As noted in the answer to the question Does Spock have a PhD?, Spock is never referred to on-screen as "Dr. Spock" in Star Trek. However, the "doctor" title has persisted amongst the general population for many decades.

Out-of-universe, what is the earliest instance of this error?

Did someone write it in a newspaper? Was it mistakenly used by an interviewer or interviewee? Perhaps it appeared erroneously in a TV Guide entry? (Note that TV Guide began in 1953, thirteen years before The Original Series.)

Clarification: I am aware of Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose name is often connected to the confusion about Spock in Star Trek being called "Dr. Spock". But that's not what I'm asking about. I'm asking for the first instance of Star Trek's Spock being called "Dr. Spock" by someone.

  • Relevant quiz: sporcle.com/games/slipkid/dr-spock-or-mr-spock
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 5, 2015 at 19:16
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    I've seen a reference somewhere to "Mr." being a higher academic title than Dr. under some circumstances - but looks like that may have been strictly fictional as Wikipedia has no mention of it. ... although it would sort of make sense, by analogy to surgeons (who are "Dr" after gaining their medical doctorate, but then become "Mr" once fully qualified). Sep 5, 2015 at 20:26
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    Surgeons and high ranking consultants are generally referred to as "Mr" (or Mrs/Ms) whereas physicians are referred to as Dr. Sep 10, 2015 at 12:58
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    FYI, Spock is called Mister because of military tradition. Warrant officers and junior commissioned officers are sometimes referred to as Mister, e.g. Mr. Roberts (LTJG Doug Roberts in the play, film, and TV series of the same name). Aug 29, 2017 at 9:55

3 Answers 3


Why Dr Spock?

Dr Spock was a real person, an American pediatrician whose book Baby and Child Care, published in 1946, is one of the best-sellers of all time. This Benjamin Spock, unlike Star-Trek Spock, is usually referred to as "Dr Spock" (although the title seems to be that of a medical doctor rather than a PhD graduate).

Quoting from Wikipedia (sourced from the book The Making of Star Trek):

Roddenberry sought an alien-sounding name when he created "Spock", and did not know until later of Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician and author.

Quoting (again) from this discussion:

When Gene Roddenberry was informed that the name of his Vulcan was of a real person it was too late to change it. Star Trek and the baby-doctor both emerged into the public eye about the same time and some people who knew little of either confused the two into one.

This confusion has led to people - including some famous people - calling Star-Trek Spock "Dr Spock" by mistake.


When did it start?

An article here, mainly about Dr Spock, says (emphasis mine):

Leonard Nemoy [sic] struggled his whole career with people who confused Dr. and Mr. Spock, a confusion which normally resulted in an arch of his eyebrow.

So it looks as though the confusion goes right the way back to the start of Star Trek TOS. Indeed, the Star Trek writer Leonard Weinstein once said (again, emphasis mine):

I was about seven when Alan Shepard became the first non-canine, non-chimp American astronaut in 1961 (fast becoming ancient history!). I knew nothing about science fiction, but real space exploration captured my imagination right from the start. Five years later, as NASA advanced from Mercury to Gemini, Star Trek started without me. I don't know what I was watching in September '66, but it wasn't Star Trek. I heard my junior-high pals talk about it at the lunch table, but I must not have been paying close attention, because I confused Mr. Spock with Dr. Spock and Dr. Spock with Dr. Smith from Lost in Space. And what little I'd seen of Lost in Space had not impressed me, and I hadn't even noticed Star Trek. But my friends kept talking about it, so midway through the first season, I watched Star Trek myself.

This proves that the confusion dates back to the very first season of Star Trek TOS.

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    Although I was looking for the earliest instance, that may be impossible to track down, and your Weinstein quote is the closest thing I have seen. Unless someone digs something else up (which I feel is unlikely), my acceptance of your answer should stay intact. :-)
    – Praxis
    Sep 5, 2015 at 23:18

Spock is called Dr Spock by Dr McCoy in Season1 Ep3 CharlieX at about 9min 17sec while Kirk Spock and McCoy discuss Charlie on the bridge.

enter image description here

  • Then I suppose the first time the error was made “out of universe” must be a review of Charlie X. Great find by the way!
    – Vogon Poet
    Oct 22, 2019 at 5:41
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    The Chakoyeta transcript differs from your screengrab, fwiw
    – AakashM
    Oct 22, 2019 at 12:16
  • Not recalling the episode right now... I would suspect IF Dr McCoy called him, Dr Spock, he meant it sarcastically. As if to say "Oh you have a medical opinion? So your a Doctor now, Ok Dr Spock, whats your medical opinion." EDIT: Reading the transcript above, I believe it was meant sarcastically as opposed to addressing him as a real medical Doctor.
    – NJohnny
    Oct 22, 2019 at 16:38
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    Also it could be an error in the transcript. It may have been Spock who says: Doctor, are you speaking scientifically or emotionally? Instead of McCoy as the transcript shows. It would fit better If Spock said it to McCoy. Also the transcript indicates McCoy says 2 quotes in a row. (In a quick review, Its the only instance in the transcript where that happens.
    – NJohnny
    Oct 22, 2019 at 16:44
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    Coming late to the party, but it is an error in the transcript. the screengrab above is incorrect as well. The transcript fits the actual show with one exception. It is Spock who said, "Doctor, are you speaking scientifically or emotionally?". No one said, "Dr. Spock". I checked this in the episode itself. AFAIK, "Dr. Spock" was never said on screen. "Captain McCoy", however, was.
    – Basya
    Dec 21, 2020 at 11:34

Printed instances of the error go back to at least early September 1967.

Specifically, the listings magazine Cue published the following description of the episode "Amok Time", first broadcast on 15 September 1967 (emphasis added):

During a bizarre ritual on his native planet of Vulcan, Dr. Spock, who is suffering from a strange malady, is forced into a deadly fight with Captain Kirk.

This was published in Cue, vol. 36 (1967), page 70. (Google Books only permits "snippet view", so I have been unable to obtain the exact date this description was published. To find it, search inside the volume for "Amok" and "Spock" separately.)

I have not found any earlier instance of the error on Google books.

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