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Happy Birthday, Bones
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Published Thursday, January 20, 2011 @ 10:53 PM EST
Jan 20 2011

DeForest Kelley, who played the curmudgeonly Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the original Star Trek series, was born on this day in 1920 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the first member of the original Star Trek cast to pass away, on June 11, 1999, at the age of 79.

Initially approached for the role of the Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock, Kelley was instead cast as the ship's chief medical officer, described by series creator Gene Roddenberry as "a future-day H.L. Mencken". An unabashed cynic of technology, the McCoy character was a self-described old fashioned country doctor who put more faith in humanity than high technology.

In a 1982 interview with author Allan Asherman, Kelley said McCoy represented "the perspective of the audience, that if you were along on the voyage you'd think, 'These people are crazy! How in the hell do they expect to do that?'" Indeed, the McCoy character was often used to interject a dose of reality, interpret the techno-babble, and explain the frequently convoluted plotting of the more arcane Trek adventures to those in the audience struggling to follow the science fiction storylines.

His summary of the plot of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, delivered in exasperated disbelief to the gung-ho Captain Kirk, still stands as one of the best examples of exposition in screen history:

"You're proposing that we go backwards in time, find humpbacked whales, then bring them forward in time, drop 'em off, and hope to hell they tell this probe what to go do with itself?!" The entire plot in fewer than 35 words. That's Bones for you.

The son of a Baptist minister, Jackson DeForest Kelley wanted to be a doctor like an uncle he greatly admired, but his family couldn't afford to send him to medical school. He instead became a character actor who worked steadily in film and television from the late 1940s through the 1960s. Star Trek's popularity in syndication essentially ended his acting career, but he considered himself fortunate to be associated with a role that made him a permanent icon in popular culture, and he made a comfortable living by reprising his character for the motion picture series and appearing on the convention circuit.

Asherman's interview ended with a quote that could serve as an accurate and fitting epitaph:

"I'd wanted to be a physician and couldn't- and yet became the most well-known doctor in the galaxy."


Categories: DeForest Kelley, Star Trek


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Quotes of the day
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Published Thursday, January 20, 2011 @ 9:41 AM EST
Jan 20 2011

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.

Domestic policy can only lose elections. Foreign policy can kill us.

Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it.

For those to whom much is given, much is required.

Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.

I don't think the intelligence reports are all that hot. Some days I get more out of The New York Times.

If a nation cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.

If we are strong, our character will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.

If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.

In politics you have no friends, only allies.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be President but they don't want them to become politicians in the process.

My brother Bob doesn't want to be in government- he promised Dad he'd go straight.

My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches, but I never believed it until now.

The basis of effective government is public confidence and that confidence is endangered when ethical standards falter, or appear to falter.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie- deliberate, contrived and dishonest- but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.

The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

The mere absence of war is not peace.

The state is the servant of the citizen, and not his master.

The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.

The unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion.

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.

There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

Unless liberty flourishes in all lands, it cannot flourish in one.

War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.

Washington is a city of southern efficiency and northern charm.

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

We celebrate the past to awaken the future.

We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.

-John F. Kennedy


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