Bones.
Both wise-cracking and wise, Bones deftly traded barbs with Mr. Spock and shared slices of wisdom with Captain James T. Kirk as they navigated the adventures of space. Though we never learned much about his history before the Enterprise, what we learned about his character during his time on the starship earned him a place in our hearts forever.
"“Do you know why you’re not afraid to die, Spock? You’re more afraid of living. Each day you stay alive is just one more day you might slip and let your human half peek out.”"
Though at times his role required a solemnness, he also brought the comedic relief to the series and the movies with his grumpiness, his exasperation with Spock and technology, and his commentary on the world around him. Even though these words were written for him, Kelly had a way of delivering them that always brought a laugh or two.
Kelly passed away on June 11, 1999 only days after Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ended its seven-year run and while Star Trek: Voyager was in its fifth season. The continuation of the franchise solidified Kelly’s part in history, and the character he embodied became an icon that Karl Urban worked to emulate in the rebooted Star Trek movies
"“What he’s saying, Spock, is that a man who holds that much power, even with the best intentions, just can’t resist the urge to play god.”"
DeForest Kelly would have celebrated his 101st birthday today, and though he can’t be with us, we can still remember him and celebrate for him. There will never be another Dr. Leonard McCoy nor will there ever be another DeForest Kelly, but thanks to the wonders of technology, we can continue to enjoy his talent for the years to come.
"“Monsters come in many forms. You know the greatest monster of them all, Jim? Guilt.”"
Kelly’s portrayal of Dr. McCoy remains some of the finest acting, especially in The City on the Edge of Forever, in Star Trek history, and to many fans, he will always be the best doctor of all the series. To many fans, those who entered the medical profession, he will be remembered as their inspiration, and that is how he wanted to be remembered.
"”These people are doctors now, all kinds of doctors who save lives. That’s something that very few people can say they’ve done. I’m proud to say that I have.”"