The McCoy

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Can't you see from my expression how inhuman this so-called "logic" is?!

"By God, Jim! You can't seriously be considering this! Screw the Prime Directive, there's no time for debate! We have to act now to rescue the High Priestess; forget the MacGuffin and think about doing what's right!

"What's that, Spock? 'Logic?' If we listened to your cold reasoning, you'd have us look for that stupid Cosmic Keystone while innocent people suffer! The greater good? Better in the long run? The Klingons will kill us in five minutes if we go to rescue the high priestess unprepared? Dammit man, dare we call ourselves human if we don't?! What do you mean 'Thank you?'"

The McCoy is part of a Freudian Trio along with The Kirk and The Spock. Where the former is rational and intuitive, and the latter is cold and logical, The McCoy is emotional and humanistic. He cares about others deeply; for him doing the right thing is not a question of convenience or moral relativity, but about the concrete reality right now. Which is to say, someone like The Kirk cares about saving people; the McCoy cares about making things right. This often leads the heroes into hot water as this concern for others blinds him to complications in the Moral Dilemma of the week and leads him to advocate (or take it upon himself to do) "the right thing", regardless of how disastrous it would be in the short or long run. In Freudian psychology, this character represents the concept of The Id.

That said, they help keep the drama of a situation personal both for the characters and the viewer, reminding us just why the Littlest Cancer Patient deserves for The Hero to use the phlebotinum that only works once on him rather than to get them home. To be fair, The Spock can be just as compassionate, but is tempered with detachment and enough forethought to realize that the right answer might not be the correct one, (illogical as that sounds).

The McCoy is frequently a target for reminders about the Prime Directive, and one or more episodes might focus on how having his heart on his sleeve can actually cause quite a bit of damage to the people he "helps" with the best of intentions.

The McCoy still functions as an admirable character, however, due to his absolute devotion to his Moral beliefs and his refusal to give in to what others may tell him. For him, there is no such thing as acceptable losses. And if you start claiming that numbers can be lost or that A Million Is a Statistic, you can expect a thorough chewing out for your coldness. In the McCoy's mind, every life matters and everyone deserves to be saved. While The Spock sees people as numbers in the greater picture, The McCoy sees people with real lives and emotions.

Also, The McCoy exists as a counterpart to The Spock. If they are the moral center of the team in general too, then they are The Heart as well. Likely to be the Red Oni in a Red Oni, Blue Oni combination.

The McCoy is the Honor Before Reason Trope personified, and may occasionally be a Strawman Emotional.

If you're looking for a person or work named "McCoy", see the disambiguation page.

Examples of The McCoy include:

Anime and Manga

  • The main characters of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann fit directly into this Trope. Rather than simply listening to logic, they prefer to screw the (Physical and otherwise) rules and dive right into a situation.
    • Specifically, they kick reason to the curb, and go Beyond the Impossible. Because that's the Team Gurren way.
  • Murrue Ramius from Gundam Seed is a more reasonable McCoy in a command position, with a Sergeant Rock as her Deputy Captain, and The Kirk as an Ace Pilot and both of their primary advisor.
  • Kallen and Suzaku from Code Geass fill this role for their respective sides.
  • This personality archetype is, with a few exceptions in certain characters (namely Usopp and Robin, and then only occasionally for either), a prerequisite for joining the Straw Hat Pirates. It also seems to be the default personality for the majority of the characters aligned with good, period.
  • Similarly to the above, many characters in Bleach are compassionate honor-before-reason-or-logic types. The Gotei 13 can actually be split up evenly based on how they reacted in the Rescuing Rukia saga: those who sided with Ichigo and co. are this, while those who fought against them in the end (counting out instances like Kyouraku fighting Chad before he sympathized with their goals) are Spocks, except for Kurotsuchi and Kenpachi, who are just loose cannons in this regard.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sayaka and Madoka are the McCoys to Homura and Kyuubey's Spocks. In this way, it almost seems to Take a Third Option when it comes to the Emotions vs. Stoicism debate: Sayaka lives by her emotions and ends up paying for it in every possible universe becoming a Witch in the main timeline, Madoka ends up rewriting the universe into a happier place through the Power of Love, Homura is by far the most competent Magical Girl outside Madoka and none of the latter's achievements would have been possible without her, while Kyuubey has an arguable point in the goal he's working towards, but does so in an inarguably cruel and heartless way. In other words? Neither is specifically better than the other, and in fact both may be necessary, depending on the situation.

Films -- Live-Action

"McCoy in a way represents for us, or represented for us, the extremes of Kirk and Spock. If Spock is extreme logic, ... extreme science, and Kirk is extreme emotion and intuition, here you have a very colorful doctor, essentially a very humanistic scientist. So he, in a way, is literally and figuratively a representation of two extremes that often served as the glue that held the trio together."

    • Though it comes off in a very similar manner to the show, and is very well played.
  • Anakin Skywalker shows elements of this Trope in the Prequel Trilogy. Especially since this was the reason he turned to The Dark Side.
  • Mr White of Reservoir Dogs, in comparison to the cold and logical Mr Pink and the psychopathic Mr Blonde. He tells the dying Mr Orange his name and defends him all through the movie from accusations that Orange is a rat, based purely on the fact that he likes the guy.


Live-Action TV

  • The trope is named for Doctor Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy. He not only stressed humanism, he was all but dominated by his emotions, to the point that he seemed to find no value in logic whatsoever, even in situations where it would fit... um, logically. There are many Star Trek: The Original Series episodes wherein, had they listened to the Doctor instead of Spock, the Enterprise would be a cloud of space dust. In fairness, that came with his position and area of responsibility, as well as his Hippocratic oath, and is why he was in charge of running the medical division and not the ship; but he often served as Kirk's conscience.
    • There's a clear ideological bent this way in Starfleet medical school in general—an inclination to take "first do no harm" as far as the Prime Directive allows it; this may be because subsequent series are a Generation Xerox of the first. (Starfleet members from the American South are also frequently like this.) Examples include Dr. Crusher, who quite often would ignore rational ordeals and run into the battleground to try and save someone, and the more obnoxious Dr. Pulaski, McCoy's Distaff Counterpart. They definitely take an oath like the Hippocratic one, perhaps a modern modification of the oath like this one, or perhaps something unique to the Federation.
      • Deep Space Nine had Kira Nerys, while Odo was usually the more logical one.
      • Voyager used Captain Janeway in this role, while Tuvok and Chakotay would try to balance her out with logic.
        • Tom Paris also had his McCoy moments.
      • Enterprise had "Trip" Tucker (engineer).
  • Firefly: Kaylee often was the one who was more about the right thing, like not abandoning River and Simon.
  • Jack O'Neill in Stargate SG-1 was more often than not The McCoy in addition to The Kirk; playing a Foil to the more rational Samantha and Daniel (Teal'c had his McCoy moments as well). He'd sometimes choose to help others, or incessantly bug Sam and Daniel to explain to him why they shouldn't help others.
    • Daniel himself is more often The McCoy especially when he feels the current situation is SG-1's fault. O'Neill was more often the calm, rational military leader and Daniel has to convince everyone else on what was right.
      • Both Jack and Daniel could turn into McCoys. They'd often get into arguments, not about whether to help, but HOW to help. A prime example; in Scorched Earth an alien wants to terraform a planet so his civilization can be rebuilt there. The terraforming would kill the population already living there. Daniel wants to talk to the alien and reach a compromise. Jack wants to blow him up.
      • While Teal'c is usually the Spock, he has had his time as the McCoy; usually when someone does something sends him on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. There was an entire episode dedicated to such an event.
  • Lost in Space had its own Freudian Trio with Will Robinson, the Robot and Doctor Smith. Ironically, the most logical of them all, the Robot, would frequently prove his great titanium alloy heart by performing a Heroic Sacrifice for the crew.
    • Although Doctor Smith was closer to The Spock with his self-serving interests, he had quite a few Pet the Dog moments of humanistic behaviour himself.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow and Xander alternated—and often tag-teamed—as the McCoys of the Scoobie Gang, wanting to do what they thought was right, no matter how stupid or reckless it was, and occasionally put Giles down for trying to stay rational in emotional situations, calling him heartless.
    • When Willow was kidnapped, the Scoobies (especially Oz) were The McCoy, Giles was The Kirk and Wesley was The Spock.
      • Buffy herself was The McCoy more than anyone else, often thinking with her heart rather than her head, such as her reluctance to kill Angel in season 2, endangering the world as a result, her refusal to kill Dawn in season 5, endangering the world as a result, her refusal to kill Spike in season 7, endangering the world as a result... Sensing a theme here?
  • Doctor Who has a tradition of this, when the companions usually act as the heart and the moral compass for the often aloof and alien Doctor. Barbara was the first companion to somewhat "humanise" the unpredictable and sometimes callous First Doctor. In the new series, Donna lived and breathed this Trope, especially as the Tenth Doctor's characterisation grew darker and darker.
  • Ironically, Jack McCoy of Law and Order is not The McCoy for the show. That role is typically filled by the female A.D.A. Except when Angie Harmon played that role as a conservative Republican, so they made the new D.A. a female college professor, and made her The McCoy. Of course, some can take it too far: Serena Southerlyn was too much The McCoy, which resulted in her being fired. This also led to an example of Suddenly Sexuality.
  • Sheldon, from The Big Bang Theory, insists that since he's Spock and Leonard is Kirk then Leonard's girlfriend Stephanie must be McCoy.
  • Wilson from House is a prime example of this Trope. He is a stark contrast to House himself, who doesn't give a damn about anyone. In the words of his snarky counterpart, "You love everybody. That's your pathology.".
  • Sam is very much The McCoy of the iCarly Freudian Trio, right up to her constant arguing with The Spock of the trio, Freddie, and being swayed by The Kirk of the trio, Carly.
  • Delenn in Babylon 5 is definitely a McCoy with her romantic and mystical outlook and her often spectacular displays of Honor Before Reason. B5 doesn't really have The Spock to balance her. Sheridan is a Kirk and Franklin, who is The Spock or something close, doesn't interact with Delenn enough to balance her. As B5 is something of a romanticist work, that is reasonable.
  • Power Rangers. In general, all the colors are this, although Reds tend to be the most McCoy-ish. (Cole, Casey, and Conner all get special mentions, though really any rookie Red counts.)
  • Zhaan, Chiana, and to a lesser degree Jool served as McCoys most often on Farscape. John did as well sometimes (especially in the first season), although he became more The Kirk as the series went along. Aeryn and D'Argo were usually Kirks, but on occasion they delved into McCoy territory, usually when it came to their loved ones (John, Pilot, and to a certain extent her mother for Aeryn, Jothee and Chiana for D'Argo).
  • "Doc" Soto in Alcatraz seems to be slipping into this role in opposition to Hauser's Spock.


  • In Persona 4, this role is shared by Yosuke and Rise.
  • Garrus Vakarian of the Mass Effect Series evolves into this over the course of Mass Effect 1 & 2. By the second game, he forms a team of Cowboy cops to combat the corruption on the station in Omega. True to the "Get into hot water" portion, his whole squad ends up massacred.
  • Merrick from Dawn of War Retribution objects violently to the notion that he and his men are cannon fodder. After an incident that ends with thousands of soldiers dying in a cataclysm, he attacks his commanding officer, and has the balls to tell him off whilst a commissar holds a gun to his head, itching to pull the trigger.
  • Tidus practically embodies this Trope in Final Fantasy X, frequently throwing all respect for the alien culture he finds himself washed up in to the winds in order to do what he perceives as the right thing, particularly when it involves stopping people from dying.
  • The titular character from Sonic the Hedgehog, in contrast to Tails and Knuckles.
  • Lloyd Irving in Tales of Symphonia has spades of this. While Colette is The Chosen and works hard to bring about the regeneration of the world through a set quest procedure until it turns out to not be the case at all with Cruxis, Lloyd doesn't follow tradition and urges others, in his own short-sighted viewpoints, from half-elves discriminated to Exspheres and what they're used for, to make their own decisions and accept/help each other along the way.


Web Original

Western Animation

  • Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender. She once detained the group for three days to help a village who lived on a polluted river, even destroying the factory that polluted it.
  • Sam in Danny Phantom. She forces Vegan meals and steals frogs from being dissected in her school, displays her disguise on a Beauty Contest to bring individuality to the girls, and other humanitarian beliefs she has up her sleeves. When she's not doing that, then she makes sure Danny is going the right path.
  • Mikey Blumberg from Recess

Real Life