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McCoy helps Eleen climb

"Look, I'm a doctor, not an escalator."

I'm a doctor, not a... is a famous catch phrase and snowclone used in Star Trek. Originally used by Dr. Leonard McCoy in Star Trek: The Original Series, the phrase lived on in various other incarnations of Star Trek and was used by both Julian Bashir and The Doctor, among others. Dr. McCoy's original delivery of the phrase varied with emotional intensity, from extreme frustration to lighthearted sarcasm. Subsequent uses in later series also mirrored this performance. This iconic phrase has also appeared in other media as both a parody and homage to the show. Very often, it was just the way of Dr. McCoy and subsequent characters to prevent criticism in case of failure, but also often, the "not a…" ability was successful, especially in dire needs.

The line has been misquoted in media as "Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor…" although McCoy never used this expletive in the series. However, this version of the line was eventually used by the alternate reality Leonard McCoy.


Dr. Leonard McCoy[]

…to which Kirk replies, "You're a healer. There's a patient. That's an order."
…to which Montgomery Scott immediately replied, "Now, you're an engineer."

Dr. Leonard McCoy (alternate reality)[]

According to screenwriter Roberto Orci, the line "I'm a doctor, not a physicist," was one of several "nods" to the original series that the writers tried to make seem natural, rather than shoehorned-in efforts to win goodwill from the fans. "That sort of line and that sort of coupling," said Orci, "is good in any context whether it's the first time or the tenth time you've heard Bones say something like that, because it was specific to the situation and it was elucidating to his character." (SFX, issue #200, p. 60)

Dr. Julian Bashir[]

The Doctor[]

…interrupted by Torres: "…not an engineer. Right, but…" (VOY: "Prototype")
…to which Henry Starling responds: "I'd say you're a little bit of both." (VOY: "Future's End, Part II")

According to the official Robert Picardo website(X) and an interview on the Voyager season 7 DVD, during Picardo's audition, the final scripted line for the reading was, "I believe someone has failed to terminate my program," and he finished his audition with the ad libbed "I'm a doctor, not a nightlight." However, when encountering the example in "Phage", Picardo was apparently unfamiliar with the tradition at first. He later recalled, "When I read that script I just thought it was a joke. Then I was told on the set this is a Bones line. I guess I remember him saying lines like that." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 40)

The example from "Parturition" was invented by Picardo himself. He remembered, "I suggested the 'I'm a doctor, not a voyeur' line, which also made it into [an] episode." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 97)

By the end of the second season of Voyager, Robert Picardo had become aware of the audience's appreciation for these lines and had invented a version that ultimately never made it into an episode. The actor commented, "The audience seems to get a kick out of whenever I invoke the spirit of Dr. McCoy." Laughing, Picardo added, "I hope someday to have a scene with Harry Kim, where I say, 'Damn it, Kim, I'm a doctor not a blank [whatever task the script demands.]' That would really be tweaking them one step further." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 97)

{{bginfo|A previous draft of PRO: "Touch of Grey" had the line, "I'm a physician, not a ventriloquist."

Dr. Phlox[]

Starfleet EMHs[]


The Original Series[]
James T. Kirk
"That's a supposition, Doctor, not a fact." (TOS: "The Naked Time")
"I'm a soldier, not a diplomat." (TOS: "Errand of Mercy")
"You keep saying that. Are you a doctor, or aren't you?" (TOS: "Amok Time")
"These are people, not robots." (TOS: "The Apple")
Carl Jaeger
"I'm a scientist, not a military man." (TOS: "The Squire of Gothos")
José I. Mendez
"But this is a court of space law, not a theater." (TOS: "The Menagerie, Part I")
The Next Generation[]
Jean-Luc Picard
"For these negotiations to succeed, I must be a mediator, not an enforcer." (TNG: "The Vengeance Factor")
William T. Riker
"This is geology, not malevolence." (TNG: "Pen Pals")
Katherine Pulaski
"He is a boy, not a sword." (referring to Wesley Crusher) (TNG: "Pen Pals")
"This is a military vessel, not a pleasure craft." (regarding his Bird of Prey) (TNG: "Unification I")
"I'm just a barber, not a miracle worker!" (TNG: "Data's Day")
Deep Space Nine[]
"I'm a weapons dealer, not a soldier." (DS9: "The Magnificent Ferengi")
Cardassian security officer
"This is a jail, not a hotel." (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels")
"That's justice, not malevolence." (DS9: "Waltz")
Julian Bashir
"I'm going to a medical conference, not on vacation." (DS9: "Inquisition")
Crewman Kellin
"I'm sorry, Captain, but I'm an engineer, not a magician." (DS9: "The Siege of AR-558")
Gilora Rejal
"We're scientists, not diplomats." (DS9: "Destiny")
"Why? You're a bartender, not a warrior." (DS9: "Shadows and Symbols", to Quark)
Miles O'Brien
(Garak:) "Maybe you're not a soldier anymore." (O'Brien:) "You're right. I'm an engineer." (his jury-rigged explosive detonates) (DS9: "Empok Nor")
"Are you sure you're a captain, not a counselor?" (DS9: "The Sound of Her Voice", to Lisa Cusak)
"I'm an engineer, not a philosopher." (DS9: "It's Only a Paper Moon")
"I'm a security chief, not a combat pilot." (DS9: "Vortex")
"This is work, not recreation." (DS9: "The Ascent")
"I'm a changeling, not a solid." (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow")
"I'm not a God, I'm a security officer." (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
Benjamin Sisko
"This is not a request, it's an order." (DS9: "In the Pale Moonlight")
"He's not a detective, he's an engineer." (DS9: "Prodigal Daughter", about Miles O'Brien)
Douglas Pabst
"I'm a magazine editor, not a crusader." (DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars")
Julius Eaton
"Calm down, dear boy. We're writers, not Vikings." (DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars")
"I am a warrior, not a murderer." (DS9: "Broken Link")
"You're asking me? You're the terrorist, I'm just a bartender." (DS9: "Favor the Bold", to Major Kira)

The phrase "I'm a security chief, not a combat pilot" was a deliberate homage to TOS. Robert Hewitt Wolfe thought the line was "fun to do" and "was appropriate" given its context in DS9: "Vortex". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 42)

The Doctor
"This is a sickbay, not a conference room." (VOY: "Caretaker")
"They're Klingons, not kittens." (VOY: "The Killing Game, Part II")
"This is sickbay, not an arsenal." (VOY: "Bliss")
"This isn't a research station. It's a three... ring... circus." (VOY: "Life Line")
"She's a counselor, Lieutenant, not an engineer." referring to Deanna Troi (VOY: "Life Line")
"This is a sickbay, not a dormitory." (VOY: "Demon")
"But this isn't just sickbay, it's my residence." (VOY: "Demon")
"This is a Federation starship, not the Barge of the Dead!" (VOY: "Repentance")
"It's not justice, it's revenge." (VOY: "Repentance")
Diagnostic hologram
"I'm a diagnostic tool, not an engineer." (VOY: "The Swarm")
(said of The Doctor): "It wasn't programmed to be a tenor, it was programmed to be a physician." (VOY: "The Swarm")
Tom Paris
"I'm a pilot, Harry, not a doctor!" (VOY: "Message in a Bottle")
B'Elanna Torres
"I'm an engineer, not a costume designer." (VOY: "Virtuoso")
Harry Kim
"They're scientists, not soldiers." (VOY: "Nightingale")
(Quoting Captain Janeway, referring to her as "the warden") "This is punishment, not shore leave." (VOY: "Thirty Days")
"We're healers, not killers." (VOY: "Critical Care")
Kathryn Janeway
"This is a starship, not a nature preserve." (VOY: "Someone to Watch Over Me")
Nechani magistrate
"I'm an official of the government, not a spiritual leader." (VOY: "Sacred Ground")
"I'm not a Cardassian, I'm a hologram." (VOY: "Flesh and Blood")
Jonathan Archer
"We're visitors, not spies." (ENT: "The Communicator")
"You're a doctor. He's your patient. Find a way to help him." (ENT: "The Breach")
"This is a starship, not a luxury liner." (ENT: "Babel One")
"This isn't shore leave, this is a research mission." (ENT: "Strange New World")
"I need to think like an engineer, not a physician." (ENT: "Regeneration")
John Frederick Paxton
"I need a scalpel, not a bludgeon." (ENT: "Terra Prime")
"He doesn't need a physician, he needs a priest." (ENT: "Kir'Shara")

In the first draft script of ENT: "Fortunate Son", Admiral Forrest told Captain Archer, "You're out there as an explorer not a policeman."

Danby Connor
"We're explorers, not soldiers." (DIS: "Battle at the Binary Stars")
"You're an engineer, not a surgeon." (DIS: "Brother")
Jett Reno
"I'm just a gearhead, not a farmer." (DIS: "An Obol for Charon")
"I'm an engineer, not a poet." (DIS: "Through the Valley of Shadows")
Hugh Culber
"I know I'm a doctor, not a physicist." (DIS: "Life, Itself")
Lower Decks[]
D'Vana Tendi
"It's a starship, not heaven!" (LD: "Cupid's Errant Arrow")
"You want me to see a doctor? I AM the doctor!" (LD: "Mugato, Gumato")
Brad Boimler
(impersonating T'Ana) "Holy *bleep* *bleep*! I'm a doctor, not an *bleep*!" (LD: "The Stars At Night")
Jankom Pog
"Jankom's not just an engineer. He's a miracle worker." (PRO: "Supernova, Part 2")
Dal R'El
"I fly starships, not Nazamon." (PRO: "Is There in Beauty No Truth?")
The Doctor
"I'm a doctor, not an exorcist." (PRO: "Temporal Mechanics 101")
William T. Riker
(said of the Shrike) "...that's not a starship, it's a guillotine." (PIC: "Disengage")
Strange New Worlds[]
Engineer (in Scottish accent)
"I'm an engineer, not a miracle worker, Mr. Spock." (SNW: "A Quality of Mercy")


DeForest Kelley
"How should I know? I'm an actor, not a doctor." (used in a 1992 commercial for Trivial Pursuit 10th Anniversary Edition, in which the question is asked, "How many chambers are there in a Human heart?") [1]
"You're a doctor, not a gambler." (The Big Game)
Kira Nerys
"I thought you were a doctor, not a hacker." (Proud Helios, p. 260)
Miles O'Brien
"Dr. Bashir, you're a doctor, not a first contact specialist." (Valhalla, p. 19)
"You're a doctor, not a Horta." (The Return, p. 268) talking to Bashir.
"I'm a doctor, not a computer." (Avenger, p. 350)
EMH as McCoy
"I'm a doctor, not an interior designer." (Avenger, p. 351)
"I'm a doctor, not a target." (Star Trek: Judgment Rites)
"I'm a doctor, not a sideshow." (Avenger, p. 354)
"I'm a doctor, not an engineer!" (Star Trek Online) Series 2 – Episode 4: Everything Old Is New Again
"I'm a doctor, not a magnet!" (Star Trek vs. Transformers, Issue 3, p. 19)
"I'm a doctor, not an archaeologist." (War Stories, Book 1, p. 17)
"I'm a doctor, not a concierge." (A Time to Sow, p. 135)
"I'm a doctor, not a space marine!" (Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force)
"I'm a doctor, not a bullseye!" (Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force)
"I am an Emergency Medical Hologram, not a miracle worker!" (Star Trek Online) During Khitomer Crisis Mission after character creation
"I'm a doctor, not a quantum mechanic!" (Spectre, p. 212)
Marcus Refelian
"I'm a command officer, not an engineer." (Star Trek: Away Team)
"Damn it, Jim, I'm an engineer, not a conversationalist!" (Star Trek: Bridge Commander)
Jean-Luc Picard
"I'm an explorer, Donald, not a warrior." (The Buried Age, p. 97)
"Well, what did you expect? He's a doctor, not a security officer." (Star Trek: Borg) referring to Dr. Thaddeus Quint
Sarlit Arminta
"We're soldiers, not engineers." (Star Trek: Resurgence)
Portal 63
"There is so little I can tell you. I'm a portal, not a scientist but I'll certainly do my best." (Star Trek: Resurgence)

Prior art[]

While the character of Dr. McCoy arguably made the phrase "I'm a doctor …" part of the common lexicon, he was not the first fictional doctor, or even the first character on the big screen, to use the phrase. In the 1933 American film The Kennel Murder Case, Dr. Doremus, the coroner at the scene of the titular crime, states "I'm a doctor, not a magician" and "I'm a doctor, not a detective" within five minutes of his first appearance. The latter line was also uttered by Dr. Fortescue, played by George Zucco, in the 1949 version of The Secret Garden. It is unclear whether these particular dialogue artifacts were progenitors of McCoy's famous phrase.

"I'm a [whatever] not a [whatever]" is also a Yiddish idiom, most commonly "I'm a [whatever,] not a rabbi."

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