Saturday, March 16, 2013

Give Pulaski A Chance

When I was a kid, I hated Dr. Pulaski. And, I wasn't the only one. She was mean to Data. She butted heads with Picard. She replaced Dr. Crusher. All of these things made me and a whole lot of other fans hate her. I hated her when I was a kid and I hated her as an adult. Actually, I hated her until about two weeks ago. Then, all of the sudden, I liked her. I really liked her. Suddenly, I loved her.

Here's what I realized about Dr. Pulaski: She's essentially Leonard McCoy. Dr. McCoy was mean to Spock. He butted heads with Kirk. He replaced Dr. Boyce. The thing is, Dr. Boyce had only been around for the pilot. In fact, the only character that ended up carrying over from "The Cage" was Spock, so there was no fan (or actor) animosity toward DeForest Kelley when he stepped into the role of ship's physician. He was just a cranky old doctor who didn't care much for Spock and argued a lot with the captain. People didn't hate him for that. So, what's the big difference? Why is one character so well-loved and the other hated?

Pulaski and Bones are both hard-headed and stubborn. They're skeptical about new technology but brilliant in their own methods. They both hate the transporter. They're leery of people who possess no emotion and they're not afraid to make that fact known. They're both folksy with a strange, guarded kind of warmth and an ever-present raised eyebrow. Basically, the TNG staff were writing Pulaski like McCoy and, in a more general sense, they were writing her like a man. She was pushy, outspoken, opinionated, and confident. There was nothing gentle or soft about her. And, especially after losing Tasha, I felt like that's something the show needed.

Looking back at my notes, I think I turned the corner on Pulaski somewhere around the middle of the season. So, even though I love her in specific episodes like "The Icarus Factor" where we find out that she had a long-ago love affair with Riker's dad or "Up The Long Ladder" when she shares a Klingon tea ceremony with Worf, I can't put my finger on the moment I suddenly bought into the whole "Pulaski is pretty great" thing. It just happened gradually. And, I'm betting that if Pulaski had stuck around a while longer, she would've become even better.

I'm not saying that you have to love Pulaski. All I'm saying is that, if you're interested in giving her another chance, go back and watch some TOS and then watch some second season TNG. See if your feelings about Pulaski change. And, whether they do or they don't, come back and tell me what you think.


  1. I never really grew to like her, I'm afraid. I could have gotten over the brash personality quite easily, but it was her behaviour towards Data that sealed her fate for me. She treated him like he wasn't human, which to my 13 year old mind was absolutely despicable.

    I think the McCoy/Spock conflict was different, their disagreements came from cultural differences and an ability to try and see eye to eye.

    With Pulaski, she genuinely couldn't see Data as anything more than a machine. I know she got better about it, but pretty much through the whole season she continued to do and say things that I found incredibly offensive on Data's behalf.

  2. I'm not even going to lie: I like her MUCH better than Crusher. And to be honest, I'm NOT a big fan of Crusher. I don't know why I'm not, I'm just not. I think maybe her character was too dry for me. I always felt that she wasn't genuine. I don't know. I like Pulaski. And I liked Dr. Miranda Jones, too. ;)

  3. I hated Pulaski when I was younger, but my attitude changed much for the same reason yours did: she was a throwback to McCoy. Yes, she was a cantankerous beotch, and contrary and inexplicably terrible to Data - but she was a FOIL. You were supposed to not like her, and in-that lay her endearing qualities and kinda/sorta redemption.

    Beverly Crusher was a sweetheart and a Sunny-D mom by comparison. (not sure if Americans will get that reference, but Sunny D is an orange flavoured drink that kids always thank their moms for.)

  4. Pulaski was a more believable character and just a better doctor. Crusher was terribly incompetent. If I got an assignment to a ship where she was the CMO, I'd apply for a transfer and cite unsafe working conditions.

  5. I think if both actresses were of the same caliber, I would prefer Dr. Crusher. But Diana Muldaur brought such a wonderful realism to her role. I never doubt for a second that she's a Starfleet doctor. Gates McFadden--well, she just wasn't that good. Her character seemed incompetent because the acting wasn't believable.

  6. " and, in a more general sense, they were writing her like a man. "
    Now I'm just imaging a never-to-be third series episode where Pulaski and Data become besht matesh after a fight outside 10-forward.

  7. Diana Muldaur was already a Trek veteran when she stepped onto STNG's cast. The only thing that separated Bones from Pulaski was gender. The role of the prickly ship's doctor made Bones endearing and Pulaski seem like a bitch. But she was really quite skilled, saving Picard's life that one time, when no one else could. She rode Data a lot in the beginning but I think she warmed up to him over time. It's all in the writing, and if Pulaski had another season to branch out, her star might've shone a bit brighter.


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