Unlike Star Wars, Star Trek isn’t a franchise that’s defined too much by archetypes because it doesn’t often repeat itself. All the captains are different and distinct, and every series has its own unique tone. Having said that, one especially noteworthy recurring aspect is Star Trek’s doctors.
Beginning with Bones in Star Trek‘s first series, the sci-fi franchise has demonstrated a particular penchant for grumpy, irritable physicians. In fact, it’s possible to correlate the irritability of a doctor with the quality of their Star Trek series. Bones and the EMH? They’re in good shows. Phlox and Culber? Not so much. But it’s not that simple, and there’s a lot of middle ground, so we’ve analyzed all the medically-orientated Star Trek characters to rank them in terms of grouchiness.
9. Dr. Phlox
Sorry for that jumpscare image.
Phlox doesn’t have an irritable bone in his body. He loves life and embraces curiosity, joy, and wonder at all possibilities with a combination of optimism and wisdom. Where does he land on the grumpiness scale? 0/10.
8. Dr. Culber
Culber is one of the nicest, most talented, uncomplicated doctors in Starfleet, despite having died and come back to life. He was never going to rank any higher than this, was he?
7. Dr. Crusher
Doctor Beverly Crusher’s no pushover. She’s honest, forthright, and — at least in Picard season 3 — has shown that she’ll defend herself and her loved ones no matter the cost. But for the majority of the TNG days, Crusher is the antithesis of irritability.
She’s warm and kind (and, yes, a bit bland) and that makes her a lovely person to be around, and in the presence of. She’s the type of person who’d be your parent’s friend, and you’d look forward to them coming over for dinner. Easy to get along with, thoughtful, and a delight.
6. Dr. Bashir
Julian Bashir is annoying. He’s got that vague aura of superiority that’s just immediately off-putting, and he’s also kind of slimy, too. That’s why he pairs so well with Miles O’Brien: his counterpart is his complete opposite and brings him down to Earth.
So he’s annoying. We’ve got that sorted. But how irritable is he? Well, he’s certainly capable of quite considerable, righteous anger, as we see him direct at Sisko on occasion. He’s no shrinking violet, and with his history as a Section 31 operative, we know he also has a backbone of steel.
That’s not to be confused with grumpiness and such, but Bashir’s cranky side is certainly brought out when he dabbles in the darker side of things.
5. Dr. M’Benga
For the most part, Doctor M’Benga is cool as a cucumber. Like, seriously, he’s one of the most unphased, unbothered Doctors in Star Trek. He does his job, does it well, and then sits quietly socializing with his friends and colleagues. Why, then, is he this high up?
Well, he did murder someone in his own sickbay. Whether or not the Klingon in question, Dak’Rah, deserved it is neither here nor there. The fact that this Doctor, who swore to ‘do no harm’ was happy to plunge a knife into someone’s heart says a lot. It does, at least, suggest that he has a penchant for ruthless violence, and that’s close enough to irritability for M’Benga to take this spot in the middle of the list.
4. Dr. Pulaski
Now we get to the doctors who are truly, properly grumpy. Like, seriously irritable. Deciding whether or not to begin this section with Pulaski or Bones was a toss-up, because they’re both two sides of the same coin, and intentionally so. In fact, when Gates McFadden’s Crusher was jettisoned at the end of TNG season 1, the hope was to bring in a character who could step into the Bones mold.
Enter: Pulaski. Pulaski is great, and we love her. She’s a severely underrated character who has one of the best character arcs in all of Star Trek, growing to respect Data, his sentience, and his rights after initially dismissing him as being no more ‘human’ than a toaster.
But make no mistake. She’s austere, grumpy, and completely unwilling to suffer any nonsense. She’s even one of the few crew members who ever has the guts to speak her mind openly to Captain Picard, not refraining from giving him her unfiltered views. So, irritate and annoy Pulaski at your peril. She won’t tolerate it.
3. Dr. McCoy / Bones
We’re ranking Bones one position above Pulaski on the irritability scale because, unlike his counterpart aboard the USS Enterprise-D, Bones seems to be permanently grumpy. Pulaski has good days, and if you catch her at the right time she’ll be perfectly pleasant. On the flip side, Bones is never anything other than icy, seemingly annoyed by life itself.
Even when he’s being generous or selfless (as with The Search for Spock, when he risks his life for Spock‘s) it’s always behind a veneer of snark. So yes, he has a kind soul and he’ll save your life, but you won’t be getting any warmth from Bones. That said, his constant friction with Spock (and his position as a frank and honest advisor to Kirk) is at the heart of TOS.
2. Dr. T’Ana
T’Ana, the Caitian physician aboard the USS Cerritos, will fuck you up. If you’re her patient, she’ll make your life a misery, while also healing you.
In typical Lower Decks fashion, she’s a character who exists to comment on famous Star Trek tropes, and she takes the ‘annoyed physician’ archetype to its logical conclusion: the Nth degree (speaking of which, what an episode that is!). So in some ways, it’s hard to rank T’Ana here. She’s artificially designed to take the top spot, though that makes her irritability slightly artificial, something that ever-so-slightly undermines it.
1. The EMH
Someone whose artificiality doesn’t undermine their irritability is the EMH. Smug, arrogant, and impatient, Voyager’s EMH starts out his journey as a wildly entertaining but detestable figure, loathed by his own crew. That’s no surprise. Every time he’s summoned from the ether (“Please state the nature of the medical emergency,”) it seems to be a grand inconvenience, and unlike Starfleet’s other medical practitioners, he doesn’t actually seem to want to be a doctor.
Over seven seasons of self-discovery, the EMH comes to understand that he wants to be an artist, a poet, a singer, and a captain: he’s irritable because he wants to be so much more than the parameters of his existence permit him to be. You’d be grumpy too, in those circumstances, right? So, the EMH’s crankiness is two-fold. It’s a defining part of his personality and a product of his situation in life. He’s the personification of it.
For more on Star Trek, why not check out our ranking of the captains by how well they’d survive a zombie apocalypse or our picks for the best Star Trek starships? You can also check out what’s going on with Strange New Worlds season 3 or Star Trek Legacy.