Based on a thought I had reading through some answers to this question, and many sentiments I've heard over the years about Gene Roddenberry's vision for a universe of total racial acceptance, cultural diversity, etc, why does McCoy always seem like such a flippin' racist toward Mr Spock?

I get that Kirk had a categorical mistrust of Klingons because a Klingon murdered his son, so—okay—he had an emotionally charged reason behind what he said in STVI which blinded him temporarily. Does McCoy have something in has past like this? Is he just a crusty old Southern fossil? Is racism toward other species accepted with the general idea among humanity that they're only down with tolerance among other Earthlings? What's the explanation for McCoy's attitude

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    McCoy and Spock are actually good friends. It's like how you fight with your brother when you're a kid.
    – Mithical
    Feb 15, 2016 at 1:09
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    @Mithrandir No doubt, especially later on. But even amongst friends, he says what I would consider some pretty over the line stuff. And there are times when it didn't seem all that much like joking.
    – 1252748
    Feb 15, 2016 at 1:14
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    Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/76405/…
    – Mithical
    Feb 15, 2016 at 1:15
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    Spock is similarly "racist", with continual jibes about McCoy's lack of emotional control.
    – Valorum
    Feb 15, 2016 at 7:17
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    Wouldn't it technically speciesist?
    – Vogie
    Feb 19, 2016 at 3:57

2 Answers 2


Yes, he is a crusty old Southern fossil.

The official Star Trek database (at StarTrek.com) uses your choice of words, almost verbatim, in describing McCoy's disposition:

His temperament was sometimes argumentative, a cynic's outer crustiness masking deep caring beneath the surface. His "old South" roots led to the old-time physician manner of doctoring, with a Southern accent that was most apparent when under stress....McCoy played his role as psychologist expertly to the hilt — especially for the ship's two senior officers. As such an emotional watchdog he was not afraid to take on his captain, but it was his running battle of wits with Spock which became legendary. Spock showed his true feelings, though, as when inviting McCoy down to Vulcan for his "wedding" and in storing his katra with him before a known suicidal saving of their ship before the Genesis detonation.


In other words, McCoy and Spock have an underlying respect for one another, but McCoy displays a kind of biting wit and "crustiness" that mask his respect for Spock.

All in all, while humanity has evolved by McCoy's time to have eliminated most public displays of prejudice, this does not mean that every single individual adheres to this, and certainly not in equal measures.

Even by the 24th Century, humanity still has an underlying strain of prejudice. From "Encounter at Farpoint":

RIKER: But your files, they say you're a —

DATA: Machine? Correct, sir. Does that trouble you?

RIKER: To be honest, yes, a little.

DATA: Understood, sir. Prejudice is very human.

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    I'm not convinced Spock was on the page as McCoy in this matter. In TOS: "All Our Yesterdays" Spock and McCoy are transported back into a planet's ancient history and Spock's mind begins reverting to a less disciplined state. McCoy throws a relatively mild jab at him: "You pointed-eared Vulcan!" Spock grabs him and replies, angrily: "I don't like that. I don't think I ever did, and now I'm sure." See startrek.com/watch_video/episode-preview-all-our-yesterdays Mar 25, 2016 at 23:13
  • Granted this takes place in the middle of fight, but I was always under the impression that Spock put up with McCoy's language not because there a mutual agreement of it being friendly banter, but because it simply didn't trigger him emotionally (at least not seriously). But McCoy certainly could have had playful intentions in this matter. Mar 25, 2016 at 23:15
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    I'm not sure the Data example is a good example. For instance, Merriam Webster describes prejudice as "an unfair feeling of dislike (...) especially when it is not reasonable or logical". IMHO, neither is it unreasonable to be unsure about what to expect on one's first encounter with a one-of-its-kind organism or device, nor is being troubled necessarily the same thing as disliking, or possibly even expressing that dislike. Mar 25, 2016 at 23:30
  • I appreciate this answer very much. I'm curious why after a month there is so much activity on it in the last hour. Can you shed some light? Thanks!
    – 1252748
    Mar 25, 2016 at 23:54
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    Someone posted a new answer so the question popped to the top of the page. Mar 26, 2016 at 3:11

In dramatic terms, McCoy can get away with being so irascible because he is the ship's medical officer. His devotion to the well-being of the crew (including Spock) provides a balance to his crusty exterior. The same balance would not work, for instance, in a science or weapons officer.

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