Kirk, Spock and McCoy: good friends on a starship

One of the reasons “Star Trek” has become a cultural icon, enduring beyond just being a three season wonder in the late 1960s, is its focus on human relationships. In particular it rises above most of television because of a trio of unusual good friends, Captain James T. Kirk, Commander Spock, and Dr. Leonard McCoy. Indeed the show and the subsequent movies were often studies of friendship under stress.

Much has been written about how Spock represented cold Vulcan logic and McCoy raw, human emotion and how that caused them to clash as Captain Kirk looked on bemused. Of course this is an oversimplification. Spock had an emotional side, due to his human half, that he took great pains to suppress with varying degrees of success. McCoy, due to his being a physician, had to follow logic when it came to doing his job. He no doubt had to suppress his own emotions when he was deep in a surgical procedure of an alien or diagnosing and treating an exotic disease.

Spock and McCoy served one another as friends by challenging each other’s assumptions. They would rarely concede the points of the other, but the famous arguments did strengthen both men, as iron sharpens iron, as exposure to other points of view do.

Kirk benefited from this strange relationship both personally and professionally. Spock was like another brain for the famous starship captain, but McCoy was also another heart. Kirk was sure to get every side of a vexing questions, whether it was what to do with a hot, alien babe or whether or not to violate the prime directive once again. As a leader Kirk had, if not Abraham Lincoln’s team of rivals, a pair of rivals as friends.

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