No other noble profession has been so ubiquitous on the television screen than the physician especially in the world of science fiction/fantasy. These medical miracle workers are on board to heal, comfort and advise their patients, strangers and co-workers. The doctoring being done necessarily is not in a physical capacity only—sometimes the variety of specialty may be in other fields beyond the anatomy.
As we have become accustomed to categorizing the nostalgic trends in sci-fi/fantasy television, let’s examine some of yesteryear’s notable healers and dealers in prime time, shall we? Again, some of the selections below may be quite obvious to you and others not so obvious. So sit back and stick out your tongue and say “Ahhhhhhhhhh!”
Frank’s top ten doctors in sci-fi/fantasy are:
The Doctor from DR. WHO: Nobody has shaped the world of science fiction adventure than the worldwide impact of the UK’s medical mainstay Dr. Who for nearly five decades now. The time traveling humanoid alien and his TARDIS space-travel vehicle has been entertaining global television audiences for what seems like an eternity. When flying through time vortexes and confronting nefarious personalities out to ruin mankind, the Doctor earned the respect and recognition as being labeled one of the most notable footnotes in British pop cultural circles. From the first Doctor, William Hartnell, in 1963 to the current Doctor, Matt Smith, Dr. Who fanatics continue to be fascinated by the world’s longest running science fiction program.
Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy from STAR TREK: Now did you really think that I would be inept enough not to include the iconic and irascible Dr. Bones McCoy from the starship U.S.S. Enterprise? An extremely capable surgeon and diagnostician, Bones had a surly bedside manner as well. Easily miffed and excitable, Bones’s sarcasm (‘Jim, I’m a doctor…not a lumberjack!’) was a welcomed gimmick to the classic Star Trek. In particular, his bickering with the ship’s half-breed Vulcan first officer Mr. Spock was enough to provide both elements of comical relief and visible tension. At the end of the day, Bones McCoy was still dedicated, accountable and loyal to Captain James. T. Kirk and the Enterprise crew.
Dr. Beverly Crusher from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: Ravishing red-haired Dr. Beverly Crusher was briefly the head of Star Fleet Medical and maintained a romantic feeling for the new Enterprise’s leader in Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Dr. Crusher was also the parent of young Wesley, a Starfleet Academy enrollee with a gifted imagination and ingenuity. Crusher was intelligent, focused and certainly took no guff from peers and insubordinates alike.
Dr. David Bruce Banner from THE INCREDIBLE HULK: Culver Institute widowed physician and scientist, Dr. David Banner is the victim of excessive gamma radiation after testing his own body in the name of experimentation with body chemistry and super-human strength when facing adverse situations. Unbeknown to Dr. Banner, an awry incident occurs when he inadvertently overdoses his bodily systems with the toxic radiation. This, of course, resulted in Banner’s transformation into a massive and hulking green man-monster whenever stressful pressure is applied to Banner in dire predicaments. The Incredible Hulk is the comic creation of Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee. Banner is compassionate and cares for the many individuals he encounters during his cross-country journeys as he tries to figure out how to control the unpredictable rage that plagues him courtesy of a major scientific mishap in the acknowledgement of mysterious human behavior.
Dr. Bombay from BEWITCHED: In the 60s fantasy witchcraft series Bewitched, suburban housewife Samantha Stephens is the pretty protagonist that serves as the saucy sorceress adjusting to domestic life with her mortal husband Darren and her two children Tabitha and Adam. Unfortunately for Samantha, she cannot turn to a human physician should something seriously ail her. Enter Dr. Bombay (played by British character actor Bernard Fox), an eccentric and impatient family doctor that catered to Samantha and other hocus pocus patients. Dr. Bombay always seems to be engaged in some distraction every time Samantha summons him for medical emergencies. Perhaps Samantha’s face possessed mysterious dots on her face? If so, the pompous Bombay was called for his diagnoses.
Dr. Zachary Smith from LOST IN SPACE: The cowardly and conniving Dr. Zachary Smith was easily the villainous breakout star of Irwin Allen’s 60s space adventure Lost in Space. A medical doctor by trade, Dr. Smith is originally sent on board the Jupiter 2 to sabotage the space vehicle, the Robot and the Robinsons’ mission to travel in suspended animation to colonize the planet Alpha Centauri. Dr. Smith is stranded aboard the space ship at its critical launch causing the Robinsons and pilot Major Don West to be thrown off course thus getting them ‘lost in space’ for three TV seasons between 1965-1968. Despicable, detestable and diabolical, Smith was the source for comical relief and the weekly dilemmas that befell the Robinsons. Although only planned to be a one-time guest star on the sci-fi show, the producers were wise to keep established Shakespearean actor Jonathan Harris in the mix as he gave Lost in Space the solid lift-off it needed to ensure its legendary campy roots that still thrills TV viewers in many countries in syndication.
Dr. Sam Beckett from QUANTUM LEAP: Physicist Sam Beckett was a time traveling casualty that aimlessly assumed the bodies of ordinary and famous/infamous people (and occasionally animals) throughout various historical eras. Sam’s agenda was to ‘put right what once went wrong’ when leaping into the countless body forms of the targeted, periled individuals. The anticipation of Sam’s final leap back to his own time was a constant theme. Still, Sam and his cad-like advising hologram “Observer” Al Calavicci did meaningful work in trying to resolve the complicated lives of the souls they encountered throughout the 5-year leaping sessions in this NBC cult favorite early 90s sci-fi gem.
Dr. Rudy Wells from THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN/THE BIONIC WOMAN: Dr. Rudy Wells had such an accomplished medical resume. After all, not many physicians can say that they helped conduct top secret, high-powered surgeries that resulted in the creation of turning an ex-astronaut and former pro tennis player in multi-million dollar bionic specimens that worked for the government agency OSI to protect society from human baddies, alien elements and other creature-oriented phenomenon. Certainly Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers can thank Dr. Wells for their ‘reinvention’ as half human/half cyborgs now paying back a tremendous debt for their restored livelihoods.
Dr. Benjamin Jeffcoate from MY SECRET IDENTITY: The 1988 situation comedy My Secret Identity told the tale of teen wonder Andrew Clements whose experimental collaboration with his neighbour and scientist friend Dr. Jeffcoate caused the youngster to gain superhero-oriented powers courtesy of a freakish radiation demonstration gone haywire. Although slightly goofy, Dr. Jeffcoate was a credible mentor to Andrew as he constantly reminded the high schooler not to abuse his newly acquired super-powers and that his heightened abilities should be reserved for goodness. Dr. Jeffcoate was a walking cliché for the absent-minded scientist and his silly inventions but was a decent and positive figurehead for the young audience viewing this kid-oriented fantasy.
Dr. Helena Russell from SPACE 1999: The research base at Moonbase Alpha was blessed to have the inclusion of Dr. Helena Russell, the chief medical officer that was caught up in the futuristic chaos along with her colleagues when sent out into the middle of nowhere in space after the horrific and accidental nuclear waste blast resulted. The dutiful Dr. Russell was stylish and attractive. Eventually, she mustered up a heated romantic relationship with base Commander John Koenig (real life husband-wife tandem Martin Landau and Barbara Bain echoing their affections on the small screen).