My question is about the medicine kit of Doctor McCoy.


Check out the good doctor's miracle cure from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. When McCoy asks an old woman “What’s the matter with you?”, she replies “Kidney, dialysis.” McCoy reacts in horror and gives her a pill. Moments later, she’s being wheeled around the hospital, shouting, “Doctor gave me a pill, and I grew a new kidney!”

Why did Dr McCoy have a medicine kit including that pill with him? Was it a standard package he had? If he came from the Enterprise I would think yes, but he was on a Klingon ship.

Any ideas?

  • 13
    Perhaps it was not a "grew new kidney pill" but a general "grew missing organ pill"?
    – Hothie
    Mar 1, 2016 at 16:24
  • 3
    Dialysis does not necessarily indicate a missing kidney, yes?
    – Adamant
    Mar 1, 2016 at 16:41
  • 20
    It is possible that the pill simply restored her existing kidney to proper working order. In essence, giving her a new one. Mar 1, 2016 at 16:54
  • 15
    Just because she says she grew a new kidney doesn't mean that's what actually happened. We can be confident that the pill restored her kidney's function in some way, but I wouldn't hold it as certain that the pill did, in fact, cause a new kidney to exist where there wasn't one before.
    – Mar
    Mar 1, 2016 at 21:17
  • 2
    At top class medical institution in some light-year radius I can easily see transporter beam technology being used to store/materialize amounts of specific homogeneous chemical compounds. All in a briefcase. A reaaly high-tech, rare, expensve and life-saving briefcase.
    – loa_in_
    Mar 1, 2016 at 22:27

4 Answers 4


It is highly possible that McCoy was carrying a bit of an augmented kit.

His kit would likely have been the one he took with him when abandoning the Enterprise at the Genesis Planet in ST:III. Prior to the Enterprise's destruction, they were told that Spock was alive, but McCoy did not know the extent of Spock's regeneration. When he grabbed his kit while Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov were programming the destruction, it would have been wise to grab a few other things that may have been useful for a recently reborn Spock, like pills that repair Kidneys.

While on Vulcan, he didn't really have reason to take them out. In fact he could still have been suspicious of the genesis effect and kept them in case Spock took a turn for the worse during their voyage home.

  • 4
    They resupplied on Vulcan, so he should have had exactly what was needed for the trip off the ship.
    – Trisped
    Mar 1, 2016 at 21:46
  • I thought Kirk was the Boy Scout according to the younger Dr. Marcus, not Bones. :)
    – T.J.L.
    Mar 2, 2016 at 16:10

I'm going to go out on a limb with a guarded "yes". McCoy certainly recognised the condition described and was pretty confident that he'd have something that would immediately cure her ailment. Whether this was a specific cure for kidney conditions or something more general isn't really explained in the script or novelisation where it's just described as a "lozenge".

We do absolutely know that the medical bag (and, presumably its contents) are Federation issue. The bag itself belongs to McCoy rather than coming from the Klingon ship.

"We don't even have time for short versions of stories!" Dr. McCoy snapped. "Let's find Chekov and get out of here." He reached for the doorknob.

"Wait," Gillian said. She handed McCoy the blue scrub suit. "Thought you wanted to look like a doctor."

"I thought you said I would, with my bag," he said grumpily. He hefted his medical kit, a leather satchel hardly different externally from the sort of bag doctors carried in the twentieth century.

ST IV: The Voyage Home - Official Novelisation


It seems likely that what he gave her was a more general treatment for organ failure. Perhaps medical science had made some progress in kickstarting the body's general healing abilities using stem cell therapy. If you could induce the production of certain stem cells, it's possible that the damaged tissues could be repaired.

We only have a small glimpse of what happened, but it's possible that further examination would reveal that her other organs may have all repaired themselves to some degree. You could also reason that the delivery system was optimized in a way that would concentrate the effect on severely damaged tissue.

One thing we can't be sure of is the extent of the repair. He gave her a single dose. That may have been enough to repair the damage enough to restore kidney function, but we don't know how much or how long the effect would last before degeneration started again.

Another factor to consider is the speed with which the therapy worked. You'd still be constrained the normal metabolic process, as well as the conservation of mass and energy. However, we have to allow for some hand waving due to the time constraints of the movie. :)

  • 1
    nanite infused pills? no wait, that's probably an anachronism.
    – user11521
    Mar 1, 2016 at 20:12
  • @Michael I thought about nanotechnology, but if you look at how medical technology progressed through the original timeline, there are only a few episodes where it plays much of a role until the Borg are encountered in VOY. This is where I start to have problems accepting ENT being the same timeline as TOS. ENT mentions nanotech being used by the Denobulans, which is fine. It's also showed to be used by the Borg (apparently they stopped using it for TNG and then picked it back up in VOY).
    – kettch
    Mar 1, 2016 at 21:46
  • I believe this is the correct answer. We have seen several drugs in the Star Trek universe (especially inoprovaline) that treat a myriad of conditions.
    – Praxis
    Mar 2, 2016 at 5:09
  • 3
    Heh, Inoprovaline can bring back the dead. And whatever illness you have, it works within one second of being injected, too. Much like about every drug in Star Trek works within an instant and provides complete healing, even if an alien life form has transformed 75% of your body into a vine, or if Borg have cut off an arm and removed an eye. The only thing Starfleet cannot cure in a satisfying manner is lost Ferengi legs.
    – Damon
    Mar 2, 2016 at 13:02
  • 1
    That's it. I'd forgotten about inaprovaline. In Latin that translates to "lazy writers".
    – kettch
    Mar 2, 2016 at 15:30

I'd like to think someone went back and studied the spores from "This Side of Paradise" and was able to isolate their curative properties without the mental drawbacks. We know they regrew and appendix Even with them, their affects still last after the mental influence is overcome. It's not that McCoy has a kidney growing pill. He has a pill that restores perfect health and regrow organs. That would seem to be standard medical equipment if it existed.

The only thing is there was no evidence the spore's regenerative properties work that quickly. McCoy never mentioned the Enterprise crew being restored to perfect health, just that the colonists, who'd had much longer exposure, retained it.

  • This would appear to be a nice answer but if you could edit in some quotes and other evidence to back it up it would be greatly improved.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jun 20, 2019 at 13:20

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